Owning Your Lane

Owning Your Lane

BRANDING SERIES VOLUME II

DISCLAIMER – I realized the hard way last week that you can't run a full-time photography business, be the creative director at a church, stand as best man in a friend's wedding, photograph and video that wedding, and keep up on a branding blog. My apologies for that...but I'M BACK!!

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In Volume I, we talked about the need to truly develop and understand your "why" – the concept that before you can really start moving forward with the physical details of branding, you have to determine and own the motivation and intentionality behind your brand. Once you've determined this why, the next step in this process is to narrow your brand's focus by developing a niche and then sticking to it.

"Develop a Niche and stick to it"

I learned this lesson the hard way.

When I started my business, I was flooded with inquires about headshots, portrait sessions, product work, real estate jobs, commercial possibilities, weddings, engagements, newborns, families, and any other photographic job you can imagine (it was as daunting as it sounds). And, for awhile, I tried to accept every job I possibly could.

What I quickly found, though, is that in trying to do it all you end up sacrificing quality for quantity. At the end of the day, this approach leaves your business looking something like a supermarket – a one-stop-shop where you can check off everything but don't really expect great quality.

"THE issue with trying to do everything is that you end up sacrificing refined quality for sheer quantity."

And I quickly found this approach was turning my work mentality into sheer production mode and I was sacrificing the artistic pursuit of creativity in my pursuit to do everything. At the end of the day, you will find the most success by narrowing your vision and eliminating all other distractions. In other words...

CHOOSE A LANE – AND OWN IT.

HERE'S WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE.

As a brand, you have to decide what your primary focus is and then point everything you do as a brand towards that end goal while putting on blinders to everything else. If you want to be a specialist in your field, you have to, well, specialize in that field (wow, mind-blowing truth right there). Otherwise you'll waste all of your time switching trajectories back and forth and will effectively slow yourself and your creative growth to a crawl.

Now, before you go all tunnel vision and start thinking you have to focus on only one product or service let me say clearly – this isn't at all what I mean.

Choosing a lane is about following parameters, not laser-focused tunnel vision.

When you're driving a car you're required to stay in your lane but you also have some freedom with where you position yourself in your lane. The same is true in business. What I'm advocating here is to set parameters for the kind of work you're willing to do so that when a job possibility comes along you can quickly evaluate if you need to pass on it or if accepting it will help you fuel the identity of your brand.

For me, my parameters are all about capturing authentic moments, raw emotion, and real connection. These parameters are very clearly laid out on my website, social media, and in any conversation I have with prospective clients so that people know instantly the kind of clients I'm looking for and the kind of jobs I'll accept.

To be fair, most of my work is weddings – but I don't only photograph weddings, I photograph anything that fits within my lane. If I get asked by a family if I'm willing to hang out with them and capture the moments as they bake a cake with the kids in the kitchen, have water gun fights outside, and go frog-hunting...I'll TOTALLY take that job. On the flip side, if a wedding couple asks if I'm willing to document their ceremony and then mainly focus on formals of the wedding party? I'll refer them elsewhere.

I'LL ACCEPT ANY JOB THAT FITS WITHIN MY LANE.

Instead of the supermarket approach, this approach is more like an Apple Store approach. There's a rather wide variety of products Apple sells, but no matter the product you purchase there, you generally know the style, quality, and type of product you're going to get. The same is true of my business.

I've chosen the lane of authentic moments and that lane choice affects every single client I take and every business decision I make.

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Now I can just hear your minds whirring right now going "Okay, Josh, it's great that you say to choose a lane and own it but what if I have no idea what that looks like for me?" I feel you – and this is exactly why I've asked for your feedback over the past few weeks.

Let me give you some examples.

+ School Sports Videographer

The question you'll have to ask moving forward with this business is more about style than content – what kind of videos do you want to provide? This goes back to the quality vs quantity discussion. The other question you'll have to ask is about branching out to other filming arenas (weddings/commercial/etc) – here's what I'd say about that. At the end of the day, choosing a niche is really crucial to growing a brand so sticking with the school videographer thing exclusively is fantastic. If you want to branch out, I'd say start a new brand that caters exclusively to a different content type!

+ Online Blogger

Deciding on your niche as a blogger is definitely a hard process. Ultimately you will have to choose a niche, but for now if you don't really know what you want your blog brand to be, I'd definitely recommend the route of the lifestyle blogger! Share stories from your personal life and tie those stories in with tips and tricks about elements of your life that your readers find interesting. For instance, if you travel somewhere fun? Write a blog on travel tips to that location! Whatever you do, just be authentic and honest – but keep things focused on your life and what's happening (parameters!). Then further in your career as you start developing other skills you can change the direction of your blog away from the lifestyle vibe to whatever you'd like (or, if you love the lifestyle feel, keep it!).

+ Custom Jewelry Creator

This kind of brand is fun because creating a niche when you're selling jewelry is more about your target audience than it is a specific product. Obviously you're trying to sell a variety of products so narrowing down your product options really isn't what you need to do. Rather, my advice would be to really think about your ideal client. Make up a hypothetical dream client, and then figure out everything about them. Why is it that you want them buying your product, what is it that you offer that's uniquely appealing to them? Then target everything you do towards attracting that client (and honestly repelling everyone else) and your niche will start to form!

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I hope that's been a help! I know we really haven't started talking about aesthetics yet but never fear, that's coming later this week!! For now, continue thinking about your "why" and the niche you want to create for your brand...and then we can start talking details of aesthetics, visual consistency, and all that.

Cheers!