It’s been just over nine months since I moved my business. While I only moved it across the state, it’s five to six hours away from where we used to live and is only a few miles away from being in a brand new state. It’s so different in my new location that it might as well be a foreign country. I’ve learned a lot over the time since we’ve moved about moving a business and what to expect. Some people may think, oh here’s Carrie moving a successful business to a brand new place; she will be totally fine. She is not struggling. Well, you’re wrong. There are things I thought I knew and then there are things I’ve learned recently. There are lots of mistakes I’ve made that have affected my business this year, and I’m hoping you can learn from them if you ever have to move.
Business has slowed down for me with the move, but I’ve decided to be grateful for it. Not only did we move, but we created an entirely new lifestyle. If you are friends with me on Facebook or know me personally, you know that my husband’s old job was a tough place for us to be. Since the day I met him almost ten years ago, he has worked at least 70 hours a week. I can’t exaggerate about that. For him to make ends meet and work toward the job he wanted, he took on a lot of opportunities to build his resume. It took longer for those to pay off than we wanted, but we’re so grateful to be a place where now he has a regular work schedule. He used never to have a day off. Maybe a morning, or an evening, but never a full day. Especially never multiple days in a row. He was managing restaurants and country clubs on the weekend and working as an adjunct professor during the week. If you know anything about the US college system and how professors make ends meet, you know that adjunct professors make less than a college or university janitor does in many situations. They can take on a full schedule of teaching courses and still walk away with pennies. It’s kind of like working for free, but he was working toward a full-time lecturing position as a professor for a long time. Those are few and far between, where adjunct positions are part time and plentiful.
So, he got a job as a full-time professor in a tiny, very remote town and here we are. We’re going from busy people living in a metro area working all the time to small town people with a good sized yard living life at a slower pace. All this is to say, that now my husband isn’t working so much I’ve been grateful business slowed down because of my move. It gave us a big chance to adjust, and it gave me a lot of time to reflect on what methods helped my business when moving and what didn’t. We needed the time to adjust as a couple to see each other so much too. Our nearest grocery store is 1-1.5 hours away, so we had to adjust how we shop, and eating no takeout. I could go on, but it’s been crazy around here for us. Now we finally feel like we’ve settled and you know what? This girl will be an underpaid adjunct teaching art at the college in our small town in the Fall. If you don’t know anything about my background, I have my degree in Art Education, so getting to teach things like painting, drawing, and pottery sound like a fun way to spend some extra time in the wedding off season!
Now that you’ve had some background on the big changes for us I want to dive into a few things that I wish I had done sooner and tips I think will help anyone who may be making a huge move to an entirely new area!
- SEO is number one. If you don’t know what SEO is, it stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of going to your website and optimizing it with language in the titles and pages so it can be found for specific terminology when a potential customer is searching for you. Doing your SEO will help you get found in Google searches. I’ve always read how important SEO is from other articles online about moving a business. I tried my best to make some adjustments as soon as I knew we were moving, but I was not as thorough as I could have been, so the SEO I did wasn’t very effective. If you only do one thing from this entire list with your move, do this. SEO is the one thing that, if you spend time on, can pay off sooner rather than later. It’s been an entire year to this day since I went and did my first initial SEO change as soon as we knew we were moving and I booked my first more local wedding just now. I could have booked it sooner had I been more dedicated in my research of terminology and applying it to my website better back then. If you need some help with SEO, I recommend you chat with my friend Fuse at Get Found with Fuse. She has tons of great free blog posts and classes online which can help you get your SEO started for a big move. I didn’t know Fuse well at the time I was planning my move, but having her involved in my life since has changed my SEO approaches!
- Find local wedding resources and advertise. Whether you are moving to a big town or a small one, find the biggest town in your area and search for local wedding resources. Maybe there is a boutique that connects couples with wedding vendors, or a local wedding blog that accepts advertisers. Connecting with local resources will not only boost your SEO locally but help connect you to local vendors and the local wedding community.
- Change your location on social media. As soon as possible, change your location on your social media accounts to your new area. Since I live in such a small town where I’m unlikely to get clients, I chose my location as the biggest town within a couple of hours of where I live. That way I’m more likely to be searched and found.
- Be willing to travel. This first year has been exhausting because I kept my contracts with clients who had already booked with me, even if they were at a distance and I had to travel to be there. There was lots and lots of driving. Because I like getting paid and I had the means to do so I continue to book for where we used to live in addition to where I now live. That way I kept my income flowing, but it took many pricing adjustments to find a way to ensure payment for my time spent traveling. Don’t just stick to only your new local area. Branch out to other towns nearby, and if possible keep some bookings where you used to live if it’s not too much of a travel drain. That way you still keep steady income for your family during a time of change.
- Market in the nearest large city, not just in your small area. It can be tempting to focus only on your local area at first. However, take some time to look at the maps and see which areas are most populated or most searched for various services and see if you can do some marketing there. Even if you aren’t willing to travel, you never know if your clients aren’t. They may be willing to travel to you for sessions if they love you and your work.
- Follow local vendors online. Once you know where you’re moving, head to social media and start following other local vendors so you can connect with them and see the trends, hashtags, and discover other info about your area. It’s likely they’ll follow you back, and from there you may develop a good networking relationship so you can refer each other.
- Do some free shoots in local areas to build up your portfolio. You may be asking how this helps, but it’s an excellent way to help build that local SEO. If you do some shoots for free for your portfolio not only will you have the chance to boost your SEO so you can blog these shoots, but it will help you discover your favorite new locations to photograph.
- Remember, it’s kind of like starting a new business over. If you think back to those days when your photography business was brand new and all the hustling you did to make it this far you know what I mean. When you move, it’s kind of like starting your business over. While you might be currently living in that safe space with regular clients and you’re nervous to start over, look at it as a fresh start. Part of the fun of owning a business was the challenge at first. I remember what a challenge new marketing methods were. Sometimes it’s easy to get into our comfort zone and never leave. A move means you’ll have to leave that safe space and venture out again, challenging yourself. However, unlike last time you started a business, this time you can get to where you want to be much faster because you have all the past knowledge of your mistakes at hand. You won’t have to go through all the same mistakes you went through to get to where you are today. It’s sort of like you’ll be able to have a fresh start with a shortcut thanks to your previous experience.
- Re-evaluate your current marketing strategies and make some changes. Update your website portfolio, take your Instagram game to the next level. Create an email funnel. Try something new! This move may not be just a fresh start for your family like it was for mine, it was also a chance to make some big changes in business. If you’re going to spend the time working on your SEO and doing some things from scratch, you might as well try a few new marketing methods you always wanted to do, but never had time for, right?
- It will take time, so have a savings to fall back on. Only the rare person is going to make a move and still have an entirely thriving business right away. It’s going to take time to get your business back on its feet. Don’t expect it to happen right away. I did, even though I should know better, and then I stressed myself out with having such high expectations. Luckily I had a savings to fall back on during the transition period while business slowed and before it sped up again back to normal. It takes time for all your new marketing methods to kick in and for clients to realize you have a new location. Try and set aside some extra money anticipating the worst, that way you will be surprised how much your hard work pays off in the end.
- Prepare in advance as much as you possibly can. Having time to prepare is easier said than done. If you can try to do as much SEO and work before you move, it will pay off sooner. However, I speak from experience when I say how difficult it is to prepare your business for a move, try and sell your house, still meet all your current clients’ expectations, buy a new house, pack and move. It’s nearly impossible. I prioritized my current clients over my move because I wanted to ensure my personal life did not affect the quality of their experience or delivery of their photos. That said, if I had to go back and do it again, I would try to spend as much extra time as I could on trying to prepare my business for the move. I had the spare time here and there, but I didn’t use it as wisely as I could have.
- If you profit from the sale of a new house, invest some of those profits in new gear and upgrades. Investing in new gear is just a suggestion for those of you who sell a house when you move. If you manage to profit from the sale of a new house, see if you have some wiggle room to use some of those profits to reinvest in the business. It’s always helpful to have your upgrades and new gear taken care of and ready to go while you focus on getting your business back to where you want it!
Here’s hoping these tips and my story help you out some. I’d love to talk more about the business changes brought on by moving and will probably continually update and blog about the things I learn as I get further out and figure them out on my journey, but if I can save you some time then I’m happy to help!
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