In its early days, Starbucks was a company that sold espresso machines. Twitter began as an app for finding podcasts. And Nintendo once made vacuum cleaners. These companies and many others finally found success after making the crucial decision to shift their focus in a different direction. They pivoted.
How one photographer is using the coronavirus shutdown to pivot toward a new venture that's keeping his business alive.
Photographers can pivot too. Some of us may have been enjoying a bit of downtime in recent weeks, but those who seek to grow their businesses in the face of long-lasting societal changes are surely looking to find new avenues for professional growth. Sony Artisan Scott Robert Lim has been putting his energy into growing just such a new business venture, expanding his educational offerings from in-person to online (you can schedule a one-one Alpha Session with Scott Robert Lim HERE).
Pivoting To Online Offerings
Lim has long had a passion for teaching, but he’s always done it through face-to-face mentoring of up-and-coming photographers, as well as group workshops and seminars. Before the coronavirus shutdown he traveled several times per month for teaching but now all of that work is gone—and it may not come back any time soon. So now Lim is working to build an e-learning offering that will work well in the immediate future and for the long term.
“That's just being an artist,” Lim says. “You’re tested all the time and you just have to reinvent. I am very weak at online content because I've always been the opposite of that. My business model was doing $2,000 workshops and mentoring people. If I could get 50 to 100 people to spend $2,000 on me, I would be good for the year. That was my strategy. And when this came about, I realized I’ve got to diversify my revenue streams. The future is going to be more and more online.”
Lim has been using the slowdown to prepare 35 hours of online content destined to go live later this summer. He’s combing through materials from his 20-year career as a photographic educator to select the best, most effective information and updating it for this next phase of his career.
“Fortunately before all this hit, I started working with a company to create my own kind of online learning center. Digital assets are very important – I just happen to be really weak in that area. I just like talking to somebody! I like meeting them in person, because I like for them to hear the tone in my voice and to put my arm around them if they need to be encouraged. My new digital format will be a big change, but it has to happen.”
Accepting A New Normal
Lim is coming to terms with the idea that he may not be able to operate in his preferred, in-person manner for the foreseeable future. As someone who values interpersonal communication that adjustment has been especially difficult—particularly in the early days of the shutdown.
“I couldn't help but feel like this virus thing was taking away me, because that was me! As I mentioned, I’m a social person, and the virus was taking away what I do best. Now I’ve realized that I just have to invent a new me. I have to have online assets. It’s not just that, but now I have to develop an online personality. People can see me more through Zoom. Going forward I think there’s going to be some social media platform based on Zoom, because everyone is seeing the value of it now.”
“I can't wait to release this class,” Lim adds. “Because the government came through and I was able to get some funding, I feel better about things. I just feel good about my future and I can't wait for things to get rolling again. I think the positivity that you hear in my voice... that's hope.”
About the author:
William Sawalich made his first darkroom print at age ten. He earned a Master's Degree from The Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. Along with portraiture, still life and assignment photography, Sawalich is an avid writer. He has written hundreds of equipment reviews, how-to articles and profiles of world-class photographers. He heads up the photo department at Barlow Productions in St. Louis.