After months of planning and waiting, we finally made it to New Jersey. Luckily we knew in February that we would be headed here so I had a full five months to plan and create a strategy before we even hopped in the car for our weeklong drive across the country! Even with a lengthy lead time, there are still many things to consider and get ready for when considering a move of your small business to another state!
Relocating an established (or even relatively new) business can be an intimidating and daunting task. Preparation and strategy are key. Today I am discussing 5 strategies to implement so that you can totally ROCK your move before you go!
Here are five ways that you can utilize the time BEFORE you move to really hit the ground running and rock it once you arrive in your new location!
Research your new area
This should be common sense but in all the hustle of preparing for a move it can be hard to find the time to really research the area that you are headed. Learning about the new area you are headed is of utmost importance and can help you determine your strategy going forward. What is the population of the city? What is the median income? Which businesses have a major presence? How far will you be from a major metropolis? Is the area remote or more urban? What does the environment look like? Is it wooded or desert, industrial or farm country?
Depending on how your business is currently structured, all of these factors may affect different aspects of your photography business. Taking the time to answer these questions will help you to be more prepared once you get there and ready to make adjustments!
Real life example....
Before New Jersey, we lived in the California desert, hardly any trees in sight and dry lake beds were more common than grass. I spent two years learning how to shoot in constant sunshine, a lack of open shade and unusually high winds. Ridgecrest was also a very small city (about 27k) and was about an hour and a half away from any large city (yes, an hour and a half to TARGET!!). The whole northern part of New Jersey is heavily wooded with lots of lakes (that are actually full of water) and grass in such abundance that its lining the freeway. The cities are small in population but they are all right next to each other and the nearest major metropolis is New York City about an hour away. Knowing these things in depth before we moved has helped me determine my new business strategy and prepare myself mentally for the new challenges that will come with running a business in this area!
Make connections ahead of time
This is HUGE! I can not stress the importance of this one more. Reaching out to others in the area and making connections before you arrive can absolutely set you up for success once you roll into your new town. Anyone who is a small business owner or entrepreneur can attest to the fact that it can get very lonely at times and having a community of others who are cheering for you helps combat that. Also connecting with others who already know the area, the market and have other connections in the area as well is invaluable to get you plugged in and ready to do business.
There are many resources online to help you figure out how to connect with others in your new area. Just a few include Shoot and Share groups on facebook, Rising Tide Groups, Pursuit Groups...the list goes on and on.
You don't necessarily have to make connections in your exact field either. If you are a photographer specializing in weddings, connections with birth or newborn photographers are just as valuable. You can not only refer each other if you get inquiries that don't fit in your speciality, but you can also learn from each other and just have someone to talk to who gets what you may be dealing with in business. Connections with other vendors such as florists, calligraphers and wedding planners can also be extremely valuable as they might have access to vital information and connections that can help jump start your business once you arrive.
Real life example....
I started my search for connections as soon as we knew where we would land. I joined two different Shoot and Share facebook groups and started chatting with others in the group so that they could see my name and get to know me a little bit. I also started mentioning my move all over social media and in various different groups and have made a couple of very good connections because of that. Even though a few different times when I mentioned my move and reached out for connections resulted in nothing, I kept at it and have made a few different connections right in my local area that I am very excited about! I was even able to connect with a wedding photographer who also moved her business from California to New Jersey and is in need of a 2nd shooter at weddings. It doesn't get much better than that, and had I stayed silent in the group that day, we may have never met!
Update your website info/SEO tags
Another vital step to take before you actually head to your new city is updating your website info and SEO tags. Since I use Squarespace this process is relatively easy although it is time consuming. I am glad I spent the time before we moved getting everything updated to my new city/area so that I can start showing up in search results sooner than later!
Any topic on SEO could take blog post after blog post so I will keep this short and simple for the sake of this post. Depending on what type of website/blogging platform you use, you want it to reflect your current location. Knowing where all the tags are and changing them may seem monotonous and not all that impactful, but that could not be further from the truth. You don't want future clients to be confused about where exactly you do business. You want to show up in search results for your new area, not your old one and you want to make sure the info on your site is always fresh and relevant.
Real life example....
Once we knew we were headed to NJ, I started googling different keywords to see what kinds of businesses came up. I looked up "New Jersey wedding photographer", "New Jersey wedding photography", "Mt. Olive wedding photographer", "Morris County wedding photographer" along with a few others. The area we are living in Northern NJ is quite different from any place I have lived before. There are townships and counties and the cities are small and kind of all blend together. Knowing what sort of things clients might google to find a wedding or family photographer is important to know so you can focus your SEO on those terms. Looking at these keywords and seeing what type of results came up and how they were similar or different from my own wedding photography business has helped me determine how I want to utilize my SEO tags and what search results I want to focus on!
Refresh/Make changes to your strategy
Moving your business to a completely new area gives you an obvious opportunity to make potential changes/updates to your business strategy without affecting your current or repeat clients. Once common theme I see in a lot of newer photographers posts in forums online is their hesitation to change anything about their business due to affecting or losing current clientele. That fear can be extremely paralysing to some especially given the fact that many who start in this business don't put a ton of time into learning the business strategy as they are too busy learning the technicalities of photography: proper exposure, posing, marketing and client management. Starting a photography business involves MANY different things that have absolutely nothing to do with taking a picture. This can become overwhelming and all encompassing and the business strategy tends to take a back seat and stays low on the priority list.
But moving your business can provide you that opportunity to make changes without affecting any of your previous clients. You will have a new set of clients who have no idea how "you did it last time" or "what you used to do". You can essentially reinvent yourself and your business.
Real life example.....
About a year and a half into my business I decided I wanted to make some major changes to my business strategy. Any changes I made would have an obvious impact on the current clientele that I had already built up. Because the changes that I wanted to make were pretty major, I decided to hold off until the move and put everything in place at that time. I also decided to use this opportunity to brand myself to fit my new business strategy. Even though I have just arrived in New Jersey and haven't yet had an opportunity to put my new strategy to the test, I am confident that this is the direction I want to head going forward.
This is another item that should be obvious but for many reasons it's probably one of the things that easily gets swept under the rug. The steps to take to get your business legal in your county, city and state can be daunting, confusing and just overwhelming when you first start out, and then to have to do all of that again when you move can be just downright discouraging.
If you are moving to a city/state that you are not familiar with already this task can seem even more daunting. Luckily in this day and age of the internet, information is at our fingertips at all times, it's just a matter of putting in the time and effort to figure out exactly what to do.
Granted, some things that you need to do in order to "get legal" you may not be able to do until you actually arrive in your new location. If you aren't sure of your address or your address will be changing soon after arriving that may be an issue. If you aren't even sure what city or county you will be living in this may also be a problem (this happened with us). But if you do have some of these details already ironed out, figuring out ahead of time exactly who you need to contact/register with etc...can save you valuable time on the back end once you have arrived and are ready to start working!
I hope you have found these suggestions and examples helpful if you are about to take the big step of moving your business to a new state. From experience, I know how challenging this process is and I want to support and encourage you every step of the way!