What happened to my Kodachrome?
Continuing from Part 1 of when retiring early is not an option. Webb’s personal experience of managing both a career and a small business is one thing. But doing so when the industry was changing so dramatically is nothing short of impressive. Thankfully, he was quick to identify the changing trends. And, he used that insight to tactically change his business over time. His personal philosophy of “I am what I am” gave him the foundation he needed to stay in the saddle. And more importantly, to keep his business going.
Take Advantage of Experience in Your 50s
How did Webb keep his small business operating as he navigated through his 50’s? In his words, he focused on several key tasks. The first is a combination of hustling to find new work and staying young. He also is a fan of
digging in and making it work. And most importantly, he’s always marketing himself and
He is not in an easy business, but Webb fundamentally understands that Chappell Photography is a business. And to stay viable, you have to always think like a business person.
In addition, Webb stays on top of the newest things in his industry. Everything from the latest digital photographic trends and technology to knowing where the best (and only) resources are for processing film. He invests in new equipment that will help his business stay more profitable. He looks for more economical office and lab space when the real estate market drops.
Furthermore, he’s replaced an old business philosophy that having “stability, depth, history” with staying current. He demonstrates to clients that he can deliver the highest quality photographs extremely fast. He meets today’s client’s needs. He is a savvy business owner who understands that even though he is a smaller piece of an ever-shrinking pie these days, he can have a successful business model. And continue to do what he loves.
Keeping nimble in your business
Marketing is the key to his longevity in the business. Webb was one of the first photographers to have a website. In fact, he had a website for his business long before he even had a PC! Keeping his website updated, and adding a blog is a key piece of his business marketing strategy today.
He networks extensively and uses personal email and old-fashioned phone calls to keep in touch with past clients. In his profession, it’s all about timing. When a client needs a photo shoot, it is not scheduled months in advance. It’s more last minute than ever. So, he has to be ready to take an assignment in the same week he gets the call.
Webb has learned that he can never relax and has to continually stay top of mind to win new opportunities.
When retiring early is not an option, save anyway
Looking forward to retirement is not really on Webb’s radar. He truly understands that retiring early is not an option. So, he does not spend time looking too far ahead. That can be rather scary! Instead, he lives within his means and makes saving a priority.
Even though retiring early is not an option, he knows he will one day retire. So, he saves for his retirement in a SEP-IRA. He’s been watching colleagues and acquaintances who are transitioning into something like “retirement.” And it is an unusual thing.
One photographer gave up his business to start day-trading. Then he pursued carpentry, and now he’s doing some architectural drawing. While not Webb’s style, he does acknowledge that you have to keep evolving. It;’s about keeping yourself in good physical shape. Keep your energy level up and don’t look too tired. And then be confident you’ll be able to compete with the 30-year-olds. Sometimes it’s about bringing your experience to the job.
Love what you do
All-in-all, not a bad outlook for someone planning to work for many more years. When retiring early is not an option, it’s helpful to have a clear direction. And make a plan for how to move your business forward. Most importantly, keep doing what you love. That way you can leave retirement for someone else.
If you missed part 1 of Webb’s story, take a moment to catch up here.