Tips + Techniques

Setting Smart Goals for Your Photo Business in 2020

December 18, 2019

By Jai Long

Having a photography business can be hard, especially when you don’t have direction (in that vein, I put together a guide on finding the right path for your creative business). So today, I want to talk to you about setting goals. I believe this one simple thing can be a game-changer, specifically in terms of where you use your time, what work you say yes to (because sometimes it’s better to say no) and how you market yourself.

If your goal is to simply make $10,000 next month, well, that’s just not that inspiring. But what you can do with $10,000 is.

If you switch your goal from, “I want to make $10,000 next month,” to, “I want to make $10,000 next month so that I can help the people around me, take some time off for a vacation or put the money back into developing my business,” the outcome you’re hoping for is much more likely.

Another example of an uninspiring goal, though all too common in the New Year: “I want to lose weight.” It’s hard to get out in the cold and go for a run when you don’t have a plan. Instead of setting your goal to lose weight, you could change it to: “I want to look my best for a wedding coming up by eating healthier meals and losing 20kg by July.”

Goals like that are SMART goals:

Let’s take a look at each of the elements that make up smart goals.


The more specific your goal is, the higher the chance of it being accomplished. It’s easier to keep track of it and will help you feel like you are making a bigger impact. Vague and general goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide direction or purpose.


It’s hard to keep motivated and stay on track if you can’t measure your progress. You want to be successful, so the more measurable it is, the more likely you are to achieve it. Do you want to reach your goal in a specific amount of time? Are you able to quantify your goal? Example: “I want to make $1,000 per week on shop sales starting in June.”

Attainable Goals

There’s nothing worse than having a goal that simply can’t be reached. It can make you feel defeated and deflated, and as a creative business-owner, you need all the confidence you can get. You don’t want to make your goals too easy, though—you still need something that will challenge you.

Relevant Goals

When making your goals, especially smaller ones, they should all work toward the same objective. This way, you’ll be able to prioritize what’s important to developing your business. With everything that I do, I ask myself if it will get me closer to my goals or if it will waste my time. 


Having unlimited time for a goal doesn’t inspire you to work toward something. Just like the first point, being specific, you also need to be concrete about when you want to hit the goal. I try not to change my timeframes or push back dates.

Smart Goals in Practice

Each year, I set goals for my business, for my relationships and personal health, just like many of us do. But a lot of us don’t follow through because they are either too vague or unattainable.

So, I write down my big, yearly goals, and then I break those down into more achievable, smaller, 90-day goals. Subsequently, those get broken down into monthly, weekly and daily goals. 

Here is an example of a goal I achieved recently:

I have family that live in Norway, and I wanted to visit them. I also wanted to shoot a wedding amid Norway’s beautiful landscapes and fjords. Knowing exactly what I wanted to do made my goal specific and therefore much easier for me to work toward.

I reached out to some Norwegian blogs and wedding magazines and submitted my work. (To hear from editors on how to best do this, check out these tips to getting published.) I also offered to shoot editorial campaigns as a way of getting work in front of the local audience. I started tagging all my images on Instagram with “Norway Wedding” and put it out to the world every chance I could. I wrote about it on my mailing list—email marketing is indeed a powerful tool for photographers—and openly told people about my goal.

Only a few weeks after setting the goal, I had a couple reach out from Norway that told me that they loved my work. They were getting married in their home town and wanted portraits in the fjords and mountains (check them out in the gallery above). It was a dream come true.

I flew over, spent a week with my family and then road-tripped across the country to shoot the wedding and got to experience the wonders of Norway. The wedding was everything I dreamed it would be and I even made friends for life from it.

I achieved the goal I set and was blown away by how fast it all happened. It’s amazing what you can do when you set a specific goal by putting it out to the world and sharing it with people.

In my opinion, there is nothing better for your photography business than having a clear direction and setting goals that you can achieve. But don’t forget to reward yourself when you achieve your goals, even the small ones, and celebrate the hard work you put into your business.

Jai Long is the wedding photographer behind Free the Bird, based in Melbourne, Australia, and a Rangefinder 30 Rising Star of 2015. He hosts a podcast for photographers called Make Your Break, and he last wrote about upselling albums to help achieve longevity in business.