Year 2: Value
You've been in the business and photography space for long enough to begin to see gaps in the marketplace. You are also beginning to understand your own strengths as an artist and as a businessperson.
This is where this idea really hits home:
Gap In Marketplace + Your Skill Which Fills That Gap = Business Opportunity.
To put it into other words, you begin to have an intimate relationship with the concept of Value. If you're not able to create Value you're not going to grow. And if you don't know what Value is required by the marketplace you won't know what you have to create.
Last year you probably created some value, but you probably did it either accidentally or by copying someone. This year you're doing it strategically - and therefore you create a lot more of it (in turn this means that this year you move a lot faster).
Knowing where the Value is gives your ship of photography business a rudder and a compass. You now have a direction. Changes in your business strategy still happen (and they always will), but they are less frequent, less dramatic and less haphazard. You know your niche and you have probably carved out a microfiche for yourself within it. For example, if you're into corporate photography, your website probably is unlikely not say something like:
"I'm the perfect photographer for all your corporate needs."
Rather, it's likely to say:
"I'm a photographer who specialises in head shots of upper management & CEOs in New York City. I work with you until we have a photo of you which you'd be happy to see in the Wall Street Journal."
You begin to have an intimate understanding of your clients needs and your communication demonstrates that. You're also beginning to toy with the idea that you're not actually in the business of selling photography. Your clients (in their world) hire you for something much bigger.
In the example of the corporate photographer, the CEO is not really after another mug shot from you. He is probably thinking about things like status, being powerful, coming across like he cares deeply about his company and is passionate about his industry - and he wants to show people that deep down he's a nice guy, but he will not hesitate to kick the butt of anyone who threatens his company. He needs you to tell that story in your photograph, and the Catch-22 is that even he probably doesn't know that this is what he wants from you.
My point is that to create copious amounts of value you have to understand the lives of people in your niche better than they do - so that you can speak directly to their emotional, rather than just functional, needs.
Your systems and processes have broken down enough times for you to work out what works and what doesn't, and your business is beginning to run pretty smoothly on its rails. You have systems in place which handle finances, customer enquiries, image editing, backups and your time. At times it feels like you're a slave to your business and you learn to manage things so that you run it, not the other way around.
You competitors in your niche are aware of you and are probably doing some spying on you. Before this year is up, you have 2-3 channels through which you acquire your customers. One of these channels (organic search, for example) is your primary and most stable and reliable channel. The other ones (referrals, advertising, publicity) do exist, but are not as consistent as you'd like them to be.
You begin to think about using Value in your business to form strategic relationships with businesses who cater to your niche, but are not your competitors.
As a photographer, your main concern is this: what is my style? You're beginning to form a body of work which is unique and goes beyond technical competence - it has a voice which tells a narrative that you want to tell. You might have won some awards and your work has been published in online blogs or magazines.