Tips for Growing Your Business in 2017 from Seller Michael Willems

Now is a great time to set your goals for the year ahead, especially if you’re planning to branch out and expand your business.

Ontario-based seller Michael Willems is an example of someone who has successfully expanded his business in recent years — from photography to teaching and writing ebooks.

Michael began taking photographs in the 1980s when his work as an engineer brought him to places such as war-torn Baghdad and central Nigeria. “Anyone who’s been in an extreme environment like that will tell you there’s everything from wonder to PTSD, and everything in between,” says Michael. “Photography was a way for me to share the things I saw.”


Ten years ago, he began to teach others how to take photos and then, in 2009, he took the leap to become a full-time freelance photographer. Now, in addition to being an in-demand portrait and commercial photographer, Michael teaches at the Sheridan College of Art and Design and leads private online classes. He also sells his ebooks at photography shows, online via Amazon and on his own website.

Michael’s experience has taught him key ways to approach business expansion. Here’s his advice for expanding your business:

Be open to change.

How do you get everything done without a million dollars and a staff of dozens? As a one-man show, Michael has found that flexibility is paramount, especially in a highly competitive market like photography. By selling ebooks online, Michael can send customers a link to download the books, but he also recently started selling the books in DVD format. Using Square to check his inventory, he realized, “If I give customers something tactile like a DVD that contains the books, then I will sell at least five times more because people want something concrete. They don’t perceive the value of a link; a DVD you can hold in your hand is worth more to them.”

Make data-driven choices.

Michael switches up his strategies based on sales. By checking his Square analytics, he can see which DVDs are selling online and order more to increase his stock. Michael uses Square to check his inventory and add new products or create discounts in the price list.

Automate your admin.

“Spend your time on what matters, not on admin work that just ties you down,” says Michael. Payments, invoices and accounting can all be done through Square’s integrated apps such as QuickBooks, Xero and Kashoo.

Make payment easy.

As a seller on the move, Michael can use Square to book training sessions or photoshoots, or sell books when he is on location or at a show. In addition to taking payments at art shows via his Square Reader, Michael accepts credit card details manually via the Square app from students as far afield as Sydney, Australia, who are learning photography with him online. He likes that fact that he can accept any credit card, which gives him an advantage over many other vendors. Michael also enjoys being able to take payments instantly through his Square Reader, as he used to have to send out reminders and wait for weeks for payment.

Visit Michael online to learn more about his work and his classes.