Pareto's 80/20 Principle

Have you heard of the 80/20 Principle otherwise known as the Pareto Principle, Pareto Law, 80/20 Rule, the Principle of Least Efforts, and the Principle of Imbalance? The 80/20 Principle has the potential to change your photography business and your life by giving you the freedom and earnings you deserve.

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who lived from 1848 to 1923. He observed that 80% of society’s wealth is produced and retained by 20% of the population. The 80/20 Principle is observed outside economics as well. Simply put, 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your inputs.


The 80/20 Principle in Photography

  • 80% of results come from 20% of efforts.
  • 80% of your income comes from 20% of your products or clients.
  • 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your clients.
  • 80% of leads come from 20% of your advertising budget.

These percentages may vary. The ratio is often found to be higher; 90/10, 95/5, or even 99/1. The benchmark is 80/20.

Do you find the 80/20 Principle in other areas of your photography business? I’ve got a few in mind. Share yours in the comments below. Let’s see how many we can come up with.


What Does the 80/20 Principle Mean to Your Photography Business?

We get caught up with being busy which leads to feeling overworked, overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and generally helpless. The message the 80/20 Principle tells us that we can be more effective, happier and profitable by doing less. Not every hour of work is of equal value. Staying busy does not equate to extra income.

The 80/20 Principle allows us to work less and think more. One key insight of the principle is that being overly busy drives out thought. Hard working people are often too busy to identify what’s really important.

“It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?” ~ Ronald Reagan

Finding the Vital Few in the Trivial Many

Most life is trivia. Don’t get bogged down in minutia. Avoid it. The goal is to identify the things that really matter to you. Those things that provide the greatest achievement, benefit, and happiness. They can be difficult to pinpoint but once identified they open the door to achieving more from less, the power of the 80/20 Principle.

Take a long look at your life and photography business, the 80/20 Principle will give you great insight into what’s really happening.

Application of the 80/20 Principle

Focus on the things that really matter while minimizing trivia. What provides you greatest achievement, benefit, and happiness and what yields dissatisfaction?

  1. Inputs that provide disfavorable results are not used or used sparingly.
  2. Inputs that provide the greatest benefit are used as much as possible.
  3. Inferior inputs are reworked to mimic favorable inputs where possible.
  4. Resources are shifted from unproductive to productive uses.


Example 1: If 20% of your clients are bringing in 80% of your income. Drop those difficult clients and free up time! Initially, you’ll see a 20% drop in income, but with the additional time, you’ll more than recoup the income by catering more to your valued clients and acquiring more profitable clients.

Example 2: If 80% of your profits come from 20% of your prints, stop promoting the unfavorable prints. Remove these unpopular prints from your portfolio to center focus on the top selling prints. The prints that aren’t selling detract from potential sales.

Example 3: Speak with your difficult clients. Effective communication may be your key to eliminating complaints and converting them into a desirable client. If they won’t change, stop working with them.

Example 4: Money spent on less productive advertising should be shifted to more profitable ads.


Renewing Focus

It is important to regularly come back to the 80/20 Principle. Do you tend to drift toward busyness? I know I do. I’m always taking on some new activity. Unfortunately, our culture tends to put value on staying busy.

Work to stay on top of your inefficiencies. Eliminate or convert inefficiencies into strengths. Focus on your strengths in order to multiply the advantage they provide.

Remember, most things are trivia and are of no benefit. Slowing down and thinking through your photography business and life can provide you insight into what’s really important. You too can be more effective, happier and profitable by doing less.


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