10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Photography Business #Entrepenuer

I am by no means making a million dollars (or anything close to that) with photography, but my business is growing.  I was thinking recently how I wish I had known certain things when I started.

GEEZ… I could probably write a list of 100 things I wish I knew when I started my photography business, but I will start with 10.

1. Your path to success will take as long as everyone else’s, even though you think you are special or different.  I am me.  I’d like to think I am still special, but not special enough that I can sit back and hope success comes to me. It takes work. Very strategic work and sometimes a little luck too!

2. Get Organized. If you have ever heard that creatives are messy… it’s true. At least for me. My mind is always thinking about a million things. When I started I had practically no organizational skills and still struggle to stay organized daily. Not only in my office, but even more so in my mind! I am a dreamer and always dreaming up something new. Thank God I married someone who is 100% opposite of me and helps me think logically about all of my crazy ideas. If you don’t have someone like this is your life I encourage you to get accountability somewhere, whether it be a friend, business coach or whatever, just someone you can count on to help you and be straight up with you. What has helped me: I recently created an incredibly detailed workflow for every type of shoot I do and this has been a tremendous help.

3. Take workshops and/or watch a lot of tutorials and SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT. There is SO MUCH to learn. Especially if you are like me and you have never stepped foot into a photography class in school. All of my learning has come from workshops/online tutorials and a whole lot of trial and error. You can never stop learning. If you think you have arrived, you are about to go downward. Learn from others, adapt your own unique style and it never hurts to go back and look at the basics too.

4. If you price yourself cheap, you will get cheap people. Work with people who value what you do. Don’t get me wrong folks. We all must start somewhere, but DON”T – I REPEAT – DON’T STAY THERE!!!! When I started I was charging $75 for a 1.5 hour shoot and all edited images on CD. Because I was new to editing and all that comes with photography it would generally be about 5-6 hours of my time for $75. When you start adding in all the costs of photography, Business insurance, equipment costs, taxes… I was paying to shoot them and often times coming out in the negative!!!  I was making no money at all. I was learning so much so that was the trade, but as my talent grew I became frustrated and started to dislike photography since I was not making a living doing what I love. Believe it or not some of my most difficult clients were the ones paying me $75, while some of my most wonderful and easy clients to work with have been the ones who have paid me into the thousands. 

5. Stop researching – Start doing. I am absolutely obsessed with all things new and shiny. If there is a new social media tool or some cool marketing template, I want to try it out. I actually overwhelm myself with so many ideas that I don’t even know where to start and often don’t start. Since I am a one lady business, this makes it difficult to take 20 ideas and make them into actionable items. Many times you just need to pick one thing and do it. Afterwards analyze the data and see if it was a smart decision.

6. Your business is not your #1 Priority.  I know there are people that are reading this that are thinking…” WHAT!!!!”  You have to work your business 24/7 to be successful. Trust me I know a lot of people from all different industries that work it 24/7 and they are “successful.” It all depends on your definition of true success is.  If it is making money, then DUH, the more you work the more you will probably make. For me I have spent the last few years working like a mad woman 50-60 hours a week doing photography and other side jobs. I literally was glued to a computer almost all day when I wasn’t shooting. I didn’t have time for friends, got annoyed when family called me because I was in the middle of working and worst of all I missed out on countless important events and joyous occasions because I was “working on success.”  I still struggle with this so much. I feel like I am always working, but I have been trimming back and feeling great about it!  My definition of success is loving those around me and loving them well.

7. Keep in touch with your past clients.  This is where I have failed TERRIBLY. If you want a successful business, be good to your clients. This is my biggest goal in 2014 is to truly love my past clients and keep in touch and stay top of mind.

8. Learn from your mistakes. I have messed up in my photography business… A lot.  Like, a whole lot… Once I tried to do a newborn shoot. You know, the ones you see with the baby all wrapped up and with the hands on their face… They are super cute.  Guess what… I realized I don’t like shooting newborns at all in that way. To be honest, I kinda knew that before the shoot, but I did it anyway and I ended up with my first dissatisfied client (the only one to date.)  Don’t shoot stuff you don’t like.. It’s not fair to you and it’s really not fair to the client.  I do still shoot newborns, but in more of a lifestyle way which is what I LOVE!!!

Every single time I have learned from the mistake and pressed on.  You must press on too!

9. Stop comparing yourself to others.  This is the STUPIDEST thing you can do. It will just make you feel terrible. There are countless photographers out there who will are a ZILLION times better than me, but knowing and focusing on that will not make me a better photographer or happier person.  In fact, it will make me want to quit and it has made me want to quit.  You can only be you, no one else.  It’s fine to look, admire and learn from others, but stop comparing yourself to others!!!!  Also stop thinking you are better than other photographers too… EVERYONE STARTS SOMEWHERE!!!

There is great short blog Dustin Hillis wrote called “Comparison is the Thief of Joy” — I encourage you to read it.

10. Always, Always make time to give back. No matter what.  I am busy, we all are, but we must make time to give back.  You have this amazing talent. Find ways to give back. There are a million ways to do this. Over the past few years I have worked with NUMEROUS non-profits, photographed countless families for free who couldn’t afford portraits and this is the most rewarding thing that I do. My goal with my photography business is to one day be making enough money that I actually volunteer my services more often than I get paid for them. It’s probably a backwards model, but I believe with some hard work it is possible.

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