As I think back to 3 years ago when this all started, I remember being overwhelmed at the thought of shooting 6 weddings in 4 months and I had a small panic attack when my email inbox had over 15 unread emails. Oh those were the days!!! I also remember thinking “Ummm… this is a lot more work that I thought it would be”. You see, owning a photography business doesn’t mean you just take “pretty pictures”…. oh no! It means you’re RUNNING a BUSINESS. This is HARD work and here is the crazy part….. the reason I created this business was because I loved photography… but I actually only spend 20% of my time photographing my clients! 20% of my business is ACTUAL shooting and the rest of my time is spent doing paperwork, filing contracts, entering invoices, responding to emails, post processing, blogging, album design, etc. That list could go on and on. I didn’t even mention taxes and insurance and equipment maintenance. So why am I writing this post? Is it to scare beginners and overwhelm them? NO WAY! I’m writing this post because I want to educate beginners about all that owning a small business entails so that they can start WELL. And that’s my first piece of advice! :
1. START WELL : Work hard at the beginning! Make sure you’re starting your business the RIGHT WAY. Don’t cut corners and take the easy way out, that will only hurt you later. For example, you NEED to have a business license. This takes time and a few hours of work but it’s just something that has to be done.
2. TAKE TIME TO BRAND YOURSELF: I borrowed this from J&M’s blog post a few days ago. You HAVE to figure out who you are as a photographer before you can create a cohesive brand that is unique to you. You can’t rush this. If you rush to start a business with just an OK logo and “Look”, you will have to spend more $ later to re-brand. Take time in the beginning stages of your business to really focus on your brand and your style. This is going to be hard because most entrepreneurs are go-getters and want to launch their business ASAP!!! It’s great to be a go-getter but be careful that you don’t sacrifice good branding just because you want to make it happen NOW! It’s definitely not worth it in the long run!
3. FIND YOUR WEAKNESSES: If you KNOW you’re not good with details and organization, do something about that BEFORE you launch your business. Start practicing new habits and learn how to keep yourself accountable. If you have no motivation to respond to emails within 24hours of receiving them, that is going to be a problem. Running a business means a TON of correspondence and organization! If it takes you two weeks to muster up the motivation to clean out your inbox, you are setting yourself up for failure. No bride wants to wait two weeks to hear back from a photographer! I realize this is HARD. Photographers are artsy people! … and most of the time, ARTSY people are not ORGANIZED people! So before you launch your business, really step back and think about how you’re going to handle this huge workload that doesn’t involve being creative.
4. GAIN EXPERIENCE: So many people ask “What’s your secret?!”. I really don’t know how to answer that question because there are no secrets. Really. I never took a photography course, I am self taught but I STUDIED my users manual like my life depended on it. I would read other photographer’s blogs and literally study EACH image to find where the light was coming from. I knew what I wanted my images to look like and I worked SO hard to make that happen. It took YEARS to do this! I practiced all the time and eventually started shooting totally manually, even when I was just hanging out at college! I knew that was the only way I would grow. As I started my business, I had several second shooting opportunities and these weddings were CRUCIAL. I needed experience and I needed a portfolio so second shooting was a must!!
5. BE PROFESSIONAL: Be professional in every area. Your web presence, your branding, your correspondence… you have to be the REAL DEAL in order to attract clients that will feel comfortable trusting you with their wedding day.
Well I realize I just gave you a TON of information and if you’re a new photographer, you’re probably so overwhelmed. Just take it one step at a time. Prepare yourself for a lot of work but get excited because you’re following your dream!!!! I hope this was somewhat helpful for some of you out there!!! Your feedback is so so appreciated!!:):)