Question: Spanki, I am just starting out and I admire your work and how you share with your fans your struggles and successes. I have a question for you, what would you have done differently looking back on how you started your business knowing now what you do? So I am like many of you... we share a similar story. I approached my husband with the "what if". I mean I was the girl who always had a camera in hand from as far back as I could remember. I was not one to look at it as "art" but more as preserving a moment in time. I seriously brought my camera with me EVERYWHERE... yes even to the bars when I was in college!
At the time we had three kids and I was a stay at home mom itching to do more with myself. The longer we talked the more we realized photography seemed to be a weekends and evening kind of job which would interfere with my involvement with my own family.
Fast forward a few years and one more child later...
I had spent thousands attending one of the top Faux Finishing schools in America. I was trying to establish myself a career that worked around my families schedules. The we had to up and move to small tiny county town because my husband had found another real estate investment. I was blogging my everyday life through pictures when a few people in the town approached me to take their portraits... and so there it all started. If I was ready or not...which I WASN'T.
What I wish I had known:
1. You get one chance at a first impression. Just because you can create a Facebook page and buy a logo off ETSY doesn't mean you should. Why rush it. Take your time and LEARN what you are doing first. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE and remember...less is more.
2. Do not expect it to come easy. The longer I am in this industry, the more I see people asking or complaining about how no one will tell them something. WHO OWES YOU? No one but YOURSELF. YOU research. YOU learn. YOU do. If you are taking this serious then expect no one to help you... you find it. Trial and error are your best friends. I have always said "you will never know the true meaning of HOT until you touch something that burns you" same thing goes for business. You will NEVER appreciate it or take it serious until YOU put your own blood sweat and tears into it. In the beginning I was fixated on learning, I'd sit at my computer for almost 8-10 hours a day just reading, researching, and soaking up every bit of information I could. I'd take notes, I'd cry, but I always came back for more. Again...going back to #1, it takes TIME.
3. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING! I hear so many people worrying about why "so and so" is charging so little for her work or why "so and so" doesn't shoot as much as you...blah blah blah. THIS is a pet peeve of mine. WHO CARES what "so and so" is doing? What are YOU doing? I have a close photogrpaher friend who is single, lives on her parents property and charges about 1/3rd less than I do but is equally as good as me...what sense does it make for me to compare or worry about what she is doing or charging? I have four kids, I have to charge more for my time because my time away from them is valuable. I might have to pay a sitter and that is accounted in my session fee... My family agreement is I pay the house note among a few other things... so comparing what she charges to what I charge is not comparing apples to apples for me. And to waste time or to get angry about it is doing nothing but taking the focus off MY JOURNEY. and you know what... I don't succeed that way. She can shoot 5 nights a week if she wants, what is holding her back...I however do NOT want to be gone from my family that much. again APPLES and ORANGES... you do YOU. :)
4. Do not fixate on what's in "So & So Photography's" bag. Like you know, my husband does some real estate investing so it is feast or famine for us. When we sold a property I went out and bought everything that was in the professional photographer I looked up to's "bag" but that didn't make me a professional. I got so frustrated my images didn't look like theirs that one day I just sold it ALL. I literally kept my camera body and one lens (50 mm 1.4). I had decided if I can't create amazing and quality work with the bare necessities I had no business being IN business. It made me step out side my box and push myself. Six years later... I still just bring my one camera and 50mm on every session I shoot. :)
5. EDUCATE. I told myself I didn't have the money to learn. BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER. If you don't have money to learn then you don't have money to start a business. I invested money in business cards, a website, equipment, pretty camera bag... but "didn't have money to invest in learning". Hear me... I spent TWO YEARS doing everything WRONG! I lost more money in those two years that I could have paid for a handful of informative workshops/courses. But I was more worried about that red rimmed lens or that "professional looking camera bag"...for what? so I could carry it on a session for a client who didn't appreciate ME and my talent and in the end for them not to place the order I needed to continue to be in business...yes HUGE MISTAKE! Learn how to run a business, market a business, how to find the right clients and to sustain a profitable business. THAT is why you are doing this right?
**If you really truly have no money, that should NOT stop you from educating yourself! There are so many amazing sites that give information for FREE! Use it.
6. This is a BUSINESS. If this is your hobby, fine. BUT if you are telling yourself and your family you are doing this as a BUSINESS...then RUN YOUR BUSINESS. The one thing I discover most when I am working with one on one mentorings is that in the end, they are loosing money to have a business. If you are walking out of your door or shutting yourself in your home office (closet, bedroom, wherever you can find a quiet place) and you are taking time away from your family... YOU CHARGE FOR THAT TIME! If you do not feel like you are "good enough to charge for that time yet" then lets re-read #1... do NOT call yourself a business until you are GOOD ENOUGH. Yes you can build a portfolio, yes you need to practice on any friends or family that will let you, but if you are giving them any images you need to charge for that TIME. If I am away from my family, if I am paying a sitter or missing a baseball game...I WILL need money to make up for that time away. PERIOD. You owe it to your family.
We are all on a journey. We ALL have a different desired outcome. What I want for my business isn't what you might want for yours...we have to row our own boats and support each other along the way. There is no "competition" because NO ONE is on my exact journey. So support one another. Encourage one another and cheer each other on. YOU CAN DO THIS!
*what can you add... what have you learned the hard way that you'd have told the starting out you?