Starting a business is scary. Self-doubt, an unsure future, and lack of experience in managing a business are huge factors that almost kept me from following my dream. If you want to start your own business, hopefully these things will help you get off on the right foot…

  1. You have worth. When I first started photography, I was practically giving my sessions away. A guilty feeling would come over me any time I thought about asking for money. Then I watched Sue Bryce (an amazing photographer and business woman that I hope to meet one day). She stated, “In what other business do you feel guilty asking for money?” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t go to the counter in a grocery store and haggle with the cashier. Nor would I do this if I hired a roofer, carpet cleaner, portrait artist, or personal trainer. Why in the world should I feel guilty about setting a price that will allow me to not worry about bills this month? I was losing money because of time, travel, and product cost. So, I set my standard. You can, too. Don’t be afraid. You have worth.
  2. Define your ideal client. This is marketing 101. If you don’t know your ideal client, then you really have no direction and are wandering aimlessly. I was challenged by a Jasmine Star (another photographer and business woman I would love to meet one day) while watching one of her classes to define my ideal client. Saying, “A bride is my ideal client,” isn’t good enough. I had to think about her habits, likes, what she might watch on tv, where she would shop, her age, her job, etc. Really define who your ideal client is, then you will be better equipped to market to them.
  3. Your brand is an experience. You are not just selling a service. If you are a chef, you are not just selling your food. You are creating culinary art that is beautiful and delicious. When you sell a service or product, you are selling your brand. Define your brand, what it stands for, why it’s different, and what you can do for your ideal client. Create an experience for your client that will have them talking. It doesn’t have to be huge. It could be a small gift you give as a thank you. Define your brand then create an experience that compliments it.
  4. Under promise and over deliver. When you tell your client you will have a project finished in three weeks, but it turns into four, will your client be fully satisfied? You may have done a beautiful job, but you came up short on your promise. Now, if you promised your client the project would be done in six weeks, and you finished in four weeks, you will surprise your client with being done earlier than you stated. Which will get you better reviews.
  5. Network! The more you give, the more you get back. One way I love to network is by creating styled shoots. A styled shoot needs a hair stylist, makeup artist, attire, models, a baker, florists, venue, rentals, and more. This is a great opportunity for me because it lets my creativity shine and provides photographs for vendors. Because of this networking technique my work is on a billboard, been published on a blog, and vendors pass out my business cards. So go out and create opportunities through networking. Join Facebook groups related to your business, have a vendor luncheon one day, work with other professionals and help build each other’s businesses.
  6. Balance. Life is hard to balance when you are starting a business. I spend a lot of time on the computer answering emails, researching, writing, booking, updating, networking, and editing. I travel all around Kentucky every week. I am gone all day when photographing a wedding. Trying to balance a home life and my photography business gets tough. What I am beginning to do is every week I write down what I would like to accomplish. This includes accomplishments in my home life and business. This helps me stay on track and know that I can be successful in both.
  7. Workflow, workflow, workflow. Okay, I’ll say it again. WORKFLOW! When I first started, I was all over the place when it came to getting things done. I admit, this is something that is still developing. However, I am in a much better place than I was years ago. Make your life easier and write down everything that has to be done for your clients. Then put it on a timeline. Here is what typically happens once a client decides to book with me:
    1. I send a contract for them to e-sign.
    2. Once signed, I send an invoice for the retainer fee.
    3. Once paid, I hold their date on my calendar.
    4. Four weeks prior: Email a questionnaire.
    5. Two weeks prior: Email and confirm timeline and send last invoice.
    6. Photograph wedding.
    7. Post sneak peek on blog that evening.
    8. Edit photos.
    9. Upload to online gallery.
    10. Email client.
  8. Don’t spend money on SEO. No offense to the SEO people. They can do wonders, but (at least for me and my business) it was a waste of money. Did they get my website up in the ranks? Yes, but could I afford to keep them forever… no! So, I ended up having to get a new website that I could afford, which brought me back to square one. If you can afford it, more power to you. However, client referrals and networking will generate more clients in the beginning of your business than SEO will.
  9. Back. Up. Everything. Especially for us photographers. The last thing you want is to have that sinking feeling in your gut when your hard drive fails. I backup my files on two hard drives and have a working file on a thumb drive. I also don’t clear my SD cards until after I have delivered the final photos to my client. That makes four separate places that I can retrieve my files. Don’t take the chance; back up your files!
  10. Have a system to determine your pricing. One of the mistakes many newbies make (myself included) is basing your pricing off of other photographers. Or you would price yourself extremely low in comparison thinking, “That will get customers!” Has it worked? It didn’t for me. When I began thinking about the value of time, travel, experience, and cost of production I started to understand my own business a little better. Now I have a price system that reflects all these things. I will write more about how to determine your pricing on Friday’s blog!