When you start out in business, you feel this strange mix of exhilaration and apprehension, right?
Finally, you are making your passion and creativity your actual INCOME??? your FULL TIME JOB??
It’s a dream come true.
And you know it is – while your friends are shackled to their 9-5’s, DREAMING of the day when they can follow their creative heart, you’ve gone and DONE IT.
And yet those early years, and even the middle years, and even the middle – most recent times are often tinged with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fear and despair.
You hear stories about the 80% failure rate, how success comes only after four years (or ten depending on what or who you believe).
You have experiences which leave you wondering how much longer you can continue, how much longer you can stick it out, and you start to wonder if it was all really just a pipe dream – and you think that this isn’t really going to work for you.
I looked back over the passion I’ve nurtured and lived with and struggled with and adored for over a decade and realised that there are some things I WISH I had figured out earlier.
Or that I wish someone had told me – hey – want your business to succeed? THIS is part of what you very definitely need to know.
So this is it. Some of it won’t be popular advice, some of it won’t be original- all of it YOU can come to understand and apply to your own photography business almost immediately.
So you can let go of the worry. The fear. That should-I-give-up-now thought that echoes around in your brain during the quiet times. The money-less times.
If I had known this when I first started, my first photography business wouldn’t have failed.
I wouldn’t have walked away from photography for 2 whole YEARS.
These are 5 things I WISH I had known when starting out.
1. Let go of perfectionism.
Oh, the HOURS I spent AGONISING over the slightest details. The minutest fraction of a colour change, the slightest shift in skin tones, the days spent deliberating over the perfect logo and brand. What I learned instead- it’s about the bigger picture. Seriously.
I wrote a post over in our mastermind group last week. It was about how we are go through periods of obsession over our branding, our logos.
Our bloody LOGOS?!?!
When did spending hours or DAYS choosing the perfect LOGO or FONT or BRAND COLOUR make you any REAL MONEY for your business??
It doesn’t. You know it doesn’t. Yet we spend time so caught up in this that we forget to go and concentrate on the tasks that actually bring in the MONEY into our business like actually you know, SHOOTING and MARKETING and ATTRACTING NEW CLIENTS which by the way, is usually done via your CONTENT.
Your brand is a teeny tiny part of that so
I wish I had known how much TIME and so MONEY I was WASTING by focussing on my seasonal rebrand. My website updates. Changing my social media headers. Etc.
IT DOESN’T MATTER AS MUCH AS YOU THINK IT DOES.
Hire a graphic designer whose MAIN BUSINESS is DOING THIS FOR A LIVING and save yourself those precious hours. Or buy off the peg sites and logos.
And then leave it alone.
And the editing perfectionism.
Want to know what a top-level photographer does?
They know they have better things to do than sit slaving away over every last pixel.
Want to know my choice of outsourcing?
I shoot film.
I outsource the bulk of my editing to my lab.
Labs hate it when I say this.
They don’t like to be responsible for the final output, or the idea they do everyones editing for them.
But the truth is
When I outsourced, when I started to shoot film, when I sent film off to the lab, I saved myself a whole TON of time because the colouring, the exposure, everything – was all taken care of for me. Which enabled me to get out there and do what I am brilliant at. Marketing. Attracting clients.
Another one which probably gets you. Fear of blogging. This gets so many of us!
Sure, we can all blog our most recent work, hands down, no problem.
But when it comes to the things we really SHOULD be blogging about?
Those more PERSONAL posts that our clients LOVE and builds that CONNECTION between us aka MAKES THEM WANT TO BOOK????
And the posts that are useful, informative, inspirational? You feel the same about those too.
Nobody wants to read this.
Why would anybody read this?
I’m not sure this is what my target client wants to read about.
I sound silly.
I’m not sure I want to put myself out there. Why would anybody want to read this about me and my life?
Instead just START WRITING! Pick up a pen or your laptop or whatever it is that you write on and just write, uncensored, about whatever is on your heart, and if you feel you have nothing on your heart then pinpoint your target client and ask yourself what is is that they struggle with, and then go write down the answer and this is a blog post. Repeat x 100.
Perfectionism will be your downfall. If you let it.
2. Marketing is everything
But not in that old outdated sense of ‘website + flyers + business cards’. Not if you want to go big-time.
Marketing as in understanding that ALL OF YOUR CLIENTS CAN NOW BE FOUND ONLINE unless you exist in some weird sub-niche that nobody has ever heard of.
So, as traditional marketing ‘rules’ dictate GO WHERE YOUR CLIENTS ARE and if your clients are ONLINE guess where you should be focussing 100% of your marketing efforts?
Once you get that, marketing is easy.
And it’s not just the social media updates. In fact, that’s the small part, because we are now so bombarded with updates from everyone from our Granddad to our kids and everyone is trying to sell us stuff via their updates so we actually switch off mentally when we see them.
It’s the list. Your mailing list. Being in your clients inbox because they have ASKED you to be there because you have given them a lovely beautiful USEFUL free download of some description and in return they say – yes! we love this! we love your work! Talk to me!
It’s your blog posts.
It’s your PERSONAL coming through so that you’re not just one of 3 trillion photographers any more all making the same noise, desperately fighting for clients and decreasing prices in an ever hopeless spiral. That’s how you stand out.
By being you.
By making those personal connections.
By getting over outdated marketing ideas.
I wish I had known this, instead of having some sort of bland cookie-cutter website and trying to be more ‘professional’ when I realised actually my clients dont give a flying monkeys about PROFESSIONAL because that’s what they get in their boring bland every day office and professional LIVES. They wanted COLOUR and PERSONALITY and LIFE not a bloody BORING WATERCOLOUR WEBSITE.
There, I said it.
Because it’s true.
Use watercolours if you love watercolours, if you have watercolours in your home, if you paint, if you love pretty, if you are any or all of those things.
I don’t care about watercolour.
Neither should you.
You should care about exactly what it is that makes you unique.
And know how to use it.
3. You need a mentor.
There is a reason my mentoring sessions are fully booked MONTHS in advance. And right now they are only available to members.
Because having a mentor is quite frankly one of the best business investments you’ll ever make.
Not that shiny new lens.
Not that beautiful new bag.
But knowing where the hell you should actually be going in BUSINESS and having somebody giving you a road map instead of you having to constantly stab around in the dark just asking your friends and family whether they think this is good, whether this is ok, whether you should do XYZ.
It can TRIPLE your business.
It can transform your confidence.
It does one million and one other incredible things that I’m not going to talk about here because this post is already way longer than I planned but this is the biggest tip I can give you when it comes to finding your own mentor.
Don’t find somebody whose photography you love.
You can figure out that part on your own.
It’s not about settings and editing styles.
You’re not here to be a watered down version of someone else.
You’re here to shoot like you.
From the heart.
But when it comes to running your BUSINESS you need a mentor who knows BUSINESS first.
They will show you where you are wasting money, where you can increase money, how to gain more clients. They’ll know what exactly is wrong / right for your website, how to attract your target clients, what secondary income streams you should be working on + more.
In short, you need a business and marketing nerd who also has a love + talent for photography.
Otherwise, all you will get is some great photography business tips and some general business knowledge that you can find anywhere online.
Which is good.
But it’s not life-changing. It’s not revolutionary. It’s not TRANSFORMATIONAL.
And if you want to transform your business, that’s what you need.
I WISH I had known this ten years ago!!
4. Don’t price to compete
I looked at everyone else, constantly. I was always looking at what XYZ was charging.
The local competition.
The national competition.
And then just for fun you had this insane curiosity to know what the big name global players charge too.
And you continually look.
And worry about whether you are charging too much, too little.
Which is what price comparing does.
It makes you fearful. Which is never a healthy place to run your business from! And more than that, when you continually price yourself against what everyone else is doing, you’re not only valuing your own work you’re DEVALUING it because you’re giving it a price based on what everyone else is charging, so you become part of that overcrowded pond where everyone is in a race to the bottom based on who can charge the least!
That’s one sure way to put yourself out of business.
Don’t ever think of your work as comparable to anyone else.
This is your heart-driven work. The work that you love. It’s never JUST to pay the bills, is it? It’s not a JOB!
It’s a passion. An overwhelming passion and love. A lifestyle.
So why are you pricing yourself like a PRODUCT for sale?
I wish I had known this instead.
Think of the VALUE your work is worth, to your clients.
Those wedding images. What will they be WORTH to her in ten years time? Those baby portraits, when those cute little shoes don’t fit and she is all grown up?
What will they be worth THEN?
THAT’s how you price from the heart.
That’s how you price based on what your work is truly worth.
But to price like this takes guts and balls to go against the ‘competition’.
So what. You’re brave.
And more than that.
You don’t want to go out of BUSINESS!!!!
So that’s how you price.
5. In fact, stop looking at other photographers full stop.
Look at cinematographers, incredible film makers, artists and artisans, painters, architects. Read books and get dreaming, visit inspiring places and spaces and galleries and museums and go to talks and LIVE YOUR LIFE smartly, inspired, because you understand that inspiration doesn’t consist of yet another photographer picking up a Contax 645 and saying – I Want That Fine Art Look.
(shoot me now).
Because inspiration comes from inside of you, from everything you love OUTSIDE of photography. Not what exists in an insular sub section or genre.
That’s how your work will get to STAND OUT.
When you do something DIFFERENT that’s when you become that known, recognised, fully booked photographer you want to be.
When you create with PURPOSE and vision and love and heart and when you turn your back on doing what is popular and publishable and do instead what your heart wants to create, and do that, and only that, and repeat.
You can create a good business by basing yourself on what someone else is doing, or based on the popular look.
But what happens when that look begins to lose popularity? When people turn their back on it?
Ask all of those photographers who loved the black and white ‘colour pop’.
Who are now struggling to keep up in a world awash with EITHER fine art beauty or cool vintage indie kinfolk aesthetic.
They’re floundering. Lost. Outdated.
Tastes change seemingly overnight, so the only thing you can ever do is be you.
Create from the heart, with inspiration that burns from within and is lit by inspiration outside of photography.
Those are the things you need to know. Those are the things that make the difference. There are more, but these build a solid foundation for your photography business.
And I wish I had known them when starting out because, it would have made the difference.
Between success and failure. Between loving my business all of the time, and falling out of love with it. Between working from a place of joy, and working from a place of fear and worry.
Because it made all of the difference to my bank account and happiness when I finally figured this stuff out.
Get planning your dream business now, with the Capture Success business goal planner pack. Download it here.