As I’m quickly approaching my 12 year anniversary as a photographer (holy cow, 12 years!) I thought I’d pass along some wisdom to the newer photographers out there. There’s so much that goes into being a business owner and an artist but here are seven things I think you should know and begin to practice right away.
1. HUSTLE – When you first begin your business it’s probably a side gig and you’re super excited and your dreams are big. You quickly realize that things don’t always fall right into your lap and it’s actually a lot of work. I remember working 3 jobs at once and staying up until God awful hours of the morning editing, learning, and designing. I finally built my clients base, they began spreading the word, and I grew enough to go full time and it has been wonderful! But the hustle doesn’t stop there. You continually grow, learn new technology, and make your business better. There’s also the beauty of owning your own business so it can go wherever you go. . .like moving to Alabama and then Georgia, but unfortunately, that means the hustle begins all over again. 2. SERVE – A huge way to grow your business is to serve. Serve other vendors, non profits, and your clients. Getting to know other vendors in your field is a a great way to network but also to just get to know some other people who understand what you’re going through as a small business owner. Offer them help when they need it and guess what, they just might help you when you need a hand. It may be hard to work for free when photographing things for non profits but to me it’s a win win. You get your face and name out there but then you also become more aware of what’s going on in your community. Make every experience a great one for your clients. Treat them like kings and queens and let them know they are valued. They’ll for sure come back and you gain friends in the process.
3. BE YOU – I like this new term I’m hearing, “keep your head down”. We so often compare ourselves to what others are doing and we try to fit in but in all actuality you were meant to stand out! When you are you people are attracted to it. They like honesty and true pure love of self. Not like self centered, stuck up love but loving who God created you to be. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Edit the way you want your pictures look and stay consistent but if you decide you want your art to look different slowly change it. You need to love your work as much as your client does. I believe it’s so important to do something you love to truly be happy in life – don’t compromise you to fit in. Shine baby!
4. KNOW YOUR WORTH – I struggle with this so much! Yes, at the beginning take whatever you can to get the experience you need and build your portfolio but don’t do that forever. After taking all those different types of shoots to pay the bills you’ll probably discover what you really love to shoot and shoot that. Most likely you’ve spent a lot of time and money honing your skills and purchasing equipment, classes, and licenses. You have bills to pay too. Know what you need to live on and save for retirement (BEGIN A RETIREMENT FUND AS SOON AS YOU CAN!!!!!) If someone can’t afford you they can’t afford you. I know it stinks to turn people away or hear them say they can’t hire you but your time is precious, don’t give it away (unless you really feel led to).
5. GET SYSTEMS GOING – Running a business can be super confusing if you don’t get systems in place early. Yes, you’ll tweak and change them but just start. My photos are very organized so I know just how to find them quickly. I have reminders for sales tax due and systems for that. I have systems for each clients workflow and follow up. If you don’t get a routine down early you’ll get burnt out real quickly and probably lose something or forget to pay something!
6. SABBATH – This has been a really hard one to learn and live and I’m still working on it. You need time to recharge, to live, and to dream. I’ve learned that creativity slowly dies when I don’t allow myself time for me. I also see that relationships slip away if you neglect them for work. At the end of your life you won’t say you wish you’d worked more. So live your life too! Don’t answer the phone after hours. Go see the movie you’ve wanted to see. Visit a friend or family member. Take a nap! Rest and trust that God will provide! That’s the most important for me.
7. HAVE FUN – That’s it. Have fun! Laugh and get to know your clients. Take some pictures during your sessions just for you. I always say, “Let me get this crazy artsy fartsy shot just for me.”. If you begin to not enjoy your work it might be time for a longer Sabbath rest or to rethink or refocus your business. There is nothing wrong with that. This is your one life so live it well!