When I decided to go full time with photography, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Everything I knew about photography was self-taught, and I had never attended formal courses on anything business related. I was overly confident and wildly naive that I would just simply figure it out.
I took a step of faith when I leaped into my business three years ago. It’s been an adventure, to say the least. I’ve loved the freedom owning my business has provided. I’ve been able to choose my hours, work from home, and have total control over how I spend my time and energy. I’ve been able to travel, be at the births of family members, and decide not to work on Wednesday just because self-care.
And while all the above sounds luxurious and desirable, and ‘what’s-even-there-to-complain-about’, I want to candidly share this process has NOT been a walk in the park. The grass is not always greener. In fact, if you want green gas you better commit to working hard to nurture that yard to get that green grass (weird landscape rant over). You see, there is always a cost to freedom. And while I wouldn’t change a thing to pay such cost, I wish I would’ve been a bit more prepared on what to realistically expect when I started my own business and became a wedding photographer.
So here are a few things I've learned since day one. A few things I wish I would’ve focused on in my first year of entrepreneurship. A few things that I hope help you if you too are deciding to start your own business.
1) Learn to Master the Many Hats
When you step into entrepreneurship, you take on many, many roles. You become CEO, Marketing Director, Office Manager, Bookkeeper - the list goes on - all at once. You are solely responsible for the success of each area. The truth is you could have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t know how to treat our business and run it like a CEO it will not last. You need to learn to respond like a boss and not a hobbyist. It took me a while to realize that I needed to learn a ton more about business if I wanted to be successful and build a business that lasts. I eventually invested in courses that taught me how to focus on the finer details of business management but I wish I would’ve been more prepared in this area so that I could set up a more secure foundation from the start.
2) Have a Business Accountability Partner
About 6 months ago another entrepreneur friend reached out to me and asked how I was at being my own boss. "Well...it's going," I hesitated. She proposed an idea to me - a business accountability partner. We would check in with each other once a week for one hour to help hold each other accountable to our goals. I loved the idea and it has been one of the best decisions I have made for my business and personal development. Every week I look forward to our chats. We celebrate our wins together and give each other much-needed encouragement for those rough days (that let's be real, feel like far too often!) when entrepreneurship feels like an impossible feat. I truly wish we started this years ago.
3) Prioritize the Fun
Once I decided to don the title professional photographer, I kind of stopped having fun with my craft. I was scared to try new things cause I didn’t want it to negatively mess up my business. I lacked confidence so I didn’t want to be seen as unprofessional. At the end of 2017, I realized I rarely took my camera out to shoot things simply for myself. I realized that I became so focused on the profit and building a business I stopped having fun with it. That changed in 2018, where I told myself that for every paid gig I had I would do something fun and new for myself in return It was a really fun project and loved what came out of it. I wish I would’ve had more fun, made mistakes, tried more new things right from the beginning and made the practice more fun.
4) Outsource Where and When Possible
I learned quickly I cannot do it all. Outsourcing my editing was the best investment I made. It freed up my time to commit to other projects that required me, like meeting with clients or shooting sessions. And it allowed my turnover time to be quicker cause I wasn’t overloaded with All. The. Things. It can feel scary to delegate tasks in your business, it’s your baby. But by letting go of areas that don’t need you, you are better serving yourself, your business, and your clients. And that feels way more rewarding than the stress you receive from the alternative.
5) Achieve the Powerful Habit of Discipline
While it feels incredibly awesome to have such freedoms about when to wake up, what to wear (hint: pants aren’t required and neither are showers), how to spend my lunch time, and when to actually work. It’s a lot of responsibility to manage such decisions. And the truth is, your success is directly related to what choices you make. Sure I could lay around in my PJ's all day and watch TV instead, but not working doesn’t make money. I’ve learned that this freedom is not to be abused if I want to be successful - I need to master thinking like a CEO. It's incredibly imperative to learn the habit of discipline. It’s why my morning routine is so sacred to me, why I don’t check my email on my phone, why I don’t go on social media till my top priority task is done, and why I give myself my own version of office hours. I need to choose things that work for me, not against me. Towards success instead of failure.