What a year it’s been!! I can’t believe that 9 months ago I was sitting in a cubicle, randomly checking my photography email as I had a free moment and spending EVERY minute of my free time working on my photography business. I feel so thankful that I took the leap to do photography full-time this past April. BUT I have a tiny confession 🙂 This blog title was totally click bait! While I’m proud that I was able to hit that monumental 6 figure number in the first 6 months, most would assume this blog post would reveal one single key to that realm of success. Real talk – if you want to learn from a true business mogul, look elsewhere because I have sooo much left to learn! The truth is that I started photographing clients 9 years ago and photographed my first wedding January of 2014. I was patient and let my business grow before I took the leap in April! Overnight success might be possible for some, but it wasn’t my path! But I still DO have some tips for you and how I got to where I am today.
A couple things inspired me to create this post – my own expectations 9 months ago and questions from my peers. Back in March I was TERRIFIED to pursue photography as my sole career. I ended up surprising even myself when I realized what could happen when you drop everything standing in the way and focus your energy one specific direction. I often get questions from new photographers asking how I reach a specific audience, what camera I shoot with, how I edit, etc. As much as I’m happy to give advice, it’s SO much more than a simple answer. It’s a combination of soo many things – a lot of which I learned in the last few months.
This year was filled with many of ups and downs, but I have come out on the other end with a lot of valuable tools that I didn’t know 9 months ago. Those tips are what I’ll be diving into today!
1. Be patient & invest in education. I get messages on Instagram from new photographers that are looking for the key to finding ideal clients and are seeking tips on having a consistent portfolio. My best advice to new photographers is to be patient, learn from other photographers with a similar style by second-shooting, invest in mentoring and wait for your business to grow organically. Trust me, buying Instagram followers is not going to be the key to your success! I saw the most success when I invested in education. Let’s never stop learning.
2. Surround yourself with likeminded entrepreneurs. Oh. My. Word. My photography girlfriends deserve a large commission check on my business. I bonded with a small group of photographers shortly after going full time. Since then these girls have become like my coworkers and business partners, even though they’re quite literally my competition. They encourage me, give me new ideas on ways to expand my business to my target audience, and are there to answer any random business questions that pop up as unique situations arise. I’m not kidding. We group text daily. They’ve also become some of my dearest friends – yay for having friends with the same unconventional work schedule to keep you socialized and sane during crazy busy months! So, create a crew. Align yourself with a good, core group that knows the ins and outs of your business and can help you grow. Thankfully Instagram has made networking easier than ever! Put yourself out there and find a squad.
3. Outsource, outsource, outsource. As business owners, we’re forced to wear many hats. We don’t have to be experts on EVERYTHING, so outsource projects that aren’t your strong suit to those that are experts in that field. Outsourcing changed my business. I spent less time trying to figure out how to do everything and more time accepting new clients and making money! My outsourcing crew consists of an editor, a lawyer, an accountant, a business coach, and an assistant (oh how I love you, Ali!!).
4. Don’t give discounts. Have confidence in yourself and in your work! Never undervalue your work, even if you’re just starting out. Have the confidence in knowing that you bring value to your clients and that you are WORTH IT! This goes for family and friends, too. You have to pay your bills somehow and discounts won’t get you there! That was a big lesson for me this year.
5. Make the client experience your #1 priority. The motto I practice EVERY DAY is to always under promise and over deliver. My dad, who is also an entrepreneur, engrained this message into my brain. For that I’m so thankful! I tell my clients a timeframe in which their photos will be delivered, and I ALWAYS deliver the images sooner than they’re expecting. If you deliver photos late and the expectation is not met, you’re going to be ending your client relationship on a sour note. Same goes for managing expectations before the photo shoot. I do this by always giving tips on how to most successfully prepare for newborn shoots and weddings. Whether it’s style inspiration, timeline suggestions, or just creating pre-session checklists, letting clients know upfront where some of their pain points might land will reduce surprises and avoid an unhappy client experience.