Looking back, I often think about the things I could have changed in the first few years of business. I could have saved myself many tears, stressful nights, and anxiety if I had known a few important business skills and tricks. Whether you’re just starting out in your business, or you’re 5 years in, I’m sharing 11 things I wish I knew when I started my photography business (there are some things in here that pertain to any creative business too!)
#1 – You can edit more than one picture at a time in Lightroom.
Haha!!! Believe it or not, my mom was the one who told me about Lightroom (this was before community existed in the creative world, you guys). I remember arguing with her that Photoshop was working JUST FINE…as I sit there and individually editing 2000 pictures from my first wedding- complete with a vignette, sepia tones, selective color, and a tilt, all in one photo). Then, I bit the bullet and decided to give it a try. And holy crap. MY LIFE CHANGED! I, of course, started using Lightroom for all my editing. Once I found out that the SYNC button existed and I could sync edits across the board… well, let’s just say that was a game-changer.
#2 – Blogstomp is a thing, and you don’t need to collage pictures in Photoshop
Ohhhhh man. Listen to this. I bought photoshop templates from Etsy for collaging my pictures for blogs! WHAT WAS I THINKING?! To be honest, Blogstomp may not have existed back then, but it does now! Now I can “stomp” (aka collage) my images for an entire wedding in a matter of 10 minutes. One of the best $49 transactions I’ve ever made.
#3 – Don’t try to run your business using a Google sheet.
Ugh, those days make me cringe. Sometimes it seems like yesterday and other days this seems so far away (like a distant universe when I felt like a chicken with my head cut off). If you are not using a CRM software (I use HoneyBook) things will inevitably fall through the cracks. You’ll work yourself to the bone because you lack automated systems and when your business starts to grow, you’ll burn out. My advice, find a CRM software that works for you and set it up ASAP.
#4 – Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
When we’re busy, self-care is often the first thing to go the door. But, I’ve realized that it’s the only way to continue pouring into others. People notice when you are burnt out. At the end of 2015, when I was struggling to get 4 hours of sleep, I remember looking back months later thinking “my poor clients, my burnout really was a disservice to them”. Although my clients may not have noticed, the reality was that I wasn’t taking care of myself in a healthy way. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Drink lots of water. Fill up your own cup frequently so you can continue pouring it into others.
#5 – Don’t use the excuse “I’m too busy” to your friends and family.
Oh man, I recently sent out an email that asked what people would do with extra time in their week. Everyone responded that they’d spend more time with friends and family and not use the excuse that they were too busy.
Take it from me, if you use this excuse over and over again, the invites will slowly stop coming. Just because you run your own business, does not mean that the relationships with people you love should suffer. In fact, it should mean the opposite! YOU are your own boss and you are in charge of your time. Spend it wisely and get organized so you don’t look back with regrets because you ignored the people you love.
#6 – Hire a mentor or a coach.
If you did not go to school for business then you shouldn’t be expected to know exactly how to run one. Ask for help. I’ve had a mentor or a business coach since I started my business. And while it’s a big investment up front (especially when you feel like you’re not taking in enough revenue) it is invaluable in the long run. As a result, this investment is one of the key reasons I was able to make six figures in revenue in my first year as a full-time photographer.
If you’re interested in working together 1-on-1, you can contact me here!
#7 – Spend the majority of your time doing the things you love, that only you can do (and figure out how to outsource the rest).
I have always been taught “you need to spend money to make money”. My dad has worked for the same company for 38 years and has gone from a salesman to the VP of the company and this is always something he believed in. This year especially, I’ve started focusing more and more on the things I’m great at and figuring out ways to outsource the rest. This way I can grow in my strengths (which are usually the things that are making me money) and delegated the rest.
So, what are the things I am great at? Photography and creating content. Of course, this doesn’t mean I outsource everything that isn’t those two things, but I’ve begun delegating more and more because I’ve seen the growth potential in that.
#8 – Don’t expect to make a profit your first year.
I think it’s very hard as a business owner to see the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into your business on a daily basis to then see VERY LITTLE PROFIT (if not NO PROFIT) at the end of the year. (Taxman- give me back my money!)
But, I’ve realized that it is VERY RARE to see a profit in your first year of business. As a photographer or any business owner for that matter, you will have a lot of overhead costs in your first year. My advice, if you’re going to use the equipment consistently, do your best to save and buy them instead of renting. And this goes for any software needs or coaching services you might need in your first year. Needless to say, I have no regrets about where I spent my money these last 5 years. I’ve come to peace knowing that it’s NORMAL to not make a profit in your first year of business.
#9 – Get insurance.
This was a lesson I learned the hard way! I had no idea that I needed liability insurance as a photographer. But I quickly found out that most venues require it. When one of them requested my policy, I had to quickly ask around for insurance company recommendations so I could send it to the venue! I use Package Choice by Hill and Usher, which is specific for photographers. Avoid getting yourself in a bind, get insurance.
#10 – Open a business checking account and credit card.
When I first started, my finances were all in one place and it was very difficult to figure out my business bottom line. In 2014, I opened a business account with Chase Bank and received my first Laura Lee Photography credit card! I initially went for the Chase Ink card, but recently opened a second card with their Business Preferred Card. I am able to fly almost everywhere this year for free with all of the points I’ve gotten back from business and travel expenses. I loveeee a good rewards program!
Additionally, when you set up your business bank account, your books will become so much easier, as well as your taxes! If you are trying to build a legit business, avoid your personal accounts and open a business account!
#11 – Get an Operating Agreement for your LLC and legit contracts.
Apparently, an Operating Agreement is a pretty important document to have! While it’s not required by the state, it’s one of the most important documents your LLC can have and I’ve been without one for almost 5 years!! Luckily, my friend Paige at the Creative Law Shop helped me by sharing one of her templates. Now I have a little more legal peace of mind knowing that my business is even more legit.
And contracts, well, don’t get me started! This is absolutely 100% the most important thing you can have for your business. NEVER go into a paid gig without a contract in place. Even with friends and family! Luckily, you don’t have to go to law school to get a solid contract! Paige at the Creative Law Shop has already done the work for you. She’s created contract templates for nearly every type of creative business! I love this resource and I am so happy to spread the word about her amazing work! If you’re in need of a legal and legitimate contract, you can view Paige’s templates here.
And back to you… comment below and tell me if there’s something YOU wish you knew when you were just starting out in business.
PS. Looking for some workflow help? Click the image below to get my free guide for photographer’s on 10 workflow hacks to speed up all your processes!
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