I’ve been in business since 2000. That means I’ve been doing this photography thing for 16 (almost 17) years!
And the truth is, most of that time I had no idea what I was doing. I was just making it up as I went along.
Because I was just making it up as I went along, it comes as no surprise that I made many mistakes.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself these three things.
Do not compare yourself to others.
This is with out a doubt the most important thing I’ve learned over the past 16 years. Comparing yourself to others is bad for your soul and is absolutely toxic for your business.
To be successful at what you do, to love your job and to be able to make money doing it, you need to be true to yourself and your creative vision. You need to trust what it is that you do and you need to focus on that. Doing so will keep you inspired, but it will also help you fine tuned your unique brand. And creating a unique brand will enable you to stand out in any market, no matter how saturated.
So don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, figure out what it is that you do, and focus on that. You’ll be happier and your business will be stronger!
Grow your list.
When I first started my business, we didn’t have social media (yes, I’m that old). And so when Facebook came along I, like many other photographers, became obsessed with it. I could post one image on my Facebook page and get hundreds of likes and in doing so, reach thousands of potential clients. So I worked really hard on growing my following.
Then Facebook changed it’s algorithms, and suddenly it didn’t matter how many followers I had, none of them were seeing my posts anyway.
What I know now is that while social media marketing is important, the number of Facebook likes or Instagram followers I have is not where I should focus my attention. Now I know that the best thing I can do for my business is to grow my email list. The size of my list, not the number of followers I have, is what is important to me.
I don’t own Instagram. I don’t own Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Pinterest. But I do own my email list. So I know if I really want to reach my people, I can send them an email and get the important messages out. And my clients will decide whether or not they want to see my content, not the Social Media overlords!
Grow your list! It’s the best thing you can do for your business!
Take care of the talent.
A couple of years ago I had a light-bulb moment while talking on the phone with Brian Greenberg, the owner of Richard Photo Lab.
Brian and I were talking about my business… my workflows, marketing plans, that sort of thing, and then out of nowhere he asked “What are you doing to take care of the talent?” At first I didn’t know what he meant and I had no idea how to answer. He went on to say that when you are running a photography business, all of the nuts and bolts business stuff is important, but if you ignore the artist in you, neglect the talent, the business doesn’t matter, because you will not be able to sustain it. When you are your business, you have to take care of yourself. You have to nourish your creativity so that you have something to give.
This is the best business advice I’ve ever received.
Take care of the talent. Allow yourself downtime. Create just for you. Or create nothing at all! What ever you need to refuel. Take care of yourself so that when you are at work you have something to give.
Remember, as business owners we get to make the rules. We write our own job descriptions every day. So write good ones! Be smart about your business so that you can create a career and a life that you love!