There are so many things that I wish I had known when I first started photography. And there are even more things I wish I had known about business! The list goes on and on. Today I am sharing a list of my major business mistakes. I'm sure this list isn't exhaustive since I am writing this at 3:00 am. We traveled for an engagement and family session on Monday and Tuesday with Daniel. Yes, you heard me right. We took our (almost) 4 week old baby on an incredibly fun and exhausting adventure! So here I am writing for the blog from our bedroom while the sun is still working on setting or rising - I am not sure which.
I learned about running a photography business from trial and error, great customer service, and the internet. Still, with all the education I could find, I managed to make mistakes. Yes, I made the big mistakes like not saving for taxes and not having a financial plan of any kind. Well, I guess that's not entirely true. My financial plan was this: just make it to tomorrow.
As it turns out, you can run a business on "just make it to tomorrow", but I wouldn't advise it. It leads to a lot of stress and tears. So, how do you start thriving and stop just simply surviving? One of the ways is to get excited about learning. Learn from your mistakes and learn from the mistakes of others.
I wrongly turned down a potential client
Isaac and I had just moved to St Louis and I was sure that I needed to do things by the book. And the book (aka the internet) said that I needed to attract my ideal client. So when I met with a bride who wanted photos at the arch take with a fisheye lens in some cheesy pose, I passed on the wedding.
It hurts to even write those words. The arch is so meaningful to so many people who live in St Louis. And my problem is obviously not with the arch but with the cheesy photos. The bride wanted my vision. That's why she was interested in my photography in the first place and I was too caught up in finding the "perfect" client that I didn't see the ideal client right in front of me.
For the record, I have since wised up and shot an engagement session at the arch and the images are some of my all time favorite images!
I didn't manage the business finances well (or at all)
It took me years to manage the business finances. In fact, it wasn't until June of 2014 that I truly developed a budget for the business and started managing its finances well. Up to that point, I had not saved for taxes (ever) and I made purchases for the business if there was money in the bank. Well, being unprofitable is only fun for so long (and is it really every fun?).
Now I manage those finances like a boss. After all, I am the boss. I tell the money where it should go and how it should be used. The business accounts are happy. I'm happy. My Porsche is happy. Totally kidding. We don't have a Porsche.
I forgot to create a marketing plan
If someone called me inviting me to advertise on their website or sign up for their bridal show, I was all over it. I let flattery persuade me into making terrible financial decisions and I quickly regretted each decision. There is nothing wrong with online advertising or bridal shows (although I currently do neither). But it's important to make every decision on purpose and for a purpose!
I have a marketing plan now. And apparently I love plans because I have a twitter plan, an instagram plan, a blog plan, and the list goes on. I love marketing.
I priced myself incorrectly
My pricing was random. I didn't know what I should be charging because I didn't understand the value of my work and the demand of the market. I couldn't figure out why I wasn't booking the number of weddings that I was aiming to book so I decided to take a closer look at my packages.
I finally found a pricing structure that works for my business and for my brides. Consider what you know about your market. Do they want albums, prints, etc? Do they want the high resolution files? Do you want to charge by the hour? All of these things factor into how you should price yourself!
I tried to run my business like everyone else
I was so wrapped up in trying to run the "perfect" business that I missed some really great opportunities when I was starting. I tried to be like everyone else in the photography industry and no one would book me. And why would they if I wasn't screaming from the rooftops that I had something different to offer?
I am not like everyone else. Neither are you. And that's something to be celebrated!! If we are all unique and we all try to run our businesses the same it's just not going to work.
I am constantly making changes in my business based on our family needs and client needs and the business is better for it! Your business is unique and it should be treated like such!
So go create your marketing plans and your financial plans. Learn as much as you possibly can. Apply what you learn to your business. Then watch your business grow.