Running a Business in College
There wasn’t a specific moment where I decided that I wanted to turn a passion for beautiful photographs into a business. It wasn’t that I wanted to manage business finances, client emails or build a brand that urged me into business. It was a love for the people I was photographing. I was studying Math, Computer Science, and Counseling when I began a photography business and I haven’t looked back. There were so many times that I wanted to quit school and focus on my photography career, but I am so thankful that my friends and family encouraged me to finish my education. I love learning, but I get a little impatient sometimes because I want things to get done. You would be surprised how often I use my major & two minors in my business!
I know that the majority of people who follow my blog are photographers and a lot of you are just beginning in the industry! So if you are in college and trying to get your business into a healthy state, I have a few things to share with you that helped me to pursue a photography career and be a full-time student (part of that time involved me playing college softball and part of it involved me getting married)! I completely understand what it’s like to have a very full schedule.
YOU CAN’T FORCE YOUR BUSINESS TO BE SUCCESSFUL: This is such an important thing to remember! It seems like a lot of people think that if you are good at what you do, then you will naturally have a thriving and healthy business. I have seen so many local business close even though their food was amazing and their customer service was second to none. The photography industry is a lot less risky than the food industry, but you should never try to force your business to work at the cost of you and/or your family. During college, I worked 20+ hours at a part time job and easily put in 20-35+ hours working to get my business off the ground. It wouldn’t have been best for us in the long haul to take out loans to try to make my business work. I have never once regretted working part time jobs in college in addition to putting many, many hours in my business. Take care of yourself and be patient! Sometimes it takes time for great talent and a healthy, thriving business to meet.
SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS: Don’t be intimidated by your peers! I learned pretty quick that my peers wanted to see me succeed and they instantly became my biggest fans. When you find people who are your biggest fans, you CHERISH them. Thank them. Because even if they don’t understand the ins and outs of running a business, that small encouragement goes such a long way. You don’t have to have a team of encouragers in order to run a business, but if you’re blessed with a team you should express your sincere thankfulness to them! Tell your professors, your classmates and your coworkers what you are doing and give them the opportunity to be part of the journey. DON’T make this about yourself. Just give them the opportunity and if they decide to cheer you on, count yourself as blessed!
EXPECT GREAT THINGS: Expect great things. Work diligently with a purpose. I guess here you would need to define “great things.” I expect that the Lord will use my business for His Glory because He is the one who has called me to be a photographer. So when I am given the opportunity to share my life with a bride because she desperately wants to know what makes me so different, I am delighted. My purpose in this career is not to earn money, get published or become famous. My purpose is to live my life for God. Because of this, I work diligently and serve my clients with all the love in my heart.
Don’t put pressure on others to see great possibilities in your business. The likeliness of everyone you meet understanding the potential in the photography industry is just… unlikely. I tend to hold back on sharing what’s going on in my business when I’m around others but I am learning that some people really do care and really want to know how they can support/encourage me. Don’t be disheartened when others don’t understand the hard work that it takes to start a business and survive/thrive in this industry.
DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF: I am so hard on myself. I was in fifth grade prepping for my parent-teacher conference when my teacher pulled me aside to address an issue. We had an assignment where we filled out a questionnaire to give to our parents and I remember two questions: What is something you do well? What is something you need to improve? I thought long and hard and answered honestly: I am really good at being hard on myself and I need to work on being harder on myself. I will never forget Mrs Clawson sitting across from me and earnestly telling me that I didn’t need to be so hard on myself.
Being honest with yourself about a need for improvement is different than being negative towards yourself. When I was playing softball in college, I realized that I would have a very successful batting practice when I would focus on what needed improvement instead of ways that I wasn’t good. So instead of saying “I am a horrible photographer” try saying “I want to improve _________.” I know it seems like such a silly adjustment, but there is just no reason to be rude to yourself.
I have never really struggled with comparison (maybe because my free time was full of negative pep talks) but I have spoken with a lot (A LOT) of photographers who struggle with comparing themselves to other photographers. Let me give you permission right now to stop comparing yourself. Give yourself permission to be you. YOU. Don’t use comparison as a way of “encouraging” you to greatness. Because it just won’t happen. Comparison isn’t designed to encourage anyone, so give your inspiration and creativity room to BREATHE and let yourself be YOU.
I have learned a lot along the way and I hope these four snippets are encouraging to you as you pursue your photography business. There are SO many things I could tell you about running a business in college, so let me know if you want to see other posts like this in the comments below!