In 14 years of business I’ve learned a lot. Made mistakes, had great successes. I’ve loved every step along the way. If you’re a budding photographer or even starting your own small business, I hope these tips help you in your journey to becoming successful and having longevity in whatever it is you choose to pursue!
Charge What You’re Worth
I’ll never apologize for my prices. I’m worth it. That may sound blunt but it’s true. I did not start last week, I’m not your neighbour with a hobby, this has been my profession for 14 years and I’m good at it. I’ve brought in well over 1 million in sales since I started. And how have I done that? By charging what I’m worth. Think carefully about your talent, time and energy and price accordingly.
You Need to Be Good at Business & Marketing
You can be an amazing photographer but if you don’t know anything about business and marketing you will not be financially successful. I didn’t know anything when I first started and it’s been a lot of trial and error but surprisingly it’s actually one of my favourite parts of being a photographer and owning my own business. I call the shots and I can try out new ideas whenever I want to without having to ask anyone’s permission. One of my favourite people that has taught me so much is Jenna Kutcher – love all that she has to offer.
Do Not Compare Yourself to Others
I used to do this a lot. When I started of course a big part of how I learned was seeing what other photographers were doing. The types of shots they took, the locations they used. I straight up copied to learn. Once I became more confident in my abilities I found comparison only made me feel bad about my own work. Now I follow maybe 3-4 Calgary photographers who I know personally. I don’t like knowing what anyone else is doing and that way I know whatever I come up with is truly fresh and new. I find so much looks the same these days. Every influencer has the exact same house decor! Look for your inspiration everywhere BUT Instagram and Pinterest. Magazines, the cinematography in movies and tv shows, museums, art galleries, clothing design, and architecture. If you look outside of the box you’ll create outside of the box.
Work Hard to Keep Your Clients
Once you get a client – keep them. You’ve already gotten over the biggest hurdle which is convincing them you are their best choice. Do your job well, communicate well and after the session follow up with them in a few months or a year. You’ve built a relationship, it’s easier for them to hire you again then try and find someone new so make sure that happens. I have many clients I’ve been photographing for 10+ years. Some I see every single year and some I see every few years. Make sure to nuture these relationships.
Keep Your Overhead Low
I am always shocked when I see what some photographers spend on studios, props, equipment, websites, etc. I wonder if they actually come away profitable after all those expenses? Keep it simple – especially to start. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars on a website. I’ve never paid someone to do my website. I’ve always figured it out and done it on my own. My current one is Showit and it’s pretty intuitive and I can make changes on the fly, never having to ask someone to add/delete something from my website. If you want to use studio space, rent it – don’t go to the expense of making your own. Be creative with what you have. It is a business after all, if you’re not making money – it’s a hobby.
If Something Seems Off, It Probably Is
You know that feeling? In your gut. Whether it’s a business decision or a potential client that wants the moon but wants to pay $100 for your session – you know when it doesn’t feel right. Listen to your gut, it will save you the time and headache.
I have one of the best damn jobs in the world. I am generally always around happy people, I get to hold brand new babies, I get to make kids laugh and have fun with them, I get to watch Netflix while I edit photos, I get to take my kids to school and be home and available for them whenever they need me, I get to be a part of documenting families and I truly truly LOVE it.
Are you a small business owner? What are your best tips for being successful and staying in business?
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Excellent article. I admire your honesty!