IDEAS for Starting UP a Business
We started our photography business in 2006. That’s only 6 years ago, but it feels like a lifetime, especially when we look back on all that’s happened. And when we think about all the mistakes we’ve made, well, it feels more like two lifetimes!
But mistakes are just wonderful little learning opportunities in disguise. And while we’ve had our fair share of screw-ups, we’ve been able to learn and improve as a result.
So we’re going to pull the curtains back, share a ton of our mistakes, and the things we wish we had known when we were just getting started. We learned these lessons the hard way. Hopefully by sharing them with you, you’ll be able to avoid these mistakes, and have a smoother ride to success!
1. Learn To Shoot In Manual Mode Right Away
We shot our first year of weddings in Aperture Priority Mode. At the time, it seemed like the easier option. But we’ve since realized that it was actually making things harder on ourselves!
See, the importance of learning to shoot in manual mode isn’t because modes like Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority are useless. They can be a solid choices in certain situations.
The real value of manual mode shooting is in how it forces you to understand what’s going on with your camera, and the light around you. Learning this early on will help you get more control over your images, and improve your shooting skills quickly.
Another bonus is that manual mode also lets you be more consistent in your exposures, which helps you save time with your editing!
So this isn’t some photography snobbery here. Learning how to shoot in manual mode is going to help you in a ton of ways, and the sooner you can learn how to do it, the more benefit you’ll see!
2. You Are Not Just A Photographer
When we got started we thought that if we had great photography skills, we’d have a successful business. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re starting and running your own business, you need to wear a baker’s dozen of hats. You are a photographer/customer service expert/book keeper/marketing director/social media whiz/branding dude/website creation person/secretary/treasurer/CEO/CFO/ and pretty much any other title you can think of.
The sooner you realize that you’re going to need to become good at a LOT of different things, the sooner you can start improving at them all. Great photography skills are important, don’t get me wrong. But you need to have a LOT of other ones if you’re going to make a business out of it!
3. Be Patient
This is a lesson we still have to remind ourselves of constantly. When we first got started, we figured we’d have a wildly successful business rolling within a year. Fast forward 6 years, and we’re still trying to get there.
It takes time to get good at photography. It takes time to get good at marketing. It takes time to get good at customer service. It takes time to get good at business organization. Basically, it takes time to get good at the dozens of things you need to be good at to run a wildly successful photography business.
So don’t beat yourself up if things aren’t happening as fast as you expected. If you stick with it, and keep improving, you’ll get there.
4. People Skills Are The Most Important Skills
Photography is a people business. Even if you’re a landscape shooter, your clients are people. And the better you can work with, and take care of, the people you do business with, the more success you’ll see.
We didn’t understand just how important this was until we read the book How To Win Friends & Influence People. From that point on, we saw that the more effort we put into being great with people, the more success we had. That book changed our business, and our lives. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but I promise it’s not.
5. Unnecessary Gear and Business Purchases Can Be Crippling
It’s very easy to get caught in the never-ending cycle of buying things to “help your business”. With photography, it’s even more dangerous because the purchases are fun and exciting! It’s not hard to convince yourself that if you just had that better lens, you’d take better photos, and your business would be more successful.
I don’t even want to think about how much money we’ve wasted by buying gear that we didn’t really need. It all ended up collecting dust in our closet until we sold it for a serious loss. After a few years of that nonsense, we got wise and started being very, very, very thoughtful about purchasing anything. Our gear might not get many jealous stares from other photographers, but as long as it’s creating the images we want, that’s all that matters.
It’s the same deal for business purchases. Think carefully before pulling out that credit card. It’s hard enough to make a solid profit with photography without huge expenses to deal with.