Hey friends! You all know how much I love photography even though I am not doing it full time any more. I have been thinking a lot on all the things I have been through the last few years, learning and growing. I thought I would share some of my “know how” with all of you so you can avoid some of the 5 biggest mistakes I made when starting my photography business!
1. DON’T Start because you just bought a fancy new camera and have NO idea how to use it in Manual.
This is one of my biggest mistakes. I originally started out with a Canon 7D. I bought it thinking because it cost ALOT that it would take SUPER AMZING perfect pictures for me. WRONG-O! I started taking pictures of my kids (in auto mode) and loved it so much. Which is fine if you are a mommy and that is all you want to do with you camera, but in my opinion, you can spend ALOT less money and get a better quality “auto” mode camera if that is all you want to do with it.
-NEVER start charging $ until you are fully aware of how to use your camera, yep that means in Manual too. I was shooting in auto mode for quite some time in the beginning (when I should have been shooting for free until I learned more). I remember sitting in a bathroom reading my camera manual at a wedding once because it would do this weird ” triple flash thing” when trying to use my “On camera” flash AT THE WEDDING. GASP….. I know. I am so ashamed of myself. It was because the lighting was too low and I had it in auto mode. It was telling me “hey crazy person using me, I can’t shoot with the settings you’re ‘automatically’ giving me. Fix it and I will work better.” Look at it this way, you wouldn’t want Dr. so and so working on or with you if he just bought a fancy Medical book that explained how to do things (that he really hadn’t read) and have him charge you and do the work on or with you. Right? I can’t even believe I did a wedding. A wedding not knowing how to use my camera. In the end it all worked out. But can you imagine if I didn’t end up getting the importance of that day for that Bride and Groom? Irreplaceable memories lost because of the lack of knowledge on my end….
2. DON’T Start without having a business plan.
So like I said, I just jumped in with two feet charging $100 for cd’s with at least 50-60 images on them all edited! YIKES. Talk about a time sucking leach I was dealing with. (I’ll go deeper into that below) But YOU MUST have a business plan if you want to be successful at what you do! Without a plan you are a wanderer, like I was, lost and confused, frustrated why your business is not taking off.
-Write down where you see your self going in 1 year-5 years.
- Set goals
-Write down what your overall image or “feel” you want your business to have.
- Find a brand and STICK to it. Find a good designer and make sure you are VERY thorough with them and what you are wanting. Your brand and logo make up ALOT of how your business is viewed by others.
- Don’t make your logo or “blog” yourself…. especially when you can get a Dear Emmie one….
-Decide what you want to take pictures of. It’s ok to start out doing it all, then sticking to your guns on what you REALLY like photographing and only being a “wedding” photographer etc. Figure it out, so you can make it very clear to others that you “Don’t do families” so you are not juggling it all and taking pictures of things you really don’t enjoy doing.
-DECIDE how much you want to make and what is worth your time. DON’T sell yourself short. A photography business takes lots of time and work. GET PAID FOR IT. If you are trying to be cheap, you will attract cheap customers… trust me… you don’t want cheap customers. STICK TO YOUR PRICING, and then have “sales” or “discounts” for the cheap people to grab on to if they wish to even pay that price.
3. DON’T do it for cheap to get clients.
This is SO huge. With how saturated the market is now with digital photography. It is people “Like me” in the beginning, that ruin it for the Hard working, rely on that income, PROFESSIONAL photographers. When you are doing sessions and giving a free cd with the session price of $100 you are KILLING the market people. It makes Mrs. JoeSchmoe go to you when you are not trained or knowledgeable about what you are doing and taking business away from True professionals who do their business as just that a “REAL” business, not a side way of bringing in some extra $ just because. Granted, you can have a “REAL” business doing it on the side. BUT DON’T BE CHEAP. GET PAID JUST LIKE THE OTHER KNOWLEDGEABLE PROFESSIONAL. DO IT FREE if you are learning (like an intern) If your prices are the same or similar, we help each other in bringing in more income! And let me tell you! I’d much rather do 1 session at $400-$600 for the month than 4-6 sessions at the price of $100! You CAN work less, make more, and make the same amount you would being cheap and WAY over worked.
-When you attract the type of clients you want. You will love your business. If you feel like you are being pushed around and cheap shotted, well more than likely you are being Cheap yourself. (Trust me, I know) Learned it the hard way and that is why I am now sharing my knowledge with you!
4. DON’T do what everyone else is doing.
-STAY OFF OF LOCAL PHOTOGRAPHER’S SITES. One of my biggest mistakes in the beginning. I saw a lot of what was “popular” in my area and thought, If I am like them, I know people will come to me. WRONG-O again. PHOTOGRAPHY is ART. Get inspiration and make it your own style or way to set it apart from the rest. If you find your self looking a lot at others work, more than likely you will start copying those you follow. Which is totally not cool. TRUST ME AGAIN. One of my BIGGEST mistakes.
BE INSPIRED, BE CREATIVE, Then BE UNIQUE.
-Don’t compare your business to anyone else’s. LOVE what YOU DO and Be good at it.
5. DON’T put all your time and effort into your business and neglect your family and everything else in your life.
So with me not knowing my camera in manual, not knowing how to use photoshop, not knowing really how to run a business, I found myself consumed to the MAX. My children 4 and 2 at the time, started pouring cereal for themselves in the morning…. let me repeat that 4 and 2. YES, that is how bad it had gotten with them getting food for themselves. I was lost in a world that I had jumped into with NO expertise and trying to “SELF TEACH” myself, and letting everything else around me go. DON’T DO IT. If this is you now, STOP IT. You will regret it all so much. The time that it sucks away that you WILL NEVER GET BACK. IT IS ABOUT BEING EFFICIENT with your time that makes your success.
Follow my experience and LEARN from it. You will be SUCCESSFUL when you Educate, Plan, and Do what you are supposed to do. When you learn all you can and practice ALOT, THEN make the decision if being a “Professional” is really what you are waning to do.
Plan out the times you will work and stick to it. Those emails, Facebook notices, comments, and instagram likes will all be there later. They can wait for your time. When you plan out your working time. You are more efficient and quicker than doing all throughout your day. Plus, your family, home, pets, friends, need you too. Your business is not made to be your life. It is to bless it. Not overhaul it. Don’t let the most important people down. Find the balance and what works for you. If you are too overloaded on one side of the scale, eventually you will hit rock bottom with the weight of it all. Like I did.
Luckily, I took a few years off to clear my head. I got into design and still do a bit of photography on the side. I have learned my balance and what I can handle. Every once in a while I have an unbalanced week, because they still come. But I have learned my limits and found I am best when I am balanced. I have been able to more than double my income, and I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I hope this has helped or will help you if you are struggling like I once was. Thanks for reading and go make your Dreams come true!