When it comes to business, nobody gets it right on the first try.
Everyone makes mistakes, starts down paths leading to nowhere and wastes time they could have invested more wisely. I know I did! These are the top five biggest mistakes I made in the early days of my business, so that you can, hopefully, avoid making the same ones.
Not Charging What I Was Worth
When I launched my photography business, I was basically giving sessions away for free. Beginner photographers do this all the time, and I just want to grab them by the hand and tug them into my impromptu TED talk.
Giving away your services for free to “build your portfolio” or “gain experience” sounds like a reasonable thing to do when you are just starting out, but, in hindsight, it was a TERRIBLE idea! I found myself marketing to deal chasers, giveaway hunters and bargain shoppers, and it truly stunted my growth in those early months..and led to some serious burnout.
I wasn’t approaching my job with a business mindset. I was approaching it like a hobby. A beginning nurse or engineer isn’t required to spend her first years earning the right to be paid for her services, and neither are you.
When I actually sat down and calculated how many hours I poured into a single session, my mind was blown. It was such a wake up call to realize that, even as a beginner I was devoting my time and my heart to work that I deserved to be paid for.
This doesn’t mean trying to charge fine art prices for your first ever wedding, but it doesn’t mean working for free either. Take an honest look at your craft, experience and product and calculate the time and equipment costs you shoulder for your craft and then set a price that accurately reflects what your work is worth.
Trying to “Do it All”
You know the phrase “Jack of all trades and master of none?” Boy, did that describe me perfectly when I launched my photography business! From the way I spent my time, an outside observer might guess I was an accountant, writer, graphic designer or social media marketer. I was filled with excitement by the prospect of working for myself and the independent woman in me wanted to prove I could conquer it all alone.
Yeah…successful businesses just don’t work that way.
I reached a real turning point in my photography business when I dedicated myself to being a PHOTOGRAPHER and allowed others to give me a hand. By outsourcing the things I didn’t do well, didn’t have the time to learn or just downright didn’t enjoy, I fell more in love with my work and dramatically improved at it, too!
Failing to Invest in Myself
When my business was young, I was nervous to put what I made back into my business. I gravitated toward free webinars and did my best to find what I needed to learn by scouring the Internet.
Although free courses, webinars and articles taught me many things, I rapidly found that I’d outgrown them. They’d taught me all they could, and what I truly needed was the kind of teaching that cost real money.
When I finally bit the bullet and invested in specialized training through in-person workshops, mentorships and classes, I found that I improved far more rapidly. I began not only to set specific goals…but I actually achieved them. I also met some dear friends and colleagues through workshops that I never would have met without stepping outside of my comfort zone and putting a down payment on my future.
Falling into the Comparison Game
In the early days of my business, I compared myself to EVERYONE. It wasn’t that I was jealous of what they had, it was just that I felt that I should be doing what they were doing to succeed the way they were.
But each person paves their own road to success, and I needed to pave mine.
By finally putting on the business blinders, setting goals that mattered most to me and diving into them wholeheartedly, I was able to finetune a style, experience and business personality that felt authentic to who I am. It also allowed me to truly celebrate each success along the way without feeling like I wasn’t where I should be.
Accepting Every Client Who Came My Way
Finally, in the early stages of business, I felt that I had to say “YES, PLEASE!” to every single client willing to let me photograph them. But the tug to appeal to everyone, just confused me and my other clients.
I needed to identify who my ideal client was and work toward attracting them. And sometimes that even mean letting paying clients pass me by, but by being true to myself and the heart of my brand, I found an overwhelming abundance of clients who I was as excited to work with as they were to work with me!
This is the single most effective way I’ve found to avoid burnout: work with clients you love.
Even though the work is challenging and sometimes pushes me to my creative and organizational limits, I get to work with clients who I call “friends.” And honestly, nothing beats that!