Starting a new business can be both exciting and stressful. As pleasant as writing your own hours and being your own boss can be, there are plenty of downsides to running a business.
The ideal freelancer or entrepreneur is self-motivated, efficient with their time, and can deal with the stress of not having a steady pay check to fall back on. In the beginning, these are all things that come into play frequently.
Lavan Photography started a wedding photography business from scratch 10 years ago in Melbourne and has become one of the most successful photography businesses in the local wedding industry. And here is some advice they'd like to share which you'll want to take into consideration before starting your own business.
1. A website is your most reliable platform.
Having a website is a must in today's highly connected world. Most clients look online for a business website, reviews, and a list of products and services before they even decide to contact you. Websites are a great place to talk about your business and, better yet, what you can do for your clients. Unlike Facebook and other sites, you have full control of your site and its content.
Luckily, with all the different web builders and content management systems out there, you don't have to be technical to build a website. Almost anyone can have a fully functional website set up anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on how complex the design is.
2. Marketing is your most valuable skill.
Learning how to market yourself is the best decision you can make for your business.
Most of the time and energy spent on starting your business should deal with marketing in some form. You can have an amazing website, great landing pages, and beautiful photos. But if you don't put yourself out there, you'll have a major shortage of clients.
Social media, email lists, and referrals are all great ways to get your name out. Don't underestimate word-of-mouth referrals, especially when they come from trusted friends and family. It's often the best way to make connections with clients locally.
3. Decide how much time you can spend on your business.
Time management plays a big role in how fast your business takes off. Naturally, if you can dedicate as much time to it as you would a full-time job, it'll be easier to get things started in a reasonable amount of time.
There are pros and cons to starting both part-time and full-time businesses.
With a full-time business, you have plenty of time to dedicate to your business, helping to ensure a solid start. There's time to experiment with different marketing tactics and work on building your online presence. However, you'll be relying on savings or another source of income. This can be incredibly stressful from a financial standpoint.
A part-time business is usually the safest way to go as far as money is concerned but can have negative effects on your personal life. Starting a business while working a full-time job and dealing with any other commitments is difficult. You still need the time and energy to dedicate to maintaining an online presence, marketing, and clients' needs. Time-management is a must if you plan on making your business part-time.
4. Get involved in a community.
Other photographers are not the enemy.
As much as you're tempted to cut off connections with other professionals in your field, don't. You'll only hurt yourself.
Photography comes in many different forms and styles. The clients who matter are the ones who buy from you because they like your style, not necessarily your price.
By making connections in your community, you learn more about the business and gain valuable connections.
You may even get some clients from other photographers. A wedding photographer isn't likely to take on many other types of photography, so what happens if a client asks for something they don't offer? If it's something you happen to specialize in, there's a client gained from having a connection with other photographers.
You'll find some of your most valuable connections in communities of like-minded people, whether it's a local organization (such as your chamber of commerce) or an online community of other photographers.
5. Don't fret if you don't have a lot of equipment in the beginning.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is dumping hundreds (or even thousands) into equipment you don't use on more than a monthly basis. Especially in the beginning, you probably won't have a lot of room for unnecessary expenses.
If you only have a 50mm lens to shoot with, don't go out and buy a 200mm for a single occasion. Weekend rentals for 200mm lenses typically only run about $40, a fraction of the price you would spend to buy one outright.
While rental equipment isn't the best long-term solution, it's a great way to start out. Don't feel bad about not having your own equipment at first.
There are many things to consider when starting your business, but you've taken the first step to a successful start by thinking and planning ahead. Don't be afraid to take it slow and do the appropriate research, especially when it comes to things like marketing and finance.
Title image from the work of Lavan Photography.