5 things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Business
I have been a photographer for 5 years now. This has been one heck of an emotional rollercoaster. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for everything photography has brought me at such a young age, but there are a few things I wish I knew before I started on this adventure. So, here are a few things I wish I knew when I didn’t have everything figured out. (FYI, I still don't have everything 100% figured out, but does anyone ever?)
Number 1: Uncle Sam Wants His Money
Ladies and Gents. Just give the government the money and the paperwork they want. You will thank me for this later.
When I first started, I thought all I needed was a logo, a Facebook Business Page and a rinky-dink website that I created on Wix. Oh boy was I wrong. Here is the thing, I went to college. I was a business major. Up until this point in life I didn’t realize that I didn’t know SQUAT about being an entrepreneur. They don’t teach you how to run a business in school.
So before you even think about charging anyone, you really need to get your biz s**t together. Now this varies state to state, and I am by no means a “tax/legal/insert whatever else you want to here” expert. My best advice to you is hire an accountant or go to Legalzoom and get your ducks in a row.
Oh, and last thing, pay everything on time. I forgot about my state sales tax for two quarters, and I was hit with a $150 fine. That is a lot of money to a small business, so just do it, and do it on time.
Number 2: Don’t Buy Stupid Stuff
This is pretty self explanatory, but keep in mind the expenses you might be racking up, without a whole lot of income coming in.
I started out my business with a Rebel T3, and I thought I was a BALLER!!! I used the heck out of this camera and the kit lens for about a year and a half before I even bought my nifty fifty. I shot my first two weddings on this camera alone (not the best idea FYI), and I got through a ton of portrait sessions with this bad boy. I also used to edit all my photos on a tiny 13” Acer Laptop, that needed some color calibration.
At the beginning of my business, I thought I needed the latest and greatest camera bag, and random camera accessories, rather than saving that money and investing it later. Even if you are not a photographer, try and take something away from this. I have operated a debt free business, meaning that I do not have a business loan, and I do not have a line of credit. Actually, I just applied for my first business credit card two days ago, and it is scary!!
If you are an event coordinator, you don’t need to own a beautiful office right away. Starbucks is totally cool with your clients, or look at meeting at a coworking space (if you are local to Jax, check out Cowork Creative). If you are a blogger, just use that laptop that I know you still have from your college days, and make that thing work. Once you bring in some dollar bills, then you can upgrade to that iMac I know you have been eyeballing.
Number 3: You Aren’t Perfect… and that is ok!
My ego was the size of the moon when I first started, especially before I had my first client. I thought my pictures were the greatest thing ever created since Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. Then… I edited my first photo session. I kid you not, everything was blurry and out of focus… the best part is (*cue sarcasm*) that I shot the whole thing in Auto mode, and shot JPEG only. There was NO WAY I could save this session. Thank the lord it was just for a friend and I didn’t charge anything, but it was a swift kick in my butt!
Everyone starts somewhere. Muhammad Ali wasn’t always great at boxing. Derek Jeter didn’t hit home runs straight out of the womb. Steve Jobs didn’t create Apple in a day. My point here is to say that you can’t start out perfect, and you must always be willing to grow.
Number 4: Invest in Education and Find a Mentor
This goes hand in hand with my last point. Make sure you seek education in your particular field of interest. See if you can find someone who is successful in that field, and would be willing to mentor you. If you work a full time or part time job, you have a secure pillow of income. Use the money you are making in your small biz to invest into your business and your own education, while you don't have to pay your own salary.
Education doesn’t mean going to a four year college or a traditional form of schooling. There are plenty of online classes you can take from experts, or find some of their content for free on this thing called "the internet." If you invest your time and resources into consistent learning, it will help improve your business from the get go.
I wish I had invested in education early on. Only within the last two years have I sought outside help and advice. I love Creative Live and The Rising Tide Society for both free and paid education, especially if you operate in the creative realm.
CHECK OUT MY LATEST WORK OVER ON INSTAGRAM
Number 5: This isn’t all Rainbows and Butterflies
Now, it took me a little longer to realize this than most people. Entrepreneurship is exhausting. I can’t lie about that. You are literally wearing every single hat in your business, and at first this is all that you can afford to do. I promise you, it does get better. You will find your groove, and figure out systems that work best for you!
If you want to run a business because you think it will be easier than your typical nine to five corporate job, and you will get to make your own schedule, and do what you want… think again. You have to put in a vast amount of work to get to that level. You have to dedicate SO MUCH time to reach that point in your business, and yet, it is so fulfilling if it is what you truly desire.
I don’t mean to say this to break you down, but rather to lift you up, and propel you forward. If this is what you want, take something away from this, and implement a change in your own small business. I wish these were things someone flat out told me in the beginning! It would have saved me a lot of trouble of feeling as if I wasn’t meant to be an entrepreneur. I am telling you that it is ok, and that you will make it through this! Go kill it boss babe/gent!