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small business

Man, I Really Screwed Up

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Man, I Really Screwed Up

Learn From My Mistakes, and How to Overcome Your Biz Failures

As a young entrepreneur, I entered the business realm knowing that I would fail along the way. I knew that I would drop the ball somewhere. Everyone always tries to give you advice on how to recover, but you never know until the situation arises. Everyone tells you “oh, everyone goes through this, it is how you succeed one day!” What they don’t tell you… how much it actually breaks you down.

Learn from my mistakes, and how to overcome your biz failures. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

Friends, I am never one to shy away from the truth. I have had my mess ups, some small, and some big. It happens. But, the hard part? I am SUCH a people pleaser, and it literally tears me down to know that someone is not happy with me. It depletes my energy to the point where I will lie in bed all day.

There was one time in particular, that I am hoping you can relate to, that I lacked communication. I want to provide you with the “solution” I came up with. I actually lost out on a great customer. She was a first hand referral from someone REALLY important, who put their reputation on the line for me.

So, I currently share a studio with a makeup artist, and her friend’s mother was looking for updated head shots. I thought, great! I would love to add this work to my portfolio, and a word of mouth referral, from a friend, is the strongest lead that I know of. At the time, I was going through a lot personally, and I was planning my wedding. That is not an excuse for anything, but it gives you insight on to why my mistake happened.

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So, the makeup artist’s friend filled out my inquiry form, and I got her rolling along in my booking process. If you know me, I am never one to shy away from communication. Most of the time you can’t get me to shut up! But for some reason, I was so bogged down with stress and life, that my communication moved at a snail's pace.

I would go days without responding to her emails. I felt like a terrible person, but I also thought, hey, she isn’t going anywhere, this was such a strong lead. A few weeks went by, and I still didn’t have her completely booked, I know, really terrible management on my part. I then received a very short email:

“... We have booked another photographer.”

I was mortified, and I immediately broke down, and felt a pit in my stomach. I thought to myself, “what have I done?”

Listen, we are humans, and we all make mistakes. In my life, I have found that the best recovery is admission. I immediately emailed her back with my sincerest apology, and I owned up to the lack of communication.

Did I ever hear from her again? No. Do I ever expect to hear from her again? No.

The biggest thing to take away from my experience is to own up to your mistakes. Once I did so, I felt the pit in my stomach go away. I know I will never be able to resolve the amount of disservice I offered to this customer. I will never be able to fix that. What I can do is learn from the situation and admit to my faults as best I can.

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If Only I Knew What I Was in For

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If Only I Knew What I Was in For

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?)

5 things I wish I knew before starting my photography business. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

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.

5 things I wish I knew before starting my photography business. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

 

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!

 

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The Never Ending Search for Organization

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The Never Ending Search for Organization

 

My Top 3 Organization Tools and 2 of them are FREE!

 

So can we talk about organization for just a sec? 100% organization in life is more rare than a Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino. I feel like I am always seeking the latest/greatest/best organizational tools, and I always seem to fall short of organizing my crazy, chaotic life.

Most of you know that I work a full time job in marketing by day, and I chase my “day dreams” at night. Time is of the essence for me, as I am sure it is for most of you! My time is so limited, so I put systems in place to make sure everything is organized. As my nana always said, “There is a place for everything, and everything is in it’s place.”

Man oh man, did she beat that mantra into my brain for the last 24 years of my life, but I am so thankful that she did! I really want to bring you some of my favorite organizational tools to help get your s**t together, but before I do, I have a FREEBIE for you! This is what I use to organize my massive list of folders and files on my desktop. Click below to download!

 

My Top Three Organization Tools!

  1. Trello
  2. Google Drive
  3. 17hats

 

 

Trello: My Project Management Tool

Where to even begin with Trello. This is by far the easiest, and best project management tool I have ever used. There are so many ways to customize this tool to fit all of your business and personal needs. You need to create an all-inclusive editorial calendar with a workflow attached? Check. You need a way to store all of those important biz documents, passwords, logins, and more? Check. Heck, you need a way to plan out your meals and grocery checking list? Check.

I am telling you… Trello does it all. Oh, and to top it all off, there is even a mobile app. Score!

If you want to learn all things Trello, I suggest you head on over to my gals at Think Creative Collective. Abagail and Emily created an AH-MAY-ZING course that changed my life… forever! Bonus points: it is under $30. When was the last time you spent $30 and had your life turned upside down for the better?! Check out the course, and I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

Google Drive: My EVERYTHING Tool

Google Drive is literally my life. I keep all of my important digital files within Google Drive, and the best part is I can access it anywhere, and I don’t have to lug around a clunky external hard drive. You can totally get Google Drive for FREE, but it is so worth it to upgrade your account for more storage.

I used Google Drive to organize all important contracts, shared documents, and inspiration photos for my wedding. I use Google Drive and Google Docs to create all of my content, and store it away in a perfect organized system. I use Google Drive to share and collaborate with other business owners when working on shared projects.

Grab your free desktop background and organize all of your important computer files! [Custom Text] Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

 

I have found that Google Drive, versus their competitors like Dropbox or Box, is more user friendly, and is faster to use. It is easily accessible to anyone you need to share content with. Google Drive is also highly compatible with other programs, such as Trello… that is how I schedule my editorial calendar and keep blog posts organized!

 

17hats: My Client Management Tool

This is the one management tool that I pay for, and it is WELL worth it! There are so many tools out there on the market such as Honeybook, Asana, Shootproof, etc. 17hats just made so much sense for my business. I primarily use 17hats to manage all client related documents like contracts, quotes, invoices and contact information. 17hats allows me the flexibility to add my branding to all documents that are sent to clients via email. My client doesn’t have to log in to some weird system, they just click a couple buttons, and boom! I get paid, and all documents are signed!

The main reason I fell in love with 17hats was the bookkeeping feature. Holy Moly, was this a life saver. I am not an accountant. I never want to be an accountant. I took accounting classes, and this stuff is still so far over my head, it isn’t funny. There was no way I was going to devote more of my precious time to learning how to operate Quickbooks. 17hats syncs perfectly with my banking system, and allows me to categorize all my transactions. I print out pretty, easy to understand reports… then hand it off to my accountant. Easy freaking peasey.

I could go on all day about the awesomeness that is 17hats!! I was an early bird to this program, so I bought access to the system at a really decent rate for a 3 year subscription. They have plans for as little as $25 a month now, and they send out discount codes all the time!

Need something to post to Instagram today?! Feel free to screen shot this image, tag me (@ambernicoleportrait), and use #ANPquotes so I can see your post, and I can follow along!

Need something to post to Instagram today?! Feel free to screen shot this image, tag me (@ambernicoleportrait), and use #ANPquotes so I can see your post, and I can follow along!

Well, I hope this helps in your search for a system that works for you! I would love to hear about some tools that you find most helpful. Just leave me a comment below, or find me on social media and give me a shout! Also, don’t forget your desktop freebie (above)!!

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