Starting your own business can be a very strange thing. You are excited to be finally turning your dream into a paid career but you are also faced with that scary reality of where to start! I have been there too. When I left my lecturing career to pursue my full time photography dream, I owned one camera, two lenses and had no idea how to run a business. My passion had been for teaching history, not exactly the raw material of what great entrepreneurs are made of! I had to learn fast and I had to make quick decisions that would either allow my business to fly or help it sink. I chose to fly and used my time and the limited resources I had wisely and carefully.
I have been thinking back over that time and pondering what questions I would have asked myself when starting out that helped me to make better decisions.
1. Do I really need it?
This was a question my husband asked me all the time! In an age of digital products like online calendars, social media schedulers, blog layouts – it is very easy to hit the Paypal button, pay a small monthly fee and off you go. Except it is not quite as simple as that. All of those monthly direct debits that come out of your account quickly add up and before you know it, your outgoings are more than what is coming in. My advice is to keep things simple and invest in only what you need. When I first started I took out online advertising with a leading wedding blog, produced 2 sample albums and attended a few wedding fairs in my local area. I worked on my own SEO and blogged to rank my website higher on Google. I studied as much as I could online and learned as I went. This attitude was so valuable to me because as the bookings came in and my income increased I was still inclined to spend what I earned wisely, giving careful consideration to each spend I made.
2. If I make an investment will it bring increased profit to my business?
Don’t get me wrong spending money on your business is necessary but you really do need to decide if this investment that you are about to make will benefit your business and bring you profit. Or will spending money on something like outsourcing your editing not only bring you more time to focus on getting more bookings or allow you to focus on what you do better? As a photographer we are expected to be everything – the manager, the technician, the marketer and PR manager. It is not only difficult to do it all but also difficult be good at everything. We all have our strengths and sometimes it is better to spend in areas we are week.
Likewise you need to know if spending money on something like a Facebook ad campaign is actually showing you a return on your investment. Facebook ads are something that need a bit of tweaking. So test and measure what you are doing and if you are not sure, get educated. Maybe invest in an online course that will teach you had to run campaigns. Not only will it give you better results but will also save you a lot of time and money that could possibly be wasted.
3. Is this the direction I want my business to go?
It can be easy when you are starting out to say yes to everything, even when your gut instinct is against it. You need the money right? Whilst, yes, you probably do, it is also important to question the direction that each decision you make will take your business. You get an email from a bride to appears to be very difficult and argumentative from her first email. Do you say yes because you want the pay day or do you say know because you know your ideal couple and are making decisions for your business based on what will make you happy. Saying no to the wrong couples, is not only staying loyal to what you believe in but it could ultimately stop you from going down a route that could knock your confidence and dim your enthusiasm for what you love to do!
So there you have it, the main questions I asked myself as I set out on my first year of business. Ask yourself the right questions, so that you make the right decisions for you and your passion. Remember you are not the only person to have walked this path before. Be sure and ask questions of those who have more experience than you. They were like you once and should be happy to help. The mentors I had when starting out were so valuable to me and I appreciated every piece of advice I was given. Of course I made mistakes along the way as well, we all do. It is how you learn from them that will make all the difference.