In today’s post, I’m going to share with you the things I would do TODAY if I was starting my business from scratch to build up momentum.. and no, none of these things have anything to do with social media! These are some of my best photography tips for beginners that you can start implementing today!
If I were starting my business from scratch
Honestly, with the way things have been going lately, it almost feels like we all have stripped down our businesses and needed to re-learn and start from scratch, right?! I mean, not really… but with some things kind of.
Only because what used to work doesn’t anymore. There’s new platforms, new strategies… entrepreneurship is a never ending game of keeping up with updates and new strategies.
But let’s put social media aside for a minute and for this post, because honestly.. Social media is ALWAYS going to be changing. And if we let that hold us back in running our business, chances are we are going to fail or get left behind.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have time to keep up with the new strategies and trends of all the social media platforms.. and you don’t have to either. There’s other ways you can be growing your business without it (even though I do think they are powerful tools, I just want to use this episode to encourage you that there’s other ways around it)
Photography tips for beginners to implement NOW!
In today’s post, I’m going to share with you the things I would do TODAY if I was starting my business from scratch.. and no, none of these things have anything to do with social media!
I want you to read through and think about which ones you could try if you haven’t already, OR try in a different or new way. Maybe you did some of these things at one point, but that was years ago and you haven’t done them since.
Or, maybe you did it but it didn’t really work for you.. Remember there’s always more ways than 1 to do things.. So hopefully this post gives you a fresh perspective on things to do to ramp up momentum again in your business. So let’s jump in!
Put your clients experience first over everything
This one is a given, right?!… Or is it?
You may think you’re already giving a good client experience, but the more I work with photographers, the more I realize there are MANY missing gaps in their systems of delivering and creating client connection and experience.. which honestly excites me!!!
That is okay!! That means there is room for improvement and growth, and that should excite you too!
I’ve told this story on this podcast before, but when I was first starting out in photography I was so focused on being a better photographer, having the best gear, getting the right shots, shooting at the cool locations, posting the coolest photos on instagram, and getting featured on Instagram feature accounts.. Remember when that was a huge deal?!
And looking back, those things are all fine, but those weren’t things that were GROWING my business in terms of creating a solid foundation and streamlined backend.
Because once I realized something was missing or just wasn’t “clicking” with the way things were running for me or the types of clients I was getting. That’s when I knew something needed to change.
Realizing a change was needed
The biggest pivotal moment for me was photographing a wedding where NOTHING resonated with me. The couple, their values, the way they treated me, the way they treated their family + friends, the way they communicated before and after their wedding, the way the photos turned out… Nothing.
And I cried that entire way home from photographing that wedding.. And that’s when it clicked with me that something needed to change, and that change needed to start with me.
So I went home and that following week I stripped down EVERYTHING I was doing, and re-built my entire client experience from scratch. I mapped it out from every perspective and every point of their journey. Oh how I wish I kept that notebook of chicken scratch graphs so I could look back on them!
What happened when I shifted my business
And you wanna know what happened when I shifted my mindset onto serving my clients and prioritizing their experience? Well, literally my entire business and life changed.
I was feeling more fulfilled for one. But more importantly the changes that were happening were:
- My sessions and weddings began to be VERY aligned with what I photographed best
- The communication between all my clients was crystal clear
- I wasn’t getting awkward couples during sessions/weddings because we had connected so much before their shoot
- Posing them was an absolute breeze with creating my signature Connection Posing method
- They were giving me raving reviews about their experience with me
- I was getting dream referrals from their friends who were also ideal clients
- I was becoming so in-demand that I had to increase my prices
Then eventually I started to grow a team of associates so I could continue to serve awesome couples AND get more time back in my life. And also have the funds worked into my pricing structure to hire people to help run the business and outsource.
I could go on…
So you can clearly see the importance of what having a good client experience can do for your business and life? Having good client experience goes far beyond having a good client guide and giving a gift. In fact, those are probably the least important things when it comes to client experience.
Just ask my students: everything I tell them I always explain how it relates back to delivering client connection + experience!
Systemize and automate from the start
Oh man how I wish I had the programs there are nowadays. When I started I was delivering photos on CD’s, had a notebook of my expenses, and printed and mailed out contracts for them to mail back signed with a check.
When I tell you the second I heard about Honeybook, Quickbooks, and PASS plus.. I couldn’t hand over my credit card fast enough! And there are so many programs similar to those that you can use.. but those are my favorite personally!
But those aren’t the only programs you can automate things in.
- Automate your banking to pull out percentages of your incomes
- Automate the categories your expenses go into in quickbooks
- Use an email service provider to batch emails in advance to send to your email list
- Use Tailwind to batch your Pinterest content in advance to link back to your blog posts and freebies
There are a ton of ways to stay organized and systemized in your business! And a lot of that has to do with creating workflows.
The biggest one I love helping people with is their client communication with onboarding emails, nurture sequence, and off-boarding emails all in a Honeybook workflow.
This is one of my favorite things to walk my students through. I know I say that about a lot of things. But truly when you get this down it allows so much more free time in your life and business.
Setting up workflows
Set up specific workflows for each type of client work you do: Elopements, weddings, weddings with no engagement session, a regular session, senior session, family session, anything. It saves you SO much time on the backend so you can focus on other tasks that will drive more visibility to your business.
I always say that answering emails, editing galleries, and doing tedious tasks are NOT things that grow your business. Think about it.. How does editing a gallery or answering emails draw more eyes and expand your audience to reach new potential clients? It doesn’t!
So when you can have more time on your hands to focus on lead generation and connecting with your audience, you’ll figure out what your biggest lead generating tasks are. And once you know those.. you’ll know where to put the most of your energy into.
I’m a big believer in working smarter not harder. Also freeing up as much time in your business as you can so that you can have more time in life in general. Because we all know time-consuming entrepreneurship can be if we aren’t running things efficiently.
Take a look at your systems
So my assignment for you for this post is to step back and look at all of your systems and processes that you do for each task in your business, and write them down. Then see where you can streamline those processes to make them easier, automated, or run more efficiently.
This also isn’t just a one and done task. I’m constantly in communication with my team on ways we can make our processes better because things are always changing. So maybe for you this might be a quarterly thing that you take a look at.
Once you have your core ideas of what needs to be systemized, create an SOP or standard operating procedure for it. This is basically a step by step system that anyone could pick up and read and know exactly what to do.
That may seem overwhelming and like a big task to do. That is the last thing I want to do is overwhelm you in a post with a million things you think you need to be doing!
So let’s break it down – start with ONE task you do regularly, break that down into ways you could create a system for it, and create an SOP for it. Start small so you don’t overwhelm yourself, because let’s be real.. When we’re overwhelmed, that is when we DON’T take action.
Which could be a really good indicator if you feel like you’ve been stuck in a rut for a few months to years now and nothing is really changing because you’re just trying to keep up… That could be an incredible indicator that it’s time you need some help with organizing and figuring out the backend of things.
Create boundaries ASAP
Oofta. If only I would have set boundaries for myself sooner, I question how much more I could have accomplished or how much more free time I would have with my family and friends.
But I do feel like when I was in my early 20’s, I was a yes girl. Yes yes yes to everything.. and I still struggle with this because I just want to do all the things in life. To connect with all the people, photograph everyone I can, and travel to all the places, and do all the things.
The older I get, the more I realize saying yes to other things means saying no to myself, my family, and my friends. Ever since becoming a mom, it’s made it so much easier for me to set respectful boundaries for myself and my business.
And the best part about this shift for me is, I don’t feel the need to explain my reasoning.
By setting more clear boundaries for myself, I don’t find myself feeling the need to explain to everyone the reason I can’t – I simply say that I cannot. In the most respectful way possible, you don’t have to owe everyone an explanation for everything you do.
It’s taken me a while to learn this, especially as an over-sharer myself. I overshare everything and I’m an open book.. So it took some retraining with my mindset to learn that I don’t have to explain myself!
So not that I regret being a “yes” person in my early twenties because that’s just who I am as a spontaneous, adventurous person. I do look back and realize how many more boundaries I could have set around that.
But to even know where to start with setting boundaries, you have to know your OWN limitations.. And no one else can tell you what boundaries to set except for yourself.
This is why trial and error is basically the way to knowing what your own limitations are. So think about that for a second… You most likely will have to “fail and hit a certain kind of burnout” to figure out what that is.
So next time you are reaching a burnout phase, I challenge you to re-position your mindset around it and look at it as a beautiful indicator of you now knowing and figuring out what your limitations are.
There is SO much beauty in failure and none of us would be where we are today if it wasn’t for it. So fully embrace failure when it happens because something extraordinary will come from it!
But once you figure out your limitations, make sure you set those boundaries, and then once you set those boundaries.. Make them known.
Put them out so people know (not in an annoying way of course). But in a way that your clients know your boundaries, your family knows, and your friends know.
Make your boundaries known
I have a friend for example who makes it very clear if we text her before 9am or after 9pm she will not respond. Her phone goes on “do not disturb” and you will not hear from her. Now she’s one of my best friends so of course I know this about her and you don’t have to make that type of announcement to everyone..
But an example for you with your clients could be that you DO NOT answer emails on the weekends. Your clients can expect to hear from you only on M-F 9-5 or during your office hours.
WHATEVER that boundary is for yourself, make sure it’s clear and that you clearly put it everywhere:
- on your website contact page and for
- in your welcome guide
- with your email signature
- in your communication expectations section of your client info
- everywhere you possibly can so that you can train your clients to know and understand your boundaries
That way they get the idea and are less likely to expect to break that boundary with you, and the less likely you will get frustrated when they do. Remember, all communication and expectations of your clients falls back on YOU and how well you let those boundaries and expectations be known.
Looking back, this would have saved me years of frustration with my own boundaries being broken with clients.
Get a business coach sooner
I know I do business coaching now, but this is not a shameless plug. I truly mean this! The first time I invested in a business coach I was kicking myself as to why I didn’t do it sooner.
Depending on who your coach is and what type of program or mentor you’re investing in, there is never a time that is “too early” to have one.
In fact, I would argue that it is more important than investing in all the programs right away. Because you can grow off of setting solid foundations, but going back to build them later can be more challenging.
It can be done! There’s no right or wrong way.. But it can be more work. So I’m obviously a huge advocate for having a business coach, and I don’t think I’ll ever not have one.
Again, this isn’t just a shameless plug because I offer business coaching.. I truly and genuinely want what is right for you.
That’s why my coaching is an application and acceptance only type of program so I can keep it a highly motivated container group of people, and I’m very honest with people if I don’t think it’s the best fit and will send people in the direction I think would be a better fit for them or not.
Make sure that if you’re looking into a business coach that they have done and are teaching similar things that you want to do, you like their teaching style, and most importantly that they have aligned values with you.
Those are mistakes I’ve made in the past that I now know better to look for.
This is one that you should never look over no matter how established you are! It’s easy to get comfy in the situation you’re in and feel like you don’t need to network anymore than you already have.
But a good mentality to have is viewing networking like you’ve just moved to a new city. If you’ve ever relocated your business, you know the drive and motivation under your butt that happens when you move to a new city. There’s a desire to meet everyone you can to make new connections.
This should always be a good way to live life (in my enneagram type 7 eyes anyways!). I’ve always been social and have always been the friend that my friends say “Rach knows everyone!”
I truly love meeting and connecting with new people. And listen, I may be an extrovert, but you do NOT need to be an extrovert to be able to network and make new friends.
In fact, it’s never been easier as it is right now to network as an introvert with how powerful social media is these days! It’s so easy to make connections online and it’s probably a preferable way as an introvert.
Networking can be as simple as supporting and connecting with a handful of people you admire on social media. Support the heck out of them and I promise you, it will turn into a friendship.
Some of my closest friends in the entrepreneurship world are people I’ve met through coaching programs, and workshops and those are connections that just stick with you. And I just look back at my career this far, and a lot of my opportunities maybe wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the networking, friendship, and connections I’ve made.
Here’s a few of my favorite ways to network:
- Supporting the heck out of people I admire or have aligned values with mine
- Make it a point to talk to other vendors when you’re photographing a wedding or on site in your industry
- Connect with other vendors both in your area and in areas you’d like to travel to as well
- Also connect with people outside your industry as well to expand your market even more
- Find other local photographers or like minded industry friends to swap and trade work with
At the end of the day, it’s all about broadening your network and making connections and friendships.
This has always been something that comes pretty easy to me, but even if it doesn’t come as easy for you, there are so many ways to do it in a way that feels right for you and your own personality type. If I was just starting from scratch again, I would prioritize this even more probably by joining more programs and connecting with even more people.
There’s no such thing as over-networking.. So get to it my friend!
Know and be more confident in my numbers
For the longest time I was just wingin it with my numbers and taxes and really understanding the ins and outs of my finances. Not to say I’m a tax or financial expert (that’s why I have a CPA) but I do wish I would have taken the time to understand things much earlier.
I put it off for way too long, and always just charged what I thought I should charge based off of what everyone else was charging or based off what I thought I was worth. And I hate to say it… But that is not how you should be defining your pricing.
It’s not about how much you feel your worth, how much other people in your area are charging so you feel like you have to match that or be cheaper based on their own money fears.. Because honestly, they might only be charging what they do based on their own fear and uncertainty about what to charge.
If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you gotta put on your big girl panties and make powerful decisions based on your own confident knowledge. And I feel like I can say this with love because I was absolutely the one that put this off for far too many years before I too finally put on my own big girl panties and figured it out!
So don’t feel bad if you’re just floatin’ around and haven’t figured it out yet.. but this is my loving sign to you that if you haven’t, now is the time girlfriend!
Honestly, there are SO many things I would focus on if I were just starting over again that I feel this could be a 3 part series! But I hope these were good reminders to you that we don’t all start with having our shiz together.
It takes time, it takes patience, it takes discipline. So I never want you to feel behind when you’re listening to podcasts or learning something new. Because the truth is, as entrepreneurs, we will NEVER stop learning, and there are no 2 people that have the same journey and are at the same exact place in their business.
That’s the beauty of having grace for yourself and enjoying your journey in exactly where God has you now, and having faith in knowing where He will lead you.
It’s a beautiful thing when you are doing work that He has called you to do, and when you have found that alignment in serving Him, He will also serve and show you beautiful things in your life and business.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve recently just felt called to completely give up control over my business all to Him. I know and feel in my heart I am doing what He has called me to do, so I trust in where He brings me on this journey. It’s all down in his name and glory, and I felt like maybe you needed to hear that today too.Be sure to check out more Gold Biz Podcast episodes here!