4 Lessons for 4 Years of Business
It's sooo hard to believe that today this little business turns FOUR - say whaaaaat?
But in all seriousness, I'm so grateful. So, so grateful. Life is a pretty crazy roller coaster, and I still find it so bizarre to think that ten years ago I had mapped out my whole life around being a lawyer; and now here I am now running a photography business.
I think now I've also reached the point where I feel fully comfortable owning it; it's hard when you are self-taught to feel like a 'legitimate' photographer - which is silly, because the only person setting that benchmark has been me. To the outside world, I've been a legitimate photographer for years!
So here's my first piece of advice (and you can have this one for free) - please be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with the same level of kindness that you would give to a friend or family member. We are all our own harshest critics, and it's so easy to put unrealistic expectations on yourself! So every now and then just view your life from the passenger seat, and hopefully you'll see that you are doing great ♥
In honour of this auspicious day (side note: isn't 'auspicious' such a great word?), I thought I'd share four of the biggest lessons I've learnt over the last four years.
1. Nurture your creativity
Let's talk a little about work hours. As a lawyer, I was quite lucky to work 9-5. I had absolutely zero interest, passion or desire to work longer or harder to grow my career, and there's no way I would have survived as long as I did in that career if I had been required to work 10+ hours a day.
Totally. Different. Ball game.
12+ hour days? Yep, no worries. I could happily work every day on my little business. In fact, this blog post is being written on a Sunday afternoon.
So I get it. I know how easy it is just work, work, work and keep working (and so does this little guy).
But it is SO IMPORTANT to schedule time out for yourself. Why? Because when you do nothing, you have time to think, breathe and be open to your creativity.
I didn't really get it until I took 6 weeks off for my honeymoon in 2016. After about a week of rest and no work, my brain literally started to buzz with inspiration and ideas and it didn't stop for the rest of our holiday. It was the most creative I've ever felt.
And look - I'm far from perfect! Working too much is a trap I'm STILL falling into (usually because I feel guilty about stopping).
If you feel like you can't possibly schedule me-time because of the size of your to-do list, let me share something else with you (and this is a reminder for me too). Your to-do list is never actually going to be empty, ever. And would you even want it to be? That implies you would have nothing left to do, and that's not fun.
So if you are waiting for your to-do list to be completed, but it's never going to be empty - you see the problem right? You are never going to have time for yourself. Which means that an inability to schedule me-time into your calendar can't be blamed on your full to-do list. It means that YOU are not a priority for you, and that is what needs to change. It's so easy to prioritise everyone and thing above yourself, but when you don't prioritise yourself this causes a lot of problems - if you are your business, what happens to your business when you feel burnt out, tired, uninspired, like you are falling apart at the seams? Your business falls apart too.
Whenever that little guilty voice inside of me pipes up, I try really hard to focus on the long term consequences of giving in to the guilt. When I don't spend enough time on myself, I start to feel a bit out of control and overwhelmed, stressed, tired, uninspired and frustrated.
Personally, here's what has been working for me lately (and I need to vary this all the time because otherwise I get naughty and stop following the plan):
- Scheduling downtime into my week, but specifying what I want to do (even if it's just in my head). 'Read three chapters of current book book with a cup of tea' or 'Spend one hour with your watercolours' or 'spend an hour in the garden'.
- I wake up earlier every day, and have a daily yoga practise. I started doing this when I realised how frantic my mindset had become with all the work-work-work-work I had been doing.
- I also try and not work in the evenings, and spend this time just watchign TV or reading (I'm lucky and don't have kids, I realise this won't always be my life lol).
I'd love to hear how you schedule time in for yourself, because like I said I need a lot of variety in my planning tool kit.
2. How many balls can you juggle anyway?
Marketing. Accounting. Photographer. Legal (lucky I have that one sorted easy peasy). Sales. Customer Service. IT Support.
Let's not forget...Wife. Friend. Sister. Daughter. Fur-baby mama.
Balance is defined as "an even distribution" or that things are in "equal proportion".
i think it's just impossible to know ho to equally proportion or distribute your time across all the things you need to. One week your kids might be sick, and you need to devote 99.99% of your time to caring for them, which leaves no time at all to work on anything else. And that's okay!
So I think this concept of balance is a mythical unicorn, and it doesn't exist.
Instead, I have started to see myself as a stark raving mad circus performer who has learned how to juggle at least 12 different balls. But as I'm not a seasoned pro, sometimes I still drop balls and that's okay too. Give yourself permission to breathe, be kind to yourself, then pick those balls back and keep juggling.
3. BUY ALL THE Gear.....NOT! EDUCATE YOURSELF INSTEAD.
You need to have a certain level of gear, in order to do this job properly. I think the hard thing is knowing where to draw the line, and where to stop acquiring said gear.
Back at the start of my business, I did a lot of research (it's my thing) and I really paid attention to all the blogs and websites I read that warned me about buying unnecessary gear. It's hard - so many of the purchases we can make are FUN and EXCITING new toys to play with.
But honestly, the best thing I ever did for my business was invest in educational resources - workshops, online courses (like this Body Language course, er ma gerd - LIFE CHANGING), ebooks, and other various resources - mostly about photography and marketing. I don't purchase these willy-nilly, I research around (told you, it's my thing) and think about it carefully to make sure I can justify the expense.
Some of the best photography workshops I've come across are found on Clickin Moms, the Define School, and Unraveled Academy. I've also attended workshops online and in person from other photographers and entrepenuers I admire.
Every year for the last few years, I've spent between $2,000 to $4,000 on educational tools and resources. Yes, I could have bought all the new shiny cameras and lenses, but a camera is only a tool, and it's the skill of the person who uses it what makes all the difference.
4. FIND AND INVEST IN A GOOD CRM AND ACCOUNTANT EARLY
This has been probably my biggest pain point throughout my business. I used an excel spreadsheet for a long time, before switching to a customer management system that managed all my clients, invoices and expenses in one place...or so I thought. I didn't realise the need for bank reconciliation until I went to accountant for the first time and nearly cried at the bill they presented me to reconcile my statements for me.
These days I use Xero to manage my book keeping, and StudioNinja to manage my clients, invoices, contracts and jobs - it also conveniently syncs with Xero. At the time of writing this post and to the best of my knowledge, Studio Ninja is the only CRM for photographers that syncs with Xero (they also sync with QuickBooks)!
Getting this right at the start will save you many headaches.
So there you have it!
Hopefully you found this a little helpful.
Hit me up in the comments with your tips or tricks for scheduling me-time, I'm keen as mustard to hear from you!