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.
In honour of this auspicious day (isn't 'auspicious' such a great word?), I’m sharing four of the biggest lessons I've learnt over the last four years.
MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Let's talk a little about work hours. As a lawyer, I was quite lucky to work 9-5. I had absolutely zero interest, in working longer or harder to grow my career, and there's no way I would have survived as long as I did if I had been working 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.
But it is SO IMPORTANT to schedule time out for yourself – 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
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 empty, and it's never going to be empty … you see the problem, right? You are never going to have time for yourself, which means that your to-do list is not to blame for your lack of you-time. 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/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.
I'd love to hear how you schedule time in for yourself, because variety is the key to keeping it flowing and I want to hear your ideas too (team work makes the dream work)!
How many balls can you juggle anyway?
Marketing. Accounting. Photographer. Legal (lucky I have that one sorted!). 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".
Well, after four years in business, I have a different view. I think this concept of balance is a mythical unicorn and it just plain doesn’t exist.
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! Maybe your website has got gremlins and you need to drop everything to troubleshoot. It happens.
So 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 and you will too. Give yourself permission to breathe, be kind to yourself, then pick those balls back and keep juggling.
BUY ALL THE Gear.....NOT! EDUCATE YOURSELF INSTEAD.
Yes, you need to have a certain level of gear, in order to do this job properly. The hard thing is knowing where to draw the line, and stop acquiring said gear.
Back at the start of my business, I did a lot of research and I really paid attention to all the blogs and websites 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 (yeah, 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:
I've also attended workshops online and in person from other photographers and entrepreneurs 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 that makes all the difference.
FIND AND INVEST IN A GOOD CRM AND BOOKKEEPING SOFTWARE 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 in order to prepare my tax return.
As a CRM, Studio Ninja doesn’t have anything to do with bookkeeping, so having all my invoices in Studio Ninja synced to Xero automatically means I don’t need to sit there and manually enter them in order to reconcile my bank statements.
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.
I go into more detail about this in my post 10 Tips for Starting a Photography Business - Part 2.
Tip #5 [Bonus]
Be excellent to yourself
Okay, okay – I can’t help myself!
Imposter syndrome is something I deal with a lot – it’s hard to feel ‘legitimate’ when you are self-taught. But I know it’s something we all deal with – so 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 ourselves! So every now and then just view your life from the passenger seat. Hopefully you'll see that you are doing great ♥
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, or sign up for my newsletter for more insights into running a creative business.