A few weeks ago now I shared my Top 10 Best Business Decisions. It’s really easy to talk about things we’ve done well. It’s harder to admit the ways we’ve failed. But let’s be honest. We often learn way more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. So today I want to share some of my business mistakes and what I learned from them.
Not Valuing Myself
When I started I felt so new and inexperienced that I didn’t really value myself. And yes – I still had a lot to learn. But I should have valued the knowledge I did have. I should have valued my time. I should have valued my talents. It’s so easy as a new photographer to feel “less than” and to feel like you should just give it all away. But that’s a disservice to yourself, your business and our profession. I wish I had understood this sooner and I’m incredibly grateful for my fellow photographers who helped get me there.
Waiting To Do the Math
When I talk to young people about my profession, I always jokingly say I went into the arts to avoid math and I failed to escape it. Even though I say it in humor – it’s pretty true. I not only use math when I’m taking pictures, but I have to do math in order to be successful… or perhaps the better word would be profittable. It’s really easy to just jump in and make up some numbers. You might look at other photographers prices. You might say, “Well I’m new – so this sounds like a fair number.” But the fact of the matter is – if you’re running a business – you need to price yourself like a business and that requires knowing your numbers.
Comparison Isn’t Really Helpful
When I first started my business it was so easy to compare myself to everyone else. My prices, my marketing, my work… And I always felt like I fell short. It made me question if I should be doing this or that instead. I’m grateful that I’ve always had a strong sense of who I am as a person and professional. But that didn’t stop me from feeling like everyone else was doing better than me. Eventually I realized that this comparison was doing more harm than good and I decided to unfollow a lot of my friends and colleagues purely from a self care stand point. I love all of them but it was better for me as a person and business to not constantly see what my friends are doing. It allows me to focus on my business and what I do best.
Not Having Set Work Hours
One of the hard things about being self-employed is you don’t really have set office hours. When I first started every new job was so exciting and I wanted to do so well that I would work all kinds of hours. I’d respond to emails late at night or on weekends. Now I wasn’t doing this on the side when I started, but a lot of new photographers are and it can be easy to find yourself over worked (and often underpaid based on some of those mistakes listed above). One of the best things I did for myself was creating set work days and office hours. I don’t respond to phone calls or emails outside of those hours and I have a set schedule for when I will and won’t work. This is not only better for me, but it’s better for my family because it makes sure that I don’t fail to be a good wife and mom because I’m prioritizing everyone but my husband and daughter.
Not Using My Name
This is something I still question. There are pros and cons to being a photographer and not using your name. At the time, I knew my name would be changing when I got married so it didn’t make sense to use my name. And there was a lot of meaning for me in my name selection of Green Tree Media… growth, family bonds, etc… but I do wonder if I might not benefit from using my name. My business is very personable and honest – it would have made a lot of sense to go with a more personal business name. Ten years in – I don’t feel like it makes much sense to change. But it is a curiosity I will always have.
Delaying Investing in Marketing
When I started – we were SUPER poor. So investing in marketing wasn’t even really an option. And there are times even now I feel like I should be investing more in marketing but I’m never really sure to start because a lot of it doesn’t really feel like it fits my business model. I can tell you though that marketing is certainly a vital piece of the puzzle and my most profitable years have always been the ones where I invested to make myself more visible. I’m not sure what that should look like right now, but it’s something I headed back to as well.
Failing To Be Organization
This is one of my biggest problems! I’m organized in certain areas. I’m organized with my sessions and my process there. I have a system in place that works really well. But the less fun side of things… the paperwork. I’ll be honest – I’m terrible at that. I HATE doing it. I should stay on top of it better than I do. And every year I say I’m going to be better about it doing and every year I fail to be better about it. I’ve gotten really good at last minute collecting all the details for my taxes. But it would be so much better for me if I could just create a plan for working on those each week or month. So that’s definitely one of my biggest ongoing downfalls.
I’m sure I could think of a few more, but these are seven big ones and I think they’re probably pretty common ones too. The big thing to remember is to value yourself and understand your numbers. If you’re going to run a business you need to act like one and price yourself for profit, invest in marketing, and set office hours. But don’t be afraid to be you! Know what makes you unique in your craft and focus on that! I think if you can do that – you’ll be on the road to success!