Before we get into the episode, I really want to share with you a cool experience I had. The coaching group I’m a part of (as a student) had their first in person retreat since before COVID and it was *incredible* to be in a room with people again. The energy is just unmatched. It took the pandemic and missing that for so long for me to realize that virtual stuff just isn’t the same you know?
What’s funny is, we didn’t talk any business or marketing strategy. It was all the mindset shifts and beliefs it takes to hit your next level in business.
I think for a lot of photographers who’ve been in business for 2-5 years…you know what to do. You know the strategies and you know the moves you need to make.
So what’s holding you back from doing the things you know will make the difference in your business?
My goal in this episode is to share what I wish I did differently in my first year in business, so you can learn from that yourself and hopefully see where you might be making the same mistakes right now. It’s always my hope that this show is an accelerator for you and your business. So it doesn’t take you a year or two or 10 to learn from these mistakes. It can take you just 30 minutes and one podcast episode… if you actually listen and apply it, right?!
Ultimately, I’m glad everything in my life and business happened the way it did and has. Yes, I experienced some sucky things along the way – but sometimes that is what it takes for us to get to our goals and dreams, right? Kelly Clarkson said it best, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
5 Things I Wish I Did Differently My 1st Year of Photography Business
1. I wish I believed in myself
I dabbled in photography for years because I didn’t think it was actually possible to make a full time income with photography. I absolutely loved it, but people were paying me $50 and $100 here and there for sessions. Honestly I never thought it was something that could blossom into what it has today!
If I’d known someone who made it their full time income or knew I could make $20k a month with photography – I would have shown up a lot differently for myself that first year.
I remember meeting new people the first year in my business and when they asked what I did, I would say, “I’m a SAHM.” I wouldn’t even say I was a photographer out loud. Maybe you can relate to that?
Our wedding photographer did family photos for us a few years after my husband and I got married. I had started my photography business at the time. We went in, we chatted and caught up – and after we left, my husband said, “Why didn’t you tell them that you’re a photographer now?” I remember thinking, “There’s no way I could tell them I’m a photographer,” because I feel like I’m not really a photographer, that I just take photos of people sometimes.
And I realized, “What makes someone REALLY a photographer?” Idk what I was waiting for. If you take photos, you have permission to call yourself a photographer (not that you need my permission)!
The first time I told someone was a photographer was in 2012 at CrossFit. And what ended up happening as a result of that conversation is a friendship with a different photographer in town that I still have to this day.
If you’re dabbling in photography, if you have big dreams and you’re playing small – what’s stopping you from believing in yourself and going for your dreams?
Maybe making $5k a month would be a dream come true. Or maybe getting paid more than $100 for your next session would be a dream come true. Or maybe you want to leave your full time job or retire a spouse with your photography business too.
Identify those big goals and dreams you have and don’t let any circumstances hold you back because the only thing holding you back is you!
Ask yourself: What dream have you been stifling? What dream do you have tucked down that you haven’t really told anyone because it feels crazy?
There is a reason I end every episode by saying, “if you have a passion, it’s there for a reason. You were made to follow that passion!” When something keeps popping up in your brain it’s not an accident! Don’t wait months or years or a lifetime before you pursue that passion my friend. The time is now!
2. I wish I had started my email list
Picture this – it’s 2010 on a Facebook business page.
Your posts are easily seen by hundreds or thousands of people who don’t know you. You’re getting lots of inquiries from, if we are honest, mediocre posts. You’re able to say things like “this family is such a joy!” and people are DM-ing you about booking a session.
Ahhh…that was life in 2010 on Facebook.
Fast forward a few years and FB starts to stifle your post reach – your posts are being seen by 10% of the people they were a few years earlier. You worked so hard to build your Facebook fan page, and now they’re not even seeing your posts! How frustrating right?
When I look back – I wish I’d done this one thing differently. I wish I started my email list.
If I’d been collecting email addresses back then, it would’ve been much easier to stay in contact with the people who liked my work and wanted to book with me.
I am willing to bet this isn’t the first time you’ve heard me talk about email lists. I’m also willing to bet you’re thinking 1 of a couple of different things right now:
1. My business isn’t ready for an email list yet. And THAT is why I’m telling you this is something I wished I’d done earlier in business. It truly can be as simple as collecting them on a form on your website. Don’t overcomplicate this. There are people who want to hear from you and you’re not being annoying!
2. I already have an email list, but I don’t email regularly and not intentionally growing my list of people. I am wiling to bet not many photographers in your area are doing email marketing well – so there is huge opportunity here!
Here’s one question I want you to consider, if social media deleted your accounts tomorrow – where would your business be?
3. I wish I didn’t let other people’s opinions control me
I have been listening to Jennifer Allwood’s book on Audible called “Fear is Not the Boss of You” and she talks about people who are super responsible people or SRPs, which I totally see myself as.
Jennifer says SRPs are people who do the “right thing” because it’s the right and responsible thing to do. SRPs don’t typically question the normal. They follow the “shoulds.”
If you want to be liked, if you want people to approve of you and if you want people to tell you how great your work is… you’re likely letting other people’s opinions control you.
ZERO shame because I still fall into the trap often, but I wish that after I believed fully in my abilities to make a full time income with photography, that I then stopped letting other people’s opinions control me:
My family’s well-intentioned opinions…
Facebook friend’s opinions…
Real life friend’s opinions…
Strangers comments on my blog or social media post’s…
For me, the only opinion that matters is God’s. When I stepped into THAT power, magical things started happening for me and my business.
Even up until recently, I wouldn’t tell people I was a birth photographer – I’d just say “photographer” or “baby photographer” because I thought people would think it was weird or gross and I don’t always feel like explaining it if I’m honest. But then I recognized I wasn’t telling them I was a birth photographer because I cared too much about what they thought about me.
Now when I tell people I’m a birth photographer, it’s spreading the word about birth photography and it gives me the chance to explain how awesome and unique it is.
And who knows, maybe that person never considered it and will hire and birth photographer and not have the same regrets I did NOT hiring one… all because I stopped caring what people think about me and my choices. Pretty powerful right?
4. I wish I’d niched down uncomfortably small the first year in my business
When I first started out I literally photographed anything and everything – maybe you’ve done the same. And there is a point early on where you’re figuring out what you want to specialize in, but there also comes and point where you KNOW what you want to do and you’re scared to do it because you’re afraid of turning people away.
If you have questions about niching down, check out episode 80 called How to Target Your Ideal Client on Social Media.
The ‘uncomfortably small” piece is important. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’m a motherhood photographer – I’m niched,” or “Oh, I’m a wedding photographer, I’m niched.” And I’d argue those aren’t as niched as they could be to be profitable.
There is another spin I want to offer if you’re rolling your eyes that I am talking about niching again:
What if your niche was the Christian photographer, who isn’t shy about her faith?
Or what if your niche is the emotive photographer, who photographs families without doing ANY posing?
Or what if your niche is high end maternity portraits that are studio, high fashion and super styled?
Your niche is something you’re known for.
Don’t use this as a loophole to go general on me – ok? Get super uncomfortably niched down to stand out and get paid well to do work you love!
5. I wish I used a CRM and stuck with it.
A CRM is Client Relationship Management. Basically a way to keep all your emails, contracts, and invoices in one place.
I can’t tell you how long I used physical contract people signed and Paypal invoices. It was a mess to keep up with and I stayed so unorganized for way to long.
The reason? I thought it would be really complicated to set up.
When I finally chose a CRM – it was complicated to set up! So I used a different one. Then a different one. I kept bouncing around because I thought I was missing something.
The truth is, it just takes time to set up! Especially when you don’t have your workflows already established.
But man, once I set it up it’s made everything in our client process so much easier AND made it easier to bring a customer service person onto my team because it was already set up and ready to go for her to step into!
If you’re a photographer who is just starting out, or if you’ve been in business for awhile but are ready to make improvements to your business, pick 1 or 2 of these mistakes and improve it for yourself and your business. Remember, you’re not going to get better or book more clients simply by listening to this and never implementing anything from it. You have to take action!
If you want more help, make sure to check out my free marketing training happening live on April 13 and 14th all about my 3-step marketing method to get you fully booked without discounting your prices.