10 Things We Would Do If We Were Starting Our Business in 2020
Creative Rising Episode 303
Launching a wedding photography business is daunting, no matter when you do it.
But in today’s world, it can be overwhelming to know what exactly you should do to get your photo business off the ground.
We know there’s a lot of you out there that are just starting out at photographers, so Jeff and I sat down together to talk about the ten things we would do if we were starting our business right now in 2020.
In this episode we share:
- The biggest thing we would do in our first year that most photographers don’t
- The tools we would invest in right away and why (+ the tools we would wait to spend money on)
- How to know if you should invest in paid education or not
Jeff and I started our wedding photography business fourteen years ago in 2006, and it’s quite the understatement to say that a lot has changed since then.
When we started, the iPhone hadn’t been released yet, Facebook and Twitter were brand new, and Instagram wouldn’t exist for another four years.
So the world we run our business in today is dramatically different than the world we launched our business in fourteen years ago.
But here’s the surprising thing we discovered in this episode…
Even though the world has changed, the fundamentals of starting a business haven’t. Many of the same rules that we followed over a decade ago, still ring very true for today.
So while there’s still some very specific things you should do to take advantage of today’s opportunities, some things will (thankfully) always stay the same.
- (05:45) #1: Shoot, Shoot, & Shoot Some MORE
- (09:42) #2: Tell Everybody We Know… Then Tell Them Again & Again
- (12:53) #3: Network, Network, Network
- (23:29) #4: Focus on an Instagram Portfolio
- (25:56) #5: Invest in Paid Education Online
- (29:55) #6: Read Ten Business Books in Our First Year
- (35:12) #7: Start an Email List
- (39:30) #8: Get a ShootProof Account
- (41:23) #9: Do Free or Discount Sessions with a PRICE
- (44:31) #10: Price for Profitability From the Beginning
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**Listen to the podcast episode above or read the blog post below!**
Jeff and I started our business in 2006 around the time that we were getting married, so this year makes 14 years of shooting weddings.
Things were very different back when we started our wedding photography business.
The industry had just made the switch from film cameras to digital, so the first DSLRs that we shot weddings with was a Canon 20D.
But I think what’s even crazier about when we started weddings is that Twitter and Facebook were infants, Instagram didn’t exist, blogs were juuuuuuust starting to become a thing, and the iPhone hadn’t come out yet.
So today’s world is extremely different.
Starting a business today versus in 2006 feels like there’s been a fundamental shift in what it means to run a creative business.
But here’s the interesting thing.
When we were sitting down and thinking about what we would do if we were starting a business today, we realized…
In the midst of this changing and evolving world, there are a lot of things about starting a business that will always hold true.
Which should be a huge encouragement.
Even if the world moves quickly and things change rapidly, there are still tried and true principles that will probably never change.
So let’s jump into it. Here’s the things we would do if we were starting a business today:
#1: Shoot, Shoot, and Shoot Some More
In your first year of business, you need to shoot as much as you possibly can and shoot as many different things and types of people as you can.
Take advantage of every opportunity to work with your camera. This means assisting other photographers, carrying their bags, and being available to help whenever possible.
We used to say that you need break a shutter in your first year, which at the time, our cameras were rated for 100,000 actuations. So that meant a LOT of images in your first year!
While you’re shooting as much as you can in your first year of business, take note of what you like and what you don’t like shooting.
The key to running a successful photography business is to know who your target client is and to be able to attract them, so the sooner you work with enough people to understand who it is that lights you up, and who it is you really don’t like, the more equipped you’ll be to narrow in your ideal client in your own business.
#2: Tell Everybody You Know… (Then Tell Them Again)
When you are starting your business, it’s critical that you get the word out there as much as possible. So think of it this way…
If you were getting married or having a baby, who would be on the announcement list? Tell them!
Announce your news on FB and Instagram, send emails, talk to your friends, and find ways to let as many people know as possible.
Once you’ve told everybody once, keep mentioning it!
We fear sometimes that we’ll sound like a broken record if we keep talking about our business.
What you need to remember, though, is that you need to tell people at least three time (if not more) before the message actually gets through.
So don’t be afraid to keep saying the same thing over and over again.
Also, be as specific as you can when you’re talking to people about your new business.
Don’t just ask if anybody knows someone getting married. Ask if anyone knows someone getting married at a certain location or with a certain type of weddings.
The more specific you are in your ask, the more specific the results will be that you’ll get back.
If you know what you want to shoot, then be clear about it to all of your friends!
#3: Network, Network, Network
Once you’ve told everyone you know about your new business, then go out find NEW people to tell.
This is a business principle that will always hold true – build relationships!
If you haven’t read how to Win Friends and Influence People, it needs to be on your list of business books, (which is thing #6 on this list!).
It’s a book that talks about how to create relationships that help people in real ways. It’s a classic that should always be on your business book shelf.
More than anything else – more than Instagram, Facebook, or your website – relationships are going to be the engine that drives your business.
The reason Instagram and Facebook work so well for our type of business is because they are incredible ways to initiate new relationships.
But the purpose of social media is to support real life relationships, not replace them.
You have to see platforms such as Instagram as a tool – not as the goal. Your real goal is to move people from social media into real life contacts.
How do you create new relationships?
Go to meetups! There are all kinds of groups and gatherings these days that are available to you.
Our Creative Rising Gatherings are the perfect example (find out when the next one is happening here), or attend your local Tuesdays Together, which are the local community groups created by The Rising Tide Society (we’re currently hosting the San Diego central Tuesdays Together at our studio).
Or find other industry events where you can meet photographers and vendors that will help you foster like-minded relationship with new biz buds.
Also, get involved in Facebook groups that are life-giving for you. Join our Creative Rising Community for free here, or find other groups that feel like your vibe.
#4: Focus On Your Instagram Portfolio
We would create a really simple website with a simple blog template, and then really heavily focus on Instagram while we’re building our portfolio.
A good Instagram strategy is to post 2-3 times per week to your main feed, and then be on Instagram stories every weekday (don’t feel pressure to be on social media on your weekends or on days off).
One reason for this is because we don’t recommend that you don’t invest a lot of money on graphic design for your website just yet.
Instead, give yourself a year or two to understand who you are, what your brand is, what your unique value proposition is, and who your ideal clients are.
Right now, in this first year, you should focus on the quality of your images, you’re shooting technique, and putting your work out there on Instagram and on your blog.
#5: Invest in Paid Education
The bonus to starting a business in 2020 is that there are SO MANY COURSES and online resources available to you.
We used to have to travel to in-person workshops and conferences in order to learn, so take advantage of paid online courses where you don’t have to spend money on travel.
In-person education is definitely an invaluable way to learn, but take advantage of the opportunities to learn that are less expensive and available online as well.
You need to really focus on your craft in the first years, so invest in workshops and courses for shooting, lighting, editing, and branding.
Also, take advantage of free resources such as listening to podcasts, attending webinars, and downloading freebies. If a certain free resource from an educator does well for you in your business, then consider opting into some of their paid offerings at that point.
#6: Read 10 Business Books in One Year
You need to be hungry for education, so have a goal to read 10 business books in the first year of your business.
That’s nearly one book a month.
We’re going to list just a few of our must read books here, but then we put together a list of the rest of the business books that every photographer should read.
Before you do anything else, read this book! It is foundational for anyone that is pursuing a meaningful, fulfilling, and sustainable business, which (I’m guessing) is what you’re trying to do!
Simon Sinek talks about the concept of the Golden Circle – that all remarkable brands not only know WHAT they do and HOW they do it, but they also have a deeply embedded WHY that is center of everything they do. And it’s their commitment to their “why” that causes their customers to feel so deeply connected to them.
E is for Entrepreneurial and this book focuses on the keys to success for any entrepreneur and really centers on the idea of treating any small business just like you would a corporation.
As a small business owner, sometimes you have to wear several hats at once, and this book talks through how to determine which hats to wear and when (and why to do so).
McKeown believes in the disciplined pursuit of LESS so you can make your highest contribution to culture and society.
“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done.” – Greg McKeown
BONUS: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
This book is going to be an essential read for anyone running a business that heavily uses social media as a marketing tool (most creatives!). If you struggle with comparison, unhealthy boundaries, or always being on your phone, this will be a game-changer for you!
#7: Start Building an Email List
This is one of those things that you’re going to wish you started sooner, so do yourself a favor and start doing it right away!
First, put all of your friends and family that would be on your announcement list on your email list.
Then you create a wedding planning freebie for engaged couples to download and start building an email list through your website and Instagram feed.
Then, email your list once a month with a simple email that shows the shoots and work you’re doing.
This is the perfect way to keep telling friends and family what you’re up to, so this helps you solve the problem of point #2 in this list!
In order to do this, we recommend Flodesk (click here to get half off for life) which comes with really beautiful templates. So you don’t have to worry about design – your emails will look amazing!
#8: Sign Up for ShootProof
You will need a way to deliver the images you’re producing to your clients, so we whole-heartedly recommend ShootProof as your gallery provider.
But we don’t recommend ShootProof simply because of it’s galleries. We would start using ShootProof at the beginning because you can send invoices and contracts via ShootProof as well.
So this means you don’t have to invest in a CRM right away. You can wait a little while until you’re ready, and you’ll still have a way to have clients sign contracts and pay their invoices in a professional manner.
#9: Do Free or Discounted Sessions to Build Your Portfolio… But with a Price
As soon as we mention “free” or “discount” this might seem like bad advice. Because the fear is that you’ll get caught in a cycle of always doing free or discounted sessions.
That’s why we have a strong caveat to this point.
Do free sessions, offer trades, and give discounts to build a portfolio, but have a clear price set so your couples and clients know how much you really cost.
Also, have a reason for the discounts that you offer that is clearly stated to your clients.
Don’t just give them a general discount. Give them a discount because they’re getting married at a particular Dreamie venue.
The more clear you are about your true pricing and the more intentional you are about the reason for your discounts, the less likely you’ll get caught in a terrible cycle of always charging less than you’re worth.
#10: Price for Profitability from the Beginning
The temptation when you’re first starting out is to set your prices low so you can just cover your costs.
But this can lead to a place of overwhelm later on, because if you get really busy, you might need outsource or hire on some help. But if you don’t have the margin in your pricing to pay for those resources, then you won’t be able to get help when you need it.
So include the cost of outsourcing in your pricing up front, so you can have those available to you if you need them down the road.
*BONUS* Don’t Compare Your New Biz to Their Established One
If you’re just starting out, don’t compare your new business to our established one, or to the established business of those you see online.
Our business reflects years of behind the scenes hard work that you don’t see at face value, so you can’t compare your results to our results. We have an established network, established clientele, and an established business with staff members and a studio. So our day to day might look very different from your day to day.
Remember to keep perspective about where you’re at in your journey and to always stay focused on the unique business that you’re building.
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