1) Not everyone is going to like your style. It might be personal, it might not be. Maybe its' your editing style, or the way you handle business or maybe you are dating their ex boyfriend. Whatever it is, don't shake it.
Brand identity is the visible elements of your brand, such as color, design and logo. But personally, I feel building your ideal clientele fits in this category of branding as well. As important as it is for you to distinguish yourself from other brands, it's important that you find clients who match your vibe. And on the opposite spectrum, if I'm not that clients preferred style and brand, then that's okay. I respect that.
2) Communication is everything. How quickly I respond to my clients is big for them. Whether they are a new or a repeat customer, I value each the same. But as important as it is for me to be responsive to my clients, I have to admit how much I enjoy when I have customers with healthy communication traits as well.
I love a good phone call. Communication gets lost in text by not being able to convey our tones, emotions & body language. And let's face it, ghosting is so 2020. Feedback is everything to business owners, even when we hate hearing it. Be upfront with your issues & save yourself the trouble later. Developing healthy communication skills whether it's text, email or on the phone will help your business tremendously.
3) Your time is money. Every single minute. This lesson has taught me to set boundaries. It's taught me to set work hours, how to outline my day of tasks and be prepared for whatever distraction may transpire. I use my mornings to go through emails, communicate with clients and I also make time for "breaks."
But let's face it. Just with any 9-5, we all have those days where our task list isn't complete and we have to extend deadlines. Guess what, it's called being human. And that's where communication comes back into play.
4) Contracts. Every. Single. Time. Prepare for the worst. Be optimistic but plan for hard times. Protect yourself and your client.
5) Imitation is a form of flattery. People are going to replicate your ideas. It's frustrating beyond belief. I've been there. We all have. No matter how many times you sit down with a piece of paper and orchestrate a grand plan with your own unique originality, there's still going to be someone who will replicate it in their own fashion. And throw a discount on top of it.
Do yourself a favor, stop sharing your ideas to the world before you actually do them. Instead build a team that you can bounce ideas from. Competitive advantage comes from assembling intelligence around.
6) You're never going to be the best. I know, you're awesome. Your'e doing what no one else can.
The sky is the limit in the world of entrepreneurship especially for the humble.
Just because you spent thousands of dollars on equipment and education, doesn't mean you are any better than someone who built themselves from scratch with YouTube videos and networking while multi-managing their household of five. Applaud and be supportive of their efforts.
7) If it's not nice to say, don't say it. Don't be an online bully. I'm a part of quite a few networking groups and often see others blasting other photographers work. Can I be honest? I've been on both ends of that. GROSS. And I am so embarrassed of that. Don't be an online bully. It's tacky, it looks bad on your business practice and I get it -- you feel like you need to bring them down so the whole world knows how evil they are. Type out your message. Then delete and get back to your own lane. Lead by example.
8) Quality of clients is more important than quantity. Maybe you don't have a ton of followers, but you're busy with raving returning clients and performing a high quality of service. Stop worrying about it.
I have a Bachelors and a few classes away from finishing my Masters in Business and Marketing. I've taken a ton of business courses and often bring myself back to little things I picked up on. I also was a Dietary Manager of a skilled nursing facility and learned quickly about the revolving door employee turnover.
Employee turnover is one of the most frustrating aspects of running a business. If a business is spending more time investing and educating new employees with a significant amount of employees are leaving, it indicates there are some external and internal issues. Anytime I had to fire or had an employee leave, I'd sit down with my administrator and we went through the submitting our info to HR. At the end of the year, we'd spend a week going though budgets and analyzing what departments had the highest turnover and why.
Let me tell you how quickly that put things into perspective.
The same goes for your self employed, single member LLC. If you are constantly having one time customers, there's a bigger problem at hand. Find a way to invest back into your return customers to creative a better quality of service, and worry less about how many followers you have.
9) Know your cash flow. I used to stress over building big elaborate shoots decked full of props. While they were certainly pretty and I absolutely loved them, I am embarrassed to tell you how much money I was spending on that. Was the return investment there? Yes. But if you're not increasing your cash flow, it's not a smart business practice. Now I've learned to enjoy some simplicity in my photos. A field with a family running through it while the sun is setting? It's perfect. As a good friend said to me, "it's about who is in the photo that matters."
10) Cost effective marketing. In the world of business, a fiscal year is a new budget year. Meaning it might not begin on January 1st. (A calendar year is January 1st-December 31st) Each quarter, you should set aside time to go through your budget. What operating expenses are you planning next quarter? What equipment do you need to purchase to advance your skillset? Where can you budget for advertising?
With cost effective marketing, you might lean towards utilizing social media platforms to get your brand out there. You might even use it to build a strong and supportive networking group. "Like for like." Whatever the case, it's important to recognize where you are geographically before jumping the gun on others marketing strategies. While one brand might benefit from large scale advertising in a magazine, your best strategy might come from word of mouth. Learn and practice new strategies and ditch the ones that simply aren't working.
10). Stay focused. One quality of always admired of myself (it's 2021, we can pat ourselves on the back now for these things okay?) is my self-driven determination. I've never known myself to not have it. Tell me I can't do it and I'll do it just to prove you wrong.
But even with that drive, I've learned how much stubborn I can become holding onto my own beliefs as the only way. That's not right. Don't be afraid to change in the face of evidence. It's a lonely world of entrepreneurship, but your willingness to grow and evolve is essential for your future.
Make time for you. Every morning I make coffee, tend to the animals, enjoy a sunrise, work out and do something for myself even if it's just writing on this blog to help me connect better with me. Maybe I call my Mom or listen to a podcast. Even with set hours, I still end up working odd hours and weekends so I might go get a pedi on a Tuesday or grocery shop on a Thursday. I treat that like my lunch break. And I'm constantly reminding myself to shut down and give quality of time to the people in my life (by not picking up my phone).
There has been so many that I feared my clients see me enjoying my personal time and get upset that I'm not working on their photos. Should it stop me from sharing my personal enjoyment? Absolutely not. Because my clients know that the time I spend away from my computer and phone is not just healthy for me to be a better steward to them, but mandatory.
At my 9-5, I maintained a mentality of "clocking out and leaving work at work." While a 9-5 concept can easily be damaging and limiting to your creative business, this same concept should be applied to your self employment. Business never stops and you have to hustle every single day to stay with the grind. But sometimes the best inspiration you'll find is when you step away.
Alyssa Herold is the Creator and Visionary behind Hallie Jean Co. Photography and Owner of Cedar and Sage Studio located in Eagle, NE, just 15 minutes outside of Lincoln.
Hallie Jean Co. Photography
The Midwest Adventure Photographer
Specializing in adventure, portrait, wedding and elopement and beyond.
Cedar + Sage Studio
545 S 4th Street
Eagle, NE 68347
To rent the space,