I can’t remember where I read it. I just know that it stuck with me and to this day I recite this quote each and every time that something happens in my business that irks me or gets under my skin:
“The hardest part of running a business is running a business.”
Man…are those some words to live by or what? For those of you starting your own small business – probably photography if you’re reading this blog post – I’ve got some advice for you. It doesn’t apply only to photographers, but other creative individuals as well. So I hope you ALL get something useful out of it. 🙂
First, DON’T EVER FORGET WHAT YOU DO IS CALLED ART. It is subjective, so if someone doesn’t like what you do, get over it. Not everyone will. Can your work be technically sound? Yep. Can it be emotional and full of life? Yep. Can people still not like it? Yep. The point is, keep your head up. You didn’t start doing what you do to make money. You did it for numerous other reasons and then somewhere along the line someone told you that you could make money at it. So, you did. So don’t ever forget that you’re lucky to do what you do with a camera, makeup, hair, or a thread and needle. Keep doing what you do and roll with it.
Second, STOP ASKING PEOPLE FOR ADVICE ON EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR BUSINESS! If you’re a new business owner and you don’t have a price list, a schedule, clients, retouching skills, camera skills, counting skills, a vendor list, and so much more, maybe you shouldn’t be in business. Sorry, but that’s the truth.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s GREAT to have forums to read, blogs to go through, and people to sit and talk through ideas with. The thing is, don’t rely on those things. Chances are they learned the hard way about how to do things. It’s a right of passage so to speak. Just like when we’re children, we have to fall and scrape our knees before we learn how to run.
Like photography, if you don’t have the basics down in some shape, form, or fashion, then you can’t build on it. So running into business right out of college with no experience working with a full time photographer or a business person to learn the ins and outs of doing your own work might not be a good idea. Shoot, if your degree is in Photography, I still wouldn’t recommend it. There are papers to file, licenses to get, insurances to obtain, taxes to consider, and that’s not even the beginning! You’re just going to annoy people and end up sounding like a child that’s lost their way. Take time to learn the right things FIRST. Running a business is not just taking photos and getting paid. Believe me on that one.
If you’re new to the business and you’re posting different questions every single day in forums and not getting any (or few) hits back, stop. Listen. Look both ways. THEN cross the road. Take some time, work with someone else that does what you WANT to do, learn the ins and outs, and build your business from the ground up. Your foundation will be stronger and your track record will be better. You’ll have fewer mistakes, hard situations where you wish that you “had that contract in order” or you with that you “had that too…”
Third, STOP RELYING ON OTHER PEOPLE. This goes hand in hand with the previous couple of paragraphs. Does your business say “John Doe Photography”? Or does it say “John Doe’s Photography Ideas, Jimmy’s Lighting Designs, Amber’s Contracts and Tid Bits, Becky’s Sales Experience, and Dixie Rose Deluxe, Honky Tonk, Feed Store, Gun Shop, Used Cars, Beer, Bait, BBQ, Barbershop, and Laundromat”? I really hope it’s not the second one…but if it is…hey…more power to ya!
The point I’m trying to make is you’re a small business, SMALL being the operative word. You’re in business for yourself. You’re not a top end NY Designer that has to hope a plane to Pairs every 3 days because some royal family wants to wear your dress and you’re not a photographer that’s jet setting from one side of the country to the next. So chances are you don’t need “people.” If you happen to be lucky enough to need people to help you do stuff, then AWESOME! But most of us don’t need that. So, take initiative and do something YOURSELF. If you do, people will associate your work and product with YOU. Otherwise you’ll eventually turn into that guy/gal that never gets anything done and, worst-case scenario, the people that work for you will drop you because you’re too busy being too big for your own britches that you’re ignoring them and/or not appreciating them for the work they’ve done.
Finally, the biggest tip of advice that I can give you about your business is NEVER STOP GROWING…NEVER, EVER. Learn new things. Push yourself to new heights and always shoot, build, come up with designs, sew…every day, do whatever it is you do. Be creative. The moment you yourself in a rut is the moment that you’ve stopped growing and hit a plateau. This is when you should ask questions! Learn something that takes you to the next step up. Never get stagnant. Once you do that…in this field of creativity and art…you die. People will always be pushing past you and keeping up or outrunning the younger crowd is so much harder than just doing your own thing and moving forward.