Starting your business is a big deal. Longer work days, shorter weekends, difficult decisions...the list goes on and on. As you may know, I'm the proud owner of Edelle Photography - specializing in weddings and lifestyle. Although I love my business, I never fully understood why it wasn't soaring like I expected it to by then. Something had to change.
I wrote down all the wrong decisions I made and kept asking myself why did I make them. After writing them down, I realized that each decision boiled down to one of three (or all) of these reasons in common: lack of confidence, spending carelessly & seeing my startup as a hobby.
Here's how these three things impacted my business (and how you can learn from my mistakes):
1. The Importance of Confidence
Lack of confidence is a total dream killer. When I started to photograph couples, I always felt insecure. This lead me to horrible posing ideas for the couples, bad lighting, under-priced services, and so on. My lack of confidence was making me have even more so lack of confidence because my end result was always unsatisfactory. The images were not anywhere close where I wanted them to be, let alone my business thriving how I expected it to be at the time.
Confidence can be your friend and also your enemy. Lack of confidence leads to comparison, irrelevant business tactics and structure, and sometimes large wastes of money. High level of confidence leads to creative freedom, wiser business decisions and some extra feel-good attitudes in your every day. Be a pal to yourself and use confidence to your best interest. You'll find that there are many talented people within your market/industry that are way better than you - and that's alright. Focus only on your progress, your milestones (big and small) and you'll see how big of a difference it'll have on your business.
Lesson Learned: Confidence in yourself leads to less business-killing comparison and more creative freedom & growth.
2. Saying "No" to flashy sales on business products/education
Oh boy. I can honestly admit I spent my money on things I shouldn't have when I started. Leaving aside how lack of confidence impulses unhealthy purchases to your business, when you're starting off your business, it's very easy to want to buy everything. From shiny new computer, to awesome logo & web-design, the list of things to buy is exciting yet can get very expensive. You want to be the best, so you want to buy the best. Tsk. Tsk.
After spending on two logo designs and one web-design, cameras and lenses, nice new chair for my modern and super stylish desk, and more things like that, I found myself with a business that was waaay below the green line and with things that I really didn't need and that had to change after two months in.
When we start our business, we have a lot of ideas of where we want this business to go, but fail to realize that these road maps we drew change drastically when we gain more experience in our field. The same way a med student may change his specialization during his six-year program, us business owners undergo a lot of changes when we learn the ins and outs of our market. What may have sounded like a good idea then, may not be that great now. So wait a bit before your buy. I suggest outlining the immediate needs and wants before purchasing. When it comes to design, I can go on and on about this subject, but for the sake of keeping it short, ask yourself what colors, concepts and fonts should your brand have. Lastly, plan out your business structure and mission/values before-hand to avoid costly design and software purchases.
Lesson Learned: Before buying that kick-butt booking software, use free softwares or programs like Google Docs to manage your business in the meantime. Some things are worth not buying a few months into your business.
3. Seeing your blog or start-up as a hobby
Surely you must be wondering how can it be possible that I never saw my business as a business when I started it? You see, us creatives are very passionate about our art and we can struggle to realize that this beautiful art of ours is actually a business. When I was working full-time in marketing, I didn't fully love that job (more so having a boss) and related business as a bad, yucky thing. Once I named my start-up, I saw it as my mini get-a-way from my day job. I was happy doing my own thing, so classifying it as a "business" didn't sit well with me. Not until, that is, when I was let go from my day job and photography was my only sure source of income. I realized my lack of structure, planning and denial of calling it a "business" hurt my sales (a.k.a close encounters with unpaid bill statements). I had to call it a business because it was a one. I forced myself to have weekly meetings (making it the smallest one-man business meetings ever) where I outlined:
- the new things I wanted done that week
- the things I already did the past week
- status of my monthly sales goal
- what was working/what wasn't
- any emotional/personal rant or praise I had to get out of my system
I also improved on other things like accounting, marketing strategies and following a strict 8 hour-a-day working schedule. Accepting that I run a business not only improved my sales, but also rekindled my love for photography and writing.
Lesson Learned: "Business" doesn't have to be a bad word; you just have to accept what comes with being your own boss and happiness.
Starting a business is no easy task. As business owners, we learn many things along the way about management and ourselves. The important things is not to avoid mistakes, rather learn from them and understand why you made them. Chances are, you'll find common themes.
Want to read more on where I got inspired for this? " The E-myth: Revisted " has been my favorite, go-to business startup book for years.