Last year when I was celebrating being in business full-time for a year, I wrote a blog post on the Three Lessons I Learned During my First Year Full-Time, and it was one of my post popular posts! This year on my 2-Year-Full-Time-Iversary (definitely just made that up), I announced my partnership with The Archibald Project. If you missed that, you can read about it here, but I didn’t want to skip sharing some things I’ve learned this past year as well.
I think it’s important (especially for me!) to think back and remember where I was a year ago so I can celebrate it and see how I’ve grown. I’m one of those people who tend to just keep looking forward and be so focused on where I want to be and things that I want to accomplish that I forget that I actually have made progress along the way. Also, I want to share these things because 1.) They are good reminders for me! And 2.) I hope they’ll be helpful and encouraging to someone else on the same journey! So, here we go:
*Disclaimer: First, I feel like I have to clarify that while I’ve been running my business full-time for two years, I’ve actually been working at this for 4 years! Sometimes it’s hard to see how LONG people have actually been working toward things in this little online world. And secondly: I am nowhere close to saying that I have all of these things down and am good at them everyday! Hence, why I titled this blog post “Take-Aways” vs. “Lessons Learned.” I’m still working on reminding myself of these things and getting better at them! Okay, now that that’s out in the open, here we go for real:
1) Genuine relationships > Advertisements
When it comes to referrals and networking, go into it with the mindset of creating genuine relationships. Making real connections with people and even genuine friendships with people in your industry will take you MILES farther than paying for advertisements on a website, magazine, etc. Think about it: In those settings you’re one in… however many other advertisements there are… and with a personal recommendation, you’re most likely the ONLY or one of a few photographers being recommended – with a PERSONAL connection. People like to recommend and work with people they like! Also, don’t be afraid to connect with people not directly in your industry. I went to a blogger meet-up last year by myself with the thought, “Well, I do blog, and these people will most likely be people I can learn from AND I’ll probably be the only wedding photographer!” Just from that short hour or two I was at the mixer, I met several bloggers in the Austin area who I still keep in touch with today!
2) Don’t over-schedule
Ohhh, man. Preaching to the choir here. So here’s what happened: My first year running my business full-time, it grew and it grew FAST! And come spring of this year, I had booked up all my portrait spots with senior sessions, booked a few more last-minute weddings and then discovered the problem of “Oh, I still need to have time to shoot engagement sessions for fall wedding couples… and room for reschedules in case it rains.” (Spring weather is so unpredictable in Central Texas!) So the time that I originally thought I’d have off I ended up having to schedule shoots. I kept telling myself that it was a GOOD problem to have, because it was, and while I could power through the crazy months of March – June, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to run at that pace all the time without burning out and my business – and personal life – suffering for it. So now I *try really hard* to not completely fill my calendar. I love what I do and there will always be seasons that are busier than others, but now I have a little more flexibility, down time and margin to do other things!
3) Work-Life Balance // The perception of social media
Still working on this one too! And I don’t think it will ever really be “balanced,” but it was so strange to me that I would run into people, or get text messages or comments in conversation about me being “so busy.” Which was true, in a way, but since all people were seeing about my life was what I put on social media, people started to think that since things looked busy with my business that it meant I didn’t have time for a phone call or to grab coffee or dinner to catch up, and that made me so sad! Family and friends will ALWAYS be more important that my business, so learned that I had to make an effort to show that part of my life as well.
4) Do what makes sense for your life and business
Running a photography business isn’t “one size fits all.” Yes, there are DEFINITELY things that work across the board, but I still have to figure out what works best for me and my business and my life. For me, one of those things were to limit the number of days I would schedule shoots each week and to mark specific days off on my calendar for the fall — and actually take them off! Sometimes there are things and situations in life that happen that are out of my control and time and energy needs to be spent more on those areas than on growing my business. And that is OKAY. I would 1,000% rather take twice as long to get where I want to go and know I was focusing on the RIGHT things at the time then look back and realize I had put growing my business ahead of family, friends and other more important aspects of my life.
5) Success looks different from (and to!) everyone
This kind of goes along with the previous point, and I know this has been said before, but success really does look different for EVERYONE! With that, I want to encourage you to take a few minutes and define what success actually is for you. I’ve found that it can look so different in different seasons of life, but as long as I KNOW what I am working toward and what success means for me, then I don’t have to compare my success with that I view as other people’s success, because then it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Breaking things down into different time segments is helpful too! What does success look like for this week, month, these next three months, this year, 5 years, 10 years? Smaller timeframes help me make action steps and then the bigger timeframes help remind me of the big picture and to make sure the little “important” things I am doing now are actually the right “important” things that match up with where I want to be down the road.
Okay, if you made it all the way through that, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Was it helpful? Do you have any take-aways? Drop me a comment below! 🙂