It was about five years ago, and I told my best friend, Anna, that I really wanted to do this. Starting a business around my passion just made sense to me. It was a way for me to almost push people to see the beauty that I saw in the world.
Here's the deal, it took five years for it to take off. Seriously.
Don't ever expect to be a success right of the bat. Most businesses don't even break even within the first two years.
Yep. On average, if you were a brick and mortar business, you don't even start to make profit or pay off all of the money you put into it for a couple years. With photography, its a little less time, but still.
So how did I do it?
A few lessons learned:
1) Don't get into something unless you're obsessed with it. Like you think about it all the time, or find yourself drawn to it for a long long time.
Because you will put the effort into it and the time to make it profitable. The only businesses that survive are the ones that people keep working on.
2) You have to keep at it (This really is the key). I didn't have a client for a couple of years. I did work for free to build my portfolio up.
This does not mean you should do work for free forever, or have someone say to you, "this would be great to build your portfolio." I want to scream at them and tell them to find a sucker, because I'm not one.
The point of this is very important - build your portfolio and enhance your work until you feel confident in your work and product enough to charge someone for it.
While you continue to work and expand what you do, you become better and learn how to market yourself, what works and doesn't work.
Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither is your business.
3) Plan everything.
What? I can't just use my awesome camera and lens and point and shoot?
Nope. Not unless you want your work to royally suck. No camera will make up for poor light, a poor setting, and lack of variety in poses and camera angles.
Plan your poses and shots - I didn't know how to plan my poses so I used Pinterest to visually plan them and get inspiration. I would look at other photographers work and make a board just for poses. Then when I would have someone ask me to take their photos, I would list the poses I wanted to go through. I used the Pinterest app on my phone to reference when I was out in the field taking photos. It helps when you can't think of a new pose on the spot. Eventually you won't need this, you'll start to see and think of your own.
Help your clients plan. They know what kind of clothes they like wearing, but if everyone wears different colors, or patterns, it may not turn out how you imagine it. I like to give my clients examples and how to coordinate colors. Block colors and complimentary colors look best. Complimentary colors are those that are exactly opposite one another on the color wheel.
My Pinterest board of wardrobe ideas
If your client wants something they'll hang on their wall forever, I would lean more toward a neutral palette, like grays and blues together, or some other neutral color pattern.
4) Keep learning and expanding your understanding of your craft/business/trade. If you don't keep going and learning and changing, you will fall behind.
My pinterest catalog of ideas/research
I started out by looking at what other photographers do... What photos did I love, and how did they get those photos? Lots of research, and mainly investing in lenses.
This includes new techniques and using your equipment differently. Different lenses will create different images. Use them to your advantage. Photo editing software will help set you apart as well. You need to learn how to use them and edit the photos to look the way you want them.
Learn how to market yourself online. Grow your social media. Don't expect it to just bring in loads of customers though. I would post to social media once or twice a week just to get my name out there in the back of peoples minds. Eventually you stick and people remember you if they need photos.
Learn what SEO is and use it wisely. It takes time to build, and over time your name will rise to the top in search engines (I'm still working on this).
In all honesty, I think there are lots of lessons learned, but the biggest one of all is to never give up. Keep chugging along even when you fail. If it is something that you really want to do, you will make it happen, but it may take some time. Be okay with that.