I don’t know about you, but 2018 had some lessons to teach me about my business. This year’s lessons had less to do with upgrading equipment and getting organized and more to do with serving up a heaping helping of humble pie. Dealing with the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows is just part of owning your own business. I’m always learning! And here are some of the things I learned in 2018 that I’m taking with me into the New Year.
1) Don’t take the easy way out.
In other words, when you try to take shortcuts, your bookings will drop. I faced this reality near the end of 2017. I was looking at my 2018 books and realized I only had a handful. To say I was shocked is understatement. It was the first time I’d ever had a lull in my bookings.
After some reflection, it ultimately boiled down to the fact that I’d stopped going above and beyond in my business. In my attempt to automate some of my processes, I lost some of that personal touch. I kicked my automated emails to the curb in April 2018 and noticed an increase in my bookings again. Being efficient doesn’t always pay off!
2) Don’t leave money on the table.
Before attending Hustle & Flow in Seattle, I was under the impression that my ideal client would pay whatever I was charging. And while that’s true in some cases, I learned that kind of approach won’t always book clients. I was turning away so many potential clients who wanted to work with me simply because I couldn’t make the budget work.
I’m not advocating for lowering your prices or working for less than you’re worth. I’m saying it’s important to be flexible and open minded when it comes to budgets. For me, that looked like implementing a lower cost package with less coverage. It was a huge hit for smaller weddings and much-loved by clients on a tighter budget, and some of those weddings ended up being some of my favorites to shoot in 2018.
3) Don’t forget to show what you can offer.
In 2017, I was super focused on landing the “ideal client,” so much so that I forgot about the second half of the equation: me! Was I striving to be the ideal photographer? Was I making clients feel confident in booking me? Not necessarily.
I decided to switch up the verbiage on my website and explain just how much I do for my clients and why they should hire me. I focused less on what my clients were bringing to the table and more on what I can provide for them.
4) Don’t forget to plan for slow seasons.
In the beginning of 2018 I was in a panic. It was the slow season, and I was convinced we were going to starve. Spoiler alert: we didn’t starve, and 2018 turned out to be a better year financially than we anticipated. Conrad’s business brought in more than we expected, and I booked extra small gigs (see lesson #2) to keep that money rolling in.
After running the numbers, we made exactly enough to cover our bills, not counting the cushion I keep in my bank account (hint: I always keep 6 months to a year of income in my account if I can). 2018 wasn’t meant to be a year of excess and lots of saving, apparently. Instead it was to be a lesson in trust and stewardship.
Money can come and go quickly; luckily the Lord taught me I’m worth so much more.
5) Don’t over complicate it.
2018 taught me I am capable of shooting nine-hour wedding days on my own, an incredibly challenging and rewarding lesson to learn. For years, I had second shooters at every wedding, but eventually it became an added stress. I couldn’t help but worry if they got the shot in focus or if they even got the shot at all.
I shot the majority of my weddings last year entirely on my own. I can confidently say I nailed it and I’m hella proud of myself for that!
I’d love to hear about the lessons you learned last year. What challenges did you conquer? What hard lessons did you have to face in your business?