May 5, 2015 8 comments
One of the most asked questions that I get by far is HOW I started my business.
I have been SO thankful over the fact that I have been working my business full-time as my only job for 5 years ever since I started it.
So let’s see … where do I begin? How about from the beginning! Here’s a quick summary of my backstory on how my business came about …
In August (or was it September?) 2009 after pursuing a few jobs that did not end up being my jam (like acting in California and starting my own wedding planning business,) one day it suddenly struck me: I loved weddings … I loved photography … I NEEDED TO START A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS!
Bam. Just like that.
I knew from the age of 16 when I got my first job at Steak’N’Shake that I wanted to one day own my own business and be my own boss, and now I finally had an idea that just FELT RIGHT and that I was super excited about! At the time I was living in Los Angeles but was planning on making the move to Kansas City during the spring of 2010. So I had 6-ish months to get things started and to prepare for my business launch! My hope was to hit the ground running full-time once I returned back to the midwest, and I did. Here are some of the steps I did to make it happen …
1. I had money saved to cover my startup expenses.
As soon as I got the idea to start my wedding photography business. I immediately bought the minimal amount of camera gear that I needed. (I had never even owned a DSLR before, just a point and shoot!) I had the money saved already and did not go into debt to purchase my equipment. Sure it was temping to by tons of extra gear and several new lenses, but I believe one of the keys to my success was investing more into my business (i.e. purchasing more equipment) as my business grew and I made more money. I grew my inventory wisely as my business grew. I never went into debt.
2. I got a website and Facebook page up within that first week.
I knew I needed people to see my work ASAP in order to book things, so I chose a business name, purchased a domain name through GoDaddy and got a website and Facebook page up. At the time I had NO wedding work to show and I hardly even had images from my new DSLR to put up, so I literally posted personal photos from my point and shoot camera. They were not great obviously, but they were something.
3. I was confident and bit the bullet.
Did I let the fact that I basically had no portfolio to show people stop me? No. I posted the best personal stuff that I had to at least get something up and worked feverishly to practice with my new camera to make new images! I shot lots of free sessions in California for practice and to build my portfolio as quickly as I could. In the mean time …
4. I asked lots of questions.
I reached out to lots of photographers who I admired with questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! We all start some where. I asked for advice on what camera/lens to purchase first, a good website design company, what focus mode I should have my camera on …
I pretty much asked a question about EVERYTHING, and if I didn’t ask an actual person than I asked Google.
5. I came up with a rough business plan + actionable goals.
A business plan is a must! At the time I was kind of inexperienced and just flying by the seat of my pants and learning as I went, but I still wrote a brief business plan with how much money I needed to make, how many weddings I’d need to book each month etc. The more detailed you can get with your business plan and actionable goals, however, the better.
6. I networked.
I immediately started sharing photos on Facebook and getting the word out. I told friends, I told family, I told friends of friends. “Hey! Know anyone getting married? I’m just starting out and am booking weddings for a very low price! ” I created banners advertising this little tidbit on Facebook and guess what? I booked my first client that way. And my second. And my third. With absolutely NO wedding portfolio. By the time I moved to Kansas City I already had both weddings and sessions booked. AND my portfolio had grown from all the free sessions I had been shooting in California!
7. I kept my living expenses LOW.
When I first moved to Kansas City, my living expenses were kept very low because I lived with a friend for the first 6 months. When you are just starting your business, it’s super important to have some money saved and to keep your living expenses as low as possible until things get going for you. If you can’t live with a friend (like I did, ha!) then you might need to cut some luxuries for awhile … like those fancy pants coffee drinks! Make sure you set a budget and stick with it.
8. I faked it til I made it, baby!
Because that’s totally what I did. I created my website and it looked professional and clean and I acted like a seasoned wedding photographer even though I uh … had never shot a wedding before. Ehem.
9. I worked, worked, worked.
Starting a business takes A LOT of work and you will most likely spend hundreds of unpaid hours getting it going! (I know I did!) It’s a labor of love, so be ready for it.
10. I kept learning, kept networking, kept practicing and learned as I went.
I started my business before I felt ready, but with hard work, lots of questions, practice, more work and a business plan I made it! Keep going. Learn as you go.
And there you have it, the story of how I started my business and the steps I went through to make it happen! I definitely took the “learn as you go” approach. I have learned SO MUCH since starting my business and growing it over the last 5 years and that’s why I wrote this post on 16 Steps to Starting Your Own Business. It’s a much more organized, less fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants list that I WISH I had 5 years ago when I started!
Hahaha, for real.
Check it out and please feel free to ask any questions and share any of your experiences! I love stories.
This post is so inspiring! I have a question, did you ever take classes for photography? And did you get photoshop right off the bat? I have a huge passion for photography & want so badly to start making money at it. You’re a huge inspiration!
Category: Personal Finance