Hindsight is always 20/20 right? Well, today I wanted to share with you the 5 things I wish I had known when I first started my wedding photography business 7 years ago.
Time takes time.
We all know this very cliche saying, but in regards to my wedding photographer career, it’s true. This industry has continued to grow exponentially, meaning that EVERY year more and more photographers are out there competing for the same business. In an ocean of talent, it will take time to be a name, reputation, and solid body of work to back your name up. When I started out, I attempted to do EVERYTHING. Weddings, babies, seniors, families, engagements…all of it! But the problem there was that I was a jack of all trades and a master of none. When I narrowed down to focusing just on weddings & engagements, I was able to create that solid body of work to where my audience grew to know what to expect from me. The other categories ended up back on my plate very organically as my wedding couples started their own families, as those families sent referrals, and so on. Having really honed my skills at weddings, there are so many techniques and interpersonal skills that I can apply to all genres and it has made me very successful…and that did not happen overnight.
Things will continue to evolve.
When I look back at my branding, my editing, my communication style with my clients, it’s all SO different than when I first started. When I first start I was attempting to replicate or mimic the things I saw other successful photographers doing. From their editing, to their style guides, to how they spoke in their Instagram captions. It was exhausting and never felt like “me”. Eventually, as I began to build a client base, things began to evolve slowly over time. I realized ultimately that I could be myself in my business, that people came to me not only for great photos but for the experience I took them on. I realized that my ideal client wasn’t a $100K wedding, with pastels and the tightest of timelines. My ideal client was playful, relaxed, appreciated art and humor. They wanted to have a good time as well as get good photos. They understood the true meaning behind a wedding day (hint: it wasn’t the photos). Speaking to THIS client was wayyyyy different than speaking to Mrs. $100k.
Relationships will always take you further.
Starting out nobody knew me. My friends knew I went to a photography school, I had interned and worked for a local wedding studio but no one else in the business KNEW me. So, I started calling people. Well…DM-ing, but you know what I mean. Reaching out to anyone and everyone that I could possibly connect with. I went to shootouts, I went to workshops, I asked friends to refer me to ANYONE who was getting married and I just kept hustling. Be professional, kind, efficient, fun, and mostly being myself, helped me build very solid relationships in the wedding industry. I was honest with people, I was a team player and I always worked to put my couple or client first. These relationships continue to benefit me and my business and I take great pride in being a good colleague in my industry. Relationships will carry you further than any Instagram follower count will.
Know your worth, then add tax.
When you’re starting out, yes, it’s okay to be cheap. You’re trying to get people in the door, cover your costs and build a reputation. However, it’s super important to not stay in that realm for too long. I always tell anyone who mentors with me or asks me general business questions, “what are your numbers?”. If you don’t’ know what your cost of doing business is and the amount of money you need to bring home every month to cover your personal expenses, how can you expect to price yourself accordingly so that all your bases are covered? You might as well be attempting to play Tetris while blind. Knowing what you need to cover your costs, mixed with a knowledge of what your experience means monetarily, you can easily place yourself in a price range that honors your ability and your bank account.
Stay in your own lane.
Social media is one of those bittersweet tools. They are free platforms for us to engage with people, teach and help others, and promote our businesses…again, FOR FREE. However, it also opens the doors wide open to the world of comparison and envy. We see everyone’s highlight reels and mourn over our own mundane existence. Knowing deep down that these people we envy, more than likely, don’t actually live those lives we so desperately want for ourselves. Whether you deem yourself immune to or succumb to the comparison game, early on, it’s SUPER IMPORTANT to stay in your own lane. Find a few voices in your industry that are kind, knowledgeable, and inspirational, but for the most part, keep your eyes down and your feet moving. There are a billion ways to be successful in this lifetime and that success can look different for every person on this planet. Figure out how YOU define your success and hold that close to your chest. Only YOU will know when you climb to the top of YOUR mountain, don’t keep looking at other people’s mountains expecting the same journey or views at the top.
These are just of the few things I wish I knew when I started. These aren’t technical, these don’t have to do with skills, but they are important pillars in building a successful business.