What I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Business

Stables Market_RocknRollBride-72_blog

One of my first ever shoots for Rock n Roll Bride with Emma CaseMay 2010

I was lying in bed one Saturday night, mulling over everything I had to get done that coming week, and my thoughts suddenly shifted to how different my life was when I was just starting my blog and business. I pondered, if I knew then what I know now, would I have ever even registered my domain? Or would it have all just felt too big, too scary and too unattainable to even try? I didn’t really have a plan or any goals for my blog when I started out, I simply wanted to write about weddings, but if I did, would it have made a difference to how things panned out?

Then I wondered if some of my industry friends had thought about this too. So I woke up the next morning and decided to ask them! I wanted to know if they felt that their businesses had a ‘tipping point’ or if things just slowly started to happen. I wanted to hear if they’d made any mistakes but most of all I really wanted to know if there was anything they wish they’d known before starting their businesses.

Full disclosure: this article is huge (6000 words!) so you might want to grab a cup of tea before you dig in. Not only did almost every single person I asked reply, but they all did so at length and with a bucket load of incredible advice. What a bunch o’ babes.

Jasmine Star, photographer

jasmine star

There wasn’t a single tipping point for my business, but, rather, a series of tipping points pushing me closer to where I needed to be (learning how engage with clients, finding my blogging voice, learning how to file taxes, launching a branded website, etc).  I wish it was as easy as a single moment of success, but I think that exists only in Disney movies with talking animals.

Here’s a sample blog post from when I first started my business, in February 2006:

“Why am I such a chicken? I swear I should just lay an egg to complete this metamorphosis. I mean, the chicken and I both share entities like feet, breasts, and pointed breathing orifices, so if I sprouted feathers tonight I wouldn’t be surprised. 

I need–need–to be willing to go out on a limb and ask people if I could take their pictures. I mean, I know couples who are engaged, so why can’t I bring myself to ask them if I could snap their engagement photos? For crying out loud, I wouldn’t charge them, so what’s stopping me? My fear. Of rejection. Of incompetence. Of embarrassment.

I need to do this. Just need to.”

It took about three years to get my business to a place where I didn’t fear it was on the precipice of failure. Does that sound dramatic? Well, I’m sure it does, but small business owners live in fear of their dreams dying and we’re willing to fight for every last breath.

One thing I want to clarify though…as a wedding photographer, every year I have new clients. That means I’m, essentially, trying to run a new business every 12 months. The hustle, the worry, and the chutzpah doesn’t disappear, but you simply learn how to thrust and throttle when needed.

There were so many failures along the way, but I don’t look at them as missteps as much as I look at them as ways to help push my business where it needs to be.

Here are a few thing I wish I knew before starting my business:

It might sound terribly pessimistic, but expect the worst. If you can imagine just how bad things could be–and you’re okay with the outcome–then you know exactly what you’re risking. Knowing the worst, but hoping for the best tempered my emotions when I first started. The worst case scenario (for me) was: failing at photography, going back to law school, and owning a really nice DSLR camera. Once I realized what life looked like if I failed, I was ready to succeed.

Although you don’t want to make mistakes, they’ll happen. It’s part of the growing process, but it’s important to know not all mistakes are bad. A misstep that allows you to learn, correct,