Winter is always a time to reflect, look inward, and reevaluate our long-term goals. As I’ve been reevaluating my business model for my family photography studio and my personal goals looking forward, I’ve had to sit down and really rehash the things I am now choosing to say “no” to in order to make room for the things I want more of in my life.
I’ve recently shared a blog post on how the Helena Woods studio will change beginning in 2020, in regards to policies, pricing, and our product model. As I’m putting the pieces together, I look back to my 21-year-old self in 2016, the young girl who didn’t know what she wanted to pursue in life, only that it had something to do with a camera and a notebook. Now approaching 25 and having run a profitable creative business for the last 3 years, I’m sharing the 5 things I wish I had known before I began my photography business, in hopes to inspire other creative artists and entrepreneurs who want to turn their passion into a profitable business.
Start with a clear understanding of your destination. Before you can create and build a business you love, you first have to know where you’re going. This starts with knowing your overall end goal. While these long-term plans definitely change as we begin to understand ourselves more over the years, knowing your values is of paramount importance. What is deeply important to you? Grab a pen and paper out and jot down some ideas of what would make YOU intrinsically joyful and fulfilled 10, 20 years down the line. Chances are that will definitely change, but your values, your internal beliefs will not.
Start with focusing on the big-picture vision. Ask your internal compass, and quit following the detailed roadmap. If we put all of our time, energy, money, and effort into creating and running a business…but then we realize we aren’t fulfilled by that creative endeavor or business model, it can turn out to be a waste of effort and efficiency. Getting clear on your “why, ” your beliefs, your values, and know what your ideal work day would look like, at the early onset will get you on the right track.
It’s incredibly expensive to run a business. Not only do you have to first match your yearly revenue with your cost of goods and personal investment to run the business, but you also want to earn a profit right? In the first 2 years, I made a lot of mistakes in my business. The main one being that I undercharged my services, and I didn’t add tax. YIKES. Don’t follow my example, friends.
Make sure you are crunching your numbers at the beginning.
When you first crunch all the numbers, expect to feel a little depressed at first. It costs a lot of money to run a self-employed business, especially in regards to self-employment tax, but by approaching the numbers at the beginning and understanding your daily costs to run your business, you are on the first step to becoming confident in charging what you are worth.
To me personally, nothing is more important than my time. We don’t know how much time we have on Earth, and I highly value my time, as opposed to how many clients or sessions I have per year.
Ask yourself: If you had your dream day, would you rather be spending it working at a desk, staring at a computer, and clocking in hours or spending time with your loved ones? For me, my answer is always spending time with my family. I’m appreciative that I’ve created and built my business to suit my desired lifestyle, passions, and values/beliefs, but I also realize that time is precious, and life is fleeting, and my focus on living is centered around relationships and the people I love. Not my career.
Owning actual, physical artwork of your loved ones is a belief I deeply preach. Digital files are transitory and easily corruptable, and so do not trust only having digital images of my family. As an expert in the art of photography and photographic prints, I realize the importance and value in having your images printed on quality paper with a liftime guarentee.
50 years from now, I want to sit down and look at my wedding album, the quality of the photographs still as evident as they were when I first ordered the album in my early twenties. Longevity and quality is #1 for me, and I don’t want to run that risk of not having those photographic memories.
I would rather work in a high-end market, charge more for my custom artistry and service and work less time. I would rather hand-create and design unique products for my clients’ homes than just give out the digital files – files that are easily corruptible. I would rather take on 4 sessions per month, for the same price as 15 mini sessions a month. That is my personal value – something I learned in my first 3 years in business as I discovered my personal values and long-term goals. Not everyone shares the same belief, but for me, that is what I value: custom artwork and home designed with unique photography products.
Before you open up shop, ask yourself what you most value. Would you rather work with clients who are more laid back and easy going but that just want the digitals? Or would you rather work in a higher-end market that demands MUCH more design experience, attention to detail but is more aligned with your belief in custom art products and services? Everyone values this differently.
Ask yourself what you value and then set up your prices around your values and worth of service.
I went into business confident at the beginning, and it was in large part due to having a mentor. My cousin, Erin, used to be Connecticut’s most sought after newborn, baby, children’s and family photographer. Needless to say, I was heavily inspired by her business model. Having a mentor work one-on-one with you is unlike anything else. Sure, you can take a million online courses and join a mastermind and all that, but working closely with someone who knows what they are doing and have done it successfully for many years? That is unbeatable.
Make genuine friendships with fellow creatives and entrepreneurs in your industry. I am a firm believer that one can never have too many friends and in community over competition. We live in an abundant universe, and there is plenty to go around! The more open, kind and genuine you are, the easier it will be to form close connections with people in your industry – and hey you will learn a lot too!
Lastly, have compassion for yourself. Going into business is a brave thing to do, and have patience in learning all the nuts and bolts. There is so much to learn that sometimes even for someone who has done it a while, it is overwhelming! Even after 3 years in business, I’m still constantly learning new things and improving what I did wrong in the past. Give yourself space, do one thing at a time, and allow the process to unfold as it is meant to. This is a journey. There would be no excitement, enthusiasm and surprises if we knew exactly how the end result would turn out. If you knew the end result and each little action leading up to it, would you truly be excited to take these steps today? Right now? Probably not.
You’ve got your whole life to do this. Allow yourself time to learn and evolve.
2016 - 2019 Helena Woods | Helena Woods Portraiture is located outside New York City in Fairfield County Connecticut and travels worldwide for her clients. Helena Woods is New England and Connecticut’s premier family, children, baby and newborn photographer specializing in modern classic custom family photography with a timeless look that's always in style. As a professional photographer, Helena captures maternity, newborn, baby and family portraits in NYC, Westchester, Trumbull, Easton, Weston, and Westport, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Norfolk and all Fairfield County surrounding areas.