Last week as part of a contest to give out a free photo shoot I asked subscribers what they would change if they started their business today or what they would keep the same. Here is my response.
Imagine if you were to start your business as a model or photographer today knowing everything you have learned over the years about what to do and what not to do. What are the changes you would make in how to approached the launch of your business? I’ve given this very question a great deal of thought and what follows are the changes I would make if I were to start my business today.
- Invest in high quality marketing materials
For years I tried to go on the cheap in the design of my website, the quality of my business cards, the prints in my portfolio. As a result – my business was viewed by consumers as also being on the cheap. Raising the level of my promotional and marketing materials also raised the level of the clientele I could approach. If I were to start my business today I would put more money up front into my website to make sure it was designed properly to convert visitors into business, I would have a professional portfolio printed as well as well designed promo cards and business cards.
- Spend wisely and budget properly
To make sure I had the money for all my marketing materials I need to not needlessly spend money elsewhere. There were multiple avenues in which I simply just wasted my time, money and resources including, most importantly, the purchasing of gear and equipment I simply did not need. Also it is imperative to assess your personal finances versus business income. What do you realistically expect to make and what are your expenses so you can put together a proper budget to live off of.
- Network sooner
I waited years before I had the courage to network with other professionals in my business out of fear that I would not be accepted at their level. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Joining professional organizations and connecting with others in my field opened me up to more information, more resources and more opportunities than I could have ever imagined.
- Don’t rely on digital interactions
Earlier in my business I tried to rely only upon digital interactions. I was nervous and afraid to meet with clients face-to-face so I stuck to simply just e-mails back and forth which honestly robbed me of so many opportunities. I would take the initiative to pick up the phone and call clients, meet with them in person and pound the pavement much harder in the marketing of my work and services.
The longer I’ve been in my career, the more accurate planning I strive to do. I forecast the types of work I want, the marketing initiatives I will engage in, the milestones I want to set for myself and so on. Although I leave plenty of room for contingencies, setting out with a plan helps me achieve a tremendous amount more than I could have without where I would aimlessly jump from one initiative or track to the next. As part of my planning I also do an analysis of my competitors and where my work could fit within the marketplace.
- Say “No” to Red Flag Projects
I’ve had too many situations where I had a bad feeling about a project – went into it anyway and had my beliefs completely affirmed. The longer I’ve been in business the better I’ve gotten at saying “no” to any projects that raise red flags. Situations such as where a client says “although we don’t have money now we see a lot of work in the future, so if you could really help us out.”
- Focus on my Vision
It took me several years of trying a lot of different things before I began to focus on the work I really wanted to do. I used to just take whatever would come my way or whatever I could get my hands onto. The true growth in my business started when I narrowed my focus on the types of shots I wanted to be creating and the types of clients I wanted to be working with. This is a very difficult thing to do as it can be hard to say no to any work – especially early on in one’s career. However you will be defined by the work you put out and if you have too wide of a focus, it is hard for anyone to recognize you for anything specifically. This includes saying “no” to projects, which contradict with the brand you are trying to promote. I made numerous mistakes of working in styles that hurt my potential for bigger work.
With that said, I will say that I do believe I did a few things correctly. Here are the things I would do the exact same as I did them earlier in my career.
- Working constantly and persistently
I’ve never once regretted the time and energy I put into my craft. It is true that I lost a bit of social status in college because I was always working and no doubt lost a few friends – but it was an investment that I am now the benefactor of today. The truth is that I never really viewed it as work because I was in love with what I was doing.
- Getting a mentor
I’ve been truly blessed to have several great mentors in my career who have guided me to being better and doing better work.
- Practice Endlessly
I was very persistent earlier in my career at always practicing my craft, testing new concepts, developing new ways to do things. Unfortunately the further I got into my career the more lax I got about practicing – but that is something that I would be more diligent about.
If you are interested in an illuminating exercise – consider the things in your business that you would do differently and the things you would do the same if you had started today knowing everything you know now in hindsight. Perhaps it will provide you some insights and ideas on what you can do moving forward.