4 Lessons About Running a Business I Learned The Hard Way.
A couple of weeks ago, I hit my one year anniversary of intentionally running my photography business. To say I've been blessed is an understatement and seems way to cliché. So instead, I figured I would share some of the lessons I learned the hard way over the past year. **Note, I may say I learned these the hard way, but honestly, the growth that's come from wading through this is the growth I attribute my art to today.
1. Side Hustles, Side Hustles, Side Hustles
I wish I could say starting a business is all about coming up with a great plan, putting boots to the ground, and wham, bam, boom- you have a sustainable business. While I'm sure there are some lucky stars out there, I wasn't one of them- and I'm thankful for that. This past year has been all about the side hustle. During the school year I didn't have time for a day job, so this meant babysitting, pet sitting, cleaning, ebaying, you name it. Now, I look back and I know that if I get to be in a pinch I can get creative and am willing to work those crazy long days. However, I was nowhere near prepared for this. The hectic budgeting, the insane scheduling, and lets face it- there's always going to be some anxiety when steady income isn't the name of the game.
Plus Side - I learned the value of my business, and of my clients. I also learned to value my time and my energy.
2. Don't keep other peoples schedules
So the clinician in me will tell you to sleep 8-10 hours a night, not to eat past 7pm, and to keep your body on a routine. The artist in me just does not vibe with that. Much of this year I fought to keep this ideal schedule I thought I was supposed to keep...and I was miserable. I would end up laying in bed frustrated, I was trying to do work at my least productive times of the day, and I felt like a square trying to go into a circle. So I tried an experiment over the first few weeks of Summer. I decided to trust my body and my mind to tell me what I needed and when. For me, I work best later in the evenings- its when I'm most alert, most creative, and am about focus the best. I let go of the guilt and I made the adjustments needed to run my business more effectively.
Does this mean if you're one of my brides you may receive emails from me at 1:00am, absolutely, but it also means that because I'm learning to trust myself and not others, I'm providing you with the best service I can.
3. This is not a one woman show
Well, I guess it technically is. What I mean is that I can't go at this alone. Now, I'm not talking about other artists and creatives- though those connections are absolutely vital to the success of my business! What I'm talking about here is surrounding myself with those who love, encourage, and CHALLANGE me. I thought I had done a great job forming a community and had people watching my six, but it wasn't until this venture that I realized that I also needed people on my two...and ten....and four....and eight...and- well you see what I'm saying. I had to have intentional, sometimes painful conversations with those dearest to me. I needed to let enough people see my weaknesses so that they could help me as I worked to love myself better. I needed those friends to call when I was driving the 3 hour drive home from a wedding, or to celebrate with me when I reached goals. I needed those people in my life to laugh with me when I was taking myself too seriously, and to call me out when my self-love was lacking. Until I intentionally (and sometimes forcefully) put myself in this community, I was drowning. When I surrounded myself with this type of support and friendship, my work load didn't lighten- but my approach and results were drastically effected in a positive way.
4. Fear is completely OK.
So when I started out on this path I had this funky idea that because I was doing something I love, negative emotions shouldn't be in the mix. I was faced with a lot of fear first starting out and instead of addressing it, I just dismissed it. One of my greatest fears was that I would love this business too much. What I mean by that is I was scared of success. I was terrified of what it would look like if I "made it", Would I want to stop being a therapist? Had I just wasted 7 years of my life and a nauseating amount of student loans just to change careers? For this reason, I held my business (and the fear that was linked to it) at arms length for a while. It wasn't until graduation was upon me that I realized a vital fact- photography, this art, this precious gift of authentically creating images for clients will always be a part of me. It is a part of my life that literally brings tears of joy to my eyes. Why, oh WHY would I ever fear this? This art is just as much a part of me as my desire to help people during the darkest moments of their lives. And here's the crazy thing- I can have both. My career path won't look like my classmates, and it won't look like other artists. This experience of sitting with clients in their hardest times, and celebrating with client on their happiest days has shaped me as a human, and it's part of the experience I bring to clients.
Like I said before, I hold gratitude for the experience of learning these lessons the hard way. It makes me that much more excited to see what lessons I'll be writing about in 2018. What about you? Whether a business or a venture or a new phase of life....what were the lessons that you are most thankful for? I would love to hear about them!