For about five years now, I have been self-employed. During this time, I have made a ton of mistakes, learned from them, and kept moving forward. There’s many unfortunate circumstances that occur that you can’t anticipate, but if you analyze every little step you take, you will have much better chances of growing.
I started my self-funded life venture by developing websites for small businesses. Working alone, as you can imagine there were a lot of late nights. During this period of time, I was REALLY hungry for business and made quite a few bad deals. Filled with stress, I was unhappy with my life and business.
When Jada and I decided to take pictures together, I used my income from my website development business to fund J&D’s equipment. I knew it was important to take all of the lessons I learned from my first venture and implement them into J&D. As our photography began to gain momentum, I decided to stop taking on work with web development in order to put all of my focus on growing our brand. Along the way, I’ve picked up some tips by starting and running these two businesses. Hopefully, they can help you skip some of the growing pains that occur when first starting a business.
This is the biggest thing I have discovered. Find yourself a partner! A partner is different from an employee or intern. They are someone who will be just as invested into your vision as you are. You want someone who isn’t just in it for short term gain. They need to be willing to use their time and energy to help fuel the end goal. Find a person that thinks differently and can add to difficult situations with a new perspective. When Jada and I discovered that we could work together and that our end goals were spot on, we became a single mega-person: one spirit with two brains, four hands, twenty fingers, all fighting for one end dream.
When I first started out building websites, I was so hungry for work that I would say yes to anything. While, yes, I was able to make enough money to pay rent and eat, I also made some terrible deals. While pushing myself outside of my comfort zone was great, my work was all over the place. It created slight chaos within my workflow and I ended up working more hours than I was paid for. With J&D we made a point to create a transparent list of services and prices. If we ever have a crazy request we look at it, look at our services, and if we don’t provide it, we don’t do it. Our workflow and vision is clear.
When you are starting out, it may seem wise to lower your rates in order to build up a portfolio. Don’t do it! Once you figure out the value your work is worth per hour, stick to it. Everyone is looking for a deal, but that shouldn’t matter to you as an artist. If your product or service has your heart and soul in it, then there will be people who see and respect that. You don’t want clients looking for a deal.
Every achievement in life deserves a reward. It keeps you going and gives you the motivation to hit the next goal. We love to treat ourselves to good food. Whenever we hit a goal we take ourselves out for steak, lobster, and champagne. By celebrating our victories, we can use it as inspiration to dream even bigger.
When starting out, your equipment Is probably built off the nickels in your pocket. I have read so many articles, especially in the photography industry, saying that it doesn’t matter what gear you have. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When we started, we had mid-grade equipment and used many hacks to make it work. It was stressful and we quickly realized that we needed to focus on purchasing upgrades. It is important to have the BEST equipment that is necessary for the level of work you want to produce. Doing so will not only make your product better, but it makes the job easier. Time is money and you don’t want to spend it figuring out ways to compromise for your below-average equipment. Live your personal life frugally and invest into your product to make it the best you can.
You can spend all the money in the world on updating your website and marketing, but that doesn’t matter if people don’t like you personally. Our number one source of clients, second to Google, is from referrals. Treat your customers with respect and if you make a mistake, own it. When you own your mistakes, make sure you come up with simple solutions so that you can keep moving forward. Every client deserves your gratitude because ultimately they are the ticket to following your dreams.
Yes, just like the signs you see in almost every living room. If you are able to make it to a point where you wake up every morning as your own boss, you should be waking up to do something you love. As life gets busy, it is easy to forget what it took to get where you are today. Live out your dream, love what you do, and make sure to have time for some laughs. You have been given the gift of life and the ability to change the world with your passion and drive.