This time of year is like New Years for me. Graduations are in the air and my birthday is June 7 (tomorrow!) so it’s a good time for reflection! My alma mater RISD had graduation this past weekend, and it’s making me nostalgic (I wish I had been there to see Annie Lebovitz receive an honorary degree, too!). This week I started thinking back to the summer I graduated, moved to Charleston, and started my own business. It’s crazy to look back at how far I’ve come since then, the struggles, and the many wins. I wanted to share a few of the things I learned while starting a business!
How I Took the Leap
Here’s a little backstory on how I got into photography if you haven’t read my story yet! I graduated three years ago with a vague idea of what I would do when I left school. I interned at Charleston magazine and with my lovely friend and film wedding photographer Gayle Brooker (also a fellow RISD alum!) while finishing school. With nothing but a gut feeling that I could build a business in Charleston, I took the leap. A few photographers I had worked with at Charleston magazine welcomed me in as their assistants. I also worked with Gayle in her office and second shot weddings with her.
The world of assisting isn’t super regular and dependable, so I started building my business at the same time. I moved to Charleston in August the summer I graduated and haven’t looked back!
3 Tips for Starting a Business
1. Network! Even if you’re an introvert and don’t want to 😉
The single most important thing I did when building my business (and continue to do) is to network and connect with people. The thought of networking in high school or college made me want to barf. I drummed up the courage to go to a women’s networking event six months after I moved here, and I am still connected with several of the women I met. I am active in local women entrepreneur’s group Hatch Tribe, where I’ve made not only business connections but some of my best friends in Charleston. My business is mostly word-of-mouth now, so making connections is crucial to its success!
Networking and connecting doesn’t mean always mean name tags and sales pitches. You’ll also never know who you’ll meet when you go to events and gatherings that align with what you love to do for fun. When I moved to Charleston I kept seeing Facebook events for outdoor yoga classes, but I would always find an excuse not to go. When I finally went, I absolutely loved it. The teacher ended up being Hilary Johnson, founder of Hatch Tribe, so that is how I got connected to her! When you live out the things you love, the universe rewards you and connects you to even more goodness!
2. Soak Up Your Part-Time Jobs
When all you want to do is run your own business, having a part-time job can be incredibly frustrating, but I’ve learned that these jobs will always inform how you work in your own business. I’ve had several side jobs since graduating, both in photography and in areas I just happen to love. I picked up a stylist position at my favorite store Madewell, and it taught me so much about customer relations. I learned to be more outgoing, and I loved helping customers shop because I loved shopping there, too. It was a welcome break from working on my photography business, too (plus, the discount!!!).
It also goes without saying that assisting local photographers has helped every aspect of my business. I’ve had the opportunity to assist on interior shoots for HGTV magazine and editorial pieces for Southern Living. Assisting at weddings taught me how to handle crazy pressure and gave me practice shooting events and portraits. If you’re on the lookout for a part-time job while building your business, get a job related to a field you love, whether it be related to your business or a hobby you enjoy. A job you’re at least somewhat interested in will support you while you build your empire!
3. Stay True to You
Especially when starting your business, you will feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. That feeling never totally goes away as an entrepreneur, but you will get more confident (promise!). If you listen to your gut and stay true to who you are, your business will grow.
In a Business for Photographers class, I created branding for myself before having any clients. I based it off of the vibe I envisioned my imaginary business to have. I’ve since updated my branding with the help of Saturday Studio, but looking back at my first go at it, it was pretty close to what my business is now.
Visualize how your business looks five, ten, twenty years down the road. What’s your big dream for your business? What kind of work makes you so excited you could burst? I put out the type of work I want to be hired for on my website and social media and keep my brand as consistent as possible. If you keep your big vision in mind, you’ll get closer to it everyday. I have to remind myself of this often!
I want to hear from you!
Starting a business is a crazy ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I want to hear from you! If you are a business owner, what lessons did you learn in the first few years of business? What tips do you have for someone just starting out? If you haven’t taken the entrepreneurial leap yet, what questions/thoughts/fears are holding you back? Let me know in the comments!