Federal Hill Photography, LLC celebrated its fourth birthday in July. This past year has been particularly special, as it’s the first year I’ve been devoted full time to my commercial and fine art photography business. With focus came growth, but also growing pains and lots of lessons learned. Still, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to switch to full time and wanted to share a few insights.
- Get mentors. I’ve been lucky enough to find mentors with a deep understanding of my profession who are very generous with their time and expertise. They’ve helped me with everything from contracts and negotiation to equipment choices to managing financial risk. Thanks to them, I am much more educated in the art and business of photography.
- Value relationships over profit. I’ve learned people do business with those who they know and trust, so investing in building a high quality relationship is key. Be genuine in your interest in who they are and what they do. Keep in touch, but keep it casual and no pressure. An occasional “how’s it going?” email or a meet up for coffee is perfect. And, one of the other wonderful things about building relationships is sometimes making a friend in the process.
- Patience through empathy. A prospect who decides that they want to work with you is more powerful in producing a committed client and repeat business. Brow beating them with sales pitches until they say yes will not work. So each time I approach a new prospect, I establish points in the conversation where I imagine myself in their shoes. This self check ensures I’m not putting too much pressure on them. By thinking about how a prospect is feeling during a conversation, I’ve found myself far more patient while waiting for that prospect to come to a decision on their own.
- Work/Life/Inspiration Balance. I’ve read countless articles on work/life balance, yet didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be until I started working my business full time. Being a business of one, days naturally run longer because I’m doing everything. But defining times to take a break during the day, plus well defined ends to the day went a long way towards reducing the possibility of burnout. And when running a business, I’ve found it critical not to forget the passion that started me down this path in the first place. So I make sure to take time to do things that keep me inspired in photography. It could be practicing with lighting ideas, reading about photographers that interest me, or just wandering about taking pictures.
- Celebrate the little victories. Building a business takes time. There are a lot of “nos” along the way before a prospect says “yes” and you get work. Celebrating little things help to keep me inspired and moving. Getting a nice compliment on an instagram photo, an unexpected referral from a past client, or mastering some technique are all equally great reasons to celebrate.