Well, it has officially been a little over 12 months since I (Jeremy) quit my old job and went “full-time” with photography. Incase you missed it, last year I wrote a blog post about Why and How I Quit My Job! This is a great blog post to read if you feel you are on the brink of changing careers and want a few practical steps on how to make it happen. Today, however, I wanted to really focus on what this past year has taught me. Being that I’m in grad school (for the second time! haha) I link to “list” things out, so bear with me…
1 – Trust. The past 12 months would not have been possible without trusting in God that He would provide. As a business owner the emotions run high and low from day to day. We eagerly check the mailbox to see if anyone mailed in an old contract with a check enclosed, and we frantically refreshed our email praying for the next inquiring bride. But, when it all comes down to it, God taught me to trust Him. However, I am big advocate that God rewards hard work.
2 – Work Hard. I hear a lot of photographers out there on FB saying “just trust God, just trust God” yet they sit at home and don’t do anything. It is a delicate balance. Without God, I know I am nothing, but how can I expect God’s blessing without showing Him diligence? If you aren’t getting any inquiries, it doesn’t mean you lack trust, it means you aren’t marketing your services! Go out there are and spread your name and then trust the results to God!
3 – If it ain’t workin, don’t do it! We learned this the hard way. The 6-9 months before I quit my job we relied heavily upon online advertisements to bring in the inquiries. We paid a STEEP price-tag for this. Well, as we raised the price for our services, the inquiries from online advertising slowed, and eventually stopped. We wasted so much money just thinking they would pick up again. It was scary to stop advertising considering over 50% of our inquiries came from there, but it was not a smart decision to throw hundreds of dollars down the drain every month for nothing. So we quit advertising online.
4 – Find new ways to market. In my opinion, there is no “right or wrong way” to market. A lot of newbie photographers are afraid of “traditional” marketing because it is often labeled as bad in our industry. I honestly believe that any form of marketing that brings in the right kind of bride at the right ROI (return on investment) is a perfectly healthy form of marketing. For us, there are 3 forms of marketing that we utilize and get our brides from. First is google. We pour a lot of time and energy into SEO and blogging. These two things have sent a TON of traffic to our websites and probably 1/3 of our bookings come from google. Second is bridal shows. Again, this is usually considered a traditional form of marketing, but with 1000 brides walking past your booth (and make sure it’s a killer booth design!) you are bound to book somebody! Click Here to view our booth ;) At our last show we booked 5 brides at our highest price point ever. And all 5 are our ideal clients. Sure, there were scores of brides that were not ideal for us, but they didn’t book us, we were only looking for those 3-8 girls who we knew would be excited about us, our images, and our service. Third is referrals. Of course, this is the ideal form of marking as referrals usually have a higher booking percentage. Again, we pour a lot of time, money, and energy into providing our clients with the BEST wedding photography EXPERIENCE they could image. Their experience has little to do with the images. We want people to love us, love what we stand for, and then talk about us. Our referrals come from brides, friends, fellow vendors, and wedding venues.
These 3 forms of marketing have enabled us book more weddings for 2013 , at a price point nearly 300% higher than 2012!
5 – Plan Financially. In the blog post I wrote last year I talked about having a savings account when you quit your job, and that is very important. Unfortunately, we weren’t the best last year about planning for the slow months. Last year there were months where we earned 3 months income in only 3 weeks, and there were other months where we made zilcho! Plan accordingly. Write out a budget and stick to it. We started a cash budget in January and the last 4 months have been SO much easier and less stressful because of this. Dave Ramsey says that children know how to spend money, adults know how to save money (paraphrase, but you get the point!).
6 – Time. Don’t over work. It’s SO SO SO very easy to get consumed in your business. It’s your life, it’s your everything, it’s your “baby.” But in reality, it is not. Jesus is my everything and my family is my life. Everything I do should either be a blessing to God, Kristin, or Stella. Me staying up til midnight every night working on editing is not a blessing to my family. In January we wrote out our work schedule and I’m happy to say that most (90%+) days we stick to it. Our goal is to be “done” with work at 6:00 PM and have “us” time. Because, really, the whole point of us running our own business, is to have the lifestyle we want. And the lifestyle we want, is together.
7 – Raise Your Price – As photographers, we are always afraid to raise our prices. I remember thinking “nobody would EVER pay us that much to shoot their wedding!” So what was the problem? ME! I had convinced myself we weren’t worth it. It was humbling this year to do our taxes. Most people don’t realize how many expenses there are in owning your own business. Well this past year our AGI (adjusted gross income) from the business was only about 25% of our total gross receipts. Eek! That’s not much. We have bills to pay and need to run a profitable business. Raise Your Price.
If y’all have ANY questions at all about what was written above or something I didn’t cover, please leave a comment I would love to help everyone out there achieve their dreams by running a successful, and profitable business.