Five Truths I Wish I Knew Sooner
When I first jumped full time into my business coming up on six years ago now, I remember wanting access to each and every tip and shortcut that I could get my hands on. During my first few weeks of solo-entrepreneurship (which let me tell you didn’t feel like such a cool or powerful title at the time haha), I remember thinking “this is it? Like I’m just released into the real world and that’s that?”.
Like there I was, done school, rejected from applying to work part time at a handful of retail jobs, just sitting in my apartment, all day, every day. Okay then, I guess we’re doing this…
I floundered around for a long time, I mean who wouldn’t grab around at free resources, believe any little bit of generic guidance out there, buy any template or font or preset, or do any other thing even mildly appealing to someone fresh out of school with no guidance, and more importantly no sense of self or direction?
Please let me fast track you today in the areas that can be helped and fast-tracked, as well as guide you to let you know which aspects of your creative entrepreneurship simply can’t be shortcutted or cheated.
I want to help you save time in the areas that I know can be done more efficiently so that you don’t have to reach around in the dark blindly as much as I did, but I need you to keep in mind today throughout the entire episode and here on after, that hard work, commitment, sense of self, and creativity cannot be shortcutted or cheated.
FIVE: Specialize Your Work
Specialize Your Work right out of the gate - at this point, chances are you aren’t turning away clients and opportunities out of sheer busy-ness, so why not start at the very beginning with specializing. A lot of fear around specializing our work is born out of not wanting to cut down on the clients that are booking you now (even if you’re working twice as much as you would like to be without making twice as much money as you could be if you specialized), so deciding to specialize right away makes a whole lot of sense.
Think of it this way, if you needed major eye surgery would you go and visit a general practising family doctor who does a little bit of everything, OR would you wait a little longer, and pay a little bit more to visit an eye doctor?
It’s the exact same with being a creative entrepreneur; if YOU offer something specialized that your potential clients cannot get elsewhere, then they are going to be willing to pay a little bit extra for your services. And this extends way beyond your actual end product/service; this specialization means the purpose behind what you’re doing. People buy a story, they invest in a person, a message, a piece of relatability; the service or end result is just a by product of them believing what you’re selling.
If you are a “jack of all trades” photographer or creative entrepreneur who “specializes” in all things (i.e babies, and weddings, and pets, and products, and architecture), then you automatically place yourself into a pool of other creative entrepreneurs who are competing to offer lower prices than each other. By shooting everything, you are not at all specialized, which means that when your client is shopping around, they aren’t aware of the unique heart behind the business, they’re just shopping for the lowest cost.
FOUR: Find A Mentor
Whether you have to hire someone to be this for you, or you have a friend who’s a few steps ahead of you in business and is willing to help you out, having a mentor who you can turn to at any time is a crucial part in your expansion.
We cannot do this alone. I think that sometimes we think that we can; or rather, we want to do things alone because we get caught up in the selfishness of needing to prove something to ourselves or to others; but take it from someone who has a really hard time asking for help, that reaching out in whatever area that you’re needing support in, is anything but a sign of weakness.
We are here to share, to encourage, and to help each other grow. A mentor isn’t just someone who can guide you and push you to taking your business to the next level, but they’re also someone who you can ask any + all of your questions to, free of judgement.
Business is hard; but having someone alongside of you makes the ride all the more enjoyable.
THREE: Don’t Waste Your Money right off of the start
Refrain from throwing your dollars away on everyone’s presets, or countless website templates, or facebook advertising. I feel as though we spend all of our money right away in the hopes that whatever we’re buying is going to give us a really great jumpstart. Coming back to the previous point, if you need to invest money at the start, do it in something that really is going to help get you started off on the right foot -- invest in a mentor, or a workshop, or any one on one guidance. You need to build the foundation before adding everything else on top of that; if you don’t have a solid base and purpose behind all that you’re doing, then no number of dollars spent on “decorating” your business is going to get you very far.
I did this, all of this; and looking back, it was such a sad waste of money. I just didn’t know any better. If you do not put in the time and effort to infuse purpose and heart behind your brand, then the coolness of your website, or price tag on your logo isn’t going to make a single difference. Spend that same money into hiring a mentor, or investing in branding or mentoring that will truly help you uncover your WHY and infuse an authentic voice behind your business. From there, with a super solid foundation in place, then step towards hiring someone to help breathe visual life into your brand; the rest will follow.
TWO: Stop Doing What Everyone Else is Doing
This happens all of the time; if you pay attention, you can physically sit back and watch it happen all over social media. It’s no one’s fault that we end up doing what those around us start doing; a lot of us follow trend simply because we don’t know any better or anything else, and because we spend hours seeing similar things, so naturally we follow suit, whether or not we even realize what we’re doing. Often times, we simply aren’t aware that we are “allowed” to create our own path.
A big part of this mindset is that we see something that appears to be working for someone else, and assume that if we curate our decisions around what they’re doing, and follow their path, then we to will be able to achieve whatever we believe that they’ve achieved. Think of any other area of your life, anything at all: dietary restrictions, allergies, skin care, workout routines, clothing sizes, even something as mundane as appropriate footwear for the city or country that we live in; we are all walking incredibly different paths, so why would one person’s unique personal situation and decisions made throughout their entire life up until this point be transferable to anyone other than a future version of themselves? The only way that this works is if we curate our own steps to whatever success means to us.
ONE: Be True To You
This needs very little explanation. Get yourself out of your brain, step away from the business of life in the city, stop comparing your work to anyone else’s except your own,, and spend a day getting real with yourself.
Every single one of these pieces of advice boil down to creating a business around WHO YOU ARE as a person, and WHAT YOU BELIEVE in as a person first, and creative entrepreneur second.
If you have a solid grasp on the true REASON behind why you do what it is that you do (and saying that you love love does not count) then everything else will begin to take shape right before your eyes.
Before things began to shift for me, nothing that I had done up until that point was created with intention; I had simply started up a business, built a website, wrote on it what I thought wedding couples wanted to hear, threw together an “about me” that could have been copy and pasted from dozens of other photographers websites expressing how I loved love and capturing stories, and then just sat back and expected to be seen as different. In hindsight, I can see that I just set myself up to be another entrepreneur in a sea of generic creative entrepreneurs, yet I somehow thought that I was going to automatically begin supporting myself with photography just because I had set up a photography website. The face of a business was there, but where was the intention behind any of my decisions? There was no purpose behind me photographing anything or anyone, it was all a process that I had adapted from what I was seeing elsewhere. My actions lacked intention. My decisions were made based on seeking guidance elsewhere instead of within myself.
I’ve seen it happen time and time again—within myself, as well as other creative entrepreneurs—that we somehow feel that we live in an unjust space oversaturated with other creative entrepreneurs, making it impossible to acquire any work for ourselves. I just cannot stress enough how so untrue that is; it’s just an excuse that we’ve created for ourselves because ultimately it’s so much easier to stay and play small than commit to taking our steps towards growth. We’d rather compare, imitate, gossip, worry, compare some more, and ultimately take on any work that we can get our hands on-- regardless of if it’s what we are truly passionate about or not--instead of putting in the time and effort it takes to delve deep within ourselves and create a business stemming from who we are at our core.