I started my photography business almost three years ago. I still remember the night I decided that I wanted to make it happen. The next day I was so excited about the idea that I sat down at the kitchen table drawing up ideas for my business’ logo. I wanted to share this with the world and everything had to be PERFECT!
Looking back at my first year in business I made a lot of mistakes. Some mistakes had to be made so I could learn – like having a memory card fill up mid-wedding – but some mistakes can be avoided.
As you are getting out there into the world, ready to start your very own photography business, I want to share with you the five mistakes I made when I first started my photography business. These big mistakes hindered me from building my business quicker. They stopped me from being bolder and taking giant leaps of faith.
These big mistakes that I made are common ones that slow us down and get us caught up in our head. These mistakes keep us from actually going out there, taking action and actually building a photography business.
But, friends, I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made. I want to say it to you straight so you don’t waste time. So you don’t get stuck in building this business. I know you. I know you are capable of making this big dream of yours happen. So, please, learn from my mistakes and get on to building that photography business!
When I first decided on the name for my photography business things started to get really exciting! I solidified that fact that I was a photographer and I was going to make this happen. The very first thing I did after deciding on a name for my business was creating a logo. I was still nannying at the time. While the little man I nannied for slept upstairs, I sat at the kitchen table with my computer in front of me dreaming up ideas for my logo. How did I want my logo to look? What colors were going to be my brand? Should I use a serif or sans serif font? I felt like there were a million decisions to make! With a background in design, I secretly LOVED working on this kind of stuff.
After I spent hours and days on a logo, I then spent weeks and weeks perfecting my website. Now, I finally was ready to present myself to the world as a photographer! You know what happened months later? I wanted to change my logo again. With a different logo, I would, of course, have to update my website to match. I went through three different logos in my first 18 months in business. That’s a new logo (and website updates) every 6 months! I spent so much time consumed with creating this perfect brand when I first started off.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I didn’t know exactly who I was or who I wanted to be as a photographer yet. I just knew I loved taking pictures of people and wanted this business to provide an income for me and my family. I didn’t know it was ok to change and update my logo so I had to spend so much time perfecting it every time.
What you start with doesn’t have to be your same website and logo two years from now. These things WILL change. Your logo and website and branding SHOULD change because you are growing and figuring out more about who you are as a photographer. But, as you are starting out, do not get caught up in making these things perfect, because it will change. My first logo doesn’t even matter anymore.
This mistake of spending too much time on my website and logo took me away from spending time building my portfolio and actually getting real clients. Yes, you need a logo and a website to start out, but the great thing about those two things is they are allowed to change.
Websites are important – I don’t suggest forgoing it at all! But if you are working on your website, download my 5 Must Website Must-Haves For Building a Successful Photography Business.
This mistake came before I ever even started my photography business. I told myself this lie in college when I first knew deep down in my gut that I had a dream for starting a photography business. The mistake of believing I had to be a great photographer before I could ever even start delayed my business by 7 years (Yes, SEVEN YEARS!).
When I finally gained enough courage to just start, this mistake still surfaced many times again. I thought I had to know everything there was to know about photography before I could ask someone to pay me money to take pictures of them. That I had to be better than I currently was to just get going. This felt like a never-ending rut of never being good enough – never feeling like I was where I wanted to be. That is a great big fat lie that you are mistakenly believing.
The way that I got over that lie and stopped making the mistake of believing I had to be good enough first (what is “good enough” anyway?!) was setting up ground rules for myself. I made a rule for myself that when I had photographed 2-3 sessions of the same type (family, newborn, seniors, couples), that would be my “good enough” mark. After I photographed those 2-3 sessions for free I could start charging some money.
Maybe that number looks differently for you. You might feel comfortable after photographing one family session for free – or maybe you need five free sessions under your belt. Nonetheless, set a rule for yourself, write it down and hold yourself accountable. If you never establish a reasonable ground rule for yourself you will continue to make the mistake and believe the lie that you are not good enough.
If you want to learn more about my process of charging money when I first started out as a photographer, go check out this blog post.
As a new photographer, I was always worried if I was doing things the right way? Was I posting enough on Facebook and Instagram? Was I posting the right kinds of things on social media? Was I charging the right amount of money based on the other photographers in my area?
I remember in my first year of business I would spend an exorbitant amount of time combing through other photographer’s websites to get ideas on how much I should be charging, what type of images I needed to have in my portfolio, and how I should edit. I got so caught up on what I was not. I wanted so bad to make myself look like a professional photographer so I almost copied what I saw other photographers do so I could blend in.
I learned this was a huge mistake about a year and a half into my business when I decided to embrace the quirky things about me: my nerdy love for reading, my obsession with Harry Potter and my addiction to hot chocolate. As soon as I removed my focus from what I wasn’t, to what I was, I felt so much more comfortable showing up genuinely online and for my clients and audience.
That was a huge turning point in my business because for the first time I had clients reach out to me and say they specifically wanted ME to photograph them. I had clients say they knew they wanted me as their photographer because they shared the same obsession with Harry Potter that I did.
I wasted so much time pretending to blend in when the thing that grew my business the most over the last three years was choosing to stand out and just be myself. I don’t want you to make that same mistake, friend. You truly are a diamond in this world and no one else can be you.
I touched on this a little bit in mistake #2: that you had to be perfect before you could begin. I STILL make this mistake today. When I first started on my photography business journey, I got so caught up in making everything perfect before moving forward. I had an elaborate plan to create a What To Wear Guide for my families and couples. These fancy guides would have color swatches and examples galore. It would be the best of the best in terms of what to wear guides! Guess what? I never made them. It was too elaborate and I wanted this guide to be perfect and include all the right information to be complete. I learned that I just needed to get something out there that would still be helpful to my clients. It didn’t have to be fancy. It just had to be SOMETHING.
Something, I’m learning, is better than nothing.
So as you are getting started in your journey, remember that nothing will ever be perfect. Remember that you can always go back and edit, update or change something. You just need to get that something out into the world and move forward.
I wrote a whole blog post about overcoming my fear of perfection and the only education I had before starting my photography business. Click here to read it.
Ugh! This is probably the hardest mistake to learn! We live in a world of instant gratification. There’s a belief in overnight success. We think as soon as we set our mind to something it should happen pretty darn quickly (Netflix make be a culprit for this lie).
Let me break it to you, friend: starting a business is hard and it takes time to build it into the thing you want it to be. Both of those things are totally ok because I know you. I know that you are determined. That you don’t give up easily. That you will make this photography business successful if you don’t give up.
My mantra that I repeat out loud to myself over and over when I’m in a state of disappointment and frustration with where I’m at is “if I never give up, I have to succeed at some point”.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this photography business is going to work for you instantly. Don’t make the mistake of believing that other photographers had the success you see now overnight. If you make this mistake, you risk giving up. These big, important things in life (like building a photography business) TAKE TIME. Keep on trying. Try something new. But do not give up. Give yourself time.
I’m cheering you on every step of the way!
Hey, it’s me, Larissa! I started my photography business three years ago with a one-day photography class, a craigslist camera and zero experience photographing people. I’m not a hot shot in the industry, but a real person who built a business that replaced my previous job’s income and a fire in my soul to share how I got my business off the ground with other newbie photographers. If you want more advice, how-tos, and tips on getting your portrait photography business off the ground, head over to my photographer’s page!