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Mastering the Business Side of Photography: Key Mistakes and Lessons for New Photographers

As I reflect on my journey as an entrepreneur, I’ve come to realize that a lot of what I’ve learned came from making mistakes. This is why I’m such a firm believer in finding mentors, attending workshops, purchasing courses. Of course there is no way to completely avoid making mistakes, regardless of how much you invest in education and mentorship, mistakes are part of the process. That being said, I also know that you can shave off years of trial and error, simply by learning from other people’s experiences and mistakes.

I thought it would be fun to share some pivotal lessons I’ve learned along the way. Here’s a breakdown of key takeaways that have shaped my business adventure:

  1. Cost of Doing Business: Understanding your business’s financial foundation is essential. Not knowing my costs led to early challenges, but now, I’ve learned to calculate and manage expenses effectively. I know this can feel like a daunting task starting out when you’re still climbing the mountain of learning your craft. It can be a bit of a juggling act because as a business owner you’re wearing a lot of hats. Understanding your cost of doing business can also help you price your services appropriately. Your pricing and cost of business shouldn’t be an emotional decision but rather based on data and then experience and education.
  2. Tax Preparedness: Failing to save for taxes can be a significant setback. By setting aside funds and planning for taxes, I’ve eased financial stress and ensured smooth operations. That being said, it wasn’t always this way. This can be a huge adjustment if you’re used to having deductions done for you, but you will thank yourself if you start off on the right foot. If this isn’t your strong suit, then I recommend hiring a book keeper or someone who can help you stay on track with this process, even if you’re new in business!
  3. Long-Term Vision: A 5-year plan is a guiding light. I’ve transformed stumbling steps into a strategic journey by creating a clear vision for the future. It may sound cheesy, but a really great way to start this process if you’re unsure or can’t seem to think past one year, is to start with a vision board!!
  4. Business Strategy: Operating without a strategy can lead to aimless pursuits. I’ve embraced planning and strategy as anchors for decision-making and growth.
  5. Financial Discipline: Overspending on the business can hinder progress. Learning to make informed decisions based on numbers has been pivotal for my business’s success.
  6. Creative Investments: As a film photographer, each project incurs costs. Understanding my numbers helps me make sound decisions about styled shoots and workshops. As much as I would love to be part of every styled shoot, I still have to be intentional about what I say yes to and how much I invest in these creative projects.
  7. Career Pivot: Transitioning from social work to photography was a significant leap. Despite investing years in education and work, I followed my passion and turned it into a sustainable profession.
  8. Business Clarity: Lacking a clear business plan was a challenge.

For emerging photographers, here’s a roadmap for success:

  • 5-Year Plan: Craft a vision that guides your journey and helps you set achievable goals.
  • Business Knowledge: Embrace the business side – licenses, GST registration, accounting, marketing plans, and budgets.
  • Know Your Numbers: Financial literacy is crucial; understanding your costs and profits is a cornerstone of sustainable growth.

Remember, mistakes are stepping stones to growth and I’m cheering you on every step of the way!
xoxo Jenny

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