Late September 2014 marks my second full year in business as a self employed photographer and businesswoman, and I can hardly believe how fast time has flown. Looking back on last year’s one year marker, I can still taste the fear of failure and wondering each month where my next pay check would come from. Surprisingly, I don’t have any such anxiety any more. Often times, I’ll begin each month with a cleared out calendar, and before I know it, 30 days have passed and my calendar filled up more than I ever anticipated. It’s a mystic approach to life, and it seems to be treating me rather well.
While year number one of self employment was about going wild and traveling as much as possible while making a living, year number two was much more focused. I did my fair share of traveling, but I didn’t go as buck wild as I did last year, which is probably a big reason why my net income is higher. Also, traveling less meant I could spend more time establishing my photography business in Seattle, since this aspect of my business is so rooted to my physical location. I did more photo shoots this year than I remember doing the prior year, and overall was much happier with my overall results.
January 2014: Mexico and Belize
March 2014: Thailand
July 2014: Victoria, B.C.
August 2014: San Diego, CA
5 Business Lessons I Continue to Learn
The opportunities to meet new people and turn them into potential clients are limitless, especially if you work in a creative industry. I keep an Excel spreadsheet detailing every single potential and actual customer that I interact with, logging not only their contact info, but how we discovered each other. The methods of discovery range from referrals and Google searches, to LinkedIn Groups, Twitter chats, and that one time I was featured in a BuzzFeed article.
1. Establish solid working relationships with clients.
Your best clients are those you have worked with before, and their referrals are incredibly valuable. Word of mouth marketing and personal recommendations are still king.
2. Come up with a solid, concise elevator speech that describes what you do and leaves the door open for potential clients you might stumble upon. And ALWAYS carry business cards with you
It’s probably one of the most frequently asked questions at social events when you first meet someone: “So, what do you do for work?” Have an answer, and make it an interesting story. And, per the above point, always have your business card ready.
I read an article recently featured the advice of frugal millionaires. The idea itself sounds strange-how can a millionaire be frugal? But the truth is, they’re smart people for not blowing their huge amounts of cash all at once, and this is something that I’ve learned as a self employed freelancer. I’m definitely not financially wealthy by any means, but when those “bigger than normal” checks come through, I remind myself that I don’t need that new camera accessory that just came out, and that I need to spend that money on only what I need.
3. Keep up with new technology trends, but don’t be too quick to buy them.
Because they get outdated faster than we can keep up with buying them, and you never know what design flaws they might have 😉
4. Go grocery shopping and eat in more often than you eat out.
It’s healthier, and easier on your wallet. This is incredibly hard for me because a) I hate cooking and b) I photograph restaurants all the time. One easy solution: CROCK POT. Seriously. So worth it.
Last year, I wrote about how important it is to make time for yourself and your loved ones, and I admit I haven’t gotten much better about that this year. But some improvements have been made.
5. Make fitness fun.
Not long ago, I discovered the sport of pickle ball and have been loving it! Not only is it a great workout, but it’s relatively cheap and fun to do. Lesson: fitness doesn’t have to come in the form of running laps or hitting the gym.
6. Pick up a book and read.
When I was younger, I was the kid that would leave the library with a stack of books I couldn’t even carry. As an adult, my love affair with reading has dwindled until this past year when I found an enthralling subject: business marketing. I hated the subject in school, but now can’t get enough of these books. That is to say, whatever your fancy, get off the computer and read a book. It’s good for your eyes and your brains.
7. Plan ahead.
This time last year, my goal for my business was to just be in business for another full year. I couldn’t predict a future beyond that. This year, my outlook is completely different. A few developments over the last couple of months have pushed forward a new agenda that meshes quite well with my current business model. In other words, I HAVE PLANS! My business has been in expansion mode over the last month, but it’s not quite ready for unveiling yet. Until it is ready, here’s a tidbit to dwell on: Robert Kiyosaki’s cash flow quadrant, which correctly states that being self employed doesn’t make you a business owner, at least not in these terms. See where I’m heading? Stay tuned for deets.