This particular blog post is probably going to ruffle a few feathers and make some people uncomfortable, but you know what… Welcome to LIFE! Having a creative business is not for the faint of heart. It’s not all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns y’all, IT’S HARD WORK. You have to want this, and be willing to make sacrifices that you probably never dreamed of, and it’s tough!
So, why did I choose a topic that is basically a kick in the pants as my first post for this educational series? Because I love you, and want you to know ahead of time the hardships you will face, but also to give you the encouragement you need to get started!!
I didn’t know any of these things when I first started, and it made my journey to entrepreneurship so incredibly difficult and sometimes painful. Seriously, I don’t want that for you! I am here to help you avoid the mistakes I made 🙂
So are you ready to hear all the nitty gritty? Let’s do this!!
1. You’re a business owner first, a creative second
They say as a creative business owner you only spend 15% of your time doing what you love. The other 85% is spent marketing, answering emails, engaging on social media, perfecting your SEO skills, paying bills, paying taxes, and a ton of other administrative stuff no one knows about! Let that sink in for a moment. Only 15% of your time is dedicated to your creative craft. The one regret I have is not minoring in business while I was in college. Yes, we talked about a few business things, but absolutely nothing I was taught prepared me for this. Sales taxes, federal taxes, ROI, CODB, COGS, analytics, etc., yeah… I had no idea what these things meant. I had to learn real fast that becoming a business owner had to be my new love.
2. You need to start your business legally, not wait until your “making money from it”
There is a rumor going around that you need to make a certain amount of money before you are required to report your earnings to the IRS. THIS IS FALSE! The IRS always wants to know if you are making money. It sucks, but that’s the way things are. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard from people who were just photographing people as “a hobby” and taking money “under the table”, then when the IRS found out, they lost everything!! Their argument, “It was only a couple hundred dollars a year.”, but it doesn’t matter y’all, it’s illegal. Guys, it’s really not that hard to get started legally, and it’s much cheaper than being penalized if you’re caught. Every state and most cities offer free counseling for new business owners! They can tell you exactly what you need to do to get started.
3. You need to have a tax savings account and an emergency fund savings
Running a creative business is like riding a roller coaster. Some months you’re at the top of the world, making lots of money, then you hit the slow season and money pretty much stops coming in. You also need to be setting aside your sales and income taxes as you bring money in. That money is not yours to spend, so placing it in a separate fund will keep you from spending it and not put you in a bind when its time to pay your taxes. When looking for a bank to use for your business account, make sure to find one that allows you to have multiple accounts in one. I have 3 in mine. One for the main bulk of income, the second to transfer my sales tax portion into for safe keeping and the third to use as an emergency fund for the necessary business expenses.
4. You need to spend money to make money
I know what you’re thinking, why pay for anything when you can get virtually everything for free nowadays? I had this same mentality when I first started out, and guess what, I failed. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized if I wasn’t truly investing into my own business, why should other people? Real business’s have overhead, so if you want to be treated like a real business, then you need to be like one. Get the nice website, and an actual CRM, and have printed samples to show your clients. It’s ok to invest in these things, and guess what?! You can write all of them off on your taxes!!!
5. It’s not always fun and games
I’ll admit, there are days that I don’t like my job. I’m a creative! Not a business person! But that’s the unspoken truth of entrepreneurship. There are tons of tedious little things that have to be done, and the to-do list never seems to get smaller. Now don’t get me wrong, we have a blast with our clients and I love working for myself, but the legalities and everyday business operations can get daunting. Not to mention how lonely life can be when you are by yourself all day.
6. Networking is vital for your sanity and growth
Now I’m sure most of you are like myself, extremely introverted… So I can see you cringing as you’re reading this section. But as the last section noted, being a solo business owner can be extremely lonely. Especially if you are coming from a job where you had lots of coworkers, water cooler gossip, and cake in the break room… Boy do I miss that cake in the break room. Networking with other professionals is a great way to get some of that back! You make new friends, and find community that helps you grow as a person and a creative business owner! If this crazy introverted girl can network, I promise you can too!
7. You will have to make sacrifices in the beginning to get where you want to be
Especially in the beginning, home businesses take a great deal of time to get up and running. You may not have a day off for weeks or months. I know so many people, stuck in a debilitating job, who have an amazing talent in the service industry, but they are too afraid to sacrifice what they have to make the leap and do what they love. Yes, it will be hard, but you will have to figure out what you can set aside for the time being to help you accomplish your ultimate goal for your future.
8. Not everyone is your customer, and that’s OK
This was a hard lesson to learn. I thought I could be the photographer for everyone, but soon realized that was actually impossible. People are different. Shocking, I know, but there is no way for you to be 100% you in your business if you are too busy trying to do everything that everyone else wants you do do with your business. Stop, read that again. You’re not meant to help everyone. You have to figure out who your ideal client, or “Avatar”, is and market to that clientele.
9. Don’t undercharge for your services
Everyone thinks that just because you are starting out, you should do things for free or stupid cheap. I’ll admit, I was one of those people, but only because that was what the people around me were telling me. This is so far from the truth, it’s not even funny. You are providing a service that some one is in need of because they cannot do it themselves, so it is ok to charge. Not only that, but by charging too-low prices, you’re making sure everyone in the industry is getting undercut and all their services become commoditized. So price yourself accordingly!
10. You don’t need expensive fancy equipment to do your job
As long as you know how to use your camera, to it’s fullest potential, I promise you can do just as good a job with the entry level camera you have now. The camera isn’t the artist, you are. Your creativity and vision are what creates beautiful work. I teach photography classes to parents every now and then, and it always amazes me how many of them come in to my class saying they thought their pictures would improve if they bought the more expensive camera, but they didn’t. Once we got through the class they realized that there’s so much more to it. You have to know how to use it! Learn to use what you have, work with it, and save up for equipment and programs you really need 🙂
So there it is! Layin’ it all out on the table! Overwhelmed yet? I don’t blame you. Running a creative business is not for the faint of heart, but I want to help you! This list offers just a handful of topics we will be discussing together throughout this educational blog series! We will be elaborating even more on each topic and helping you understand the steps you need to take to not get in to too much trouble in the beginning 🙂 If you want to keep learning from us, feel free to click the button below to fill out a form to be notified each time a new blog post is released! If you have any questions or suggestions for new topics, feel free to comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtney Lynn Photography are husband + wife wedding photographers based out of Dallas/Fort Worth and an educator for small business owners who are hustling to create their dream photography business!
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