Lessons I’ve Learned In My First Year Of Business

Lessons I learned in my first full time year

I never dreamed up running a business when I was young, or even in college. In fact, the thought literally never crossed my mind. But when my photography “hobby” started becoming rather expensive it turned into something more. From there, a small photography business bloomed into a full-time private photo editing business. I was stepping into the unknown, and embracing it with open arms.

I officially walked away from my position as a Registered Nurse at the end of April 2017, and now here I am, one year later.  Still blessed every day to to wake up and make the short trek from my bedroom to my office and start my day as a private photo editor for professional wedding photographers.

It certainly hasn’t been sunshine and roses over the past year.  In fact, some days have been down right hard. But that’s the beauty of something worth doing – it’s GOING to be hard.  And I’m a firm believer that you should grow through what you go through.

There are four main ideas that I think every self-employed woman needs to embrace when starting a business, and I think you’ll see that these three concepts of self-employment will take you not only through the first year, but beyond.

YOUR PRICES ARE EVERYTHING

You may often hear people say “charge what you’re worth!”  But being confident in your pricing is so much more than that.

The one area that I pride myself in, is having a general understanding of “numbers” even from the beginning.  I didn’t always feel extremely confident in what I was charging as a photographer (and I still struggle with that a little bit even now!), but I knew how important the numbers actually were and that I wouldn’t start out where I wanted to end up.

Depending on when you take your business “full-time,” whatever that looks like for you, you may be charging just enough to support your business and life.  However, there may not be a lot of room for the “extras.”

The real reality of charging what you’re worth, means charing what you NEED to be profitable, to support your life, and to leave room for growth.  This is exactly why you should never base your prices just off of comparison shopping.  In your 2nd year of business, you may not be able to charge what another creative does in their 5th.  And vice versa! Another photographer may have oodles more experience than you in their 1st year than you do in your 3rd.

The Solution:

  1. Create a well-planned pricing structure for the salary that you need to support your business and life depending on what stage you’re currently in

  2. Do a deep dive to understand your worth in your industry and factor this into your price.  How much experience do you have? Do you provide value?  What makes you different?

  3. Start at a realistic price point and create a plan for working towards your end goal

YOU WILL NEVER FEEL PREPARED

Over this past year, I learned SO much more than I ever imagined I would.  When I launched my business “full-time” I thought I was in a position where I would encounter few issues, but my days would be mostly smooth sailing.

And then my clients had questions that I couldn’t answer. Or my business had problems that I couldn’t fix.

Plans are SO important, but they can also change.  Give yourself grace as you navigate unknown waters.  Running a business is not an easy task and you’re doing better than you realize.

The fact that you’re showing up every single day, putting in effort says a lot about who you are.  There will be obstacles that you run into that you could have never planned for. And there will be roadblocks you’re just sure you will encounter… and then you never do.

The Solution:

  1. Find a community or network that you can connect with outside of your clients.  These people will be your more support, your resource, and your tribe.

  2. Write down frequently asked questions and brainstorm ways that you can educate your clients.  I work in Lightroom and technical issues are common. So before I started my second year, I started a video library of FAQ’s to continue to help my clients, but eliminate frequent 1:1 troubleshooting.

  3. Again, give yourself grace.  Show up, educate yourself, learn from past experiences and start tomorrow as a new day.

EVERYTHING TAKES LONGER THAN PLANNED

When I started editing full-time last May, I was thrilled about my prospective daily schedule.  I had my “ideal day” beautifully mapped out on Google Calendar and of course copied over to my Simplified Planner.

This beautiful calendar was what I imagined to be a realistic “estimate” of the amount of time I would spend per client and per wedding.

When I was a solid month into my business, I couldn’t understand why I was already feeling so frustrated.  So behind. So, dare I say it, burnt out already. One month… and I was already scared of the feelings I was forcing myself to acknowledge in my new work.  The work that was taking me much, much longer to complete than I ever predicted it would.

Now, a year later, I can finally feel more confident in my time and my days are much more manageable.  Time affects everything. It affects how much money you’re actually making, your creativity, your client experience, and your overall product/service/quality of work.

The Solution:

  1. Don’t estimate your time, track it and know it like the back of your hand.  I love using Toggl where I can track my time according to each project and client.

  2. Take your average time, and overestimate for the future.  Eventually, you may reach a point where you can fly through projects, but until then, plan for roadblocks.

  3. Write out everything that you do in a day then learn how to say “Yes” to what matters, “No” to what doesn’t and prioritize accordingly.  Because I work from home with a 4-year old, I often find myself saying “Yes that matters someday and I would love to do it! But ‘not right now’ is a better fit for me in this season of life.”

PUT YOURSELF FIRST

I think this is probably the hardest, and yet most important piece of advice I can possibly give you.

Your business is really important, I understand that.  But if you don’t have a healthy life, you won’t have a healthy business. Creating a “work/life balance” is already a hot topic even amongst corporate jobs.  So just to put that into perspective… people who leave their home for their work are already having a hard time separating one from the other.

You are now working from your home.  There is no physical space between your life and your business aside from what you create.  There will also be a daily challenge to create emotional space between the two as well.

When you have a hard time separating your work from your life, you probably also have a hard time managing your time and priorities.  The first priority to go is often self care.

So my friend, tread lightly that you do not become that “entrepreneur” who takes care of everyone but herself.

The Solution:

  1. Create a time for you, and put it on the calendar. Even if you’re a hard working, stay at home mama who has to start her day with work.. Make sure it ends with some element of self-care.

  2. Create office hours.  Regardless of when you’re actually working put a time limit on when people may contact you throughout the day.  Your business hours don’t have to be traditional, but they should be strict.

  3. Develop a routine.  In your first year, you probably won’t be in a position to hire on help.  This is where routines/systems will save your life! Try to be consistent in everything that you do, both within your business and outside of it.  Emails, blogging, grocery shopping, running errands, exercise — when you’re working from home, it all matters!

15 More Fun Facts I Learned in My First Year Full-Time.

  1. The first year is the hardest
  2. Working at home with a toddler is like working in the middle of a hurricane
  3. You will make mistakes
  4. It’s NOT OK to NOT have a contract
  5. It is potentially isolating, make friends!
  6. Systems will save your life
  7. Everything takes longer than you predict it will
  8. Even a business with “little” overhead has more expenses than you realize
  9. Working for yourself is incredibly rewarding
  10. You HAVE to be self-motivated
  11. Online networking may feel awkward
  12. Learn to step outside of your comfort zone
  13. Inbox ZERO is the best. feeling. ever.
  14. Getting paid to do something you love doesn’t feel like a job
  15. Eliminate the noise and limit your education resources to your few faves

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. THIS IS GOLD! Wow. Just so so good to read as I’m entering my 2nd year full time. Haha "inbox zero is the best. feeling. ever." couldn’t be more true.

    This really is very well thought out and truly some substantial advice. Thank you so much for sharing – will be bookmarking this page to revisit over and over.

    1. Katie, I’m sooo happy to hear that! It’s so nice to know that it was time well spent, if anyone else can benefit from it! And yesss to Inbox Zero!!

  2. This is so so great! I also pinned it to Pinterest for future reference because I think you have some great insights here! One thing I am working on right now is to learn to say YES to what matters and NO to what doesn’t! Great post!!

    1. Ahh I’m so happy it was that useful for you!! Yes’s and No’s are SOO important and it takes time to learn where your time is best spent!

  3. Great blog post! Love all the details and love you put into this post.

    1. Thank you!! Sooo many details that go into the first year of running a business!

  4. Love this, love this, love this!!!!!!

  5. Excellent post! Such great points and action steps!! Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a great blog and I love your layout!

    1. Thank you and it’s brand new, so I really appreciate hearing that! 🙂

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Jen here. I’m a registered nurse turned private photo editor and I love dipping my toes in both the creative and analytic world.  So it goes without saying that on the blog you’ll find must have resources for photography, editing, business and living a healthier well rounded life as a creative entrepreneur.
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