Lessons I've Learned In My First Year Full-Time
When we had our daughter in 2013, staying at home with her was just a pipe dream.
At the time, I was working full-time as a registered nurse. I worked three, 12 hour night shifts per week. My husband, who is also in healthcare, worked three, 12 hour day shifts. Thankfully, we had a very similar schedule so that when I slept, he was at work.
As a “morning person” through and through - I was always tired. I never had enough sleep. I often felt on the verge of complete sleep deprivation some days.
18 months later, I was incredibly fortunate to take a part-time day-shift position with my employer. Unfortunately, it was a pretty big pay cut, so with enormous encouragement and support from my husband, we decided to it was the right time to take my “photography hobby” to the next level and start my business.
I slowly transitioned from family lifestyle photographer, to dabbling in a little of everything including seniors and weddings. I took on 10 weddings in my last year as a photographer before I found my “perfect fit” and transitioned from photographer to editor.
I 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 even further.
Your Numbers Are Everything
You may often hear people say “charge what you’re worth!” But to be honest, knowing your numbers goes way beyond 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 reality of charging what you’re worth is being honest with yourself and really understanding what you ARE worth. 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.
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
Do a deep dive to understand your worth in your industry and factor this into your price. How much experience do you have? How do you provide value? How are you different?
Start at a realistic price point and create a plan for working towards your end goal
You Are Never Going To 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 for sure I was in a position where I would encounter few issues, and 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, and they can also change. Give yourself grace as you navigate unknown waters. Running a business is NO easy task and you’re doing SO much 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 don’t.
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.
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.
Again, give yourself grace. Show up, educate yourself, learn from past experiences and start tomorrow as a new day.
Everything Will Take 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.
That was of course, when I was “estimating” the amount of time I would spend per client and per wedding.
So 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. The reality here is that, your 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.
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.
Take your average time, and overestimate for the future. Eventually, you may reach a point where you can fly through projects with not problem at all, but until then, plan for roadblocks.
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 completely get it. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The first year is the hardest
Working at home with a toddler is like working in the middle of a hurricane
You will make mistakes
It’s NOT OK to NOT have a contract
It is potentially isolating, make friends!
Systems will save your life
Everything takes longer than you predict it will
Even a business with “little” overhead has more expenses than you realize
Working for yourself is incredibly rewarding
You HAVE to be self-motivated
Online networking may feel awkward
Learn to step outside of your comfort zone
Inbox ZERO is the best. feeling. ever.
Getting paid to do something you love doesn’t feel like a job
Eliminate the noise and limit your education resources to your few faves