I cannot believe it’s been a year since this post.
Today I am celebrating my first official year in business. It feels great to have reached this milestone and I am quietly celebrating with a cup of tea and a slice of cake. (Forgive my poser photo – it was for an article in The Independent, more on that soon!)
I thought it would be interesting to observe what I have learnt during my first year in business which has been exciting, scary, wonderful and worrying in equal measure. I should now say ‘but I wouldn’t change a thing’ but actually I would. So, looking back, here are some of the lessons I have learnt just in case anyone else is at the same stage I was a year ago.
Lesson 1: Ditch the perfectionism, stop procrastinating and just get on with it. I spent four months ‘getting things ready’ before I was brave enough to launch my website but in the end it wasn’t the ‘perfect’ font or the ‘best’ shade of turquoise that was needed, it was just being visible and having a reasonable website up and running.
Lesson 2: Stop theorizing and start doing. When it comes to starting up a business I should be a millionaire guru judging by the number of ‘self-development’ books I’ve read: twenty-seven at the current count. Oh yes I am very familiar with the strategies of passive income, creating my tribe and don’t get me started on the purple cow. Perhaps these techniques do work but you actually have to DO THEM; just reading about them doesn’t count.
Lesson 3: Make it easy for your clients to find you, then go and find them. I was certain my dream clients would somehow miraculously find me in the sea of Google. I was wrong. You need to learn/invest in SEO to have a fighting chance with Google, BUT more importantly don’t rely on your clients finding you. You have to find them, impress them and then persuade them to invest. This is hard.
Lesson 4: Beware of meetings. At first I was afraid of networking and my ‘elevator pitch’. Then I started to enjoy it and arrange an endless stream of ‘one-to-ones’ with other small-business owners. I’ve met some amazing women and found some really great business friendships but there is a danger of spending all the time chatting ‘about’ my business and eating cake and not actually ‘doing’ the work and making money. Networking is crucial but so is time-management.
Lesson 5: Join Twitter NOW. It started with a nervous 124 characters. Now, a year later I’m at 1921 tweets. It’s eaten up a lot of my time but I’ve made some great connections on there (and not just with George Michael and the Beiber Army). I’ve featured in the national press 3 times thanks to ‘tweet outs’ from journalists. And I won our holiday this year to a spa hotel thanks to a competition on Twitter.
Lesson 6: Keep it simple stupid. After much scribbling and miscalculating, I ended up with a pricelist consisting of 6 different sizes of canvas, 15 different sizes and finishes of albums and an infinite number of ways to buy packages. Wonderful, I thought, I am the sweetshop of photography, whatever you wish for, I can provide. But it turns out busy people don’t wish for endless choice and instead just wish for an easy life. Less choice, more guidance.
Lesson 7: It’s all boils down to discipline. I’ve run the marathon, produced TV shows, organised my wedding with the precision of a North Korean dictator (apparently) so the last thing I thought I would struggle with would be discipline. But it turns out, when you don’t have to get up to catch a train and your office is ten steps away, it’s pretty easy to hit snooze and not worry too much about getting to ‘work’ before midday. Discipline, or lack thereof, is the only thing stopping me from getting the work done. And the work has to be done. And I have to do it. No excuses.
Lesson 8: Believe in yourself and stick to the plan. I was used to praise and support from bosses and colleagues and then suddenly the only voice I had to listen to was my own and let’s face it, most people’s internal chatter is fairly self-critical. There have been plenty of “I can’t do this” moments but in the end the only way to succeed is to bulldoze your way through the confidence crises and self-doubt and hold out for praise from happy clients, which makes it all worthwhile. Expect highs and lows, good days and bad days but channel your inner Churchill and “Never give up”.
Lesson 9: Get geeky with a spreadsheet. Nobody likes doing their accounts. But I have come to realise that shoving receipts into a drawer is not a great avoidance tactic. Get a system (not a drawer) and record cash in & out as you go. Either go on a (free) HMRC course or get an accountant. They’re quite cheap, not as strange as you might think and can actually lengthen your life expectancy.
Lesson 10: Find your niche. I started the year specialising in ‘natural, relaxed photographs of your family’ and quickly found plenty of other photographers doing exactly the same thing. I had to find a point of differentiation and it came quite naturally through observing what I love to do: photographing kids at home, playing with their toys, surrounded by their favourite things, dressing up, being silly and being themselves. So now I am all about capturing the magic of childhood and creating happy childhood memories. I have finally found my all-important niche and am just beginning to communicate that in all that I do.
Here are my Top Ten Tips for working from home….