7 key lessons that have helped me grow my creative business
Revised Edition has now been in business for 5 years so I thought it was the perfect time to reflect about what I have learnt and the realisations I have come to that have changed my business for the better. I am a firm believer in things happening for a reason and that everything I did career-wise before Revised Edition was leading to this, pretty cheesy right but I really love my job and there have not been many times in my life that I have been able to honestly say that. I can certainly say that I have learnt a lot even from my small time in business and there are certain things I know now that I wish someone had told me sooner, so settle in and let’s get started.
Charge what you are worth
Yes, I know you have heard this one before, it must be one of the most repeated pieces of business advice I have seen, but for good reason. When I first started out, I was charging next to nothing for my services so it is no surprise that I had clients lining up at my door trying to take up this insane offer. As time has gone by and I have increased my pricing certainly some clients have dropped off along the way but that is how you find those ideal clients that you are super excited to work with. If they are not willing to pay what your services are worth the relationship is never going to work out – both you and the client need to be getting a fair deal out of this otherwise you will start to feel resentment and try to coax out your creativity with all that resentment floating around… in my experience, not going to happen! Of course, you are passionate about your creative business and we all know sometimes it doesn’t necessarily feel like a job but at the end of the day you still have to eat right? Sometimes in creative business clients think that payment comes in the form of some free product, hmmm to be honest I definitely did this at the start and thought it was great at the time. But again, you can’t buy new equipment, update subscriptions and buy props for your shoot with free product so nowadays that would be a hard NO from me!
You don’t always need qualifications – you need talent and passion
People just assume that because I have my own business that I have qualifications as a photographer (at the very least) but this is not true at all. As it happens, I am currently working my way through a photography course on line but I didn’t need this to get started. Given the state of social media these days I believe that anyone can start to advertise that they are an expert in a particular field and if they have the skills to back it up (this is obviously key) then people will start to reach out, that’s exactly what I did. I honestly don’t know how people got clients before social media as that has been how I have gained 95% of my business. If you have the passion and the skills then of course you should get out there and share that with the world if that is the direction you want to take. If I was looking to hire another creative to assist me with an aspect of my business, I would check out their Instagram, then their website and if I liked what I saw I would get in touch, qualifications are nice but they don’t necessarily mean you are any better at the job than someone with no qualifications.
Not every client that comes through the door is the right fit and that’s ok
This is a big one for me! I was always under the impression that I needed to take on every single client that ever contacted me EVER and yes, I have got myself into some sticky situations by doing so. The creative process is very collaborative and you have to be able to effectively communicate with your client to ensure you are on the same page. Over time I have developed a certain style and while I am all about trying new styles and branching out sometimes you just aren’t feeling it. If you’re not feeling it at the beginning you certainly are not going to be feeling it when your neck deep in the job and by then it is usually too late. I need to be able to relate to the brand and the message they are selling, otherwise my creativity goes on holiday and frustration often sets in. You can’t produce your best work under these circumstances so it is better for everyone involved for you to just politely say no!
Mistakes are tough but it is how we learn
Everybody makes mistakes and although it feels pretty average at the time there is usually a pretty big lesson in there that will help keep us on the right path going forward. Starting out in business I had a creative streak yes and I was passionate about photography, I kinda knew my way round a camera but the actual running of a business well that is a whole other beast that I knew nothing about. I have made mistakes, many mistakes (sorry) but imagine if you just coasted along and never did anything wrong… while this fantasy world might be nice for a while, how are you going to learn anything? Recovery from a mistake is key so take the time to think about what the situation has taught you and trust me – it is unlikely you will ever do this same thing again.
Take a break and look after yourself first
You are no good to anyone if you are always tired, stressed and overworked. As hard as it is to take a step back from your business to have some quiet time, I believe it is an essential part of every day, of course I have learnt this the hard way. In the past I was always running behind schedule and sometimes I felt like there was truly no end in sight. That sounds pretty depressing and it can be if you continue to work this way. The biggest issue here is that when I feel like this, I lose all passion for what I am doing and a shoot that would normally take me a day or two might end up taking 3-4 hence why I am always running behind schedule. Last year I tried to run with a strict no work in the weekend policy but then of course you get busy and all that goes by the wayside. This year I have changed my whole schedule and instead of adding my work commitments to my calendar first I add in my exercise, research and learning time then I work prep and shooting around that. I have only been working that way for a few weeks and already I feel so much more relaxed, so much more focused when I am shooting and just generally happier to be at work every day and clock off at 5pm on a Friday with a drink in my hand. You need to work out the limit of how much work you can take on every week and stick to that no matter how tempting the project, you only have so many hours in the day.
Not everyone is always going to like your work
What? You don’t like it?! To hear that someone doesn’t like your work if one of the worst things as a creative as you put so much time and passion into your creations, but it happens I’m afraid. You can’t do anything about someone else’s opinion so you just have to take it on the chin and move on ( much harder than it sounds) With time I have grown to be better at dealing with this, at the start I used to get so so nervous about handing images into a client, I guess now that I have a little more experience and confidence I am better equipped to deal with these situations but it is never what you want to hear. As amazing as social media is in so many ways unfortunately it does allow the critics to be able to feely voice their opinions on your work too, I have had some pretty harsh examples of this on Instagram but luckily for that one negative person there is always another handful of positive and supportive people so you have got to focus on that. Never let someone’s opinion change your direction (unless you want to) or knock your confidence, you know what you’re here for so stick with it!
Always, always learn and grow
So, when you are busy trying to please your clients and produce your most amazing work on a daily basis it can be hard to find time to further your education on your chosen subject. There is so much competition out there no matter what field you are in so if you are looking to stand out from the crowd you have to stay ahead of the game. Taking time out to learn new skills that relate to your trade will ultimately benefit your clients and grow your business so its important to make It a priority. This might come in the form of books, tutorials, online courses or simply just practising a new style you have been dying to pull off. I have taken to watching YouTube tutorials on my lunch break, although super simple it is surprising what you can learn in that short space of time.
So there you have it, some of the biggest things I have learnt since I started Revised Edition. I know that the coming years are going to throw even more challenges my way and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. It is pretty cool to look back and think about how much knowledge I have gained and how much more confident I am in my skills now, this has definitely helped me create a clearer picture of what I want to achieve and how I am going to get there. No doubt with a curveball or two along the way ????