The number of days since I started my own business.
That’s actually a lie.
It has now been 523 days since I started my own business.
I’d fully intended on posting this more than three weeks ago but, as I’m about to write about, things don’t always go to plan. However this next part is true – I can’t quite believe I’ve been self-employed for over 500 days. I’ve learned so much from my successes and my many, many failures! So as a little bit of revision for me and hopefully some helpful tips and advice or even just a chance for any small business owners to see that they aren’t alone, here are a few things I’ve learned…
1. So many ideas, so little time…
I started this business the way I start pretty much everything. Headfirst with a million ideas all jumbled about in a heady mix of excitement and nerves. I’m a planner, an organiser and I’m ambitious. My original idea was to combine my 3 loves: photography, dog training and conservation science communication. My Business Gateway Advisor’s head was spinning when I first rushed in with all my ideas. And my “elevator pitch”? At best garbled and had to be delivered on a trip up the Empire State Building to get through it all. The truth was, I knew what I wanted to do but I had no idea how to do it all.
Since then, I’ve become a bit more realistic. I couldn’t do everything all at once. No matter how much I tried or wanted to – it just wasn’t a feasible business strategy. To survive as a small business owner you have to be focused and work out how to make your idea make you money. It seems a bit basic but the reality is, if your business doesn’t make money, it won’t survive. Successful, sustainable businesses need money.
So I focused on photography in this first year with a little bit of conservation thrown in. This made most sense for me. I love taking photos and capturing moments for people. I also love the art of it. The creativity and ideas behind it. I’ve temporarily shelved a couple of my other ideas until life becomes a bit more stable – then I’ll throw another ball into the juggling mix.
2. Value what you do
This has been a tough lesson. Especially when just starting out and working in a creative business. Creative work is personal. We do it because we believe it improves other people’s lives even in just the smallest way. We do it because we want to make a difference.
Figuring out how much to charge has as much to do with confidence as it does maths. You need to cover your costs, have good enough profit margins to be able to reinvest in the business but still be competitive and also be able to take a wage so you can, you know, live. Simple? Yes? Not quite.
It takes a lot to put yourself out there and this becomes more apparent when the product you’re selling is a creative one, it’s like an extension of yourself and the way you feel about yourself is reflected in your prices. Getting the price you deserve for your work starts with you. Know your worth and value your work, or no-one else will.