I’m going to share a series of mistakes and missteps I’ve made in running my creative business. Sometimes I think if I hadn’t made these mistakes, I’d be further along in sustainability. But without a time machine, I can never really know.
Buying gear that was unnecessary
You do not need expensive, extravagant equipment to make beautiful imagery or artwork. I have created so many of my favorites with just a crop-frame sensor camera or just my phone. [This is not to say that having ANY camera is as good as hiring a professional. When you hire a pro, you’re hiring someone who has tons of training and experience with getting things just right.]
Lighting gear, special lenses, props, costumes, backdrops… all of those things I *thought* I needed just ate up any small profit margin I was making.
Just a few examples of work I’ve done *without* my big, expensive cameras.
Renting a studio that wasn’t needed
About a year into my business, I went in on a studio space with another photographer (who specialized in a different niche). Despite the majority of my sessions being outdoors, I was thinking I could use the space for consultations and reveal sessions. What happened was the overhead ate most of my income. Remember, I wasn’t even quite a year old biz at the time, and I wasn’t charging what I was worth. After just a year of studio rental, I found myself barely making anything to justify the cost of staying on the lease. My fellow lessee was making a career change at that time as well, so we went out on good terms. Had I tried to stay in the studio any longer, I doubt I would still be in business at all.
Not having a great business plan AT THE BEGINNING
All of the problems I have had could have been solved with a solid business plan before I jumped into this. What I had was an unrefined talent. What I needed was a roadmap to success. Fortunately, I had a good mentor that was able to set me on a path to success, both creatively and business-wise. I started charging what I needed to charge in order to actually re-invest in my business when I needed to, and to take home a little something.
Investing in programs with low ROI
Everyone out there will tell you they have the golden goose. Most of them are just peddling snake oil. The worst part is when you have flown over a thousand miles, spent lot of your savings to get there for the learning experience, learn VERY little, and are then put in a high-pressure to buy situation. “Bait and switch” is the term, I think.
Look into the tried-and-true teachers, mentors, and courses. Ask around. And if it’s the first iteration of something, don’t let someone convince you that being an “early adopter” will set you apart. There has to be proof of success. Check reviews and if there aren’t any, just don’t go there.
Not diversifying my income streams
The majority of my income comes from gig-type work – portrait sessions. While I create artwork and sell prints, it doesn’t account for much. Before the pandemic began, I laid out plans to change my business plan that would open up more ways for income to happen. Now that we’re in the middle of this pandemic, I have had to change plans and ramp up my work mode. While I haven’t been able to implement most of these yet, I am working on doing so. 🙂
Not following my gut
It’s true. I did a lot of things that I knew I shouldn’t. It didn’t feel right. It felt like bad timing. But I pushed on despite that little voice in the back of my head saying to stop. Turns out the old saying is true. Trust your instincts.
I know there are other things I screwed up along the way, but these are the ones that stick out. So, don’t be like me. Be smarter than I was.