28: Lessons From 12 Years In Business

28 header
28: Lessons From 12 Years In Business 3

With nearly twelve years working as a professional photographer, I can say that I have learned quite a few things about being a creative entrepreneur. In today’s episode, I’m sharing a brief highlight of twelve unique lessons that have made a significant impact on my business over the years. My hope is that one or more of these will leave you feeling inspired and ready to propel your business forward. 

The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur while balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in, yet willing to talk about the hard stuff too, Shoot It Straight Podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.

Make sure you’ve hit that follow or subscribe button on your favorite podcast player to get notified each week as we air new episodes!

Subscribe on Your Favorite Podcast Player

Apple Podcast App | Spotify | Amazon | Google Podcast

Connect with Sabrina

Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

This episode is brought to you by The Round Table, a community build for female photographers who want to continue growing their business wile forging industry friendships along the way! Every month, you get access to three new pieces of content covering a vast variety of topics from myself and guest speakers. Come join us and get access to the content and private Facebook community!

Review the Show Notes:

There is room for everyone at the table, even you (1:43)

The faster you invest in your business, the faster you will grow (3:26)

Shoot for free (a lot) (5:14)

Raise your prices (7:35)

When it comes to software, start with the end in mind (9:03)

Develop your own editing style (10:38)

Progress over perfection (13:54)

Open up, because relationships matter (15:17) 

Pay yourself, consistently (17:33) 

It’s not personal, it’s business (19:52)

Personal development matters (21:38)

You are the boss of your own schedule (22:32)

Mentioned In This Episode:

The Round Table

Root To Rise Mastermind & Retreat

28 pin
28: Lessons From 12 Years In Business 4

Review the Transcript:

Welcome to the shoot it straight podcast. I’m your host, Sabrina Gebhardt. Here I will share an honest take on what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur. while balancing business, motherhood and life. myself along with my guests will get vulnerable through honest conversations and relatable stories because we’re willing to go there. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in yet willing to talk about the hard stuff to to shoot it straight podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.

Welcome back to another episode of the shoot it straight podcast. So 2023 marks 12 years in business for me. And as you can imagine, I have learned a lot over the years. In this episode, I thought it would be fun to share 12 things I’ve learned in business over the past 12 years. And honestly, I have learned way more than 12 things but I thought it’d be cute to share 12 things in 12 years. So here we are. Also 12 Things is a lot to cover in one podcast episode. Each and every one of these things could totally be its own episode, and maybe they will be one day. But today, this is more about a brief highlight of things I’ve learned that have made a difference to me. And in my business. My hope is that one or more of them, will inspire you to lean into something new that will propel your business forward. And one more thing before we dive in this list is in no particular order. So the first thing is that there is room for everyone at the table. Even you I think you probably know by now that I am a huge, huge believer in community over competition. And I think one of the reasons that this is so important to me, is because I really felt left out in the beginning of my business, I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt like I couldn’t call myself a photographer.

I was too scared to reach out and ask questions or befriend others. And it just felt super, super lonely. But the farther I gotten business, and the more people I met, and the more conferences I went to end relationships I built, I realized that that is totally not the case. There is room for everybody, the established experienced photographer and the brand new one. And even the woman who is just aspiring to be a photographer one day, there’s room for everybody. And there’s no reason not to establish relationships and friendships with other photographers, even if they’re local to you, even if they are your direct competition. I do this I am friends with and also educate women who are in my area and are my competition. We’re in the same price point. We have the same clients, we shoot similar styles, there is enough business for us all, there is enough for us to all succeed and enjoy being in business together. So whether you are brand new or super established, there is room for everyone, including you. So the second thing is, and I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about this before, but the faster you invest in your business, especially without sourcing or education, the faster you will grow, period. Okay, the thing about outsourcing, paying people to help you and your business and paying for education is those are two really expensive things. Okay, you’re either looking at paying someone on a project basis, paying someone on a monthly basis for a set of hours, or paying a pretty penny for an educational opportunity. They’re all really high dollar.

And when you’re in the first few years of your business, and you have not paid for either of those things. They can seem almost like a pipe dream, right? Like, I would love to have an assistant or a VA. I would love to pay someone to design my website. I would love to attend that retreat or conference. But those things, I can’t afford those things. Yeah. And here’s the deal. The faster you are willing to figure out how to pay for those investments, the faster your business grows, getting support and taking tasks off your list is massive as is walking alongside someone who can mentor or coach you, or going into that conference where you can learn from multiple people. When you are brand new in business. Those investments are absolutely huge to the speed In which you see financial return and success in your business. So being willing to take the leap of faith and invest in those things actually get you where you want to go faster, they’re like hitting the easy button. So number three, this is kind of controversial, but it’s something that I believe in. And I will explain, I think it’s really important to shoot for free a lot. So in the beginning, everybody’s heard about portfolio building and taking on a lot of clients. And that is so important. It is so important that you work with clients and work with different skin tones and different ages of children and different settings and different lighting scenarios and different kinds of outfits with different color casts and different body types and posing.

There’s so much that happens when you are working for free when you are working with different kinds of clients, and being willing to shoot for free. And I don’t mean your friends and family, I mean people that you don’t know strangers, because I don’t care what you say it’s totally different directing a family that you’ve never met before, that is meeting you at a park or letting you into their home with the intention of being photographed. That is a totally different experience than when you’re meeting up with your besties family and the kids know you and love you and probably won’t listen to you and the husband is going to joke around and not take you seriously like those are two different experiences, being willing to take on clients and work for free until your body of work is consistent and cohesive. That is so important before you allow people to pay you. But I also think that it is so important as a creative to continue to shoot for free on a yearly basis. Of course, I want you to make money, I want you to be profitable, I want you to have paying clients, but taking on a project or two every single year where you are photographing somebody for free solely for the experience of getting to flex new creative muscles. That is invaluable. And it is so important. I do this in my own business. And guess what, my favorite images, my strongest work almost always comes from those free sessions, because there’s no pressure to perform, and I’m able to completely let loose and create. There’s something so valuable about that.

So whether you are just starting out, or you’ve been in business for years, I think it’s so important that you continue to shoot for free. Number four on my list of lessons learned in 12 years of business is raise your prices. I know I know. But here’s the thing, it’s true, you aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any favors by charging $100. And guess what, you’re losing money, and you’re going to burn out. You have to know what it costs to run your business and then charge for a profit. Okay. And then you have to raise your prices as your experience grows. Okay, so every year your prices go up, or every fifth client they go up or whatever that looks like to you. It’s important, you can’t just set it and forget it. You have to be priced for profit, and then raise your prices with experience, just like you would get a raise with experience. If you were at a corporate job. Your prices and your paycheck need to go up with your experience. So if you shot 100 sessions last year, guess what? It’s time to raise your prices because you just fine tuned the heck out of your work. If you invested in a high level mastermind, or a retreat or a conference or some sort of education, guess what, it’s time to raise your prices because you just got a heck of a lot of education. You have to constantly raise your prices, no matter how uncomfortable it is. That is part of running a profitable and sustainable business. So number five on the list, when it comes to software, start with the end in mind. Because you guys changing software later, totally stinks. It is literally the worst. Okay, I know that when you are beginning in business, you’re trying to keep costs low, and you’re trying to figure out the easiest ways to do things.

But if it’s not something that is going to serve you long term, please don’t start with it and just go with how you are going to end. For example, I started with one CRM the first couple of years in my business because it was very affordable and very simple. And guess what? I outgrew it in like 18 months. 18 months later, there was like 100 or 150 more clients in the CRM, which meant changing from that CRM into the better more robust one that could grow with me in my business was an absolute nightmare of a project. Okay, whereas if I would have just gone with the original to start with, I wouldn’t I would have skipped the headache, right? So you can look at this with any kind of software in your business. Really think to yourself, am I saving that much money or that much time? Is this something that I’m gonna have to change in a year because if it is just go with the other thing, start with the end in mind, because making that change later is so dang hard. Number six on the list of lessons learned in 12 years is develop your own editing style. So this is huge. And if you are a new photographer, I’m sure you’re in the middle of this right now, editing is a whole other thing, right? When you decide to become a photographer and open your doors, you are probably not thinking as much about editing, right? You’re thinking about working with clients and capturing moments and the client engagement and all of those things. But editing is a massive piece of the puzzle. That is where you are fine tuning your work and your images, you need to have a cohesive style and a body of work that looks like it goes together.

And all of this is so much more than just whatever the current editing trend is right? Maybe the current trend is totally on brand for you. And that’s great. But maybe it’s not. You must be willing to try different things and figure out what makes your heart sing. What do you love? And guess what, if the type of images that you love is not the same editing style as what the current trend is, who cares? You need to do what feels good to you. But then stick with it. Because you cannot be a charging photographer who has one kind of editing style with one family. And then 30 days later, the editing style on their work looks totally different. And then six months later, it looks totally different. And it’s constantly changing. When somebody hires you, they need to know what they’re going to get. They need to know what the finished product is going to look like. And part of that is having a your own editing style and a cohesive look and a type of work. So figuring that out is so huge.

Today’s episode is brought to you by the roundtable a community built for female photographers who want to continue growing their business while forging industry friendships along the way. learn practical ways to move your business forward while finding community and accountability with like minded photographers. Every month you get access to three new pieces of content over a broad variety of topics. In the past, we have covered topics like pricing, editing, goal setting, website reviews, social media and videos from me behind the scenes at real sessions. Members have also had the opportunity to learn from incredible guest speakers and industry leaders on a huge variety of topics. I pride myself in giving you just enough education every month to keep you growing and moving forward while not overwhelming you with content. Oh, and the private Facebook community is absolutely incredible. Consider it your space to ask all the things, get all the support and make real life business besties. If you’re ready to join us, you can head over to Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash membership and enroll today.

And now back to the episode number seven on the list is progress over perfection. I struggled with this for a long time. I’m a type A I’m an Enneagram three, I like to win. I like things to be right. I like to be the best. But guess what? Waiting for perfection is not getting your business anywhere. Stop waiting forever to launch your website because it’s not just absolutely perfect. Just hit publish. Stop waiting to publish that blog post because you haven’t reread it for the 20th time or you’re not certain what images to include. Just hit publish. Send the newsletter to your clients, even if it has typos or a wrong link in it. Who cares? Post the caption on Instagram Stop fretting over it. Whatever it is that you’re stuck on. Just do the thing. Do the thing and move forward. You can change it later. You can catch the typo later.

You can fix the link later you’re only human but the longer you sit on something waiting for perfection and stewing over it, the longer you’re going to set there, which means the more time you’re wasting, which means you’re not moving forward, stop being afraid. Nobody expects things to be perfect, you’re not a major corporation, you’re just you just do it, progress over perfection, take the leap. Number eight, in this list is open up, because relationships matter. So I’m sure you’ve heard that you are your small business. That’s what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. And that can be really exciting. But it can also feel really, really scary. Especially when you think about social media. And maybe newsletters or blogging, like we are ourselves, people see the face of us as our business. And it can feel really hard to get personal. And to step beyond the bounds of sharing about a recent session, or sharing images from those sessions, or how to prepare for those sessions, it can feel really, really scary to step outside of that line, and talk about something else, something that matters to your heart, something that’s going on in your personal life, something that you support, or that you love, or you’re passionate about, or even just the funny quirky things about you. Here’s the thing, people want to connect with you.

And connection comes through being personal and being vulnerable. So, next time you want to share about the awesome plant you found share about it. Next time you want to share what it’s like to be in your kitchen on any given morning, when it’s mass chaos, getting the kids out the door, share it, the next time you read a great book, and you feel like you need to tell somebody, share it, the next time you have a struggle with your toddler, and then you have this huge aha moment in how to parent them, share it, your clients want to connect with you. So let them have the opportunity by sharing personal things. You totally don’t have to share your kids faces or your names or where you go on vacation, or what neighborhood you live in. You can keep the very personal things totally private. But let people connect with you in a way that goes beyond the walls of your business. That’s how you build long term relationships. That’s how you get repeat clients. That’s how you make friends with the people you work with. That is how you make a real impact in your community, being willing to share about yourself, because it matters and people want to connect with you. Number nine on the list of lessons learned in 12 years in business is to pay yourself consistently. So seriously, the sooner the better. If you’re not doing this, let’s get it figured out right away.

I don’t want you to just take a draw every time you have a great month, okay, I want you to set that money into an account and take a paycheck like anybody else would. Why? Because when you are having a quiet month or it’s slow season, you will still be paying yourself. And let me tell you right now that feels so good. It keeps you out of the space of scarcity and fear. It keeps you out of the space of like this downward spiral of oh my gosh, nobody’s hiring me my business is going down in flames. When you pay yourself an actual paycheck a set number every month or every other week, or whatever that looks like, you know that that money is coming in. And it is a little bit hard at first because you will have months where you make a whole heck of a lot more money than other months, right? If you are a family photographer, your fall is going to be a huge portion of your annual income. And I know it can be super duper tempting to take that massive influx of income in the fall and just dump it into your personal account. And you were like living the life and feeling so good. But if that’s you, you probably hit January or February or March and you get a little nervous, because that massive cash flow has totally stopped. Or maybe it’s just come all the way down to a tiny little trickle and you start to panic. And that is not a good place to be. So instead, you could take all that massive amount of income in the fall and set it into an account where you draw paychecks from on a regular basis. Now there’s a whole lot to figuring out how much you can pay yourself and what what this process looks like. But look into it.

Talk to a CPA, talk to an accountant read a book like profit first and get yourself set up so that you can draw a regular paycheck. Even when things are slow. I promise it is an absolute game changer. Okay, so number 10 is it’s not personal, it’s business. Here’s the thing I know that you want clients to hire you from the beginning and stay with you forever and ever. Amen. They’re not all going to do that, you will definitely have some clients that stay with you through every single price change and every single change and editing style and every single tweak to your business. But you will also have people that hire you once or twice and then move on to another photographer. It’s not personal, it’s business. I know how much it stings to see a client you loved working with, show up on your Instagram or your Facebook feed with photos from somebody else. I know, it’s like not the best feeling in the world, you have to remember that it’s not personal, it’s business. It’s not you that they don’t like it’s not even your business or your work they don’t like they’re just hiring somebody else. They don’t see it the way that you do. Remember what I said earlier, as a small business owner, you are your business, we feel that a lot more intimately than anybody realizes. They’re not doing it to make you angry, they’re not doing it because they think you’re a bad person or they don’t want to be friends with you or they didn’t connect with you on the same level.

It literally has nothing to do with anything. It’s not personal, it’s business. They saw somebody else’s mini session pop up. And so they hit purchase. They had a friend told them about a good experience working with somebody else. So they thought they’d give them a try. It’s not personal, its business, don’t let it affect you. You will get new clients, maybe they’ll come back to you. It’s all fine. Number 11. Personal development matters. Make time for it. Even if it doesn’t seem like this personal development will translate into your business. Even if it feels selfish, I promise you, it will translate bettering yourself betters your business Period, end of story. So if you feel like you’re being pulled into working with a therapist, or hiring a coach who doesn’t really work in your industry, but teaches on things that that your gut is telling you you need to learn from, or maybe reading a certain book or joining our group, or whatever it is. If it is personal development, make time for it, it will better yourself. And it will translate into bettering your business always, period, end of story.

The last thing that I’m going to share today, and again, I’ve learned so many more than just 12 lessons in 12 years of business. But to keep it short, the last thing I’m going to share today is that you are the boss of your own schedule. If things are out of control, if you feel like you can barely survive your schedule. This is your own fault. You are the boss, you are the CEO of your business and your life. And if that is how you are feeling, you’re the only one that can fix it. And you need to fix it. I don’t want you to feel frazzled all the time. I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed all the time. I don’t want you to feel like you’re drowning all the time. I don’t want you to feel like you’re never having time to work on projects, or serve clients or have time with your family. I don’t want you to feel like you’re missing everything all the time. I don’t want you to feel like you’re dropping balls and forgetting things. I want you to feel sane. I want you to feel ease. I want you to feel inspired and supported, I want you to feel like you are balancing all the things as good as possible. If you don’t feel that way.

It’s your schedule. And that’s your fault. You have to be the one that takes a look at your schedule, and takes things off the list or finds people to help you or switches things around or drops the commitment. And that’s a hard lesson to learn because it often means backing out of things or saying no to things, turning things down. Maybe you’re going to feel like you’re letting people down. That’s a whole other thing. But at the end of the day, if things feel out of control, your schedule is your responsibility. The good news is you can fix it, it’s going to take some work, but you can fix it. It’s your job. And the sooner you fix it and that you make those changes, the better you’re going to feel. Okay, that was a whole lot. But like I said, I’ve learned a lot over the past 12 years of being in business. And I hope that at least one of these little nuggets was inspiring or encouraging you today. So that’s all I have. We’ll see you next week. Before you leave today, I have to tell you about the roundtable this is a community I built for female photographers who want to continue growing their business while forging industry friendships along the way.

If you enjoy my teaching style on the podcast, then I know you will absolutely love roundtable in this group, you will learn practical ways to move your business forward while finding community and accountability with like minded photographers. Every month you will get access to three pieces of content over a broad variety of topics. In the past, we have covered things like pricing, editing, goal setting, website reviews, social media, and even videos for me behind the scenes at real sessions. Members have also had the opportunity to learn from incredible guest speakers and industry leaders on a huge variety of topics. I pride myself in giving you just enough education every month to keep you growing and moving forward. While not overwhelming you with content. Oh, and the private Facebook community is absolutely incredible. Consider it your space to ask all the things get all the support and make real life business besties. If you’re ready to join us and take this podcast relationship a bit deeper, you can head over to Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash membership and enroll today.

SHARE THIS POst

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Blog

It’s our 100th episode! On this very special episode of Shoot It Straight, my friend and business coach D’Arcy Benincosa is interviewing me on all things involving my background, developing my business, and maintaining balance as an entrepreneur and mom. We’re also diving into the challenges that have defined my story and the defining values […]

100 cover

One of my favorite hobbies is reading. I love to read a variety of different genres, but one of my favorites is personal development. In fact, I enjoy reading so much that my mastermind, Root to Rise, includes a book club component, where we all read the same books and chat with each other about […]

4 must-read books for creative entrepreneurs

How can you create more ease during the fall busy season? In today’s episode, I’m sharing four tips for planning your fall calendar to create more ease and a successful end to your year.  The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we […]

99 cover

How can you prepare now for the fall busy season? In today’s episode, I’m sharing what I believe is the first key step to a successful busy season.  The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be […]

98 cover

As an entrepreneur, a good business foundation is everything. Join the list of photographers I've supported, and learn how to make YOUR business successful and sustainable. I can't wait to cheer you on!

You Deserve a Successful and Sustainable Photography Business