Are you unsure of where to start with growing your business? In today’s episode, I am sharing the eight things that have made the greatest impact in my business over the last twelve years. From hiring a mentor and raising my rates, to staying in my own lane and learning to say no—it is my hope that you will find something in this list that inspires you to take a significant step in your business today.
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.
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Review the Show Notes:
Hire a mentor (2:37)
Being more confident (5:19)
Raising my rates (8:04)
Utilizing a CRM (10:16)
Serving people well (11:36)
Staying in my own lane (15:29)
Learning to say no (17:56)
Making industry friends (20:13)
Mentioned in this Episode:
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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 the shoot it straight podcast. So in this week’s episode, I am sharing kind of a broad overview type topic. And while each one of these things could probably be its own episode, and they probably will be at some point, I’m just going to share eight things that have made the biggest impact in my business. I kind of love a broad overview like this, because it makes it a really quick resource list almost for you to listen to and think, Okay, I’m really right, ready for my business to take it to the next level to take it a step farther. And you can quickly listen to these eight things and figure out which 1234 things you haven’t done, or maybe you’re ready to explore, right, so maybe you don’t need a whole episode to listen to. But this is just meant to be a broad overview, just dipping your toe into eight things that could really make a big impact in your business. And that made a huge impact in mine. So as a creative entrepreneur who’s been in business for almost 12 years, I recognize that I’ve been in business for a really long time.
And I’m still going strong. And I know that that’s rare. Unfortunately, many creatives don’t last nearly that long. So in recognizing my business, longevity and success, I can see that while there are lots of small things that have added up to my success over time, right, there are eight main things that have had the biggest impact overall. So these eight things aren’t in any particular order. And again, I won’t do a super deep dive into them. But as it is my hope that you will be encouraged by this list, and potentially find a thing or two that you are inspired to pursue for yourself and your own business. So without further ado, number one, hiring a mentor. So this is something that a lot of creative entrepreneurs wait to do for a really long time for the simple fact that it is expensive. Hiring a mentor is an investment for sure. And I waited a couple of years before I did that. But there is a very clear black and white line before I hired a mentor. And after I hired a mentor, when I finally put my money, and I was ready to invest big in my business when I was tired of trying to figure out everything myself and I was finally at a place where I was like you know what, I’m going to do this, I’m going to put money into this thing. That was a game changer. Almost overnight, my rates doubled.
My client experience went way up. My work got so much more consistent and better. Everything changed. All of a sudden I had this confidence. And I had this partner, right? Somebody that was walking alongside me that was literally a cheerleader for my business, somebody whose brain I could pick, I could follow up with questions. I knew I had them in my corner. I had a place where I could ask any question. I had a place somebody who really knew me and my business and was invested in seeing me go farther. It was a game changer, an absolute game changer, hiring a mentor. And here’s the other thing I want to say about that. The longer you were in business, the more mentors you’re going to have. This is not like a one and done situation. This is something that is constantly going to change and grow. Continuing education is always valuable. And I will say going into my 12th year of business, I still hieromonk invest in some sort of in person education every single year.
I will never stop learning I will never stop reaching out to people who are ahead of the game and my business, whether it be the coaching side of things or the photography side of things or a little bit of both. I always want to strive to do better and push myself farther both for myself and for my students and my clients. So I am always hiring a new educator and expanding on, who I can ask questions to, and whose brain I can pick and who I can get information from. It is not a one and done thing. But obviously, if you’ve never hired a mentor before, starting with one is better than continuing to say and think that you don’t need one, everybody needs a mentor. So number two, the second thing that has made a huge impact in my business over the years is being more confident. So I know that sounds very vague, but it is true. And this is something unfortunately, that comes just with time and experience. When you are a new creative entrepreneur, it is really easy to live in a place of fear, and live in a place of imposter syndrome, because you feel like you are at the bottom of the pile, you feel like your work is never going to be as good as, as the people who have been in the industry longer, okay, you always feel less than. And unfortunately, something that takes time to develop is your confidence and learning that your work is worth it.
And there is a place at the table for you. And people are willing to pay you to do that thing. Even though you have a competitor that lives you know, in your same zip code, maybe confidence comes with trusting your gut, trusting your business intuition and knowing that you are in this business for a reason. Confidence comes with taking a step back and looking and focusing on your business. Instead of looking around you all the time. It’s staying in your own lane. Trusting again, trusting your gut and the direction that you want to take things. And taking your clients with you. Confidence comes with time. But being more confident is a game changer in your business. Because the more confident you are in the product or service that you’re providing, the more confident you are in your rates, the more confident and firm you are with holding your boundaries, the more confident you are in setting really big, outrageous goals for yourself, and then chasing after them. Confidence brings a lot of really great things along with it. And that is a huge game changer in your business. And I will say that if confidence is something in particular that you are struggling with, it kind of goes back to number one hiring a mentor, you will gain a lot of confidence.
When you hire a mentor and have all of that information. It’s like being fast tracked, right? Instead of trying to Google everything and figure everything out yourself and set up these janky systems, you are able to unlock, you get a key to unlock the door to all the secrets. And that process alone automatically gives you more confidence. So if confidence is a really big struggle for you, and you have not hired a mentor, those two things kind of go hand in hand. So number three things that have made the biggest impact in my business is raising my rates. I mean, I know you hate to hear that. And you’ve probably heard that so many times. And I’m here to empathize because raising your rates is very scary. But you know that it’s important. Obviously, the more money you make is better for your business, okay, it’s more money to either put back into the growth of your business, or it’s more money into your pocket so that you are actually well compensated for your time and effort. But having higher rates also means better clients, okay? The more somebody is willing to pay you for your product or service, the more excited and loyal they are to you. Okay, they are no longer the bargain shopper, they are no longer just wanting that thing and not caring who they get it from. They just want to deal. No, they want to work with you. They want your thing, okay.
That’s the kind of clients we want to work with. We want to work with people who want to work with us, who don’t just want the thing, they want us, right, and they’re willing to pay for it. So not only are you making more money, you’re getting better clients, you’re also getting more time because just doing the math, you don’t have to take on as many clients if you’re making more money, okay, or on the flip side, you can take on the same amount of clients but higher help in your business so that you’re not wearing all the hats so that you are alleviating some of the tasks off of your list. raising your rates is a game changer in so many ways in your business. And so if you have been sitting on that gut feeling for a while of oh I know I need to raise my reads but I don’t want to I’m scared. Maybe this is your green light.
Maybe this is me telling you and you think, okay universe, I hear you go raise your rates, change your mind your website right now rip the band aid off, you will not be sorry. So the fourth thing that has made a really big impact on my business is utilizing a CRM or client relationship management system. So this is an organization and automation game changer. I mentioned a few episodes back that I use dubs auto for my CRM, and I absolutely love it. And it has been a game changer in so many ways. Automating emails going out, invoices, contracts, questionnaires, all of the canned emails, booking of many sessions, scheduling of phone call appointments. It is an absolute game changer, not only for me. But for my clients, they have such a better user experience from first inquiry until they get their gallery at the end. Because everything is organized and seamless. They’re never wondering what’s happening, they can always find their invoice or go back and look at their contract, they always have all of the information they need, is super easy to find. And using a CRM is what has done that. So if you are not currently using a CRM in your business, I highly recommend that you do that as soon as possible. It is a game changer.
Okay, so numbers, let’s see, where are we? Number five, the things that have made the biggest impact in my business over the years, is learning to serve people well, and gaining all of those word of mouth referrals. So coming at your business with a heart of service really matters. And yes, you are in business to make money and to make a profit to sell a product or service and to get money in return. And yes, it is a business transaction. But when you come at your business, with a heart of service, things change. And I’m not saying giving away things for free. I’m not saying being a bleeding heart all the time, and being willing to just create for the beauty of creating and not making any money. I’m not saying that you can still be a premium service or a premium priced product or service. But look at your business with a heart of service. Okay? This is not again, this is not the same thing as wanting to be cheap, or giving things away just because you want to that’s not this. But thinking about how you can serve your clients every step of the way. And thinking about what do they need? At this point? What do they need to hear or learn or know, when they send a first inquiry? And then what are they going to need from me when they book? What do they need to prepare for a session or to prepare for their time together?
Okay, what would make their life easier think about that at every step of the way. A lot of times, it’s just providing information and resources upfront, okay, which may not seem like an act of service, but it is you are serving them by making things easier for them, giving them all of the information they could possibly need right up front, right, making sure that they have all of the details, making sure that you are there to answer emails and questions before you meet for your time together. There are so many little things you can do. But putting on your hat and thinking, What does my client need? What would make this easier for them? That is looking at your your business through a heart of service, okay? And that when you are serving people, well, not just charging an invoice or charging a price, doing the thing getting paid.
When you look at it deeper than that, how can I truly serve them every step of the way. That is where you are going to deeply build relationships with your clients. That is where you are going to get some really really loyal clients who are going to then start marketing for you. And all of those word of mouth referrals that those clients do. That’s gold, okay, because how many times have you gotten a recommendation for something from a friend and you don’t even do any research? You just reach out to that person? Right? If you were looking for a calligrapher for your wedding invitations, and your best friend says, Oh my gosh, I used to this girl she was fantastic. You have to call her. You’re going to just reach out to that person. Because your best friend you used them and highly recommended them, you’re not even going to look around.
That is what a word of mouth referral is, that is literally gold. And you want to be able to get that because you want those incredible clients who you served well, and you built relationships with and you love, you want more of them. And so you want them to refer you to their friends, thinking about how you can serve clients, well, every step of the way, is what is going to get you those word of mouth referrals. Okay, so number six of things that have really impacted my business. And number six is staying in my own lane and doing what I want, not what everyone else wants. It’s knowing my own business and knowing my own goals. It’s deciding what I want to photograph and what I don’t, it’s deciding what I want to specialize in, and what I don’t, I can market my business however I want, I can take on as many clients as I want, I can take as much vacation as I want, I can edit in whatever style I want, I get to do business my way, I get to create images, my way I get to work with families that I want, I don’t have to pay attention to what everybody else is doing.
This is something that, again, similar to the competence, this comes with time, it is really easy when you are first starting out in your business to naturally look around at your competition, because obviously, you kind of want to know what your competition is doing. But being willing to pull back and say, You know what, it doesn’t matter what my competition is doing. I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do it my way. And I’m going to do it with my spin. And I’m going to do at my prices. And I’m only going to take on this much work. And this is what my capacity is. And these are what my boundaries are you get to write the rules for your business, you are in charge. This is your story. This is your business, this is your goals. It doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing. There is enough room for everyone at the table. And we will all be able to find clients that are perfect for us. So again, this is a confidence thing. In the beginning, you really do think you have to be like everybody else, because oh my gosh, their business is successful. And I’m in the same area. So I guess I need to do the same exact thing, right? That is 100% not true.
And that will drive you to insanity and misery because then you are chasing after someone else’s business instead of building your own dream. So just having the confidence and then in the knowledge and the trust to say, alright, this is my business, this is what I want. This is what I don’t want, I’m going to stay in my own lane, I’m going to focus my eyes on my own paper and I’m going to do my own thing that will make a huge impact on your business. Number seven, we are almost to the end my friends. Number seven is learning how to say no to clients, to my kids school, even sometimes to family and friends. I know you might be panicked thinking about this because saying no, is really hard. We are oftentimes people pleasers by nature, especially if you’ve got kids, if you’re a female. Like, that’s kind of our thing. We like to please. But you have to remember when you say yes to someone else, you are saying no, to your family or to yourself, okay? You have to be willing to put yourself and your immediate family’s needs first. And that means saying no, sometimes, that means acknowledging that you have hit capacity in your schedule, and you cannot take on any more clients this month or this year. That means realizing that in order to grow the business in the way that you want to, you’re not going to be able to do that volunteer thing. That means saying no to clients, because on Wednesdays you go to Bible study, and that’s a non negotiable for you. So no, you cannot squeeze in a session there. It means holding firm to your boundaries.
And it means really having a deep understanding of what you want and where you want your business to go. And then saying no to anything that doesn’t fit. Saying no is really hard. But it is a muscle. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. The more you exercise it the stronger it gets, right. The more you practice saying no, the easier it will get and that won’t feel as stressful. It won’t be as anxiety inducing anymore. You will trust yourself. You will have that confidence that I need to say no to this. It’s not a big deal. It’s not personal. I’m just turning down this opportunity. And that’s okay.
There’s nothing wrong with saying no, and learning how to do it and when to do it. And being willing and confident enough to stand up and say no to things is a game changer. It is an absolute game changer for the future of your business. And the last thing I know I said, I didn’t put this in order of importance. But I will say this is probably my favorites, things that have made a big impact in my business over the years, making industry friends, I don’t care how many friends you have, I don’t care how long they’ve been your best friends. Right? If they are not small business owners, or even better, in the same exact industry as you, they will never understand the struggles and the excitement that comes from being a solopreneur Period, end of story.
They will celebrate with you. And they will listen to you complain, but they won’t really ever get it. They won’t really understand what you’re talking about, not to the depth that it would be nice for them to having people that truly understand what you’re going through is huge. When I first started out, I literally hid from other photographers because I had major impostor syndrome. And I was afraid that they would hate me. I just assumed that everyone was competition, and that that was a negative thing. But that was before I learned that you can choose to believe in community over competition. And when I changed my thoughts, and I opened myself up to the community, my life changed. It was terrifying to open myself up to that after I’d been locked up so long. But when I changed when I said, You know what, we’re not doing this anymore. I’m not living in fear. I am, I believe that there’s room for all of us, I can befriend all of my competitors in my area, and it’s not going to hurt my business. I’m just going for this.
When I did that my life changed. So many relationships were made, whether it was from online courses, or DM chats or meeting people in person at conferences and workshops. Now, almost 12 years into my business, I have so many industry and entrepreneur friends. And I’m not saying that to brag I’m saying that because it is important to cultivate those friendships. These women understand my struggles, they can help me solve problems. They helped me bounce ideas around and they celebrate with me when things go right. We laugh together, we gripe and complain together. Business besties make such a difference as a business owner because things can get really lonely without it. So if you don’t have any industry, friends, if you are in the same boat that I was in, if you are scared, if you’re afraid they’re not going to like you, or they’re going to be mean to you or they’re not going to want to support you, I encourage you to take a deep breath. And to trust that that’s not true. That is a lie that you are telling yourself, I can’t promise that everybody’s going to love you and welcome you with open arms. But what I have learned over the years as most people will, yes, a lot of my industry, friends and business besties don’t live in my area.
A lot of them live in different parts of the country in the world. However, I do have a handful that are my direct competition. We have the same kinds of clients. Sometimes we have some client overlap. But guess what, that doesn’t stop us from having a wonderful supportive friendship and relationship. And it shouldn’t stop you either. So that’s it, my friends, the eight things that have made the biggest impact on my business so far. To recap, those things are hire a mentor, being more confident, raising my rates, utilizing a CRM, serving people well, staying in my own lane, learning to say no, and making industry friends. Before you go, have you grabbed my sustainability freebie. You can download it at the link in the shownotes and it shares 10 Things you need to be doing for long term sustainable success in your small business. It’s a great little guide and I hope you’ll grab it for yourself today. That’s it, my friends. I’ll see you next week.
Thanks so much for listening to the shoot it straight podcast. You can find all the full show notes and details from today’s episode at Sabrinagebhardt.com backslash podcast. Come find me and connect over on the gram at Sabrina Gebhardt photography. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be honored if you hit that subscribe button and leave me a review. Until next time, my friends shoot it straight.