The Evolution of Business

In 2007, I decided to change careers and enrolled in the New England School of Photography with the goal of becoming a professional photographer.  I spent two hard (expensive) years learning the craft and technique of photography; how to make excellent pictures, how to work with varying light situations, how to maximize the features on today’s newest cameras.  In 2009, I graduated with a Certificate in Professional Photography and launched my own business.

Next month, I will have been in business as a commercial photographer for 3 years.  I am not even close to being “established” but in the 5 years since I set out on this path, I have finally begun to envision what the future of my business looks like.

Yesterday, I met with my fabulous counselor at SCORE, an arm of the Small Business Administration.  Every month he and I sit down and go over numbers, solve problems, make a plan for the next month.  Since I began meeting with him last fall, my business has definitely grown.  But yesterday I sat down and said, “I want my business to grow more, and I don’t know how.”  He looked me in the eye and said, “It’s time that you learn how to sell.”

The way I see it, for the first two years I was in business as a photographer, I was in school learning editorial and wedding photography, dabbling in photojournalism and discovering my passion for visual storytelling.  Then I graduated from school and spent a year just figuring out how to be a professional photographer.  I made a website and business cards; I learned how to work with clients, price jobs, deliver products.  I held a couple of part-time jobs and I cried a lot and was always nervous about the future.  In my second year of business, I built upon these foundations of business-ownership.  I upgraded to a new and better website and blog.  I built up my presence on social media sites.  I developed a brand and a logo.  I created accounting systems.  I learned about Search Engine Optimization.  I networked like a crazy person and built a list of prospective clients.  I started producing a monthly email newsletter that I send to over 125 people.  I made more money and bought new equipment.  I learned how to describe my business: editorial and event photography serving families, restaurants, non-profit groups, universities and small businesses in New England.

Now, I am entering my 5th year of business and as my counselor told me yesterday, it is time to learn how to sell.  Creating a system for selling and learning how to sell confidently is a brand new challenge for me; I am starting at ground zero.  The first thing I am going to do is analyze my workflow and my time management, to find out how I can work more efficiently and make time for direct selling.   Then, of course, I will learn just how to make those cold calls and actually see results.  How not to go into a selling situation assuming I will be rejected, but how to anticipate the clients’ needs ahead of time and communicate, confidently, that I can fulfill their photographic and communications needs.

It’s been 5 years and I am finally able to see a glimpse of my business’s trajectory.  The fear that I am going to fail is much less prominent in my mind today; it has been replaced by a new confidence that my business will continue to grow.  I see many challenges ahead – selling is absolutely terrifying, actually – but in looking back I can see that challenges can be surmounted and overcome.  There is a lesson in here about faith, but I am not a good enough writer to break that down here without it sounding incredibly cheesy.  So use your imaginations.

Tomorrow, I will go to my 10-year college reunion.  I never would have guessed the rollercoaster that would bring me here, to being in business for myself and building a career out of my passion for photography.  With incredible clarity I can all of a sudden see my successes and failures – and all of those yet to come – and know that I am doing alright.  Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far in this journey.


3 Responses

  1. MollyB

    LOVE IT, Leis! You’re so smart and driven and focused. You can do anything!

  2. Lex Schroeder

    This is such a great post! It’s so interesting (and helpful) to hear the story of your work and your business. Thank you for your honesty and courage and then going and sharing that with the world in this way. I’ll be keeping up with the blog!

    Here’s to women business owners and doing what we love!

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