This past July my photography business, Samantha Kurtz Photography, celebrated its 5th birthday. Looking back on my first five years, I realized how much I’ve grown both professionally and individually throughout the process of starting and running a business. To date I’ve had more than 150 different clients, many of them repeat clients, had every weekend booked for six months (twice), and have been so far behind in editing that I wanted to cry. Here are the top five most important things I’ve learned since starting Samantha Kurtz Photography.

 Competition is good and healthy.

There’s always going to be someone better than you, likewise there’s always going to be someone who isn’t “as good” as you, but still gets business. This took me longer than I care to admit to learn and accept this. In a field where everyone can be a “photographer” it can be frustrating and discouraging to see potential clients hire other photographers. Competition is good and healthy because when someone does hire you, it means they really like your work and want your services. They don’t solely hire you because you are the only option in town. So embrace the competition. It means the market is great and the demand is high.

Market yourself as a professional from the beginning

  • If you are serious about running a business, market yourself as a professional from the very beginning. Price yourself accordingly. Doing this WILL increase your business because your prices are close to or slightly above the average of the market. If price yourself as a professional, you will also get more of the clients you want and not those who hire you simply because you are priced “cheaply” or “affordably.” Don’t offer free photo shoots. There are special exemptions to this, such as contests, offers, etc. But do this strategically. Professional businesses very rarely offer their services for free. Free doesn’t help you buy gas or groceries.
  • Make a website AND a blog. Websites are for becoming old fashioned, which is a terrible trend in the business world. You will be seen as more of a professional if you have a website with a portfolio, pricing and contact information. Blogging can be optional for some businesses, but for a photography business it is crucial. Blogging helps potential clients get a feel for you and your style of photography. It also helps promote your business. The more you blog, the more people see your work. The more people see your work, the greater the chance of being hired.
  • Be careful what you post online because EVERYTHING directly reflects you and your business. Enough said.

Make sure the business aspects are in order

Take care of the legal aspects of running a business early. This is something I learned the hard way at the beginning. Friends don’t always act as friends especially if they are displeased or misinformed with the service provided. Not everyone is going to like your services. That’s simply a part of running a business. Make sure you have all the legal contracts in order. Make sure you are a legal business because it will help if there is ever a lawsuit involved.

Brand your business

Develop a brand identity and stick with it. Perhaps it is my communications/graphic design background, but I truly believe in the importance of good branding. Whether it is a business, a product, or even yourself, your brand is what potential clients see first. It is their first impression of you and your work, and sometimes is the ultimate deciding factor on whether they hire you or not.

Set some time aside and ask yourself:

What sets your business apart from others?

How do you want others to perceive your business/blog?

What makes your business/blog memorable?

What is the “feel” of your business/blog?

Take a break + Reflect

Schedule breaks and vacations. If you don’t you will always postpone them and become overworked. I recently went through a period like this. In those times I always like to reflect on how far I’ve come. I remind myself that I started a business at 17, grew a business from the ground up by myself, and am completely a self-taught photographer. I look back and remember that my business has grown gradually every year, never getting less business than the year before. I remember after I photographed my first wedding, my business grew rapidly in a short period of time. Lastly, I remember all of the wonderful people I have met through my business that I wouldn’t have met without it. I have become dear friends with many of my clients. I am extremely blessed.

I hope some of you found this helpful. Comment below on which of these has been the hardest/easiest for you to do. Also business owners and bloggers, feel free to answer the branding questions below. Leave a link to your website and I’ll tell you my opinions of your site or blog.

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