This summer marks my fifth year of photography business, and holy moly has a lot changed in five years. The Kayla Lee brand has gone through evolutions and grown in the most amazing and surprising ways. This is why I love being in business and being (kind of a) serial entrepreneur: Every business is an experiment. It’s kind of like playing “The Oregon Trail,” as we never know exactly what will happen and what will make us pivot. Kayla Lee Photography is my third business, and I have another one on the way (stay tuned come July).
If I had to say the five most important things to know at the beginning of any entrepreneurial adventure, it would be these ideas:
1.) THINK ABOUT YOUR BRAND AS A PERSON, NOT A PRODUCT
Even if it is not YOUR personality, your brand should have some elements of a person. While not every brand is a personal brand, there should be no question about where your business stands. I don’t mean this in a political way—but you certainly could take it there if you feel it’s the right thing to do. I mean it in a dimensional way, meaning that the more characteristics your business has, the more shape it will take. If your brand is cheery, make that clear. If your brand is eco friendly, let people know. You never have to share more than you feel is right, but giving people a little something will help them identify with your brand, which will encourage them to learn more. Sure, it might offend and repel some people, but that’s OK, too, as I say in point two…
2.) KNOW YOU ARE NOT NUTELLA
You will not/should not/cannot make everyone happy. You can’t be everything to everyone. Every brand should figure out their niche and really hone into the clients in that corner of the industry. For example, I am a wedding and senior portrait photographer..I like photographing the tension of the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next in your story. I have a very good friend who is incredibly family-oriented, and focuses on the four Bs: Brides, bumps, babies, and broods. Her niche is serving from “I do” to photographing the whole crew, all while serving them deeply. In the beginning, it’s totally fine to want to feel that out. If you know right from the get-go, that’s excellent, too!
3.) FIGURE OUT HOW YOUR BRAND IS THE HERO
Another way to look at this is to answer the question,”What problem do I solve for my customers?” In my photography business, I aim to help couples be their elegant selves in adventurous places, because I believe your closet can have Kate Spade kitten heels AND Sorel Packs. I like to help brides and grooms bridge who they are as individuals with who they will be as a spouse (many of my couples are young professionals who have lived independent lives prior to getting married).
4.) BUDGET + SAVE
This is not the most exciting point, but it is an important point. Even if your business is just a hobby, please promise you will start out by figuring out your monthly costs and getting six months of that saved up before you crazy. I did this, and I cannot explain to you how freeing this was. Having that cushion allowed me to feel a little be better when I would splurge on a new lens. I didn’t worry about much, because I knew there was a little nest egg there if I needed it. In business, you can grow like an oak (slow with deep, solid roots) or like a birch tree (fast with shallow roots). Yes, having a little savings may prevent you from investing as much as you like, but you’ll feel better with it there.
5.) MANY TIMES, IT’S REALLY NOT YOU—IT’S THEM
People are going to get mad for no reason. You will be blamed for something you had zero control over (I’ve been blamed for a missing bridesmaid, for example). A winner of a contest will ghost you or call it a hoax. Potential clients will just up and disappear. In many, many instances, there is nothing you could have done differently. It is easy to feel like a failure and beat ourself up over loss sales and opportunities…but it is better to take a moment and be thankful for all the wonderful customers you DO have that are loyal and right there with you.
There is of course much more, but if I had to sum up nearly a decade of business creation, these are the top lessons am glad I learned when I did. Best of luck to you, fellow entrepreneur!
Fridays are for high fives! Every Friday, stop by to see five of my favorite somethings! Click here to see past Friday High Fives!