11 Mistakes To Avoid As A Small Business Owner

I recently wrote a post 13 Ways To Make Sure 2013 Doesn’t Suck For Your Photography Business. I’ve been doing a lot internal planning with my own business for 2013, and I used that post as a trigger for all of you to start thinking about what you want the New Year to bring into your own lives. In order to stick with that theme, I’ve decided to run a “13 Days Of Photography” feature throughout December to help provide you with a ton of ideas and tips on things you can do for your own business starting on January 1st. Here is 11…

As an entrepreneur for close to 20 years, I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve built three successful businesses, had my share of start up problems, and celebrated many accomplishments. I’ve learned many things along the way. And in many cases, you can learn just as much from the negative side of things as you can the positive. Here are 11 mistakes to avoid as you are building your own photography studio.

1. Stop Dreaming and Start Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in the dreams of “someday”.  Yet the more you dream, the less you’ll do. You can’t own a million dollar business or be a recognized photographer if you don’t take the first step.

2. Let Learning Delay Action

If you want to be a photographer, you’ve probably studied photography from a variety of sources. Whether formal training through a college or university, or self learning through books and videos, if you’ve reached the point where you want to turn it into a business, you have the skills to get started. Its only refinement that stands in your way of becoming great.

3. Overthink Qualifications

“But I don’t have a degree” or “I’m not a certified photographer”. If you’ve ever used “but” or “I’m not”, you are looking to closely at what you don’t have instead of focusing in on the skills you do have.

4. Avoid Failure

Nobody likes to fail – that’s human nature. But a good small business owner realizes there is no way around failure – to try something new means you’re going to fail along the way. Failure is good – even an epic failure gives you something to learn from . Do it, learn from it, and move on.

5. Working Too Many Ideas At Once

It’s okay to work on multiple projects and ideas. And when you’re first starting out and growing, it’s almost impossible to stop the ideas from coming in. But until you have one project turn successful, bringing money and clients through your door all the time, stop focusing on them all at once. Pick one and become good at it first.

6. Provide Average Customer Service

Always do more than is expected of you. Under promise and over deliver. You’ll never fail if this becomes your policy.

7. Think About Big Sales Without Focusing On One

If you are a goal setter and a planner like I am, you probably look at things in yearly quantities. “I’ll shoot 25 weddings at $3,000 each.” But if you don’t bring in the first one at $3,000, you’ll never have what it takes to accomplish your goals. The first one helps you see that customer first hand and understand what it takes to bring them in and keep them happy.

8. Avoid Cash Projects

What is your favorite task? Is it editing last Saturday’s shoot? Or putting together albums? Or building your website? While these things are important, they aren’t what builds your business. Make sure you spend quality time on the things that will truly bring you in money every single day.

9. Avoiding Your List

Too many businesses today focus in on bringing in new, first time clients and avoid the true heart of their business model – their existing clientele. If clients already know you, have used you, and love you, they are your biggest fans. They will come back again and again, and refer more people to you that love you from the start. Put your focus on a strong referral marketing program and you’ll succeed every time.

10. The Money Is In The Marketing

Only two things will bring in money and build your business – bringing clients in (the marketing) and having them pay you (the sales). The more time you spend on those two projects, the more your business will grow. It’s no surprise that the most successful photographer learn to outsource quickly. They realize someone else can edit, color correct, and print. The more time they spend perfecting the marketing and sales process, the bigger name they will build for themselves.

11. Creating A Lean Business Machine

Which is the better business, one with sales of $500,000 or one with $1,000,000? The correct answer should have been – I don’t know. Sales don’t tell you how healthy the business is and how well it’s being run. The $500,000 business could net the owner $250,000 because she watches everything she does, while the $1,000,000 business owner only nets $100,000 because he is careless with his spending.

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