How do you define success? As a small business owner, I’ve had my shares of success. As I sat down over the weekend to write about success, I discovered something interesting:

Every time you meet with a big success, there are several failures that lead up to that success.

So in essence the more you fail, the more you’ll succeed.

Building a successful photography business

Here are 12 of my top failures that actually helped lead to my success.

1. Talk is cheap.
Spend a week listening to what you say. Do you tell your co-workers, “Someday I’m going to start my own business.” Or “I really want to work from home to spend more time with my family.”

What have you done to work towards that goal? If you truly mean what you say, then you need to create some action steps to make sure you accomplish it.

“Someday I’m going to star my own business.” Is completely different than “I’ll have my first client for my own business by April 1st.” Give yourself solid goals with timelines you can manage on your current schedule.

2. Listen to your own advice.
Ever heard the phrase, “A shoemakers children have no shoes?”

What advice do you give your clients regularly? Do you follow your own advice?

For me, I always talk about creating systems and making sure you have everything in place to run effectively. Yet I still have to stop a couple of times per year and analyze my own business to make sure I have my own systems in place. It’s easy just to do things yourself, and put off creating an easier way of getting things done. But in the long run its this small tasks that will end up eating away all of your time.

3. Be realistic.
I’m actually the queen of this failure. I will often start out my to-do lists with items like, “Write a book by Friday.”

After you’ve written out your goals, look at them again to determine how realistic they are. Can you truly finish them with your current lifestyle? How much time during the day do you have to commit to each of your goals?

“Write a book by Friday.” May not be realistic, yet the concept is there. Rewrite it into several goals, such as “Write for one hour per day five days per week.” And “Have rough draft completed by March 30th.”

4. Focus on the right things.
Have you ever spent hours, maybe even days on something that was totally worthless? Something that really brought nothing to your business, and made you no money whatsoever?Better Portraits With Reflectors

Every one of us has 24 hours in a day. Before you dedicate any time to an activity, ask yourself it will truly matter a few weeks from now. If it won’t have a positive effect on your life or your business, put it aside. Chances are it will disappear without a second thought if it isn’t important.

5. Solve your buyers’ problems.
Have you ever had a client ask a question, only to turn around the next day and have someone else ask the same thing? If you find yourself answering the same question, or dealing with the same problem again and again, fix it. Find a way to market your photography better than your competitors so your clients understand your differences. Give more to your clients and tell them why – they will get it and reward you for it.

6. Focus on the long term.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in short term problems. “My clients are down this month,” is a short-term problem.

If your goal is to have a business five years from now, focus on what you want it to look like at that time, and build for that. Make decisions that will build a successful business years into the future, not solve a short term dilemma.

7. Stop the copy.
If I had a dime for every time I heard a photographer say, “I give away the files because everyone does and that’s what the clients want.”…

Don’t copy. Reinvent.

Customers don’t know what they want; they are programmed into believing they want their files so they can have control. But once they have control, the majority of them take the CD/DVD, put it into a box, and never print out even one image. It’s up to you as the professional to educate your customers on why you’re different, and what’s better about your service.

8. Sell. Sell. Sell.
There’s a time for selling. And a time for giving people value.

Start by showcasing the value you give. Then be comfortable asking for the sale. Don’t be shy about making a healthy profit. It’s okay to set your prices high, and get the fees you actually deserve.

9. Sell once. Then repeat. Again and again.
The hardest process is getting a system in place that moves from attracting clients, to bringing them in, to selling to them and being comfortable with the entire process.

Once you have that in place, 90 percent of your business structure is in place. Then it’s just a matter of repeating it again and again.

Spend the majority of your time now getting that system in place. You may spend 12-16 hours a day originally getting it ready. But once it’s in place, you’ll spend little time on the system, and more time with your clients. And enjoying the lifestyle you’ve created.

10. Create the “woozie”.
Most people create price lists, wedding packages, and programs that they could personally afford.

Instead, create your “woozie” – something that would really make you jump up and down with joy. I still remember the first time we sold a $20,000 wedding package. I never thought it was possible until we sold it. That made me believe I could do much more, and allowed me to build for my clients, not for my belief system.

11. I can do it all.
Most small business owners do everything from taking out the trash, to running checks to the bank. If you don’t ask yourself, “What is the most effective use of my time?” you’ll end up losing a lot more than you gain.

Put a value on your time. Hire people to help you run your time more efficiently. And do things that will truly make a difference to your business.

12. Reward successes and failures.
It’s easy to reward yourself when the successes come in. I definitely celebrated after we closed the deal on my first $20,000 client.

But don’t just celebrate success: celebrate failures too. Remember, failures lead to successes. If you’ve found a way that doesn’t work, it will lead to a way that does. Reward yourself daily even for the smallest of things. And just imagine where you’ll be a year from now!

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