In the early years, as we were building our business from the ground up, we couldn’t wait for the day until we could both quit corporate, and work for ourselves full time. It took several years for us both to jump over full time, but the minute we accomplished it we knew it was definitely the right choice.
Now as we look back, we can see we made a ton of great choices – and a few things we definitely would have handled a bit differently. So I share these with you in case you are on your own journey to full time entrepreneurship in hopes you’ll have a few more things to consider before you make your big move.
Not having clearly defined roles
When you get a job, they present you with a job description. They interview you to determine if you can handle the functions of the job. They hire you. They train you. And then you have set goals and expectations to help you get through day after day, week after week, month after month.
When you run your own photography business, every day brings on a new challenge. Today it might be determining the perfect name for your business. Tomorrow it will be setting up your corporation. And the next will be setting up a pricing guide for your potential customers. You move from business challenges to customer challenges every single day.
While some of those things can’t be expected, and can only be dealt with as they occur, other things can be predicted quite easily. Who will handle the accounting? Who will buy office supplies? Who will do sales presentations?
If you are a single photographer, the answer quite obviously may be “me” and “me”. For us as a couple, we definitely would have avoided stressful situations if we had defined who worked when, and who accomplished what. Its also of benefit to sit back and consider what jobs you don’t want to take on, and are willing to hire out from the beginning. For instance if you hate numbers and bookkeeping, don’t start out your business by deciding on what accounting system to buy; hire an accountant and bookkeeper instead. They can set you up the right way from the beginning, which allows you to forgo countless hours of staring at the screen trying to decide on what accounts you need and where each transaction should go.
Not having a budget
When you have a job, you have a paycheck coming in on a regular basis. You know the mortgage (rent), car payment and other expenses must come out of that paycheck before you have fun with the rest.
With a photography business, it can be feast or famine. In some months we would book a dozen weddings and have five figures flow into our bank account. The next month may have no clients and no orders, meaning no income coming in.
Budgeting helps you deal with the peaks and valleys that come with a photography business. Set up separate savings accounts for each major payment in your life – a mortgage (rent) account in which you can feed a few months payments into. Then in the dry months, you know you are safe and have your large items paid for, and won’t be sweating the due dates every month.
Not having strong insurance in place
When you work for someone else, they handle all the details when it comes to insurance. You select from one of their health insurance policies, and in many cases have access to other policies as well, including workman’s comp.
When you’re in business for yourself, you have to handle everything on your own. I suggest you sit down with an insurance broker, and find out what options are available to you. How about life insurance – what happens to your family if something happens to you? Are you covered with workman’s comp in the event you have an employee? Are you covered if you end up with long term disability issues? And do you have proper business insurance to cover you in the event of a lawsuit?
Instead of waiting until sometime down the road, get prepared up front and avoid the potential crises that may hit you at any time.
Not understanding a small business is 24/7
When you have a job, you work your “9 to 5” and head home. Then your personal life begins, and you can do anything you choose.
When you run your own business, there is no going home at the end of the day and “turning off” the business. You end up thinking about it 24 hours of the day. Even if you have a studio outside of your home, you still wind up working on your laptop late into the evening. Or waking up in the middle of the night with a great idea.
Your excitement level shoots up sky high because you know you’re no longer working for the good of someone else; you’re working to advance your own lifestyle.
Not realizing how you care so much more about what you do when you’re doing it for you
Before we ran our business full time, we had the desire to grow our own business. But deep down we had no idea how much it would change who we are.
When you work for someone else, you do your job every day to the best of your ability. You realize that you must complete your expectations in order to continue having the lifestyle you desire. And in many cases you love what you do, so it makes it all worth while.
But when you change and become the business owner, something “clicks” inside and changes the way you feel about everything you do. Yes, you care about what you do and what your clients think about you. But you also realize that your future depends on how you act today, and the decisions you make along the way. You do it all for so many more reasons than just the paycheck.
If we knew how much fun we would have as business owners, we would have done it much sooner than we did.
So, have you made the jump to business owner? What were some of your mistakes? Or if you haven’t made the jump, what’s holding you back?