The 5 Changes I Made in my Business that Doubled My Gross Income in One Year
I was nearly 2 years into my business when I realized things needed to change. I was starting to lose 2 very sacred things: my time, and my drive. I was booking and busy, but nearly void of creativity. I was editing into the night, but felt that my work had plateaued. In a saturated market, I felt I was fitting in rather than standing out. I rarely saw my family, and when I did they got the leftover, unrested version of Wife & Mom.
Running a business and working from home can feel isolating and alone. Coming from a corporate job, I didn’t know many other “Momprenuers”. Changes had to be made. I knew that if I were going to continue with Laurenda Marie Photography and be a profitable, sustainable business, I had to be smart, savvy, and intentional. I had to make like-minded friends. I had to push myself and leave my comfort zone, and I had to invest in order to refine my craft.
At the end of 2016, I felt like things may crumble. But by the end of 2017, my fire had been reignited. So what changed? I entered 2017 with a new, fresh perspective. And a plan.
The following are 5 changes I made to my business in 2017 that DOUBLED my income from 2016, and left me feeling excited and ready to tackle the next season of business.
01. i developed a brand
Branding you guys. It’s HUGE. And it’s something I didn’t think much about until about 2 years into my business. In those initial years, I didn’t know who I was as a photographer, and I definitely wasn’t advertising to any specific client. My style, or lack there of, was ALL over the board. I edited dark & moody, light & airy, with matte shadows, saturated colors…you name it. I was having an identity crisis. Now, I don’t think there is ANYTHING wrong with trying new styles, but when you edit one client session with a moody matte finish, and then edit another client session 2 days later with bright, vibrant color, I think you may be confusing your audience. How will they know what to expect if they hire you?
The truth is, I didn’t know much about branding, and I was too busy trying to figure out how to run every other aspect of my business. Then, I realized my brand, and what I am putting out there for the world to see, IS MY BUSINESS. It’s my business in it’s entirety and will directly effect the clientele I’m attracting, and the money I am making.
The only way I was going to stand out in a saturated market, and be profitable, was to develop a brand unique to me and my style. So what does “brand” even mean? Think of it this way. What mood & emotion do you want your business to evoke? What colors, vibes, thoughts, and feelings do you want to portray? Before really diving into this part, you also must visualize WHO your audience is. Who are you marketing to? Who is your ideal client? Once you’ve determined this, you can start building your brand and identity, and market to a more niche group.
So what did I do specifically? First, I finally decided on an editing style. I chose one that resonated with me as an artist the most, and STUCK with it! From there, I determined who my ideal client was, I hired a logo designer, and I redesigned my website top to bottom with my new branding materials. If you have the funds, I highly recommend hiring a professional for the logo & web design. Eventually, I invested in web design with Emma Rose Company, and it was worth every penny!
One final tip worth noting - curating my Instagram has been an instrumental part of my growth. I carried my new style and branding across all social fields, including Instagram. Now, I could write an entire post about Instagram (and maybe I will at some point!), but I knew that in order to attract my ideal client, I needed a cohesive feed that spoke directly to that client.
02. i invested in my education
Ask yourself…who is going to invest in your work if you won’t even invest in yourself? Powerful, huh?
I can remember back to my initial months as a photographer. I thought I had it all figured out. It was extremely naive of me to believe, for even a moment, that I didn’t need any additional education. I could shoot in manual, and if I had a question, Google and YouTube were at my fingertips, right? Well, although those are incredible resources, there is NOTHING that compares to connecting and learning from other creatives. Once I opened up the idea of investing in my business and furthering my education, I quickly realized I had SO MUCH to learn. In fact, we should never stop wanting to learn, because when we reach a place of complacency, our business and income will too.
So what were the ways I invested in my business? First, I attended a workshop! And not just a local one. I stumbled upon a photographer whose style and business drive I admired, and purchased a ticket to her workshop all the way across the US. If you only knew how out of my comfort zone that was! But you know what? We don’t grow in complacency. We only grow when we let ourselves become vulnerable. We grow out of our comfort zones.
The experience was life changing. Not only did I walk away with a wealth of knowledge, I was able to connect with others just like me. Entrepreneurship can feel isolating, and having a community of creatives to support you and cheer you on is next to none.
Secondly, I invested in online courses. Katelyn James is an extraordinary photography coach with a teaching style that’s easy to follow. She has courses for almost every aspect of business! I’ve been through her Posing and Lighting & Locations Courses. Amy & Jordan and Jasmine Star have wonderful courses for purchase as well.
Investing in your business can be scary. I get it! Workshops and courses are not cheap. I am always hesitant before a big purchase. However, the more educated we are in our industry, the more valuable we become.
03. i collaborated with other vendors
You guys, this one is so so important. I’ll share my personal experience so you can see the many benefits to reap!
After collaborating on a styled wedding shoot alongside my florist & wedding planner friend Melissa from Melissa Anne Floral Co., the inquiries for weddings started to roll in. Here’s how that works. Styled shoots typically involve at least a dozen vendors including venue, hair & make-up, gown, rentals, floral, models, and invitation suite…to name a few. If these vendors didn’t know your business before, they surely do now, and are likely sharing YOUR images from the styled shoot across their social platforms tagging, and giving shout outs. That’s free advertising for you. Oooooh heeeeey! Additionally, if that venue is sharing your images, think of how many potential brides interested in that venue will be exposed to YOUR images!? That is precisely how I booked two brides after my first styled shoot, who found my work via the venue we collaborated with.
Another great aspect of styled shoots? They are the perfect way to gain content for your social platforms. They’ll be reflecting your personal style, creativity, and your overall best work. Win, win, win. I love being able to think through my posing and really challenge myself to be original. To push past those boundaries I’ve created. This can be hard to do when photographing a client, but a styled shoot opens the door for originality which can help set you apart in a very saturated market.
4. I said “no”.
Admittedly, I am BAD at saying no. People pleaser right here, through and through! But doesn’t saying yes to everything and everyone get exhausting? Not only is your calendar completely maxed to the brim, but it’s probably maxed with sessions and obligations that just aren’t exciting you. If I’ve learned anything in this business, it’s that burn-out is a real thing…and I’ve been real close. Chances are…you have, too. But I didn’t get into this business to feel overwhelmed. I didn’t become a photographer to take on every client that inquires. And I didn’t get into this business to edit my nights away or work every single Saturday in the summer. No sir, I did not!
I got into it for the perks of setting my own schedule, because I am passionate about connecting with others and telling their stories, and to create beautiful images for clients that appreciate my style, my talent, and my time. I LOVE this job with my entire being, but I didn’t want it to control me, I was supposed to be in control. Right? Well that’s not where it was headed!
The beauty of saying is “no” to one thing, is that you’re actually saying “yes” to something else. Whether to a night at home to have dinner with your family, or a project that aligns better with your style & vision, or maybe an afternoon off for self-care, which I’ll get to here in a moment. ;)
To me, saying “no” no longer has a negative cogitation. I don’t carry around the guilt of a “no”, like I once used to, but instead feel empowered. Empowered that I am able to select what I put on my plate. Empowered that I am standing up for myself. Empowered that I have taken control back. If it’s not bringing me joy or fueling me forward, it has no place on my plate.
5. i practiced Self-care
Self-care. Pssssh. Sounds like such a cheesy, selfish thing, doesn’t it? Self-care is for people without drive & hustle. It’s for those lazy people who have oodles and oodles of time on their hands, like my former young 20’s, pre-Mom self.
And then I become connected to dozens of other “creatives” via my social sites and the words self-care were tossed around like flu germs. These young Mom’s running successful businesses from home were actually going to get their nails done? Gasp! And they had these fabulous nighttime routines and took bubble baths? Like…how?! Like when?! I was editing into the night until my lids were so heavy I couldn’t go on. I was running around folding laundry and answering emails all day form my phone, not sitting down or making myself meals or giving myself room to breath. Surely not making myself a priority. The kids and my job were my priorities and I had to make sure both were surviving. That was all that mattered.
“Oh honey, you have it all wrong.” That’s what I wish someone told me long ago - but soon enough, I figured it out.
What I realized is that no one wants a Mom/Wife/Photographer who is at her witts end. I don’t like that me, and why should anyone else? I like the me that is rested. The me that jokes and laughs and spends time making herself feel beautiful and cared for. That was the old me, and I wanted her back. When I entered into that new season of both Motherhood and entrepreneurship simultaneously, somehow I had lost who I was along the way. Naturally, right? I am sure too many can relate. Life was feeling so fast, and I was craving slow.
So, I decided I was going to be one of those Momprenuers I was envious of, and actually take care of myself better. Do things for ME. And so I did. Sometimes that looked like a face mask and glass of wine at night. Other days that looked like kicking my feet up on the sofa for 5 minutes of meditation, or skipping out on that late night editing session to binge my favorite show. Self-care can look like so many different things and it can change day to day. My newest, and most favorite form of self-care is a facial at the beginning and end of each wedding season. I mean, genius, right?!
Once this new, rested, slower version of Laurenda was awakened, I noticed I was happier. The time I spent with my husband and boys had more substance & meaning. And the time I spent working on my business was more intentional & productive. Thank you, self-care. You’re welcome to pull up a chair and stay a while. :)
Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or just getting started, I truly hope you can take some nuggets of advice from my experiences, and apply them to your own business & life. Love you guys!