After receiving quite a few emails asking if I was going to write a sequel to last year’s post Successes and Failures of a First Year Photographer, I contacted Jodi to see if she was interested. Her first response, “Whoa, it’s been a year already?” That’s pretty much been my train of thought ALL year. Really now, where did January go? In the second year, you’re a bit more confident that you survived the first year. You are still learning (as you always will), but it’s not new, and that’s a relief. You have grown into a style that feels like a warm cup of apple cider on a cold autumn day and you’ve become more comfortable in your own skin (most of the time).
In my second year, my failures were still around because that’s just the way life goes…
- There will always be people who do not like you. There will always be people who may find you a threat. There will always be people who just are bumps on a log. That’s okay. Move on. The biggest struggle was my craving for acceptance. I wanted to be accepted so badly that I dealt with being an outsider looking in. I hated it actually because I’ve never been one to be like everyone else… and so I started to question my style. My methods. My very passion. Then I told myself… I have NEVER been like anyone else. I never will be nor would I want to be. I gave myself a little pep talk and did what I needed to do to get back on track mentally. It was about my clients, my business, and MY way of doing things. I didn’t need to be like everyone. That’s too boring. I’m me for a reason.
- I didn’t streamline my business/bookkeeping/studio management. I tried to do it all in Excel. Talk about a major fail. I was spending more time trying to tally up information that I started getting frustrated with my time management and lost sleep and sanity. I just recently found Pixifi, a new and amazing web-based management software that I think will truly rank #1 one day for studio management. I love growing with new companies, and I finally have freedom from weird financial formatting!
- I can’t do it all on my own. I do need help. Until I came to that realization, if I wanted to grow, I needed to delegate and make long-term business priorities. I found bookkeeping and clerical work were taking up my time a LOT, so I found a fabulous young lady who is becoming a great asset to me and my business. I can’t do my own taxes, so I found a fabulous CPA who not only helped me with my taxes but advised me on how I should categorize my business. I went from Sole Proprietor to an S-Corp… became Incorporated and all that jazz. (Note: Always, always seek the advice of your CPA to find out which type of business you should have. Every business is different and will have different situations and needs. While an S-Corp works best for me, maybe an LLC works best for you. Ask the experts!)
- Always cross-check license advice with multiple government departments. I was told how to start up my business two years ago by my local Circuit Court and then received a letter in the mail saying there were additional forms and licenses I needed. For a Type A personality, you can imagine my frustration. Accept the craziness that is local government and get things straight.
- Branding and my old logo…. It wasn’t who I was. My previous logos tapped into something I love… but like itchy wool sweaters, they didn’t quite fit. I sucked it up and hired a designer to recreate what Bit of Ivory was in my heart. Now I have people saying, “I thought of you when I went to Target and saw a silhouette on a cup!!” Best decision I ever made.
In my second year, my successes were even more abundant!
- In November 2010, I had this big dream. I wanted to create stylized shoots because I NEEDED to create for create’s sake. So I partnered up with Meghan Beckwith of MeghanBlair Weddings, and we became fast, great friends. And Orchestrated Stylized Shoots was born. We now have the distinct privilege of creating mock wedding masterpieces to challenge ourselves with various themes, to open them up to other photographers who also crave the same, and to present to our brides refreshing options that they could use for their own weddings. This was a HUGE success. Now in August, we will be going INTERNATIONAL and co-coordinating a Jane Austen stylized shoot in ENGLAND with Melissa Love. And as if that weren’t enough, we are planning a photographers’ cruise conference in September 2012 to transform the way we workshop and vacation with our loved ones. VERY excited for this.
- I created the Drawing Room (aka my version of a client lounge) for potential and current clients to access pricing, expectations, timeline, vendors I love, and to get to know me on a deeper basis. I LOVE this for the very premise that it allows me to connect to my target market in a new and different eco-friendly kind of way.
- Contrary to my own “oh my gosh did this really happen?” thoughts, I was featured in Professional Photographer Magazine for Persuasion Boudoir and the way I run that division of my business. When I got the email that they wanted to do a profile on me, I didn’t respond right away. I actually googled the writer’s name to make sure it was for real. Well, it was for real, and the June 2011 edition of Professional Photographer Magazine is printed proof. To be candid, it feels like my heart stops every time I open that magazine… because I don’t want to wake up if this is all a dream.
With that all of these growing pains and looking backs, it’s been an interesting year as I’ve fine-tuned how I want to run my business in the long-term. The biggest fine-tuning step I’ve taken though was realizing I was being called to do photography full-time. Whoa. BIG whoa. I can’t decide if this is a success just yet… I’ll let you know next year. Chelsea LaVere is the portrait, wedding, and boudoir photographer behind Bit of Ivory Photography in Hampton Roads, Virginia. She is now a full-time photographer as she leaves the traditional art classroom behind to explore the unconventional classrooms through photography and people.