5 Things I've Learned as a Business Bambino
Albert Einstein once made an insightful observation.
"The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know."
I feel like this phrase is true in every part of my life, be it practical, emotional or spiritual. There is simply too much out there to learn that the very idea of nailing something on the first try is virtually unheard of (excluding you super talented, jack-of-all-trades genius types of course). Failing is such an important, even vital part of building a business and growing in understanding of your particular area or skill set, that to write off all failure as a complete loss would be a waste of experience. In my short time as a creative entrepreneur I've had many opportunities to fail and have taken most of them. I make it a point to keep a record of these short fallings for future use, and I thought it would be a good idea to share some of what I've learned with you, in the hopes that you might steer clear of the bad things I embraced, and embrace the good things I steered clear of. Welcome, dear reader, to the real Miss Anwyn.
- Communicate with the Client // If you expect to charge the client at a professional rate, the client will expect you to act like a professional. A short while ago I found myself in a situation where I was under a lot of pressure due to an intensified workload, and my ability to process and respond to emails and phone calls was at an all time low. When I finally got my act together and responded to my client, she informed me that she had found someone else to shoot for her, as she had deadlines coming up and my lack of communication had meant she'd been unable to meet them on time. Fortunately this client is also a close friend, and the environment in which we work is what you'd call a safe place to crash and burn, but the experience itself was enough to give me a clearer perspective on how I want to treat the people who came to me for my work. I want the pictures I create to be reflective of the kind of service I offer: clean, precise and engaging, a rule that leads conveniently into my next point.
- The Why and How is just as Important as the What // Storytelling has become an integral part of the creative industry. People don't just want to know what you do, they want to know why you do it, what your values are, what series of events led you to become who you are today. They want to know your story. In an industry that is virtually overflowing with photographers, the things that make me who I am are the things that set me apart from the rest, and are a way of differentiating myself from others. I use my photography as an example, but it's a truth that holds across the board. Your father was a photojournalist in the 80s and had his own darkroom? Cool, let me hear about it. Marina Abramovic is your inspiration? You're half Italian? You sail up and down the coast in your spare time? Coffee over tea? Doctor Who over Star Trek? People want to know they're establishing a connection with someone that they can relate to, so let them know.
- Organisation is a Non-Negotiable // Invoices, emails, raw files, worked files, catalogues, folders, receipts, reports, anything out of place, unanswered or mixed up is a recipe for disaster. I've learned this particular lesson the hard way. There have been a few instances over the last year where I've completely missed emails from pretty significant clients requesting editorial spreads or photoshoots, and others where I've mixed up invoices and haven't been able to charge correctly. So much profit is lost by small businesses to poor organisation, that if you learn quickly and early on to consolidate the detritus of your business and have a sustainable system of keeping even a few files together, you're already doing well for yourself. *Spoiler* Yes, it sounds easier than it is.
- Consistency is Key // Giving updates on a regular basis about what's going on in your little business world is the way to keep your audience, as well as your market, interested and engaged. When you're in the thick of it, struggling to keep your melon above the ever-deepening ocean that is small business, posting on social media seems just about the last thing you need to be doing. However, if your intention is to keep your business growing at a healthy, consistent rate, you should understand that engagement is naturally going to be low if there's nothing to, you know, engage with. Whether you're simply planning out the day's agenda at your favourite cafe, in transit to a gig or receiving an award, your people want to hear from you, and they want to keep hearing from you 2-3 times a day especially around 6:30 on a Thursday evening and every other day except Tuesday. (That was a joke btw, nobody panic). Lose your fear of the Book of Faces and the Grams of Insta, they're here to help and useful tools if you only know how to use them.
- Just Ask // If there's one thing we can all agree on, rejection sucks. Sure, some of us might have reached a point whereby we can see the value and lessons that can be taken away from the almighty 'NO', but at the end of the day there's not a lot worse than trying to keep it together while somebody important relays to you in sugar-coated terms that you're small and insignificant and not worth their time. It's ok. You may be small but you are by no means insignificant, and you probably are worth their time, but everybody has to learn to say "no" to things at some point in their lives and let me tell you it's just as unpleasant being on the giving end as the receiving. Having said all this, learning to ask despite the fear of rejection is a huge step in mastering the art of business and life in general. Realise now that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If the answer is 'no', nobody gets hurt (except maybe your pride). If the answer is 'yes', congratulations, it's only up from here.
I'm no business guru, I haven't won any awards, but I've learned these lessons a few times over and that's valuable knowledge no matter who it's coming from. Most of the examples I've given are taken from the experiences I've had working as a photographer, but as I said earlier they work across almost every industry. Remember, it's ok to turn into a blanket burrito every now and then and hide under the bed with some Ben & Jerry's. Practice makes perfect, you've got this.