The first five years in a new business are the most trying, due to the inevitable lull in wedding off-season, business expenses and the overall risk of branching out on your own. If you’re one of the lucky few to make it past the five-year mark, it’s time to celebrate. But what about those of you who are still within your first five years owning your own business, and need help overcoming our common obstacles?
From our experience, there are a handful of things you can do to better your chances of reaching Year 5 and beyond:
Ask yourself: Is this really for you?
First and foremost, you must understand your level of risk tolerance. Are you willing to make sacrifices in your life, and live without certain comforts you may be used to with a full-time job? Despite popular belief, business owners often have less time to spend with their family and friends, because they hold every position in their business and are constantly working to build their brand. You might make more than half of your yearly income in just a few months, while money slowly trickles in the rest of the year. Financial risk tolerance calculators (http://finance.yahoo.com/calculator/career-education/inv08/) are great for finding out your tolerance. People with a lower risk tolerance might find that their businesses will grow at a much slower pace compared to business owners that often take risks.
Take advantage of your off-season
Soon, you will find that you have an off-season, and it is important to prepare before it hits. Take advantage of this time by experimenting with new ideas and concepts by getting together with your favorite colleagues to build your portfolio with fresh and exciting material that will create "buzz" in the industry.
As photographers, we often team up with planners, florists and rental companies to create styled shoots that not only exercise our creativity but also establish a great referral base for everyone involved. Having more time on your hands is also ideal for focusing on improving your craft. There are many workshops and events all over the world catering to each specific type of business that you can attend and take part in. Take advantage of that new region you’re exploring by setting up meetings with colleagues so you can start trading referrals. Facebook groups are a great resource for this as well.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of a break! A mini-vacation can go far to refresh your brain and your creativity; just make sure to prepare your business for the time you will be away so you don’t lose any leads or leave current clients wondering where you are.
Do some financial planning
Predicting your financial peaks and valleys will enable you to live with the security that a 9-to-5 job can offer, while still enjoying the perks of being your own boss. Keep good books, plan for taxes, and have an automatic savings plan. As a good rule of thumb, 30 percent of your income should be kept in a savings account for tax time; you can even pay your taxes quarterly so it's easier on your wallet and less stressful in April. Find a savings account that lets you set up automatic deposits weekly/monthly/quarterly. We currently use CapitalOne’s 360 banking for this and have $25 automatically deposited into our account each week. You’d be surprised at how much you won’t miss that $25 each week until you actually need it.
Aim for multiple streams of income
Have you noticed some of your more established industry counterparts offering additional services or products? They are building multiple streams of income, and having a handful would be ideal for building your brand and your net-worth. You can start small by adding a service that accompanies what you already offer, like adding the option of a photo booth in addition to your wedding photography services, as we did. Something so simple for us to implement resulted in a huge increase in our yearly revenue, because we already had the gear and the knowledge of how to use it, and because it was so closely related to what we were already offering.
Lastly, remember that this is a great exercise in the art of patience. Yes, there are overnight successes in the world, but we must remember that this is not the norm, and many of these stories are actually years in the making. So while you may feel defeated at times and want to throw in the towel, don’t forget that even the most successful rock stars in the industry went through the trenches and came out alive due to their will to succeed. So, recharge your creative juices, plan for the future, and build your streams of income to get you one step closer to that five-year celebration!
Christine Yodsukar and her husband, Rich, are owners of photography and cinematography company The Yodsukars, which specializes in imaging for luxury clients. In just three years, they took their wedding business from $100 weddings to a six-figure income using the techniques they teach their mentoring clients.