In the past few years since I opened my own business I remember finding articles that were tilted with words like this and thought to myself, "Maybe someday I will be able to relate to a topic like this...someday." And here I am today, typing up a blog post to talk about the very thing I never thought would really actually happen to me. Today I'm going to dive into how to manage a growth spurt when it happens to your business. I'm navigating through my first real growth spurt and want to share what I'm learning along the way. I don't know if I have all the answers yet, but I do know that what I'm learning is going to help me for whatever comes next. This recent growth spurt is a true blessing, but also one that comes with a bit more juggling, stress, and unknowns.
I want to share how I'm dealing with it all right now and where I hope to go from here. Alright, let's jump in!
a little summary of recent growth
In three months my income from my business (photography and graphic design) has more than tripled. When I finally sat down to make some graphs I was excited, but not that surprised by the sudden increase because I have felt it. I have been insanely busy these past few months and getting the chance to sit down and go over numbers recently, I am understanding the recent feeling of exhaustion. It's a good feeling of exhaustion, but nonetheless, I'm tired. Since I took the time and energy to sit down and narrow my focus with my business, the clients have come with it. For so long I plugged away at something that wasn't focused, it was all over the place. I was all over the place with what I wanted and what I was putting out there. I also realized that the path I was headed down would have been good, but not what I really wanted for myself and for my future. At that time I decided to switch gears and follow what my heart and talents were telling me I needed to do. I took a leap and invested some money into my business. I invested in courses to help me learn and grow my business, I invested in better equipment, and I invested in administrative things to get me on track with being organized and productive.
Since narrowing my focus and figuring out exactly what I want to do, my businesses have taken off. I'm making more connections with fellow entrepreneurs, I've become a person of contact for advice and feedback, and so much more. I receive emails and Facebook messages daily (mostly from fellow photographers) who either want to just say hi or pick my brain. I LOVE it! This is exactly why I decided to chase this dream because I am living out a dream of not only finding my own success financially, but emotionally, physically, all of the above. Everything in my life has led me to this and now I'm learning how to adjust to the changes happening all around me.
Organization has been my best friend. Since discovering the program 17hats, things were not organized very well. Things were working, but not as well as they could/should have been. Once I started organizing virtually everything I do through 17hats, I got a whole lot more productive with my time. If you have already worked with me you will recognize the name because it's where I send you your questionnaires, contracts, invoices, and beyond. 17hats has been vital for both my avenues as a designer and photographer. The templates have served as my biggest time saver thus far. Each email is carefully read through by me, but if I had to write responses that were typed up each time, I would never get anything done in a timely manner. I have templates for invoices, contracts, email responses to specific questions, and more. Doing what I do as a photographer and graphic designer for photographers, I get questions sent my way every day. I am not complaining one bit because it truly makes me so happy but as my business is growing I am trying to find ways to ensure no questions go unanswered. I don't care how "big" I get, or how "busy" I get, I will never ignore anyone who reaches out to me. I might not respond right away, but I will respond.
So if I'm to give any advice it would be to find a program that can do majority of your administrative tasks in one place. 17hats is my place. I still work in various programs for various things with my businesses, but 17hats is the heartbeat of it all. It keeps me organized and on track with my calendar, due dates...everything. We are moving past the world of signing contracts in person and into a world that is mostly run by the computer. While I love to meet my clients in person, I don't always get the chance as many of mine are all over the United States.
what's not working
Alright, I'll be honest here. A few months ago I set up some projects that at the time I felt I had nothing but time to give my heart and soul to. One of these included a promotion to do a free photo shoot with little kids because at that time I needed more pictures of little kids in my portfolio that weren't all of my daughter. Well, since that promotion I have photographed SO many kids and have plenty of material for my site. I realized that this project was a really fun idea and would have been amazing, but I had to take it off my to do list. I have since cancelled the whole thing because there just isn't room right now.
Saying no to things has always been challenging for me. I want to do it all but with this business growth spurt I have quickly realized that I can't do it all and sometimes I have to let go of various projects that I truly just don't have time to do. It's okay to change your mind, it's okay to bag an idea that is causing more overwhelm than it's worth. Let it go, it's all good.
In line with what's not working, I'll go back to one of the main fundamentals I have learned so far as a business owner which is finding your target market and ideal client. These go together but take some time and effort to really figure it out. Since narrowing my focus, niche, and more, I've had to turn away many opportunities that may not fall in line with my new direction. My prices have changed and with price increases come losing out on potential clients. I am sticking firm to what I feel my time and talent is worth and while it is hard to turn down any financial opportunities, I also know that I'm doing the right thing because my ideal clients are out there. They are the ones who are willing to pay my fees because they know the product they will get from me is worth the investment. Branding is a huge investment, and so are pictures. When you work with me it's not even just about the final outcome, it's about the experience. I know what I'm doing and I am confident in myself and in my work. My clients aren't just clients, they become my friends. I still talk to each and every client I've ever worked with on branding design, and many of my photography clients as well.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that with growth comes tough decisions on what you feel you are worth and being fair to yourself. If I accepted $150 like I used to for a photo session I would be burnt out before I ever had the chance to make something of myself as a professional photographer. No one would truly value me or my art. I would be away from my daughter more than I want and probably lose the drive that made me pick up a camera in the first place. I'm not speaking for everyone, just myself.
This one is pretty straight forward but has streamlined my life as a business owner once I finally figured it out. We all have boundaries. Set them. Stick to them. If something is outside of those boundaries or you don't want to do it, don't do it. You are in business as an entrepreneur because you want to call your own shots. So call them. Do you. At the end of the day if something isn't working, don't do it anymore. Figure out what you can do differently to change how you feel about it. Set boundaries that work for you and for your business. One of my boundaries is finding that balance with taking weekends off. I don't work the Monday-Friday 9-5 job anymore, I actually work more hours than I ever did at my old job. I don't complain because it makes me so happy. For the first time I roll out of bed and cannot wait to either go meet my clients in person or have those interactions behind my computer screen in my office. I have met so many amazing and talented individuals in such a short time! It is very exciting. My "tribe" is growing and I cannot wait to see what happens next. Anyway, I'm trying so hard to give myself Sundays off. I'm trying to disconnect and just be present with my family but the hard part is I want to work! I want to collaborate, I want to share, I want to be present but I know that I need to set that boundary because eventually people will expect me to be available all day, every day. I need one or two days a week that are just for me. I'm trying, I'm not perfect, but I am trying. It's my goal to be less available on the weekends as I continue to grow because if I don't find that balance I fear that I may miss out on some important time alone and unplugged with my family.
find your tribe
And here is my final tip for this post. Find your tribe. Surround yourself with people who get it, who you can lean on, who can support you. This journey cannot be done alone. You can try, but you will most likely fail. I'm sorry, but it's true. Community over Competition is something I believe in and feel has truly helped me find my own success. I want to help other photographers learn and grow! I want to be a person fellow business owners reach out to and ask questions. This journey can be really hard, and scary, and amazing...you need a tribe. Since I started taking myself seriously and finding my target market, my tribe is building and it's beyond anything I could have ever imagined. You have to be willing to learn from others, put yourself out there and find people you connect best with.
You got this. Hang in there. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, take a yoga class or do whatever it is that puts you at peace. It is so important to slow down and remember why you started. You started most likely because you no longer wanted to feel stressed by that office job, or chase a dream of doing what you love full time. Don't let it catch up with you and bite you in the butt. Keep calm and ride each wave as it comes. Growth brings a whole new set of challenges, but also so much good. Don't forget all the reasons you started your business and what makes you happy. It's okay to drop projects that are too much, it's okay to miss a deadline as long as you are communicating well with your clients, it's okay to just take a moment to relax.
i want to hear from you!
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love to hear from my readers! Leave me a comment below or send me an email via my contact page. I would love to get to hear about you and your business, how you have dealt with a growth spurt and more! I look forward to connecting soon.