How I booked out my business in my very first year

When I first started my business I remember feeling a bunch of things like…

  • How the heck to get the word out??
  • Where do I start?
  • What should I focus on?

Does any of this sound familiar?

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When I was first getting started in my business, I had worked for other businesses in the administrative part, but the idea of actually RUNNING my own felt super intimidating. 

That overwhelmed feeling kicks in with “what the heck am I doing?!”

But here’s the first piece of advice I want to give you…

Get some necessity. 

It was NECESSARY for me to get this business off the ground and make it successful. I didn’t have another option. Why? Because I hated my job. 

My necessity was to get out of the pit that made me dread every morning, cry many nights and lose all hope of patience and grace with others. 

I was miserable and I was desperate for a way out. 

Your necessity might look very different from mine, but the key here is make it an absolute NECESSITY to make your business successful.

This is also called your WHY, but I’ve noticed we often choose very basic “why I’m doing this” phrases that we think make us feel and look good.

Don’t do this. 

Pick a WHY that makes your action feel so necessary, you might not survive without it. 

Yes, I’m being dramatic, but necessity does in fact mean: “The fact of being required or indispensable.”

So make creating, growing or even scaling your business a necessity! Find something that makes it absolutely necessary for you to make this happen.

This is what I did when I first got started. 

I knew I needed a way out, but I wasn’t willing to find yet ANOTHER office job. (I’ve had too many as it is...) And the idea of working for myself instead of some corporation with all the red tape made me feel like I was soaring among the clouds. 

I wanted to feel like I was soaring every day. 

If you take nothing else away from this blog post, make it necessity. This isn’t optional, this is required. 

So let me  break it down for you even further. 

When I first started my business, I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. I thought about my most obvious skills/tales and built upon them. 

I was already a photographer at this time. I did photography on the side, but kept it pretty quiet (because I didn’t believe I could make it a full time gig), so I started here. 

I thought about my current network, at the time it was Real Estate Agents, and I knew they needed headshots, because every agent needs headshots. And I also knew that lots of their headshots were outdated, and I further knew that they were not marketing themselves as well as they could be…

So, I offered Branding Photography specifically. I would come in, work with you on your personal brand, and provide you with multiple images you could use to sell yourself, your services, your brand. 

I started with the company I currently worked for! I even took a day off from my current job, just to partner with one of our branches and take branding photos for all the agents in one place on one given day (to make it easy).

I got paid more on that day, than I would have working…

This was the fire that lit my butt into gear. 

Realizing that one half-day of photography brought in more money than my full-day of working in the office. I was hooked. 

But let’s stop here a minute and notice a few things. 

  1. I surveyed my current network (the people that already knew me)
  2. I figured out their need — what THEY needed
  3. I combined that with what I LOVE to do
  4. I took a risk — taking a whole day off from the day job
  5. I reaped the reward and received the validation I needed to do more

Be aware of your current network, and don’t be afraid to offer what’s needed for them RIGHT NOW. You can always change your services in the future.

Note that change does not occur without risk. I had to risk my income and precious time off (even if it was only a day, it felt really scary). 

After this branding photo session, I had several referrals. I worked with over 10 people that day, and all of them told their friends and family. 

Out of those 10 people, 3 new referrals came in requesting photos. 

But here’s where I amped it up several notches. 

I realized that there was a deep need for understanding what branding is, how to do it, and how to market oneself. 

**Note here: I listened and paid close attention to the NEED that was surrounding me. 

In order to best serve this current network, I realized that they needed education on branding. So I added Branding services to my repertoire. 

I added an entire branding suite that included: Graphic Design, Branding Education, Marketing Education, and Branding Photos. 

I became a one-stop-shop for my clients. (Which was another need, they didn’t want to have to go from person to person for all these items, they wanted to work with one person — I wanted to become that one person). 

I worked with a good friend of mine to hone my process. She was my guinea pig and first client. I gave her my services for free and asked that she be my evangelist and tell everyone she knew. 

It paid off. 

Just from working with her, I received two clients for my entire brand package that I priced VERY "fairly" (i.e. too cheap), but I had priced it in such a way that it covered my normal day job paycheck. 

Once those two clients came into the picture, I quit my day job and did this work full time. From those two clients, three more came in, and because of the price point and workload, I only took on one client at a time (one a month). 

I sprinkled in my branding clients with branding photography projects (one day events). 

In my very first year of business, I made a profit and I’ve continued to make a profit ever since. 

You can do this too! But I wanted you to hear this story (even in its very shortened version), because you need to know what’s required of you.

This wasn’t easy to do. 

It took 12+ hour days. 

It took working 2 full-time jobs. 

It took persistence, perseverance, and brave fear.

It took listening.

It took solving LOTS of problems.

It took researching day and night. 

It took educating myself every day.

It took trying out new programs.

It took constantly moving out of my comfort zone.

It took hours and hours on the computer.

It took tight money months.

It took wearing ALL the hats.

It took providing the best possible customer service.

It took a lot…

And I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

So here’s what it narrows down to:

  1. Necessity
  2. Network / Connections
  3. Listening
  4. Risk
  5. Listening again
  6. Refining
  7. Network / Connections
  8. Risk
  9. Reward

(Repeat as necessary). ;)

There’s a whole lot more that happened in my very first year of business and I’d love to help answer any of your questions. Comment below and let me know if you have any questions about how I got started — I would love to share and help in any way I can.