How I Started My Business (Full-Time!)

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One of the most asked questions that I get by far is HOW I started my first business. 

I have been SO thankful over the fact that when I started my first business (a wedding photography business) in 2010 I got to work it full-time right from the get go until I transitioned into working my SECOND business (my online business) full-time in 2016.

If you're curious about the steps I took to start my online business, then check out this blog post right here.

But here in this post, I'll explain how I started my FIRST business. My photography biz. Sound good? Awesome!

So let's see ... where do I begin? How about from the beginning!

Here's a quick summary of my backstory on how my business came about ... 

In August (or was it September?) 2009 after pursuing a few jobs that did not end up being my jam (like acting in California and starting my own wedding planning business,) one day it suddenly struck me: I loved weddings ... I loved photography ... I NEEDED TO START A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS!

Bam. Just like that.

I knew from the age of 16 when I got my first job at Steak'N'Shake that I wanted to one day own my own business and be my own boss, and now I finally had an idea that just FELT RIGHT and that I was super excited about!

At the time I was living in Los Angeles but was planning on making the move to Kansas City during the spring of 2010. So I had 6-ish months to get things started and to prepare for my business launch!

My hope was to hit the ground running full-time once I returned back to the midwest, and I did. Here are some of the steps I did to make it happen ...

1. I had money saved to cover my startup expenses.

As soon as I got the idea to start my wedding photography business, I immediately bought the minimal amount of camera gear that I needed. (I had never even owned a DSLR before, just a point and shoot!) I had the money saved already and did not go into debt to purchase my equipment. 

Sure it was temping to by tons of extra gear and several new lenses, but I believe one of the keys to my success was investing more into my business (i.e. purchasing more equipment) as my business grew and I made more money.I grew my inventory wisely as my business grew. I never went into debt.

2. I got a website and Facebook page up within that first week.

I knew I needed people to see my work ASAP in order to book things, so I chose a business name, purchased a domain name through GoDaddy and got a website and Facebook page up. At the time I had NO wedding work to show and I hardly even had images from my new DSLR to put up, so I literally posted personal photos from my point and shoot camera. They were not great obviously, but they were something.

3. I was confident and bit the bullet.

Did I let the fact that I basically had no portfolio to show people stop me? No. I developed a successful, dream chasing mindset and I posted the best personal stuff that I had to at least get something up and worked feverishly to practice with my new camera to make new images! I shot lots of free sessions in California for practice and to build my portfolio as quickly as I could. In the mean time ...

4. I asked lots of questions.

I reached out to lots of photographers who I admired with questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions! We all start some where. I asked for advice on what camera/lens to purchase first, a good website design company, what focus mode I should have my camera on ... I pretty much asked a question about EVERYTHING, and if I didn't ask an actual person than I asked Google. (Speaking of asking questions, Facebook groups with like-minded people are a great place to ask questions! If you're a creative lady boss, feel free to join my free Facebook group! We're pretty cool, yo.)

Plus, I come into the group live every single week for "Coffee Talks" to chat, answer questions and to help you build a profitable blog!

5. I came up with a rough business plan + actionable goals.

A business plan is a must! At the time I was kind of inexperienced and just flying by the seat of my pants and learning as I went, but I still wrote a brief business plan with how much money I needed to make, how many weddings I'd need to book each month etc. The more detailed you can get with your business plan and actionable goals, however, the better.

(Speaking of a business plan, check out this post for a step-by-step guide on how to write one- it includes a free editable template!)

Aaaaand speaking of goals, I've got a free goal setting workbook to help you not only set kick butt goals, but to help you map out actionable steps so that you can actually achieve them!

It's pretty rad. ;-)

6. I networked.

I immediately started sharing photos on Facebook and getting the word out. I told friends, I told family, I told friends of friends. "Hey! Know anyone getting married? I'm just starting out and am booking weddings for a very low price!" I created banners advertising this little tidbit on Facebook and guess what? I booked my first client that way. And my second. And my third. With absolutely NO wedding portfolio. By the time I moved to Kansas City I already had both weddings and sessions booked. AND my portfolio had grown from all the free sessions I had been shooting in California!

(Remember that free Facebook mastermind for lady bosses that I mentioned? It's great for networking! :::cough cough:::)

7. I kept my living expenses LOW.

When I first moved to Kansas City, my living expenses were kept very low because I lived with a friend for the first 6 months. When you are just starting your business, it's super important to have some money saved and to keep your living expenses as low as possible until things get going for you. If you can't live with a friend (like I did, ha!) then you might need to cut some luxuries for awhile ... like those fancy pants coffee drinks! Make sure you set a budget and stick with it.

8. I faked it til I made it, baby!

Because that's totally what I did. I created my website and it looked professional and clean and I acted like a seasoned wedding photographer even though I uh ... had never shot a wedding before. Ehem. 

And guess what? It was the exact same with blogging. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing when I first started. But I figured things out and made it happen!

9. I kept learning, kept networking, kept practicing and learned as I went.

I started my business before I felt ready, but with hard work, lots of questions, practice, more work and a business plan I made it! Keep going. Learn as you go.

10.  I showed up everyday and I took action.

There are SO many reasons why people fail to take action. They might be scared, feel overwhelmed, too busy with life, waiting for the perfect time etc. And guess what? One of the main reasons why people don't "make it" or achieve their dream is because they either fail to take action or they give up too soon.

Don't let that be you!!! Seriously. You need to fight for your dreams to make them happen. (In my mind, I've got boxing gloves on with the Rocky theme song playing in the background!)

Having the correct mindset to kick fear IN THE BUTT is CRUCIAL for success. Watch the video below from my Youtube Channel on how you can develop an entrepreneurial mindset! It really is SO important.

And there you have it, the story of how I started my first business and the steps I went through to make it happen! I definitely took the "learn as you go" approach. 

You CAN DO IT. :-)

xoxo
Allison