Running a business is hard. And especially in those first few years, when you are often juggling running your business alongside another job or parenting. If you’re anything like me, in those first couple of years, I didn’t pay myself much money. I had enough to get by, so I used the money I was making to help grow my business. Some of the things I spent money on were a complete waste of time, but today I thought I’d share with you the best investments I made in my business, and how they helped me to grow and quit my ‘day job’ after 2 years.
The 5 Best Investments I Made In My Business
1. An Accountant
Right from the first year, I hired an accountant to do my accounts and tax return. I’ve never been that great with tracking my finances, and even though I wasn’t earning a great deal at the start, my account helped me save a lot of money in taxes by claiming for all kinds of things that I would never have considered had I done my own tax return. It also gave me such huge piece of mind knowing that everything would be done correctly (and on time!).
2. SEO Consultant
It wasn’t until my 3rd year of business after I went full-time that I hired an SEO consultant to help me with my website. I knew some basics about SEO (or so I thought), but I wasn’t getting close to as many enquiries as I wanted. Having someone come and do a full analysis of my website after learning about what I wanted to rank for, pointing out the errors I was making and walking me through the steps of how to fix the existing issues and how to improve my domain authority and rank for my target search terms.
3. CRM System
For the first 2 years, my invoices were written up using a word document template and I sent my contracts with Adobe Sign. Because I only had a free account, I could only send out 3 contracts a month, and if I had to make any amendments to a contract, I had to cancel it and re-send, using up my credits. I had folders on my hard drive and in my Google Drive for each of my clients, and although I wasn’t disorganised, my workflow definitely wasn’t streamlined. As my business grew, it got a lot harder to manage my data, and then GDPR regulations changed making it even more important to keep everything in one place and secure. Although there were a few platforms to choose from, I chose 17 Hats. It allows me to send automated emails, keeps track of my workflow and makes sending contracts and invoices take seconds.
Some of the best opportunities that came about early on in my business arose because of workshops that I attended. Whilst many of the workshops had pretty similar content, just dressed up and presented in different ways, I took away something incredibly valuable from each one – an expanded network of industry peers. This network of people from these workshops led to a number of great friendships and a great online community of people I know I can turn to whenever I have questions or struggles. The best by far is the amazing community from SNAP, a week-long photography festival in the UK.
5. 1 on 1 Coaching
This is by far the most valuable thing I have invested in, and something I continue to invest in. As soon as I got a coach, I started to see huge changes and growth in my business. Having the guidance of a coach meant that I could stop searching for answers online and spending money on online courses that I never had the time to finish (or sometimes even start), and start getting help and guidance on specific areas that I wanted to work on and tailored advice for me and my business. And having the accountability of having someone to answer meant that I actually got a lot more sh*t done.
And the worst things I spent my money on?
Yes, better equipment can help you produce a better end result, but it isn’t the gear that makes a photographer. Some of the best photographers I know don’t have the top camera models, and only shoot on 2-3 lenses. I definitely don’t use half of the gear I’ve purchased over the years.
At the start I tried desperately to make my work look like other people’s by trying to edit with a certain look. Every time someone I followed advocated a new preset, I went and bought it. And guess what, I was never happy with them because it didn’t match my shooting style or my personality. Of course, my work has evolved but I’m still using the same 1-2 presets (or tweaked versions of them) that I have been for the last 2 years.
Online courses themselves aren’t a bad thing. But I’ve lost count at the number of courses I purchased because they promised to solve x,y, or z problem. With most of them, I’d start the course with gusto right after I purchased it, but there were so many that I never finished or found that they didn’t work that well with my business or personality (sorry J*).
I have spend so much on poorly targeted Facebook adverts and directory listings on platforms that were not the right fit for my business. Paid advertising can work, but I’ve learnt that it needs to be strategic. It no longer pays to just have an advert on a wedding blog. You need to know where you clients are, what platforms they are using, and more importantly, how they are using them.
If you are looking to invest in your business and yourself, contact me today to find out about mentoring sessions. In these sessions, we can cover anything from SEO to niche marketing, so that you can stop wasting time and money on things that aren’t bringing you bookings, and start finding your dream clients who will love you and your work.
I have 5 spots open in the new year and I’d love to help you build your business in to something amazing.