This post has been on my heart for quite some time. Last week, I hosted a webinar about booking more senior clients and this was a question that I kept seeing pop up in the chat. It’s a topic that is SO close to my heart and one that I love teaching on…so I’m thrilled to be typing this blog post today! For those who may not know me well, I began my business as a junior in high school at the age of 16. By the time I turned 17, I was a licensed business owner that attended high school part-time while I pursued my business. At 18, right after graduation, I revoked my admission from a 4-year university for business to take my business full time. That was 3 years ago…and I’ve been living my dream ever since 🙂 This is definitely the “cliff notes” version of my story…but it’s one that resonates with a lot of young business owners!
I have such a huge heart for other photographers who are beginning their business journeys at a young age. While starting your business young is exciting and fun…it also presents it’s own set of unique challenges. I learned quite a few things the hard way when I was just starting out…and my hope is that this blog and my education is used as a platform to encourage and inspire other business owners to chase their dreams no matter WHAT age!
One of the challenges we face as young business owners is gaining our client’s trust. How in the world are brides going to trust a 17 year old with their WEDDING images? What can we do to ensure that our brides view us as professional and trustworthy? What can I do to reassure my clients that my age does not affect my business? Here are 5 things that I did in my own business to gain my client’s trust when I was beginning my business in high school:
While I did share frequently about the exciting moments happening during high school (senior prom, graduation, etc.), I was very intentional about not sharing anything that could make me appear immature or unprofessional. I didn’t post about hanging out with my friends, going to parties or pep rallies, etc. I curated my social media and blog posts to ensure my age was never the FOCUS of what I was sharing, but instead portrayed as just a minor detail 🙂 And, when I did share about things like graduation, balancing work and school, senior prom, etc., I shared about them in a way that ELEVATED my business.
2. CREATE A CONSISTENT CLIENT EXPERIENCE
One of the number one things that shows professionalism in business is creating consistency. From the beginning of my business, I wanted to ensure that I had a consistent client experience from initial contact all the way through gallery delivery. If my client experience seemed sporadic and inconsistent, it could reflect on my young age and inability to balance business and education. So, I locked in a client experience that I could stick with including template emails, questionnaires, shooting structure, turnaround times, gallery delivery, client gifts, etc.
3. TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY…EVEN IF NO ONE ELSE DOES
This was the hardest part for me. As someone who was attending a public high school while growing my business…it wasn’t always received well. I was mocked and made fun of, I had horrible things posted about me on social media and one of the things my peers said most often is “why does she think she’s such a big deal?” or “why does she take herself so seriously?” But, looking back, one of the reasons my business grew so quickly is BECAUSE I took myself seriously…so my clients did, too. I was professional in the way I shared online, in the way I communicated to my clients and in the way I dressed. I handled myself as a professional business owner, even when I was shooting with cheap, used equipment from Ebay! The fact that I took myself seriously made my clients view me the same way.
4. FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT
This is a term that I teach about frequently in my online classes and webinars…but it’s an important one! In the point above I mentioned that my clients started taking me seriously because I took MYSELF seriously…and that same concept applies here. When I was in the early stages of my business, I worked hard to go out and HUSTLE. I did shoots for friends, set up styled shoots with models and was constantly out creating new content to be sharing. And even though I was rarely getting PAID bookings in those first 6 months…I was being PERCEIVED as a photographer that was in demand. And because I LOOKED busy, I BECAME busy.
5. INVEST IN EDUCATION
This one is going to seem like a self-promotion…but I promise you that it isn’t! I don’t care WHERE you invest in your education…but it was one of the things that was a game-changer for me. I shared THIS post in 2015 about the value of investing in education, but I can’t emphasize it enough. I prioritized education as a financial investment in the first two years of my business, and I truly believe it was one of the largest contributors to my business’ success. I attended more than 10 workshops, 5 conferences, dozens of online courses, purchased countless products and spent hours and hours and hours investing my time into GROWING. I learned from some of the industry’s leaders that guided me and inspired me to build my business the RIGHT way…even when I had no idea what I was doing! Investing in education can be scary…but it is SO worth it! And as young business owners, we are able to prioritize these types of investments before we have crazy bills and expenses as wives or mothers. Don’t miss out on taking advantage of this!!
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