Hi there, y’all! We are continuing on with the Full Time Files where I’m sharing all of the behind-the-scenes of how I built a business from zero clients to going full time in under a year.
Why? Because when I was just starting out, I read all the blogs and business books I could get my hands on. And now it’s my turn to give back – to be the person I needed a year ago.
If you missed the first two posts, you can find those here:
I am so excited to talk about today’s topic: my pre-launch strategy. Now I’ve heard from so many of you who are following along with this series. And most of you have already launched your business! So why am I taking the time to share with you the game changers I did before I even announced my business? Because these are the steps I am repeating over and over again, tweaking every quarter to continue growing my business. So whether you’ve been rocking your business for five years and are ready to take it to the next step or you have a camera or another creative craft and a crazy dream to go full time, this is for you.
While there are definitely some things I didn’t quite nail when I started my business, my pre-launch strategy proved to be spot on and HUGE in helping me launch and grow a business which took off from the first day. So how did I do it? We’re going to break this down into a couple of steps. I’m going to do my best to keep this as concise as possible so if there’s something you want to hear more about or for me to delve into greater detail with, just leave me a comment below! Let’s dive in:
1. Have a clear business plan. It is easy to get caught up in the lie that as creativepreneuers, we are nothing more than glamorous hobbiest. That is a lie! You and me, we are businesswomen (or business men! I so appreciate you guys who tune in here too!). We are building livelihoods from the ground up. I’m going to be real honest here: creativepreneurs who are successful did not stumble their way into success. It takes strategy, planning, and analyzing. So take time to write out your business plan. And maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say ‘business plan’ and that is totally ok! I will be sharing the exact business plan template I use to this day later on in this series. So how did I learn this template? I had the opportunity to study Arts Entrepreneurship in one of the few programs in America. I took everything I learned from my classes on Art markets, consumption models, brand building, etc. and put it right into the launch of my business. And let me tell you, it works! Mastering your craft isn’t good enough in today’s saturated markets. Unless you know who you ideal client is – where they shop, how they spend their time, the colors and styles they prefer, what channels they are using to find you (or other people!) and therefore you can use, the resources (and types of resources) you already have for your business, clear goals and steps to reach them, etc. you are hardly even giving yourself a chance to succeed. Take time to develop a plan so that you know where you want to go (remember: your goals are your own) and how you are going to get there. And then revisit your strategy over and over again because it will constantly be changing as your business grows and you discover who your people are.
2. Build a website and develop a brand. Most people I talk to wait until several months (or even years) into their business before they take time to build a website and branding that is reflective of their business with the purpose to attract the clients they want. Phew! That was a mouthful so feel free to go read that one more time if you’re feeling a little lost. The very hardest part about starting a business is gaining trust and legitimacy. I’ll be a little vulnerable here, those first few months after I announced that I was now booking session, I kept waiting for someone to call me out as a total fraud. But they didn’t. Do you know why? Because I gave them no room to. I spent over a month developing a website that was beautiful, functional, and walked my potential clients through the A.B. Photo experience. I told them why they wanted to hire me. In a saturated marketplace, you have to be different. There needs to be a reason people want to shoot with you. It is not enough that your work is beautiful. You need to sell yourself – why shooting with you is an experience they cannot miss out on. And if you do not have a website sharing this information, the only chance they’ll ever come across it is through an occasional social media post that does not have the length, care, and attention you will capture on a website.
If you are lost with where to begin when building a website, I hear you! It is not an easy thing to do! I use SiteGround for hosting, my platform is WordPress, and my design is through FloThemes. I also hear wonderful things about ShowIt which is a drag and drop website builder designed for professional photographers .
3. Develop your portfolio. Now that you have that beautiful website and super cute logo, it’s time to fill your portfolio with images that attract your ideal client (remember: you know who this is by taking time to work through a business plan where you got to know all about them!). There are so many ways to do this but my very favorite ways are through a model call before you launch, second shooting, and a session giveaway right after you launch. You never want to announce that you will shoot for free. This immediately destroys your credibility and worth. Instead, share your vision for a shoot that is designed for your ideal client and then do a model call. This allows you to determine the location and wardrobe while getting your dream photos and never hurting your value. If anything, it shows people that you are an artist with inspiration and you are inviting people to be a part of that. This is still something I continue to do to this day! A second way to grow your portfolio is through second shooting. I booked my first SIX weddings showing only photos from weddings that I had photographed as a second shooter. A dear friend of mine was generous enough to let me tag along on several of her weddings the summer before I launched. I am so grateful for that because it allowed me to gain wedding experience while also building a beautiful portfolio which showed people I shot weddings and they could now hire me for theirs. The final thing I recommend is celebrating your launch with a giveaway. One week after I officially launched and let people know I was booking sessions, I announced that I would be giving away three mini sessions. This allowed me to build up buzz because people were following me, sharing the giveaway, and tagging others in it. Even better – I got to post about every single one of those sessions so I looked buys and people who look busy are seen as more successful. And you probably know where this is going, but if you look successful, people are going to trust you, hire you, and turn into your biggest cheerleaders! It also fully invited people to be a part of what I was doing and to start seeing me as a photographer. This brings me to the final part of my pre-launch strategy.
4. Invite people to be a part of your exciting new venture. Real talk here: you have to teach people what they should think about you. If you don’t call yourself a photographer, no one else is going to do it for you. So own that new title. Share constantly about what is happening in your new business so people have a chance to celebrate with you, to become your cheerleaders, and to begin seeing you the way you want to be seen. People love to be a part of something exciting. We are drawn to noise and color and crowds because we want to know what is going on and be a part of the buzz. So celebrate loudly your wins, even if you might think they’re nothing major. Trust me, I get it. It is scary to start putting yourself out there. But people aren’t waiting in the sidelines to call you a fraud. Really, I promise, they’re not! Your tribe, your cheerleaders, are already out there – you just need to let them know they’re on the team. What are you posting about? What are you talking about? Next time you get stumped about what to share, try telling others what you’re excited about, what your planning, what your dreams are. And let them celebrate with you. When people are invited into what is happening, they become invested in your success. They want to see you make it and so they’re going to share with others about what you’re doing. They will send business your way because you took the leap to let them be a part of what you are building. I may be the face of A.B. Photo – the business I am building – but the momentum and growth came from the people who were excited when I was excited, who bought into the business I was building and had to be a part of it. So find your cheerleaders and celebrate alongside with them. Your business truly will be so much better because of it.
Ok friend, I hope that was helpful! I’m so excited to hear about your big business dreams and would love to be a cheerleader for what you are doing. So leave me a comment below because I want to hear about your business and how you want to see it grow.
And if there is anything at all that you want more details on or other areas I haven’t touched on yet, let me know that below too! It is my joy to celebrate your business and serve you by sharing the things that have worked as I’ve built my business from nothing to going full time.