In the past years my mindset has grown, and today I can say I am a business owner. But what is the difference from being a business owner and being a photographer? Is being a business owner a dilution of the fun and the passion that made you start?
Let me start by saying that being a photographer and a business owner are not mutually exclusive. You can be both at the same time, as well as you can just be one of them. There is no right or wrong, and if you are planning for a scalable future, then you should start having a plan of moving from being a photographer to being a business owner.
Which one do you consider yourself to be?
Being a Photographer
In this post I am referring to being a photographer, but please keep in mind that you can be a carpenter or a marketer, it does not change the logic behind the “business owner” train of thoughts. Being a photographer means being a jack of all trades; you are your marketing manager, your sales person, your IT guy, your assistant and the photographer itself; however, the most important thing you do is taking photos. To make sure that everything runs smoothly, you are probably investing a huge chunk of your time. Emails, estimates, pre production and post production are your daily bread, and the success of your studio depends entirely on you.
This is one of the issues of being, first and foremost, a photographer. You are the biggest point of risk for your business. What happens if you get sick? And what if you get a surge of customers that drives you to shoot like crazy and have a huge backlog of tasks to complete. You are the weakest link. If you don’t reply to your email for a week, your business suffers.
Being a Business Owner
Being a business owner is more than owning your photo studio, it is a mentality. The mentality is that your studio is your playground, and as a business owner you have to do your best to make sure that it is healthy and safe. Moreover, a business owner has the tendency of asking herself: how can I make sure my business gets better and better?
First of all, you need to remove the risks, then you have to think how to expand. As we mentioned above, if you are the jack of all trades, you are also the main point of risk, therefore as a business owner your mentality is “how can I mitigate this risk“. The answer is simple: you have to make sure you are not the only one pushing things forward.
The second truth the business owner knows is that every single person has a maximum number of hours she can work every day. For how good you are, you have a limit, and if you hold all the keys to your business, your limits are your business limit.
Being a business owner is about looking at things differently, in a more broad approach.
about being both
I adore being a photographer, but as a business owner I am aware that as long as I don’t let go of my exclusive role, my business won’t be able to grow.
In order to make your business flourish, you have to let go. Let go of control, let go of the things “done your way“. For how much we love how we did our retouching, it was either the in-house retouching, or the marketing plan. And I could go on and on bringing examples of what are the things that you should let go, but I am sure you know what I am talking about. Whenever you have that “nobody could get it done better than me” feeling, you know you are not letting go os something.
Being both a photographer and a business owner is about understanding that you are not your business and your business is not you.
The moment you let go of the need of being everything, you will give your business the opportunity to flourish.
The risk of remaining just a photographer
Is there a risk of being “the photographer” and not the business owner? Well, yes and no. Everything depends on what you want to achieve. In being a business owner you open the path for your company to outgrow you, to be more than you are, which means that one day the brand you developed won’t be you any longer. If you love being the whole, if you like that feeling of being the brand inside out, then there is absolutely no problem.
If you are looking at a long term game, if you plan to take vacation without necessarily looking at your cashflow crashing because of your absence, then yes, there are risks in being “just a photographer”.
I would have loved to met someone able to make me understand this ten years ago. Unfortunately reading it and understanding it are one thing, making the concept of being a business owner yours is something different. You have to feel it and you have to be ready to be a business owner.
We are. Are you?