Welcome back, friends! This week, we’re talking about three things you MUST do to start getting paying clients if you’re a new business owner!
Being a creative entrepreneur looks really great from the outside, doesn’t it? Spoiler alert: it kind of is! Ok, that is not always true . . . but in all honesty, I LOVE my job. I love working for myself! I can tell you first-hand that being a creative entrepreneur can be really rewarding and exciting! But, actually getting started is usually the hardest part. So we’re chatting today about three strategies that are going to jumpstart your creative endeavors and start getting you paying clients ASAP (and I think one of these things is going to surprise you!)!
A little backstory: before I started HBP (when it was just a *gleam in my eye*), I had NO IDEA where to begin, so I decided to try everything to see what would stick. At the beginning of 2015, I had never shot a wedding in my life, but by the end of 2015, I was well on my way to being FULLY BOOKED for my first full-time year AND had replaced my full-time salary. I tried a lot of things. Some worked, some didn’t, and there were a few things that stood out among the rest! I’m sharing those today!
Every single creative person I’ve ever mentored has received this advice from me. If you want to do anything creative and get paid for it, you need a website. A website is your digital storefront – it’s where people can find you to buy something from you. It doesn’t matter how simple or imperfect your website is. One of the best things you can do to start getting paying clients is to have a website!
You might be wondering: “I don’t even have one client yet, how can I make a website?” or “what would I even put on it? I have no portfolio!” My answer is still YES! You need a website! My first website had nothing but portraits of my friends on it. Had I shot a single wedding before? No! Had I ever been paid to take a photo? No! But I had to PUT IT OUT THERE! People just need to know that you exist – that this is actually something you’re doing! YOU also need to commit – to put yourself out there. I will be the first to tell you that it is SCARY (and if you think it’s scary too, then know that that’s NORMAL!) Starting a business IS putting yourself out there. Get used to that feeling now – be BRAVE! You can do this!
So you’re sold on the idea of a website but you don’t know where to begin, right? Yes, it can feel pretty overwleming, but it doesn’t have to be! I’m going to break it down into manageable steps.
First, you’ll need a domain name (the URL address, i.e. HannahBjorndal.com), a host (where your information is stored) and a platform to build the site on (like WordPress).
Already feeling overwhelmed? Thankfully, the internet is the internet, and there are several online companies that can set all of this up for you! A few of my recs:
I highly recommend Squarespace for first-time website-makers. It’s a relatively small investment with clean, beautiful website template designs.
My own site is a ShowIt site (great for photographers and other image-heavy website!), and I really love them, too!
Unless you happen to be a computer programer, keep things as simple as possible. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect (I still see tons of imperfections in my website!) – just get it out there!
Now, what to put your site? Start with the basics: a home page, an about page, and a contact page.
The home page should give visitors a brief overview of what it is that you do.
The about page should tell your visitors more about you personally.
The contact page should give visitors a way to get in touch with you. Any other pages can be added after.
Finally, plan to make this an investment. A website is probably going to cost you between $150-300/year to start. Don’t let this stop you. Any new business is going to require some start-up costs – this might even be the first time you’re spending money on your new business! I definitely don’t want to downplay the financial commitment, but a couple hundred for the entire year is inconsequential compared to what you’ll be able to make with your new digital storefront! And, as a bonus, you can pay monthly if you don’t want to pay for a year upfront!
Ok this next one is prob going to surprise you, ESPECIALLY if you’ve already dipped your toe in the creative business world. The next thing you need to do is:
There is a lot of talk about “charging what your worth” in the creative industry – they say you should NEVER discount, NEVER work for free . . . you get the picture. But listen: you ARE new to the game! You DO need to put yourself out there! You need to build a portfolio!
The key is to be STRATEGIC about what you do for free. Ask yourself:
What will I gain from this afterwards that will get me closer to paying clients?
Who will I meet and are they a valuable connection?
What actions do I need to take to make sure this helps me get to the next step in my biz?
An example for my photographers: When I was first getting started, I photographed TWO couples’ sessions for free. They were friends of mine who were well-connected and had a lot of friends that would be getting married soon. I asked them to tag me and post to social media in return for free photos. I was also able to connect with their friends on IG and tag them in Facebook photos to be seen. This gave me content to post AND connected me to potential clients!
Another example: before I started offering mentoring sessions for creative entrepreneurs, I got to know a few photographers who were a year or two behind me in their work. I got to know them and their needs. I was able to learn a pattern of issues that helped me create content. I even asked them for reviews to put on my website and act as references to potential clients!
So, figure out what work you can offer to others that is going to elevate YOU and get you to where you want to be. Never work for free just to work for free – always make sure there is a payoff!
Finally . . .
Slowly and steadily, you need to plant seeds. You need to tell people what you’re doing. NO ONE will hire you if NO ONE knows about you, and the EASIEST way to spread awareness is to simply talk about it!
Telling people can (and should) be done in multiple ways. First of all, there is social media. Oh, social media. How we love you and we hate you! Instagram and Facebook were my heroes in my first year of business – without them, I would have only booked a tiny fraction of the couples that I actually ended up booking. Social media is your outlet to share what you’ve been up to. Much like a regular, personal post, posting about your creative business is a chance to show friends what is going on in your life!
Are you reading this and already feeling yucky about talking about yourself and your passions on social media? I’ve been there! What you’re doing is likely pretty personal to you and it forces you to be vulnerable and open yourself to criticism. Friends, DO NOT LET THIS STOP YOU! Does this require growing slightly thicker skin? Yes – but maybe not even as thick as you think!
Personally, I remember feeling very self-conscious about my photography business. In 2014, I was working at a wedding networking company. Both I and my teammates were looking and hundreds of wedding photographers’ websites each week (before calling them and trying to sell them advertising!). Everyone’s standard for “great” photography was pretty high – much higher than the average person! I was so new to wedding photography and very self-conscious about my pathetic portfolio and super self-conscious. So self-conscious, in fact, that I totally hid my creative passion from everyone! It wasn’t until another team member saw my Facebook page that anyone knew I was even interested in photography!
But then, something amazing happened. Instead of hearing tons of criticism and teasing (even behind my back), I received love and support. I hadn’t even been at that job very long, and to be honest, these were the people that I least expected to support me! I mean, they had seen the BEST of the best, why would they care about my work?! My friends, peers and even people I hadn’t met at at my job became some of my very first (and most loyal!) fans. I still get teared up thinking’ about it! Can you imagine how much more business I would have received if I had just TOLD PEOPLE?
SO. Let’s get back to the point: You need to tell people that you’re doing this thang!
Social media is an amazing chance to start the conversation, not make the sales pitch. Use posts as opportunity to give followers an inside look at what you’re doing. Be honest and don’t worry about making it look perfect because it’s not gonna happen if you’re waiting until your feed looks “perfect.” Decide which platforms make the most sense and commit to using them. You don’t necessarily need to make a separate account (in fact, I highly encourage you to use your personal account and blend your creative passion in with what you’re already posting!) – just start doing it! Be sure to not only post, but also interact with friends AND friends of friends (the best place to find your first clients!). Because once they start getting to know you and what you do, they’ll remember you as an option when they’re looking to hire someone!
There is another way to talk to people about your business – straight-up, face-to-face talking! You can literally tell people within a conversation. For many (if not most) of my creative friends, this feels kind of weird or icky. Don’t worry: I’m not telling you to brag. Just be honest. Tell your friends and family that you’re trying something new. Be willing to be vulnerable: you can even share that you’re nervous or a little self-conscious! BUT also be confident! You’re doing this because you love it. Even if you’re not perfect, you’re ready to work hard and be the best you can be. It’s amazing how friends and family will come around you and support you when you’re upfront and honest about your passions!
SO to recap, if you’re a new biz owner tuning in, here’s what you need to do as soon as you’re done listening:
And keep tuning in to this podcast to learn more about how you can grow your business!
Thanks again so much for listening, I release a new episode EVERY week, so please come back soon! And if you are learning from this podcast, do me a HUGE favor and leave a review!!!
Romantic with moody fall vibes and jewel tones, this wedding was cozy and so beautifully designed.
La Vie En Rose photographs their 100th wedding at an all-time favorite wedding venue, Rockhouse Hotel.
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