What It's Really Like to Start a Business

It’s been about seven months since I left my corporate design job. One day, Ben applied for a job he didn't think he'd get and all of the sudden, everything fell into place. He was offered the job within the week and they wanted him to start almost right away. We had to prepare to move across the state to Virginia Beach. We didn’t have a lot of time to even decide what I was going to do job-wise.

We had been talking about me starting a business for a while before any of that came up. I’d actually had a photography business during and after college – I absolutely loved it but when I got my design job, I had to slow down with the photography thing. A lot of people complain about their nine to fives but my corporate job was satisfying. The experience was valuable, and the people I worked with taught me so much. The end goal was always to gain experience and eventually have my own business again but I didn’t expect the chance to come so soon.

Ben immediately encouraged me to start planning my business, insisting that he knew I could do it. I’m lucky to have a supportive husband! I agreed, a little nervously though because while I had my photography business, I was in college and had another job so I wasn’t totally relying on my business for income. During the winter (slow season), it was ok because I had other income. 

Regardless of that fear though, I launched my business in March and began the journey – I started getting some clients, and booking a few photo shoots. Although it's been a short amount of time that I’ve been in business, I’ve learned SO much more than I ever thought I would. People have a certain idea of what they think starting a business is like, or what "soloprenuers" do on a daily basis. Today I’m sharing some things I’ve learned in the short time I've been in business – my personal experiences of what it's been like for me so far.

 

1 | It’s lonely: First and foremost. This is probably made worse for me by the fact that we moved to a new city and don’t have a church or friends yet. When you are used to working on a team, working alone in your house or coffee shop is a giant transition. I mean GIANT. The first month or two, I was in a little bit of culture shock. Needless to say, staying in touch with friends and family is crucial for maintaining my sanity.

2 | People won’t get it: I had people flat out tell me they didn’t think it was a good idea. No lie, it stung a little bit. It’s not always easy to have friends, family, or people you respect basically tell you they don’t think you can do it. While only a few people had the guts to tell me their honest opinion, most did it out of love. They didn’t want to see me fail, so I couldn’t be angry with them. Eventually, they saw that I WAS doing ok and came around. I’m sure there was a certain person or two who didn’t think I was good enough, and that’s ok too. There is no point in dwelling on negativity. It just gives me ambition to prove them wrong.

3 | Time management is key: So now I can do what I want, when I want. Sounds great, right? Well...yes it is, but I’ve had to relearn how to manage my time. I work really well under time constraints and pressure so having the opposite situation took time to adjust to. It’s too easy to work too much and work weird hours – that personally causes burnout for me. For the most part, I have settled back into a loose 8-5 schedule, with some occasional working in the evening.

4 | Multiple streams of income is necessary: Having multiple ways to bring in income will help while getting your business going. I’m a photographer and graphic designer – but those aren’t the only services I offer.

My income sources are

My Etsy shop: I sell photography prints in my Etsy shop including England photos, local Virginia Beach sites, and Outer Banks photos (Cape Charles and Assateague Island will hopefully be coming later this fall!).

Photoshoots: Portraits, products, and weddings. I also offer special headshot sessions and yearly mini sessions.

Photo mentoring: Almost like a photography lesson – you can spend time with me and I’ll help you learn to use your camera and teach you shooting techniques such as using light and posing.

Graphic Design: I offer various packages suited for large or small businesses.

It can be difficult to get things going in a new city but with several streams of income, I’ve been able bring in more money than if I were just offering one product or service.

5 | It’s hard work: This should be obvious, but work doesn’t come to you at first. It’s important to make a lot of contacts, network, cold email, etc. just to get a few leads. And those few leads may lead to one or two jobs. It is TOUGH. Once you become a little more known and your clients say good things about you, people may start approaching you first but it takes time and hard work to get there. I'm still working at it!

6 | It’s rewarding: Is it stressful at times? Yes. Burnout happens, reworking goals and other aspects of the business happens. But every new booking and every sale makes everything totally worth it. It’s SO satisfying. The moment where you realize that people actually want to work with you and see the value of what you’re offering is a great feeling.

 

Starting a business on your own isn’t just lounging around in yoga pants, drinking coffee all day, and waking up at 10am. You need to be willing to work hard, face rejection regularly, and still keep moving forward with your head up. It’s been a tough road so far. I’ve had to leave my comfort zone and overcome a lot of uncertainty. I’ve had to become stronger mentally to handle all of the variables – but I’ve grown as a person and I wouldn’t trade what I do for anything.

What's your experience starting a business?