It seems like it was just yesterday that I was signing papers and filing forms with our attorneys to get our company registered and official. It was an exciting and nerve wracking time having finally made the decision to “sink or swim” by doing photography full time. In reality, that was over 9 years ago! As I look back and reflect on my progress as a photographer and businesswoman I can definitely say that I’ve grown in so many ways but perhaps the most growth has happened in the area of delegation.
I am Type A to the core. I was that kid that loathed group projects in school because I always ended up being the one that did all the work while everyone else got the credit. My parents always taught me that if I want something done properly then I need to do it myself. I took that advice to heart for a long time because for a long time, it worked! My success was only limited by myself and the harder I worked and the more I worked, the more success I had.
Then, all of a sudden, at 21, I wasn’t just a photographer anymore. I was a business owner. I was an accountant. I was human resources. I was payroll. I was advertising, branding, logo design. I was an editor, a salesperson, a consultant. I came to a full realization quite quickly about what it means to be your own boss and it was most definitely not rainbows and lollipops (although working in pajamas cuddled next to my 4 legged fur babies IS kind of awesome).
Slowly but surely I began to realize the value of hiring people to do what they do best. I was stubborn and this took forever, but after a few years of burning the midnight oil day in and day out, I was only 25 and feeling burned out. Totally ridiculous. Something had to give. Bit by bit I started letting go of responsibilities that were taking me away from what I want my day to be about. The biggest one was hiring an awesome accountant and payroll person. I cannot tell you the millions of pounds of stress this reduced. If you take one thing from this article it is that accountants are worth their weight and gold and you need to get one! Yes, they cost money, but compared to the amount they save me, the time they save me, and the peace of mind they give me, it’s worth it.
The next thing I let go of was branding. As much as my Applied Media Arts degree encompassed design and branding, I had to fess up to myself that really, I didn’t do all that much of it in school. I picked photography as a concentration and spent 90% of my time doing that. I love design, but really, there are many other people better suited than me to handle it. Appreciating small business, I went back to designers that I knew from school and got a logo redesign and branding redesign done and it was totally better than anything I’d come up with. (Time for a slice of humble pie!) After that, I took what my designer did to a person who specializes in paper goods to get all my marketing materials in shape. For years I had been doing small batch orders through my normal photo lab but hadn’t ever really “clicked” with an item. Plus, because the orders were bit by bit they were super expensive! Although I had to out put a fairly scary number to get my thank you cards, image boxes, and packaging all at once, I finally found exactly what I needed. No more time spent prepping files for print. No more expedited shipping fees on new stuff because I ran out and didn’t know it but needed to get something to a client ASAP. Most importantly, no more shopping around getting distracted by trying a multitude of flashy products that create inconsistent branding experiences for clients.
I’ve also finally started outsourcing my website. That was perhaps the scariest part of all for me despite knowing that I really kind of stink at web stuff. I’ve learned some minor programming and there are so many sites out there that tout free site builders that are super easy, that they had me believing I could do it. I probably can, but at what cost? How many hours spent toiling away at edits? How many articles read about what the latest SEO trick there is? How many hours spent actually DOING the SEO? How much constant vigilance does it take to make sure my site is staying compatible with the latest updates for the web and mobile browsers? How many seminars did I spend countless hours in looking for the latest trick to manage these things effectively? The answer is countless. I used to spend so much time worrying about my website that it made my head swim. It was a task I detested but still always thought would be more difficult to dole out to someone than just doing it myself. Finally, I saw the light and found a company that would do everything I needed them to do. The price per month isn’t my favorite bill to pay, but the quality of life and peace of mind I’ve gotten from not dealing with web stuff anymore is worth it. Plus, they do such a good job with the services I pay for, I’m getting far more business and traffic on my site than I ever achieved on my own.
Slowly but surely my 9+ years owning my business have taught me how to let go and to trust people to just do their jobs. My work/life balance has been enhanced dramatically and despite paying more money out for services than doing it myself, it’s come back to me and then some. My next adventure in letting go is probably going to be my hardest; I’m looking into outsourcing certain parts of my post production workflow. I haven’t made any decisions, yet, but looking ahead at my calendar for the year, I’m going to need some time to breathe that just isn’t there at the moment. When that happens, I’ll let you know how that adventure goes! In the meantime, let people do their job so that you can do what you do best: photography!