4 Tips for Building Your Business From the Ground Up

Photography

Nicole Hill

by

If you clicked on this blog post, I’d guess that you KNOW how it feels to feel like the new kid on the block. You’re no stranger to imposter syndrome, you know what it’s like to start something new, and you’ve felt that fear deep in your chest.

We’re going to flip the script, girl.

So, I want you to close your eyes, put your hand on your chest, and take a deeeeeeep breath.

I want you to remember that everyone — EVERYONE — starts at the beginning. You weren’t put on this earth to walk scared, and you definitely didn’t click on this blog post because you like snapping photos sometimes. You came on here because you have that pull in your heart to start a photography business — and that, in itself, is special. You feel like you’re meant to be something more, because you ARE. 

Even if you feel like you’re starting from scratch.

In fact, starting from scratch is a great place to be — you’re right where you’re supposed to be, and you have freakin’ got this, girl. If you have zero experience, I have you covered.

First up? Own your power.

When you’re first starting out as a photographer, there’s conflicting advice everywhere about starting a photography business. Some people swear by a specific type of camera, some people stick to airtight launch strategies, some people are convinced you can’t start out without a photography degree and a client roster.

They’re wrong. Starting a photography business isn’t about having all of the things checked off on an arbitrary checklist. Starting a photography business is all about believing you can do it, about working incredibly hard, and about knowing that you’re worth it.

Full stop.

In fact, you can have ALLLLL the things — a fancy new camera, thousands of dollars of gear, a custom-designed website, and inquiries upon inquiries — and you can still go nowhere without that genuine, true belief in yourself. It might sound woo-woo, okay? But, it’s true.

So, before you head over to the camera store or start building that website or work on your portfolio, you have one job — to go over to the mirror, to look at yourself, and to tell yourself (out loud!) that you. are. a. photographer.

Repeat after me:

“I am a photographer. I am a photographer. I am a photographer.”

No matter what gear you have, no matter what experience you carry, no matter how many clients you’ve booked, no matter if your portfolio is all photos of your neighbor’s dog, no matter what fear is whispering in the back of your head… you are a photographer.

Once you hold on to that, once you believe it with all that you are, and once you’re unapologetic about it, you WILL succeed. Own that power, girl. When you refuse to own that power, when you spend time saying that you’re not good enough, and when you don’t give yourself credit, you downplay yourself and your business. You let the fear win.

We’re not going to let the fear win. Why? Because, girl. You are a photographer. Say it again.

4 Tips for Starting a Photography Business from Scratch

When it comes to starting a photography business, so much of the beauty is in the journey — in the moving, and the shaking, and the growing, and the learning. When you realize that, and when you finally see that starting a photography business is so much more than accounting and client lists, you finally start to grow. 

Here are 4 of my tips for starting from scratch (and enjoying every dang moment along the way):

1. Celebrate your journey, and then keep it going.

How many times in your life have you looked back on something and realized that you took it for granted? Don’t do that with your business, okay? So often, we do that with photography — especially when we’re starting out. The thing is, people call life and business a journey because it is one. You may not be as technically excellent as you want to be right now, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s what you want! You want to be able to continue growing and learning and experiencing and improving — and that means that you have to be comfortable with where you are. Enjoy it. Show up. Keep going. It matters so, so much more than you think.

I’ll put it like this: maybe you have dreams of being a really, really celebrated portrait photographer — but right now, your portfolio is pretty much just pictures of your friends and family. Instead of looking at that with the mindset of “it could always be better,” look at it as a celebration of your talent — and then, later on, look at it as a measure of how far you’ve come. Everyone starts somewhere. Don’t lose out on the journey because you’re so incredibly focused on the endgame.

2. You have to learn by doing.

This might seem like simple advice, but you will not get better if you don’t throw yourself into learning and doing as much as you can. It doesn’t matter if you think you don’t like a certain style of photography or if something doesn’t turn out like you wish it would — just do it anyways! By throwing yourself into as much photography as you can, you’ll actually be able to find out what really lights you up, what really brings you joy, and what really taps into that inner fire. Appreciate every single moment and opportunity you have to practice and to learn, and you’ll be shocked by how much you grow.

When I was in photography school (long before I decided I wanted to be a fashion photographer), I studied all kinds of techniques and forms — and they all taught me things that I use to this day. When I studied product photography, I was able to understand the importance of details. When I studied celebrity photography, I unlocked the meaning behind expression and connection with your subject. Every single aspect of photography teaches you something different and helps you shape your own style — so take advantage of every single moment you can.

3. Stop taking yourself so seriously.

If you spend more time anxious and worried and performing in your business than you do having fun, you’re in trouble. You have to stop putting so much pressure on yourself to be the very best all the time — and instead, you have to be okay with the realization that you’re not going to be… and that’s okay. When you do that — when you’re okay with the mess-ups and the blurry photos and the growth — you’re able to create a style and build a business that reflects what you’ve learned. When you don’t do that — when you let the imposter syndrome win out, when you spend your time upset, when you don’t have fun — you isolate yourself within your own unrealistic expectations, and you burn your light right on out.

Let yourself start small, give yourself permission to have fun, and let the change and the lessons happen to you. Approaching your business that way gives you room to be a malleable, strong, growth-minded photographer — and that’s how you really go about starting a business that gives you joy, creates a killer client experience, and showcases your art. Build that kind of business.

4. You have to find the luck yourself.

It’s so easy to get yourself caught up in bitterness and that “what if?” kind of thinking when you’re in the throes of starting a business. It’s not abnormal to feel like everyone else is luckier than you, or more talented than you, or better than you. But, thinking like that is also how you sell yourself short. You see, you have to find your own luck. In a world with lots of photographers everywhere you turn, you have to work hard. You have to put in the hours, you have to make some sacrifices, and you have to let your dream win out every single time. That’s the key to starting a photography business that lasts. 

So, focus on finding luck for yourself. Be okay with things being hard when you’re starting out, and make that luck come to you. Chase after those dreams of yours until you don’t have any more air left — because those, my girl, are the dreams that turn into magic.

If you’re just now starting out, you’re in the right place to create a business and a career that fulfills you in every single way. I can see it already — can’t you? Keep your eyes open around here, because we’re about to share something that will help you build that beautiful business you’ve been dreaming of — and help you the right way. 

ARE YOU READY?

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meet the photographer

HI! I'M NICOLE HILL

I've spent the last decade of my life traveling the world as a fashion photographer and I created Horizon Found to give you everything I wish I had when I was starting my career. Here you'll find community, inspiration, and education - to help guide you down the path towards building the photography business of your dreams. My dream is to use this platform to help build a supportive environment in the photography industry.

I'M HERE FOR YOU!

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