Welcome to this month’s Mind Your Business partnership post, co-authored by yours truly, Cody McBurnett, along with entrepreneur/photographer extraordinaire Carey MacArthur. Together we’re talking about the challenges of adding a new service and/or changing directions in your business. Read on for Carey’s story and our collective advice for taking this on in your own business:
Carey MacArthur on creating a portrait photography business as an expansion of her established wedding photography business:
When I picked photography back up as a career three years ago, I didn’t have a long-term plan, I just knew that I had a skill and liked shooting weddings and that’s somewhere I knew I could easily book work and get paid. Two years in, the work was steady and going fine. Then one day a musician friend of mine asked me to take some portraits for her. During that shoot, it was like a spark igniting—suddenly my passion for photography was back and I hadn’t even realized it had gone!
So I knew I wanted to incorporate portrait photography into my business, but I faced the following obstacles:
- In order to get hired for portrait photography, I needed to have a portrait photography portfolio.
- I was not known for portrait photography, I was known for wedding photography.
- As a wedding photographer, I worried I might not be taken seriously as a portrait photographer and vice-versa.
My first step was to build a portrait photography portfolio. I belong to a secret but fairly large Facebook group full of creative, professional women, so I started there. At first I reached out to people I thought would be good subjects directly and I offered to shoot them for free. Once I had a handful of images, I reached out to the group as a whole, offering portrait sessions at a discounted rate and started to build my portfolio.
Offering the portrait services at a discount and to my community had a couple of added benefits, for one, I was able to flex my creative muscle since the situation benefitted both parties. Secondly, by working with creative, wonderful people with their own communities, once they showed off their photos, they spread the word to their friends and family and other work started flowing my way.
I have not found that offering both wedding and portrait photography has detracted from my appeal. Since the audiences tend to be looking for one or the other, the fact that I do both has served as an added selling point.
As I’m still somewhat new to offering portrait photography as part of my business, I am still learning as I go. Being open to where it takes me has been an added advantage, as I’ve said yes to some things I wasn’t so sure about and found them to be really rewarding and they have taken me in some really excited directions.
Business-wise, I’m glad to have the opportunity to explore a service I’m really passionate about. Diversifying my business offerings also diversifies my income which has been a great bonus. As an artist, even though my portraits are of other people, they feel like my art in a way wedding photography never has. I do love shooting weddings, but those images belong to the happy couple. With portraits, I feel like they’re mine as much as they are the subject’s and that’s really rewarding.
Cody on Carey:
I met Carey through the aforementioned Facebook group and was fortunate to connect with her during one of her early discounted profile-building offerings. I hired her to do a family shoot in Coney Island. Not only did it result in some of my favorite pictures of my son, I was impressed by the process of working with Carey. She quietly observes, but also steps in with direction when needed.
As someone who often works with photographers in my own business, I knew right away that her relaxed, rich style could be a really good fit for my clients. I first made sure that the kind of photos my clients might need are the kinds of photos she wants to be taking. Since then, she’s already shot for a really cool client of mine—DJ Sam Silver.
In addition to getting to know Carey as a portrait photographer, as someone who works with business owners typically at a transition point in their business, I’ve really enjoyed watching her journey. I’ve been really impressed with how professionally and precisely she has diversified her business and gone after what she wants, which made her the ideal partner for this post!
Carey and Cody on adding a new service and/or change directions in your business:
Start with an idea of what you want the future to look like and work towards that:
- Cody: Chances are, there are other people doing what it is you want to be doing, doing it well, and having success. Find them, follow them, watch what they’re doing, and even reach out to them if you’re so inclined!
- Carey: Spend time thinking about how to a lay foundation for your business with an eye to the future. I spent the first ten years of my career freelancing and working behind the scenes running other small businesses where I learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and how I want to function as a business owner. When I decided to start over and go out on my own, I spent a lot of time setting up my website to my exacting standards, figuring out systems that have flexibility for growth, finding an accountant/bookkeeper, getting contracts drawn up, insurance, learning how to market myself effectively. Running a business is more than just taking in money. Your business is a living entity that needs constant care and attention.
If you can, reach out to your community and offer your new service as a beta offering:
- Cody: This helps you build a portfolio or at least you can say you have done this before. You learn from the experience in a safe(r) environment. By offering high-quality services at a discount, you build a loyal and grateful following that will in turn happily promote your work and help word spread. If you don’t have anyone you can offer this to or your service is not something that can be offered like this, try making the work yourself! I know that I for one have created design opportunities for myself when I’ve wanted to experiment a bit.
- Carey: This builds a word-of-mouth network where your previous clients sell your services for you by telling their friends how awesome you are. This means that every job needs to be approached as if it’s the gateway to your big break.
Don’t worry about what people will think:
- Cody: Anyone who currently works with you will still work with you. Anyone who loves your services will still love them. I know that change can be scary, but any steps taken to make you happier in your work always pay off. If anything, offering more options will reinforce your expertise and customers for one offering might end up being customers for another.
- Carey: Think of your business as a creative endeavor not just a career. Build a brand, build a team, build a space for yourself in the world. Be open to multiple income streams. I love taking pictures, I need to do so at least every few days to feel sane, so I worked that to my advantage by adding in portraits to my services. It filled my time AND it brought in additional income.
Present yourself as if:
- Cody: If your goal is to have just as many people hire you for your new thing as your old thing, update your website and marketing materials to reflect these offerings as if they’re equal. New customers will see your business as you want it to be seen and it will help bring legitimacy to your new service offering. Don’t be shy—share your service and new work on social media. Those who are existing followers will start to see this new offering and potential new customers will begin to find you.
You might have to put the cart before the horse:
- Cody: In order to offer more or make a change, you might be taking on a bit more than you can handle for a bit. Maybe that means you need to get some help. Maybe it means you need to invest some extra time or money. You might need to do this before you feel 100% ready. But if you’re doing it deliberately and in order to make your work more enjoyable, it’s worth it.
- Carey: To whatever extent you can, spend your time doing the activities/tasks you love and eliminate or outsource the things you don’t. I’m perfectly capable of doing my own bookkeeping, but I procrastinate it because I don’t enjoy it. Secondly, acknowledge the things you can’t do. I can’t write my own contracts, I need an attorney to do it for me. I hired both a bookkeeper and an attorney this year. I can rest easy knowing my affairs are in order and I have the added bonus of supporting other small business owners – which consequently grows my client network.
Keep your eyes on the prize:
- Cody: What’s your ultimate goal with this? What do you want your day-to-day or month-to-month to look like in six months or a year? Focus on that and take the steps necessary to make that happen. Sometimes this will mean hard work and will feel like a hustle, but eventually, if you’re working towards a goal, you’ll get there!
- Carey: Get inspired. I spend a LOT of time looking at photographs and art, but I spend just as much time listening to podcasts, watching documentaries and reading about how other creatives built their careers/businesses. Life is a series of decisions, set a goal, with each decision you make, ask yourself if it’s in service to your ultimate goal.
- Cody: Chances are, no matter how sure you are of what you want, you’re going to be surprised by where this takes you. You might learn how not to do things, but you might also learn that things you thought that might be slightly fun could end up being your primary source of income. Be open to where the journey takes you and don’t hesitate to ask those doing what you want to be doing for advice along the way.
- Carey: Ask questions and listen to advice from people you respect, but when it comes time to making decisions follow your heart above all else.
Do you have experience adding a new service or changing gears in your business? Is this something you’re thinking about doing? Do you have questions for Cody or Carey?What have you learned along the way? Share in the comments!
MIND YOUR BUSINESS is an on-going Loki Loki blog series designed to share lessons and advice normally dispensed to my clients with the larger world. MYB partnership posts, like this one, are written with in conjunction with experts on the topic at hand who can provide even more pointed insight and tips.