This morning, I was wondering to myself how long Belinda McCarthy Photography had been in business (I’m not very good at milestones and remembering dates, to be honest). Looking back, it seems that I started shooting professionally under my own name in October 2007 – so I’ve just missed my nine year anniversary. Perhaps I’ll try and do something special when it comes to ten years.

Now, over all that time, I’ve learnt a few things about running a business. Lots of things about what NOT to do, mainly, but as Thomas Edison was very keen on saying, it’s good to learn how not to do something (or words to that effect. I believe he was talking about lightbulbs). I’m not a business guru, but I do believe we can learn something from everyone we meet, no matter who they are. So I thought I’d concentrate in this blog on what kills many businesses; fear.

Fear is paralysing. It stops you talking to people who could be your clients or mentors, it makes you hide from opening the post, it does nasty things to your head. It can keep you hidden in front of your computer in your PJs when you should be out there making connections. Yes, running a business, being self employed is scary. You and you alone have responsibility for making money to keep a roof over your head and paying the bills. THAT in itself can be paralysing. But it shouldn’t be. It should be your greatest motivator to positive action, for you have to look at the other side of the coin.

Have you ever been fired or let go from a job? I have. It’s a horrible experience and one that stays with you permanently. You feel so powerless and empty to have your source of income taken away from you in one fell swoop. When you’re self employed or running your own business, you are actually spreading that risk. A potential client might say no, but that’s one person in a whole sea of opportunities. If you’re employed and your boss says no, you’re out of there. In your own business, you control your own destiny, and that’s not down to the whim of a single person or company that you deal with. Yes, you’ll get knocks, criticisms, problems along the way. But nothing worth having comes easily.

So here’s my top five list of go-to phrases and tips to help you feel powerful and motivated about your business, and avoid the fear that can get in our way. I am absolutely sure there are many more useful tips out there if you speak to people and root around, so this certainly isn’t a finite list. I also hold no claim to these being MY ideas; but they ARE ideas that have helped me along the way and continue to do so when the going gets tough. Because, no matter how successful you are, or how well things are going, you can never sit on your laurels. Keep working on your business like you just started it up, because complacency is the last stop before failure.

Anyway, here we go… I hope some of these might ring true with you. Happy reading 🙂

  1. Get control of your finances. Look at your bank account each and every day and learn intimately what your monthly outgoings are. Believe me, looking at it every day won’t depress you about what’s not coming in, it will empower you about what’s going out. DO use some simple to use software like Xero that links direct to your bank feed to help you manage your book keeping, because if you get in a mess with your accounts it’s horrendous to try and get out .
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  3. Following from point 1 – only spend on what ‘makes the ship go faster’. I use this phrase in my head every time I look at a potential purchase. Will it ACTUALLY benefit my business? If so, can I afford it right now? If the answer to the first is absolutely yes and to the second is no, then don’t be afraid to look at other options. For example, I lease my camera bodies because it spreads the cost rather than creating a big dent in my cashflow. But is that huge £500 gilt mirror, which will undeniably look fabulous in my studio, going to make the ship go faster? No, it won’t, so as much as I may covet it, it stays in the shop and I buy the £80 version instead.
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  5. Go out every day and talk to people about your business. That doesn’t mean you have to bore the pants off everyone you meet, but let me tell you that no-one is going to beat a path to your door to buy your stuff just because you’ve started a business. You are responsible for spreading awareness, and whilst the internet, websites and social media are a great way to do this, there is also no replacement for getting up off your rear end, moving away from your computer and going out into the big wide world. Business networking, local clubs, just the guy next to you in the queue at the supermarket who asks ‘what do you do’. See every opportunity that’s given to you and take it with gratitude.
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  7. Anxiety occurs when you try and do everything at once. Remember that this just isn’t possible.  You can’t fill your diary with bookings immediately, you can’t create a successful business in day one. The way to remain positive and upbeat is to set yourself achievable goals which you can complete on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Today, it might just be getting some flyers printed, or finalising your price list. But every time you do something good for your business is another step towards where you want to be.
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  9. Not everyone is your client. This is a really important one. When you’re working for someone else, if someone criticises your work, then it’s a personal thing. When you’re in business, you have to create a change in mindset to remember that if someone doesn’t like what you do, it’s not personal. Yes, of course you need to be responsible for your offering great customer service and ensuring you offer quality services. But remember that there are three in this relationship; there’s you, the company and the customer. If someone says no to you, it’s rarely about you, or even your business; it’s most likely more about them. And not EVERYONE is going to say yes. Do you say yes to every sales opportunity offered to you? Do you buy something every time you walk into a shop? Of course you don’t. And the shop owner doesn’t take it personally when you don’t. So remember that every ‘no’ isn’t a lost sale, they just may not have been your client in the first place. Of course you can review the sales process and see if there’s anything you could have done better, but don’t beat yourself up about the ‘no’s.