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Should I pull the plug on my business?


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I want to ask a serious question. If someone is good at their trade but absolutely horrible on the business side, should they pull the plug and shut the business down completely? I say this because I'm totally failing at my business. I'm barely able to make ends meet, month after month. I started my business around 2 months before Covid hit.

I'm good at what I do and I enjoy it. I get nothing but positive feedback on my work as a photographer, but I can't seem to get enough business to sustain a lifestyle. My problem is I'm horrible on the business end, just horrible. I read about others in my field who are successful and I'm like ***!?!? HOW!!!???? And my work is better than theirs. I pay for advertising but even that is very limiting because I can't afford the bigger budgets because I don't make enough. I'm so incredibly frustrated and depressed right now.

A little bit about me on a personal level is I'm very, very hard on myself. I don't know why and I hate it but I just am. Probably because I feel like I'm set in my ways, now that I'm 48, and have locked myself into this mental funk for good. I'm very pessimistic too. I wasn't like this when I was younger. Before I had hope. But now I'm always negative and envious of people who are successful because I simply don't understand how they made it and it makes me so dam mad. I don't show it on the outside but on the inside I'm like "how the hell did they do it?!?!" 

Anyway, I want to quit but as I said I'm 48 and I have absolutely no fallback plan whatsoever so I'm just stuck barely able to get by every month and I'm sick of it. I have basically no life. I don't go out, I can barely afford new clothes. I absolutely can NOT be in any relationship because I simply can't afford it and I so badly want to be in one and even want to get married.

It's going to kill me that I have to give this up, but also I'm like what the hell else am I going to do? So, again, at what point should someone just be honest with themselves and pull the plug? 

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What exactly is it that you're struggling with? Marketing? Budgeting? Taxes and bills? Purchasing?

Do you know anyone who is good at running a business? If you know someone who's good at any of those things, see if they'd be willing to meet up with you to go over some of those things. 

I used to basically run a business for someone who was very good at building the actual product but terrible at the business side of things. He was years behind on payroll taxes, his accounts receivable were far behind and he couldn't order material to build his product because he was so far behind in paying his bills. So I got him caught up with all of that. It took me about six to eight months before I was able to get things turned around for him. He eventually trusted me enough to make me a check signer so I could take care of things without having to chase him down to sign checks. Oh, and he had a terrible habit of writing checks to "cash" and using that money for personal expenses. No, no. He needed to pay himself a salary, not steal from his own business.

Anyway, my suggestion would be to ask someone if they'd be willing to let you pick their brain over dinner. OR, you could see if someone would be willing to invest some working capital into your business (to be used for business expenses, not personal bills or to buy clothes or anything like that) in exchange for a share of the profits or as a loan to be paid back. Or, see if you're eligible for a small business loan.

Finally, some kind of side hustle might be necessary to tide you over until you start turning a profit that will support you.

Good luck, hope it works out.

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When you get positive feedback what do you do with that? Do you ask those people if they can refer you to more business? Do you network -do you call places that hire photographers, etc? Do you show up on time, are you reliable, are you flexible as far as when you're available? 

I agree with Boltnrun - and see if your community or city has a small business agency or group where business owners meet and brainstorm/trade ideas?

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You probably picked one of the worst times for photography business. Because of pandemic, there are not a very big celebrations. And big celebrations are bread and butter for photography. I have an aquitance, he switched careers from male hairdresser to photography. Started doing professional photography(for example for a girls that want their social network modeling photos at first), learned few tips and tricks and even stuff like Photoshop and even became very acclaimed one as he has many International prizes for his work. Anyway, even him contemplated and even started to buy some land in countryside to start living off that instead. Because, during pandemic, he couldnt do the work almost at all.

Weddings are big here, not only he gets bride and groom to pay him, but we have a thing here where photographer gets all the pictures from a wedding and you can buy a copy if you like. So every guests usually winds up at least on 4 photos. There is a group photo from Church or wedding venue, picture with bride and groom, you maybe wind up on some pictures while you dance or if you are a family member before Church or venue there is a home celebration where groom takes the bride from her home so you end up on those too. And some are even sneaky to get your profile photo so if you like it, you might want to take that too. Its couple of dollars(last time when I was at wedding pics were 1,5 dollars each) but imagine if you take a couple dollars from every guest. And some weddings have 500 guests and more. 

Anyway, I think its just the timing unfortunately. I would say to stick to it at least for a while. Who knows, maybe pandemic dies out a bit and big celebrations start again. Also I would think about advertising. Social media or any kind. Also, also, lots of photographers here do all kinds of stuff. Get the Santa around New Year so kids can take pictures with him, make all kinds of sets in their store so kids and families can come and get pictures there etc. If you are not severely in debt because of your work, there is all kinds of room for improvements.

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9 hours ago, boltnrun said:

What exactly is it that you're struggling with? Marketing? Budgeting? Taxes and bills? Purchasing?

Do you know anyone who is good at running a business? If you know someone who's good at any of those things, see if they'd be willing to meet up with you to go over some of those things. 

I used to basically run a business for someone who was very good at building the actual product but terrible at the business side of things. He was years behind on payroll taxes, his accounts receivable were far behind and he couldn't order material to build his product because he was so far behind in paying his bills. So I got him caught up with all of that. It took me about six to eight months before I was able to get things turned around for him. He eventually trusted me enough to make me a check signer so I could take care of things without having to chase him down to sign checks. Oh, and he had a terrible habit of writing checks to "cash" and using that money for personal expenses. No, no. He needed to pay himself a salary, not steal from his own business.

Anyway, my suggestion would be to ask someone if they'd be willing to let you pick their brain over dinner. OR, you could see if someone would be willing to invest some working capital into your business (to be used for business expenses, not personal bills or to buy clothes or anything like that) in exchange for a share of the profits or as a loan to be paid back. Or, see if you're eligible for a small business loan.

Finally, some kind of side hustle might be necessary to tide you over until you start turning a profit that will support you.

Good luck, hope it works out.

I appreciate your feedback Bolt. Unfortunately I don't know anyone that I can trust and that knows the business side of it. I've always dreamed of a having that mentor to sort of guide me because I've never had that so I'm sort of in a situation where I don't know what I don't know. Any way, that's really cool how your partner found you and you were that solid piece he was missing. That's so awesome.

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9 hours ago, Batya33 said:

When you get positive feedback what do you do with that? Do you ask those people if they can refer you to more business? Do you network -do you call places that hire photographers, etc? Do you show up on time, are you reliable, are you flexible as far as when you're available? 

I agree with Boltnrun - and see if your community or city has a small business agency or group where business owners meet and brainstorm/trade ideas?

I'm very, very reliable and I have a good amount of 5 star reviews on Yelp. I'm very confident in what I do. I'm good at it. My problem is I'm just not able to be consistent enough where I feel secure in this business. 

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8 hours ago, Kwothe28 said:

You probably picked one of the worst times for photography business. Because of pandemic, there are not a very big celebrations. And big celebrations are bread and butter for photography. I have an aquitance, he switched careers from male hairdresser to photography. Started doing professional photography(for example for a girls that want their social network modeling photos at first), learned few tips and tricks and even stuff like Photoshop and even became very acclaimed one as he has many International prizes for his work. Anyway, even him contemplated and even started to buy some land in countryside to start living off that instead. Because, during pandemic, he couldnt do the work almost at all.

Weddings are big here, not only he gets bride and groom to pay him, but we have a thing here where photographer gets all the pictures from a wedding and you can buy a copy if you like. So every guests usually winds up at least on 4 photos. There is a group photo from Church or wedding venue, picture with bride and groom, you maybe wind up on some pictures while you dance or if you are a family member before Church or venue there is a home celebration where groom takes the bride from her home so you end up on those too. And some are even sneaky to get your profile photo so if you like it, you might want to take that too. Its couple of dollars(last time when I was at wedding pics were 1,5 dollars each) but imagine if you take a couple dollars from every guest. And some weddings have 500 guests and more. 

Anyway, I think its just the timing unfortunately. I would say to stick to it at least for a while. Who knows, maybe pandemic dies out a bit and big celebrations start again. Also I would think about advertising. Social media or any kind. Also, also, lots of photographers here do all kinds of stuff. Get the Santa around New Year so kids can take pictures with him, make all kinds of sets in their store so kids and families can come and get pictures there etc. If you are not severely in debt because of your work, there is all kinds of room for improvements.

I don't do events. I'm a Real Estate Photographer. But I appreciate your feedback regardless.

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Morning Justin,

 

Sorry to hear you are really struggling - your business is so new and you have started at a really hard time. Remember, hardly anyone can just expect a business to give them financial gain from the off, that would be very exceptional. 
 

What I would recommend is, if struggling, building your business up whilst you supplement with other, regular, part time work, then gradually phase out your day job until you know your business can fully support you.

 

My husband has had his own business selling art, natural history and antiques for nearly 20 years now but he started it whilst still working in sales for someone else. It probably took at least a year before he had enough money coming in from his own business to leave and at that point it was not much at all but enough to live ob without fear.


Do you have a website? So important. Also so important it looks amazing, clean, crisp - works well, easy to use. Do you want have any friends who can programme, code? Can you do them favours in return for them to tweak your website, or create one? Look into or ask then how to get your website moved up I. The Google search food chain!

 

Also, locally, make up a leaflet and just blitz it through as many doors as you can! If you have the time, then you have the time to go round physically and do that I would imagine.

 

Talking to other business owners is another good tip from people here - I would also check and see if you qualify for any small business grants. Check the payback rates on these though. You have to use that money very wisely.

 

We are just buying a house and our new neighbour is a very successful commercial photographer who shoots mostly fashion and high end products. He works between Germany, London mostly, all over the world. People are still buying things, online shopping is huge, people need product photographers. Can you apply for a product or commercial photographer placement whilst you also build up your business? This will give you instant income and also a lot of experience but mostly contacts within the industry!

 

Covid has been rubbish for anyone starting or running a small business - my heart goes out to you on this one!

 

You just get proactive and keep your chin up, you need that second income but ideally in your chosen field still to get your head above water.

 

Lo x

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Ah sorry I posted this before your reply - real estate photographer! Hmm the housing market is booming I am surprised you are not in business here!

 

Do you work for yourself or work with other agencies? Try get a prominent placement with local estate agents, reduce your fees make them very competitive against who they already use - see if you can get a few consistent slots with those agencies so you can then take a breather financially while you try figure out how to put yourself out there solo?

 

I would do your business as a side line abs build it up.

 

Lo x

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11 hours ago, JustinPonders said:

If someone is good at their trade but absolutely horrible on the business side, should they pull the plug and shut the business down completely?

Why does photography have to be your primary source of income? There are other ways to support yourself. Why not get a regular job and do photography as a hobby, or as a side business? 

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1 hour ago, JustinPonders said:

 I have a good amount of 5 star reviews on Yelp. I'm very confident in what I do. I'm good at it. 

Can you go to social services for assistance with food stamps, medical and mental health care as well as assistance with bills and housing? See if you are eligible for job training and placement programs.

The starving artist thing is not as glamorous as you thought. This business seems  fine  for some extra money, but you're not thriving at all and it's such a limited scope so all the yelp stuff doesn't matter.

Maybe standing on line at the welfare office will help you decide how realistic it is to keep dumping money into a losing proposition.

There's people who are good at yodelling. It doesn't mean you can make a living doing it.

 

 

Edited by Wiseman2
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I agree also that it’s about pandemic so it can still pick up.

I’d personally work a second job and keep the business on the side, not depend on it for any income right away, while still trying to improve and get better with job #1.

Then as things start to improve with the business overtime you can work less and less in the other job.

Having a mentor could be helpful. Maybe look at seminars, workshops, classes, and eventually you’ll find someone who will show you the strategy.

A quote that I like from the book Awaken the Giant Within is 

“to be successful in an area, find someone who already is, learn their strategy and replicate it.”

 

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2 hours ago, JustinPonders said:

I'm very, very reliable and I have a good amount of 5 star reviews on Yelp. I'm very confident in what I do. I'm good at it. My problem is I'm just not able to be consistent enough where I feel secure in this business. 

That didn't answer my question about what you do to network to get more business. That is what I would do.  For example on my facebook mom and parenting groups there are constant requests for photographers for family photo shoots.  You might not be able to post there but pointing out that there's a huge demand for that sort of photography where I live.  Good luck!

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Dentists don't usually have the skills to do oil changes.  Auto Mechanics shouldn't perform root canals either.

You are good at photography, that is your thing.

Running the business side of things is not creative, but for many artists a tedious endeavour. However it is the lifeblood of your business.

so simply put...you need to hire a manager to run the business end that knows how to run a business....leaving you on the creative side.
 

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4 hours ago, JustinPonders said:

I don't do events. I'm a Real Estate Photographer.

If you are a professional photographer you're going to have to branch out. You should be able to do technical photography as well as artistic photography.

It's fine to specialize in technical (documentation) photography, but if you are any good you could make a boring wedding or kids party look like Norman Rockwell paintings.

This also provides opportunities for networking and handing out your card. Get paid to advertise.

If you are any good you can take nature/landscape photography that is awe-inspiring and doesn't look like  vacation selfies.

So limiting yourself this severally is not good. I have a friend whose photography now hangs in galleries and sells for a pretty penny, however he did forensic photography (technical) for years because the pay was great. Are his photos of livers with bullet holes in the gallery? No. But you need to be well  versed.

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5 hours ago, JustinPonders said:

I appreciate your feedback Bolt. Unfortunately I don't know anyone that I can trust and that knows the business side of it. I've always dreamed of a having that mentor to sort of guide me because I've never had that so I'm sort of in a situation where I don't know what I don't know. Any way, that's really cool how your partner found you and you were that solid piece he was missing. That's so awesome.

Well, he isn't my "partner" lol. He hired me to be his bookkeeper/admin. I just saw how bad things were and stepped in to get things squared away. He didn't even hire me for that purpose but I could see it was needed.

There something called the Small Business Association (SBA). I know they have resources you can use. I recommend you look into it.

And I agree with two points others made: branch out into other types of photography and find a part time job to pay the bills until your business grows enough to support you fully.

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To supplement your income and perhaps have enough money to hire a consultant for tips on the business side, you could look into running brief photography classes. I once took one that was a 6 or 8 week class meeting once a week. The teacher would bring us on field trips to photograph carousels, fountains, a bike race, etc., to learn about lenses, metering, panning, etc.

People like family photos set in unusual settings like a field of sunflowers or a local waterfall. Sometimes you have to pay the owner of something like a sunflower field to do business there, but could set prices that you would still profit from. Ask if you can post their photos on your website to attract customers.

Sounds like you have tunnel vision and need to start thinking outside of the box. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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First thing is you need to step away from black and white thinking. It's not either I do photography and starve or I quit completely and get a job. Generic rule of thumb is that it takes about 2 years to break even when you start a business. Meaning that early on, you will likely need to work either full or part time and then work on your business on the side. Unless you have a lot of money saved up that you can live off and fund the start up costs and marketing as well.

In your case, you have got to branch out in terms of what you are doing. If you don't want to deal with weddings and people, consider product photography in addition to real estate. Companies pay really good money for excellent product photography. Some companies will do contract work, others even have full time staff doing that. So it can be both for you - a business as well as an employment direction.

As for marketing yourself and your business, a top notch portfolio online is critical. Also, social media like Instagram is a gold mine and it's free to use. For real estate, real life networking is going to be more critical than Yelp. Do the leg work of meeting with brokers and realtors who list top tier properties. Check out your local SBA chapter and get involved. Talk to some local advertising agencies in case they need a technical/product photographer or might need one at some point. Try not to get discouraged if you are met with "we have someone" because eventually you'll run into the "omg we've been looking for you, when can you start". Keep in mind that all this will cost you time, but zero dollars.

Also, check your pricing. Be sure that you aren't at either extreme of too low or too high. Aim for the reasonable middle.

 

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10 hours ago, mylolita said:

Morning Justin,

 

Sorry to hear you are really struggling - your business is so new and you have started at a really hard time. Remember, hardly anyone can just expect a business to give them financial gain from the off, that would be very exceptional. 
 

What I would recommend is, if struggling, building your business up whilst you supplement with other, regular, part time work, then gradually phase out your day job until you know your business can fully support you.

 

My husband has had his own business selling art, natural history and antiques for nearly 20 years now but he started it whilst still working in sales for someone else. It probably took at least a year before he had enough money coming in from his own business to leave and at that point it was not much at all but enough to live ob without fear.


Do you have a website? So important. Also so important it looks amazing, clean, crisp - works well, easy to use. Do you want have any friends who can programme, code? Can you do them favours in return for them to tweak your website, or create one? Look into or ask then how to get your website moved up I. The Google search food chain!

 

Also, locally, make up a leaflet and just blitz it through as many doors as you can! If you have the time, then you have the time to go round physically and do that I would imagine.

 

Talking to other business owners is another good tip from people here - I would also check and see if you qualify for any small business grants. Check the payback rates on these though. You have to use that money very wisely.

 

We are just buying a house and our new neighbour is a very successful commercial photographer who shoots mostly fashion and high end products. He works between Germany, London mostly, all over the world. People are still buying things, online shopping is huge, people need product photographers. Can you apply for a product or commercial photographer placement whilst you also build up your business? This will give you instant income and also a lot of experience but mostly contacts within the industry!

 

Covid has been rubbish for anyone starting or running a small business - my heart goes out to you on this one!

 

You just get proactive and keep your chin up, you need that second income but ideally in your chosen field still to get your head above water.

 

Lo x

Really nice of you to write out such a thoughtful post. I do have a website, and a very nice one at that. I built it myself. I have 5 star ratings on Yelp and probably 2 to 3 highest from the top photographer in my field. But I'm still struggling hardcore. I'm doing my best to figure out a supplement income because that's a good idea. Thank you again!

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4 hours ago, JustinPonders said:

Really nice of you to write out such a thoughtful post. I do have a website, and a very nice one at that. I built it myself. I have 5 star ratings on Yelp and probably 2 to 3 highest from the top photographer in my field. But I'm still struggling hardcore. I'm doing my best to figure out a supplement income because that's a good idea. Thank you again!

But ratings don't necessarily translate to bottom line/profit.

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On 2/12/2022 at 4:01 PM, catfeeder said:

Yes, and this could be a good networking practice for you with realtors.

It might seem counterintuitive, but offering real estate offices a free 'tips and tricks in shooting properties' workshop for their realtors would allow you access to meet their agents, hand out your business cards, demonstrate your eye and talent with a slide show of your work.

Briefly cover any of the following: Do's and dont's, Before and afters with minor staging, Ways to use natural light and tricks when they're forced to shoot at night--just about any topics that, bulleted in your invitations, would 'sell' agents on attending your talk.

Of course you won't give away major secrets, but you CAN talk up some advantages to outsourcing their shoots to a professional, especially for the more successful realtors. 

Woah, this is actually a great idea!

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