As I mentioned in my last post on how I got started, I will be discussing some of the lessons I’ve learned as JNP. Some big some small, all important to me. When starting a business, it takes a while to determine who you are as a business owner. What makes your heart come alive? What is my purpose? Where do I start? I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have experiences I can share. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way during my past 23 months as Jessi Nichols Photography!
1. Mentorship is so important.
You guys have heard the story about Jason and Kristin, and they are the perfect example of why mentorship is so important. They invested in me and saw something in me that I hadn’t discovered yet. Sometimes mentorship is sought after, and sometimes it is not. In the case of Jason and Kristin, the Lord just handed them to me and blessed me with their friendship. After getting married, I sought out a mentor unintentionally, if that even makes sense 🙂
I met with Lauren Miller Photography quite a few times during my own wedding planning process. I mentioned to her that I really wanted to start a business, but had no idea where to start. Out of the graciousness of her heart, she agreed to meet with me whenever needed to “talk shop.” I asked her MILLIONS of questions, advice, how-to’s, you name it. Lauren really invested in me and encouraged me. Without the influence of Jason, Kristin, and Lauren, I truly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today!
2. Set attainable expectations for yourself.
I am the world’s worst at setting attainable expectations. When I started this business, I expected to go from amateur to pro in no time. I would get easily frustrated feeling like I was working so hard with little payoff, but what I was lacking was time and patience. I also set an expectation of myself to turn regular session images over in 1 week, and a wedding in 2 weeks. That was possible in the beginning, because I only had 1-2 session during the week, and 1-2 on the weekends with maybe 1 wedding per month. Totally doable. As my schedule got more full, I tried to attain that same quick turnaround. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and make adjustments. I bumped my turnaround time for sessions to 2 weeks and weddings in 4 weeks. That alleviated SO much stress and created a healthier work environment.
The biggest struggle I had when I started to see a fuller calendar was not overbooking myself. I took every client that came my way, and adjusted my schedule around theirs. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, I wanted to serve them and serve them well. However, I was running myself ragged all over the state of South Carolina. I had to learn to set my own limitations, and be okay with them. Set attainable expectations, and you will be so much more productive, encouraged, and successful!
3. Admire others work, do not obsess over it.
I have always struggled with comparison. It’s something that is deep down in my roots, and I have never really been able to shake it. When I started as JNP, like most people, I didn’t have a defined style. I knew I loved bright photos, and I knew I loved color. I would stare at blogs for HOURS, obsessing over how much better they were than me. The photographer’s I was comparing myself to were professionals, those who had been in business for YEARS and knew their style to their core. I wanted to be like them, I wanted to shoot like them, I wanted to edit like them.
What that did was create a warped perception of my own style. I was creating bold and bright, when that isn’t my style, I lean more towards the soft and bright side. Obsessing over others work made me feel like I couldn’t achieve that “perfect look.” I had to step away from photography blogs for a little while to define my own style. I still look at them for inspiration, but I do not look to them for mimicking or comparison purposes. Who needs that unhealthiness anyways?!
4. Community over competition.
This right here, this is the game changer. It is so easy to play the comparison game and see your competition as the enemy. You compete for clients, you’re constantly trying to further your career, it easily turns into a man eat man world. I fell into that category when I first started. I thought that was how it was supposed to be, that everything needed to be kept under wraps and no information needed to be shared about my business secrets. WRONG. Guys, letting others in & sharing any information has been one of the biggest blessings!
I recently became a member of Pursuit here in Greenville. Pursuit is a group of ladies (all ages) who are in the creative industry, and who want to support one another as sisters in Christ. It has been an incredible experience to see how direct competitors can support one another out of genuine love. We also started a similar group for 20-somethings photographers in our area. We had our first “Savored Soiree” in March with 8 girls total. We had a styled dinner, and spent the rest of the evening telling stories, sharing struggles, and truly supporting one another as women of the Lord and as photographers.
Not to mention, one of my dearest and best friends is a wedding photographer right here in Greenville. We are reaching for the same type of clients, have similar styles, and we have similar personalities (duh, that’s why we’re best friends)! It has been THE biggest blessing having Casey in Greenville. We support one another, celebrate when one of us books a dream wedding, pass clients to one another if we’re already booked, and the list goes on. We are the definition of direct competition, and we embrace it!! It is so worth it to reach out to those in your community in a similar field as you. Support one another. Build each other up. You won’t regret it!
5. Find what makes your heart come alive.
When I first started JNP in September of 2013, the goal was to book as many things as possible. I needed to make a supplemental income, so it only made sense that quantity was super important. I shot engagements, bridals, pets, weddings, families, babies, you name it. One stop shop. It took a while to figure out what exactly I was passionate about in the photography industry. In the beginning, I loved using my camera for any reason.
As I started to get busier, I found myself looking forward to certain sessions, and not looking forward to others. I still loved shooting, period, but there were some that got my heart racing. I didn’t know how to say no. I said yes to anything and everything that came my way, even if they were completely draining me. I learned that it was okay to put myself in a little box, a box labeled “Wedding Photographer,” and to only say yes to those who I connected with.
Weddings make my heart come alive. Not just the beauty in the day, but the beauty found in the hearts of my couples. Pouring into couples walking towards marriage was where I felt my purpose is, not just to photograph their day, but to truly invest in them. This has lead to booking fewer weddings, but that is okay! Quality > Quantity. I want to serve those I work with to the best of my ability, with a full heart.
Thanks for stopping by! As I’ve mentioned, I definitely do not know all of the answers. I truly just want to share my heart and my story. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section on this post!
In my next post, I will be covering how I marketed my business in the beginning stages, and how I market now!
Stay tuned for Part 3.
Jessi Nichols Photography
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