10 Things I Learned in My First Year of Business

If you're new to your business or just want to hear how my first year in business went, this one's for you!

1. Networking is a powerful tool

If you know me, you know I am absolutely frightened by the word “networking”. I'm a complete introvert, but I also realize that networking is a powerful tool that will help me grow my business.

This year, I attended a few different Rising Tide Society Tuesdays Together meetings and I am so thankful I talked myself into doing it. I met so many great business owners who are newbies like me or who are established entrepreneurs who I could learn something from.

I learned that networking is more than going to networking events, but also networking ONLINE. Interact with other creatives on Instagram. Comment on their posts. Give them encouragement and or a shout out. Be virtual bffs. That's considered networking too and it's just as important as face-to-face networking.

2. It's ok to slow down

I learned this pretty early on in growing my business. I quickly became overwhelmed with my to-do list while also working a 9-5 and maintaining my personal life. That's when I began only limiting myself to one task per day. I'll work on editing Monday, sending a contract on Tuesday, etc.

As my business has grown, I've evolved that into 1-3 tasks per day because I easily manage my to-do list using Asana. The great thing is, if I don't have time for it or don't want to work on it, I can easily move it over to the next day because I have that flexibility as a business owner!

I think it's super important to realize when you need to step back and slow your pace, especially when you see yourself becoming overwhelmed with deadlines that you have complete control over.

3. Gear won't make you a great photographer

It was super hard not to get caught up in getting the latest and greatest gear (and I still struggle with this!) It's important to realize that having the best camera on the market will not make you a great photographer.

You need to fully understand how to use the current equipment you have and master certain elements of photography such as lighting, the exposure triangle, white balance and composition before even consider upgrading gear.

As I learn more about photography as an art, I really try to determine if I truly need a piece of equipment to produce quality art or if I just want it.

4. A photography business is 20% photography and 80% business

When I decided to turn my passion for photography into a "side hustle", I truly didn't realize what was in store for me until I started divulging into more resources and Facebook communities.

Yes, as a photographer I get paid to take photos, but there's so much more to being a photographer than just taking photos. I may be a photographer, but I wear the many hats of being a marketer, advertiser, CEO, accountant, copywriter, editor and more!

5. You're never done learning

There is always so much more to learn whether it's honing in your marketing skills, crafting the art of lighting and flash photography or learning how to market yourself on Pinterest. Be thankful that you still have aspects to learn about because it means you are growing and will continue to!

6. Invest in your education

This is one of the best pieces of advice I was told during my first year of business and I am so thankful I listened. I always struggled with posing, but it wasn't until I took Amy and Jordan's Posing Course that I really understood posing and didn't opt to memorizing Pinterest photos to replicate during a session.

I’m not gonna lie. My wallet took a hit. Education is expensive, my friends. But it is so so important and it’s crucial in order for us to get better.

It’s important to actually put the money you are earning during the first year of your business back INTO your business. I will continue to budget a certain amount of my revenue every year toward education because it is so important to be adaptable enough to continue to learn and grow.

7. Not everyone is your ideal client

Realizing that not every person out there needing photos done was my ideal client. The same goes for you. It is so important to really hone in who you want to be marketing to and making a profile for them.

Where does your ideal client shop? What type of magazines do they read? What type of job do they have? I've spent the past few weeks really developing that client profile so I can begin speaking to them directly, which in the ends, attracts more like them

8. Consistency is key

I've come to terms with the word "consistency". During my client communications, I try to be as consistant as possible with each client to make sure they are getting the same experience. When editing, I try to limit myself to the number of presets I use during a session. This gives my brand and style a cohesive overall look.

9. Organization will keep you sane

The best thing I ever invested in my business was definitely my CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, Dubsado.

The funny thing is, I only bought Dubsado for its ability to send clients invoices and contracts, but over the past 9 months or so, I've really come to realize all of Dubsado's true capabilities. I can set up automated workflows so that my inquiries get pricing sent directly to them as soon as they inquire, which means I could be potentially making money when I'm not even working...win!

Dubsado has been able to keep me unbelievably organized because it keeps track of both my leads and current contracts in one place, along with their contracts, payment schedules, questionnaires, emails and more! I probably check my Dubsado dashboard atleast 10 times per day, no joke.

I'm planning on writing a blog post soon about all of the reasons I love Dubsado, so stay tuned for that! If you're interested in giving them a try, they give you your first three leads for free! Plus, I have a code that gives you 20% off your first month or year! Use the referral code “ashleydahlphotography”


10. Make time for your personal life too

I struggle with this. Ask my husband. Thank goodness football season is starting up now because he can watch his Dallas Cowboys while I can work on my business.

I am still struggling with managing my business time and my personal time, while also working a 9-5 during the week, but I do feel like I am making improvements. Slow improvements, but we are getting there.

Being in the wedding industry, Saturdays will notoriously be a workday. What I try to do is dedicate one day per week where I don't work on my business at all. My husband and I go to church every Sunday, so that's a great opportunity for us to have something to do together weekly on a schedule.

We also enjoy tuning into a Netflix series while eating dinner and we looooveeee to go out to eat, so we try to schedule occasional date nights.

Working a 9-5, having a business and having a spouse is completely a balancing act that I have come to realize over the past year!

Are you also a fellow creative entrepreneur? I do branding sessions for awesome people like you!