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Thu. Mar 5, 2009 by Mary    Pancake Sessions

Pancake Session: How do I even know where to begin??

Well, as they say, it's always best to begin at the beginning. The early beginning. The humble beginning. And trust me, if any beginning was was mine & Justin's.

Picture it. September 2006. Los Angeles, California. Pictage PartnerCon.

We got on the flight heading to our very first wedding photography conference with little more, business-wise, than what we had packed into our carry-on luggage: one D100, two Apple i-Photo books, and about 50 one-sided business cards that we had printed ourselves the night before.

I had just graduated law school to the tune of $120,000 in debt, and on top of that we were in the process of planning & paying for our own wedding, which was adding up quickly. It was at the point where just paying our bills had become a struggle.

Walking on to that flight that day, I carried with me two offers on the table from big name, high power law firms in the city for $140,000 to start. Plus bonuses. Plus benefits. That was a set life right there.

And the answer to all of our problems was just a signature away.

AMANDA: Okay, so here's a wide-open did you know you were ready to start a business? What made it clear that it wasn't just a fun hobby?

As we landed in Los Angeles, we were wide-eyed and more than a little terrified. For the next few days we took it all in. Everything that we were seeing and hearing, we were seeing and hearing for the very first time.

And we got SET. ON. FIRE.

We barely slept for three days straight. Took notebooks full of notes. And we just decided that in that moment...we were going to leap, and the net would appear.

So how do you know when you're ready to start a business? When you can't imagine living your life for even one more day any other way.

When everything in your mind, body, heart and soul tells you that it's time. When you're willing to go out and try, fall flat on your face, get up the next day and try again. Because you would rather try and fail, than never try at all. Sure, there are plenty of other things that go into building a business, like business plans and financing....but if you don't have that hunger first, those other things will never get the chance to matter. Because it's going to be that hunger that carries you through the tough times.

And believe me, there will be tough times.

DAWN MCKINSTRY: I love this!! And I can absolutely picture the entire pancake cooking fiasco (mostly because I've had similar cooking experiences when my husband and I were first together. But none as entertaining as this!). And thank you so much for these Pancake Sessions!! My question is one that I'm sure you hear often - how did you get started - financially, how did you fund it? And how did you start getting the word out about your biz?

By the time we were ready to leave L.A., we knew that we were going to change EVERYTHING about our business. We ordered a new Nikon D2Xs, a couple good lenses, and several sample albums...and this was all before the conference was even over. I turned down the law firm offers, we both went full time, and we headed into the dead of winter with no money coming in... just living on faith.

So how did we do it? Well...the net appeared.

Earlier in the year, I had lost someone very close to me...someone who had spent her whole life building mine...and it was right around this time that we got a call that she had left me a small, but very generous inheritance. It wasn't enough to cover everything, but we took that money and used it to start building this new life.

Because she was someone whose WHOLE life was spent building mine.

And then there was credit card debt. I'm not gonna lie. It wasn't ideal, but between the two we were able to breath life into this new business of ours.

So what do I think you should do? Start with what you've got and build from there. You don't have to have the best camera or the most expensive equipment or the sexiest website to start chasing your dreams. You just have to start. And realize that everything you have is already everything you need at this place in your life. Now take that and build on it. Book a job. Invest in your business. Book another job. Invest some more. And keep doing that piece by piece until you've built the business that you want.

And I guarantee you that that business... the one you've built with your own two hands from the ground up...yea, that buisness is going mean so much more to you than if someone had just handed it to you at the beginning.

Because that business....that's something that YOU created.

DAWN B: Questions???? Oh holy moly did you guys just open the flood gates for me! I am full of them (not IT!!!) I'll try to contain myself with only one....I'm new, still practicing with my camera.....after I feel more comfortable, what should be the next step?? OH, the pancakes rocked!

Two things. One, start building your portfolio. Shoot for free, ask some friends....just get some people in front of your camera. You'll want to get that practice working with people and making them feel comfortable, and you'll need some work to show prospective clients. Two (and maybe even more importantly), devote yourself to discovering your brand. Note that I said discovering, not building. That's because I think that the best brands are the ones that come from the inside out. The ones where the brand is so representative of the person that it's hard to draw a line between the two. Keep a box and every time you see something that speaks to your heart, tear it out and put it in that box. Those pieces are the beginning of your brand.

TREVA TRIBIT PHOTOGRAPHY: We have just ended our first year, and you guys remind me so much of my hubby and I!! Ok, so how do we take our business from word of mouth, to people know us? I mean, REALLY know us? Hear our name, and go "yeah, heard of them" Talking, marketing not advertising...what is the magic, sweet spot for getting that kind of name?

Take this word and burn it into your brain: MOMENTUM! Let it be the mantra of your life. (Ok, I just had a "rain-therapy" massage...forgive me for going all new-agey on you!) By starting your business piece by piece and building it with your own two hands, you are doing the hard work to get that momentum going. That's the thing about momentum, it's so hard to get it started but if you just keep going it gets easier and easier. The way that we built up our momentum in the beginning was by focusing on what we call our "triangle offense" of marketing: clients, vendors, and other photographers. We did everything we could to take care of those three groups of people and it always came back to us. Tenfold.

Going hand in hand with momentum is creating an "experience" of your brand that carries all the way through. We do this with everything from our first meeting to well after the wedding. But probably the single best decisions we ever made in our business was hiring the boys at Infinet to take the idea of what we knew could be our brand that we had floating around in our head, and putting it out there and making it a reality.

When you have someone who can do that for you....who can make your brand such a reflection of yourself...the best possible version of yourself, then people are going to feel like they REALLY know you. And the word of mouth just follows from there.




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