We have entered the era of the instant business. An instant business is someone who has an idea and a Facebook page - so they put the two together and expect the money to pour in. I have started to see more and more of these instant businesses show up in my Facebook feed everyday. "So and So" Photography has invited you to like his/her page. Your friend was tagged by "Point and Shoot" Photography. I have had enough. So I thought I would write to those people out there who have this idea that owning a camera and a Facebook page makes you a "professional photographer". (Side Note : I am using photography as my example because I think it's the most used right now, but this applies to any instant business). It's like saying because I own a baseball glove and a hat I am a professional baseball player. Or, since I like movies and can post a blog, I am a professional movie critic. Or since I have an oven and like sweets, I'm available for hire to make your wedding cake. I know that every business has to start somewhere, but I think so many people out there are starting in the wrong place. People have seen the success of their friends, or family members on the internet and think "They just have a website and a Facebook and they've made a living out of it! That's all I need." That is not all you need to be successful. There are thousands of books and blog posts written on what you need to start a business. I am not saying that my list is the only list you'll need to read, but I want to try and help every potential business owner out there how to start in the right place.
The first thing you should do is perfect your skill or product. If you want to be a photographer that doesn't mean the first photos you take are worthy of posting and telling the world you are now a photographer. It means you should shoot your brains out and figure out what works. Look up tutorials online, research gear, talk to photographers who are actually making a living at it, attend workshops and shoot! A couple of years ago, Brooke and I noticed that our friends younger sister was really passionate, fun and had an interest in photography, so we asked her to be an intern. She followed us, shot with us, saw how we edited, shot some more - and now she is on our team and just shot her own wedding! She didn't start with a Facebook page. Heck, she didn't even blog or post any of her first thousands of images. She started by learning from people who have made a living out of it and now she is getting paid for it. She will be the first to tell you that if it wasn't for that internship, editing and second shooting she wouldn't be the photographer she is today. She didn't just start an instant business because she could have. She trained, honed her craft and it's paying off. Literally.
Don't launch with a Facebook page. Facebook is an amazing tool, but should not be the face of your business (unless your business is Facebook.) Your business should have it's own brand, look and feel which is impossible to do through Facebook because it's not customizable. After you figure out what you want to do or sell, then start to think of what your branding will look like. Find a designer friend of yours that can help or give you advice. Put everything you like into a box or a Pinterest board - it will be obvious what colors and themes you like! Find people who will be honest with you. I see so much terrible branding online because people just ask their friends and family what they think. They are your friends and family, they are going to be very generous with their words. Find people who will tell you that something looks terrible.
Don't copy! Brooke and I have worked hard to create a very successful photography business that is growing both in team size and in reach. We've started to see local photographers try to copy or mirror what we do and it's not going to work because they aren't us. The way our team shoots, blogs, edits and creates is unique to us and copying it wont work. Your business is going to be unique to you, so take pride in that uniqueness. Don't just do what someone else does because they are successful, it won't translate. That doesn't mean you can't be inspired by others! But don't blatantly rip them off. Take that inspiration and use it in your own way.
I think it's easy to see people on Facebook and think, "I can do what they do." So we take our camera, shoot some portraits and start a Facebook page expecting the same results. They aren't going to come. You need to perfect your craft, develop your brand and work hard to get to that point. Don't start an instant business or you'll end up being frustrated, disappointed and probably give up.
*For those of you who have recently started an instant business and realize it's not going super well. - Don't be afraid to start this process now. - Put your Facebook page to the bare minimum while you develop a brand and your skill. - Ask for help. Most small business owners are very generous and want to see others succeed... so ask for help!