Lessons I learned in 2019 and what I’ve taken from them
By Hannah Brooke, Hannah Brooke Photography
To kick off 2020, we’re going to feature Guest Blogs written by amazing #amotherbrands on the theme of ‘Lessons I learned in 2019 and what I’ve taken from them.’ In these blogs, super impressive early-stage entrepreneurs who are mamas, blending life and work and learning as they go, will share what lessons they’ve learned in 2019 and how they hope it will inform them in 2020.
This blog features Hannah Brooke, a Photographer who lives in Wetherby, West Yorkshire with her husband and their two children (age 5 & 3) and a crazy dog.
Hi I’m Hannah and in this blog I’m going to share the lessons I learned in 2019 and what I’ve taken from them.
I set up my business in 2017 after a lot of discontent in my old job, and a lightbulb moment that I could take a good photo. I’ve been building my business alongside my corporate job (a new one, I left the one that was causing so much unhappiness) for the last two and a half years.
At the beginning of 2019 I set myself some goals.
- To double my 2018 turnover
- 4 weddings
- To book 6 future weddings
- To work towards quitting the corporate job by the end of 2020
I knew I had my work cut out, and these felt scary given how much else I had on, but I’m pleased to say I actually turned over 2.5 times more than I had in 2018, I photographed 6 weddings, booked 7 future ones….and I resigned from my day job on the 6th January 2020!
2019 was all about learning
If I was to describe 2019 in one word, it would be WHIRLWIND! I can’t explain how crazy it was to build a business, work a corporate job, and look after two small children. If I was to choose a word more business related it would be LEARNING – because I did loads of development in 2019. I learnt how to run a photography business, how to plan and schedule content for my social media, how to write blogs, some technical photo editing skills.
The biggest lessons I learned were mainly around planning. I had to plan my weeks, and figure out when I would slot my photography work in – both taking the actual photos and the hours of editing afterwards, not to mention all the general admin that goes with running a business and marketing it. I also learned that half of running a successful photography business is taking amazing photos, and the other half is being personable and able to deal with people.
There were (many) times when I took too much on, and ended up feeling overwhelmed. I learnt to keep on top of my business finances, and I learned (the hard way) to check my clients were happy to have their images used on social media! I also learned that the life I was leading was unsustainable in the long term and that something would need to give.
The peaks of 2019
The peaks were every single booking I got, and every single positive comment about my work. When I told people (back in 2017) that I wanted to be a photographer, they had this kind of bemused look on their face and would say things like “but isn’t that very competitive?” and “don’t you need to be qualified?” (Yes to the first question, no to the second – you just have to be able to produce beautiful images!) During the first 18 months, people still spoke to me as if it was my hobby, and during 2019, people really started to sit up and take notice. They knew I meant business by that point. That was a brilliant feeling.
One of my favourite moments of 2019 was at a wedding. I was really enjoying myself, taking tonnes of photos, and I sat down briefly whilst the Bride & Groom signed the register. By chance, the people I sat next to were getting married the following August and asked if I’d be free to take their photos too as they really liked my approach. By the end of the following day, they had booked me and paid the deposit!
Lessons I learned the hard way
Of course, anything worth having, generally does not come easily. People said to me “I don’t know you do it all” and “you’re smashing life”, but the truth was, I wasn’t smashing EVERYTHING. I totally failed to look after myself. I wasn’t able to get the gym as much and would frequently cancel exercise classes to squeeze a photoshoot in. I gained weight and lost fitness. The kids haven’t had enough of my attention either.
The biggest business challenge for me though, was having the confidence to charge my worth. I’ve given away so many discounts and freebies to build my brand and portfolio, and I’ve had this genuine fear that if I raised my prices, people wouldn’t book me. But I’ve come to realise that my ‘ideal client’ are those who value my work and are prepared to pay for it. There will always be people who don’t understand the value of photography or the hard work I put into it, and if they’re not willing to pay my prices, then they are not my people. You have to stand firm and be prepared to walk away sometimes.
Top three learning takeaways from 2019
As I mentioned, 2019 was a big year of learning and I got a lot back from investing into my self development.
The top 3 things for me, were:
1. Attending two wedding workshops, run by a more experienced photographer which involved styled shoots. This gave me chance to learn from others, and add some really beautiful images to my portfolio!
2. Joining a local networking group for creative people (yorksinstameet) and through attending their events, learning lots, making some brilliant friendships, and even managing to pick up some business.
3. Becoming a member of some relevant Facebook groups, one of which has become a brilliant community of women in the same (or similar) boat as me. We talk on Whatsapp daily and keep each other sane, we cheer each other on and we pull up those who are struggling. We also have many, many laughs along the way. They are my tribe.
My main aims for 2020 are to continue planning my content (loads of room for improvement there) and to keep being brave and pushing myself forward. I have a financial goal that I need to meet, and I’m planning to attend some wedding fayres to get myself in front of my ideal clients. The other thing I plan to do more of, is reflecting – both on the good times and the bad, but mainly the good. When you’re self employed and you have a business that is 100% YOURS, it’s hard to stay positive sometimes! I plan to keep a journal of all the nice comments, so I can get it out and look at it when I’m having a wobble or dealing with a tricky customer.
At first I was just treating my photography like a hobby, but from April, it will be my sole income. I know that if I keep working hard, I will make more from the photography, than I did in my corporate job. I’m sure I’ll have many wobbles and challenges along the way – but that’s all part of the fun, and I’ve got my journal and my tribe to keep me going!
Did any of Hannah’s lessons resonate with you?
What were the key lessons you learned in 2019?
Let me know in the comments