I hope that you all had a great long weekend. Mine was the perfect mix of work and fun. I photographed a big wedding on Saturday and for the rest of the weekend, I shut down all work-related things and gave myself actual real time off. I ate breakfast in bed and read about a million magazines. We rode bikes and hung out on the beach on the Island. We ate dinner with friends and drinks with others. It was perfect. Today I woke up to a very grey, rainy day and am thankful that this weather waited until after the weekend. Even though I wasn’t officially working for most of this glorious long weekend, I was doing a lot of thinking about business-related things, as I usually do. Particularly on my mind was the whole Sharing is Caring thing. (I learned that line from my niece when she was about four years old and it has stuck with me ever since.)
It’s hard running a small business. It’s even harder when you essentially ARE your small business. By this I mean that essentially everything that you do represents that business. All eyes on deck! If I want to be taken seriously, I cannot post crappy photos on Instagram
anymore. I’m selling myself as a professional photographer so any image that I put out there has to be great in quality. It’s expected. That’s what professional photographers do. I’m Jessica both the human and that professional that documents all of your life moments.
So running a business is hard. There is all of the official boring office stuff like keeping track of expenses and income and paying taxes. Then – if you’re a photographer – there’s booking the shoot, invoicing it, taking the photos, culling the images, processing the images, showing them to the client, doing extra retouching, processing print or album orders, delivering any print orders/albums/files to the client, blogging about it, archiving it and then repeat. On top of all that, there is the whole promoting yourself to get said clients and getting the word out about you on all social media platforms. We are living in a wacky fast-moving digital world where everyone is good at something and it’s often challenging to get our voice out “Hey look! I take pretty photos here too!”
I feel thankful in that I have been running my small business for a number of years now which means the bulk of my clients come from word of mouth. Word of mouth is king. If you can get someone to speak highly of you to all of their people, you should be sailing. Small businesses can thrive thanks to (positive) word of mouth. I know this because I experience it nearly everyday. As a result of this, I do my best to also spread the good word about all of the people in my life who are also doing cool things with their small businesses. I believe that spreading the good word about people and in turn having them do so about you, is the easiest way to create a successful small business.
When I photograph a wedding, it’s in my best interest to work with other awesome vendors on that day. As a result, I often refer to my clients other professionals whom I have worked with in the past or in general who I just really like. If we know each other from the get-go and have that relationship established, you bet that we are going to do an incredible job that day. I refer these small businesses to my clients to make theirs lives (and mine!) better. I do this because I want to help other businesses thrive and because I believe in building a community of awesome people.
When I later blog or post on social media about a wedding or event or life-happening I always promote the other small businesses that were involved. You bet I do. I want to promote them to the world and say “hey, we did this together and it was awesome!” After I photograph a wedding, I contact the other vendors involved and offer to share images with them. Why? Because sharing is caring.
I don’t send these referrals to clients or brag about these small businesses on my blog with expectations of them then returning the favour and sending work my way. But, you know, it would be nice. If I like working with you or if I like what you are doing, hopefully you feel the same and we have a mutual relationship. What blows me away is the amount of small businesses that don’t act this way. That don’t share back. That don’t give credit to others. That don’t send a “thank you” when you send them jobs. I was raised in a family that sent “Thank You” cards after we received a gift from anyone. You do this because you’re human and because it’s a kind gesture. And if you do not appreciate the fact that because of me referring a job to you, your rent was paid last month, then I’m definitely going to question sending your website along the next time a client is looking for X.
Last week I had some awesome clients send cookies to the studio to thank me for photographing them. It was such a kind gesture and the cookies were great (my studio-mates would agree!). The guy who delivered them to me, read their sweet message and then handed the bag of warm cookies. Then he asked me if I could take a photo and post it on social media to help spread the word of what he does. “Of course!” I told him. And I mean, why wouldn’t I? I love love love the idea of his small business and would love to share this with everyone. So I immediately took a photo of the cookies, found him on Instagram and tagged him in the photo. I then found his business page on Facebook and liked it (both as myself and as my business page). The next day he re-posted my image and tagged me. On his FB page he mentioned that people should check out my website. That is how it’s done folks! I like you, I promote you. You then do the same. And repeat.* If you blankly ask me to promote you, you sure had best promote me along the way. That whole “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is true. (And for some reason, this instantly makes me think of Baloo in the Jungle Book scratching his back.)
I have a wedding planner friend both whom I hired for my own wedding and whom I have worked with in the past. Whenever someone is looking for a planner, I send them to her website without a second thought. Recently she booked a couple of weddings because of me. Guess what? She’s taking me out for lunch next week to thank me for that. Small gestures go long ways.
Like what someone else is doing? Tell others about it. Work with someone that you really like? Tell others about it. Did someone send you a referral? Thank them. Promote them. Send a card telling them that you appreciate it. Sharing is caring, my friends.
*Now if he would follow me back on Instagram as well, then we would have a complete sharing is caring circle. But that’s a whole other issue that I have with this wacky social media world.