HOW I GREW MY BUSINESS IN 6 MONTHS – Carlee Secor Photography Green Bay, WI

I often get asked how my business started and how I got into photography, I told this entire story on another blog post (my photography journey) but for the business side of things I wanted to go into a bit more detail. I was really fortunate to be able to be a full-time photographer right away, things really took off and I took a risk of not finding another job but rather focused mainly on growing my business. Remember, I don’t have children so I did not need to make big bucks to support myself. Bare minimum was fine with me as long as I was having fun, which I was!

My business really took off the end of July, so I only had until the end of October to photograph seniors. I was slammed, I was too cheap, overwhelmed and extremely busy. I was happy I was doing what I loved, truly, but take my advice and don’t overbook yourself. I took 40 sessions (I think 32 were seniors) from end of July to October 27th. So I was shooting/editing every day. This year was MUCH more spaced out and organized.

Now, HOW did I do it?

I’ll start with the basics.

  • I purchased creative cloud with Adobe, I learned how to edit in Lightroom and developed a style (for the most part). Computer/tech stuff comes naturally to me, I never took any Lightroom/editing courses. All trial and error.
  • I became a legit business and registered as an LLC. It cost me $120 (I think) through the Wisconsin department of revenue. I was so nervous that the IRS would come after me so I did this immediately. At my stage in photography at the time SOME would say this was unnecessary, but it was important to me and I really did see a future with photography. I’m so glad I did this right away, as it helped with tax time tremendously. I took my taxes and income seriously making separating my expenses a breeze. This allowed me to apply for a lot of things since I had a Tax ID number. For example, print labs and accepting payments online require you are a business with a tax ID number.
  • I purchased a full frame camera. And was continuously upgrading my gear. Full frame really changed the game for me.
  • I subscribed to a yearly membership with Dubsado. Dubsado is my online CRM management system, I am able to send invoices, contracts, bookkeeping and so much more. It truly made me look extremely professional and I don’t doubt for one second it is what booked me more clients. Even if I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, sending an invoice & contract online made me organized and look serious about my business. If you’re interested use my code ‘carleesecor’ for 20{d1d32c5bd2b4da87c6001f8227a74501696f76374d3d367a286971b9f077b6cc} off 😉
  • I got a lawyer approved photography contract and had every client who worked with me sign one, to not only protect me but to make sure I was not taken advantage of as a small business owner.
  • I made a Facebook page & Instagram page, even though I wasn’t super proud of my work, social media brought me 90{d1d32c5bd2b4da87c6001f8227a74501696f76374d3d367a286971b9f077b6cc} of my business.
  • I created a website through wix.com and tried my hardest to make it look good. I also purchased a domain so my website was an actual website. I do not recommend wix, though. I currently use WordPress, my site was built by a designer.
  • As for marketing – which is really what helped me in the long run. I was consistently posting on social media and targeting high-school seniors. I graduated in 2015 so it was easy to find the class of 2017 on Instagram. At the time I wasn’t doing paid ads or paying for any marketing. Word of mouth, Instagram and Facebook is truly what helped me grow and succeed in my business.
  • I was consistently studying light, photography, and marketing on the daily. I was likely asking VERY obvious questions to my photography peers but in the end, it’s what helped me grow and I’m thankful I did.
  • I got an accountant. I figured out WTF I needed to pay and when to pay it. Being in debt isn’t a good thing, and I took the steps to avoid it from the beginning.
  • ALSO, take risks. Scared money doesn’t make money and YES everything I listed up above cost me thousands, but it all paid itself off. Being frugal my entire life is a huge factor in why my business grew so quickly, I was able to purchase the things I needed to grow without having to save that ultimately would help me make more money.

My advice to anyone who is in my shoes is to find someone to mentor with (I offer mentoring!). And have someone guide you in the right direction. Consistently posting and following your target market on Instagram was and is my biggest money maker.

A bit of a side note, even some local photographers ignored me when I would ask for help. So find your people, find those who will support you and don’t want to compete with you and stick with them. This community is HUGE and don’t let people who are trying to dim your light affect your drive to succeed.

Hopefully, this helps touch on all the main points of how I grew my business in six months. I briefly touched on all the topics but I’m always happy to mentor beginner photographers, inquire about mentoring with me!

Heres a throwback of my first two seniors ever!

Here is my most recent work, a bit darker, much richer colors – better understanding of light. Either way I love it. Exciting to see my growth 🙂

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Hello! I am Carlee Secor, a photographer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Take a peek around!

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