Recently our social media guru Lindsay mentioned to us again that she wishes Cc: My Admin had been around a decade ago when she started her photography business. We wanted to explore why she kept saying that, so here’s what she had to say.
Tell me a little about your business and why you started it.
Lindsay: I started a wedding and portrait photography business in 2006. I had recently quit my full time job as a broadcast journalist and was home with my first child. Photography scratched a lot of my itches–it was creative and I was still documenting events and interacting with wonderful people, and there was an excitement about chasing business that I loved. I also discovered that I love entrepreneurship and marketing and educating people about services and products.
What were the challenges you found as you got deeper into business?
Lindsay: The problem with loving marketing and networking is that you tend to grow your business, right? I started booking more weddings, a lot of high-end weddings with hundreds and hundreds of guests, at some of the most gorgeous places in the southeast. Which is great, right? But email inquiries were a huge hurdle for me. I couldn’t figure out a way to make it truly turnkey when people had such individual needs for their weddings or family pictures. So I would spend a lot of time crafting emails for people who were really just inquiring–it was a lot of work for very little return.
And the bookkeeping, ugh. I had a wonderful business partner for a stretch who loved doing that part but when she went back to a traditional job and it landed on me, I became much less satisfied in my business.
How did you handle them?
Lindsay: Not well! *laughs* I got so overwhelmed and I would tend to just bury my head in the sand about it. It felt like it was taking over my life. That’s not exactly the dream you have when you start your own business. We want freedom, and that’s not what I was feeling. When I wasn’t shooting and editing, either the administrative work was eating up my time, or I was spending emotional energy dreading doing it.
You’ve shared with us often that you think you might still have your photography business if you had had a virtual assistant. What do you think the benefits would’ve been?
Lindsay: Eventually I got to the point where I was constantly thinking “I clearly don’t have what it takes to run a business.” I had happy clients, was bringing in new business but I couldn’t keep pace with the admin stuff. If I had outsourced those emails to someone and said, “Answer these people back and be a hedge to what I really need to address personally,” it would’ve changed a lot. If I had turned over the bookkeeping to someone who knew what they were doing and enjoyed it, I would’ve been so much more free to either be out capturing beautiful memories or making marketing material to my heart’s content.
And as much as I loved crafting blog posts and using social media in the early days, if I were doing it now, I’d send the pics and wording I wanted used to a VA and have them insert them into the blog. Insta and FB, too.
Also, there are the things that would’ve eased my home life, too, as a mom with little kids running around! A virtual assistant could’ve been invaluable for scheduling my sitters, or making my meal plan. Instacart and Shipt and Peapod weren’t a thing back then but you better believe that in 2018 my virtual assistant would be building and submitting my Instacart orders.
If you could say anything to a new business owner who is in the overwhelmed place, needing help, what would it be?
Lindsay: Ah, three things, I think.
First, Do the math on your hourly rate and compare it to what you are “spending” by doing a certain admin-related job yourself. What I charged for my talent, expertise, and unique skill in photography was way more than what an admin or bookkeeper would charge. And yet I spent hours doing those jobs. It’s bad math, and it hurts our businesses.
Second, start small. You don’t need to hire a VA to do everything all at once, straight. That’s what I love particularly about how CC: My Admin works. It’s friendly to starting with just a few hours of work and adding on as you start to see the benefits. If I could’ve spent those hours of emailing and bookkeeping doing what I love, I might still be working in my photography business today.
Third, being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you are the only one who can and should do everything. That’s a fast road to having no life. Yes, there are hard and busy seasons, especially at the beginning. Ideally, a well-run business in which you hire people to do the jobs you don’t enjoy or aren’t gifted at will give you financial and career gains AND more quality time to spend with the people you love. I firmly believe that in the age of virtual culture, it’s more achievable than ever.