We are fortunate to be a place where we get to talk with so many people who are interested in getting into the events industry and want to find out how to get a business started doing what they love. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because it’s pretty tough to share what that we’ve learned in a short email or a few sentences because there is so much involved in starting a business, getting established in your market, and learning the in and outs of whatever industry you’re in. So, I finally boiled down my thoughts to 5 short points. These points are especially relevant for those getting into the events industry, however, I suspect that all of these points are great for business strategy across the board. Get ready for my crash course in B.U.I.L.D.ing a business:
1. B–Be Patient! Getting to where you want to be (and need to be) just takes good old-fashioned time. It takes time to improve your skills to the place where they are desirable, it takes time to prove your skills to the people in your industry, it takes time for your name to get spread out into the market (especially if you’re counting on word of mouth), and it takes time to mature relationships to the point where there will be fruit gathered from them. Give yourself time.
2. U–Uniqueness is important! In recent years, the number of photographers has typically numbered about 150,000, but as of this year, there are over 400,000 photographers. 400,000! Currently, our industry is saturated with newcomers because they have been told by top selling photographers “This is how I did it & here’s how you can do it too!” But, guess what? The top selling photographers walk away with the money from product/workshop sales, but the newcomers walk away not knowing that statistics show that 75% of their businesses will fold before the 3 year mark. Why? Because they are doing the same old thing as everybody else who went to the same workshop. To succeed, you have to stand out from the crowd! You have to show your clients why they should choose you as opposed to the other 399,999, many of whom can do it cheaper! What do you have to offer that not everybody else has? What makes you unique? Is it that you have an outstanding, bubbly personality, or that your events are known for being super modern, or that your photography style stands out because it’s different? Think about what defines you? That’s what you have to know to be able to develop your business in a healthy way. I could tell you about our experience starting a business until I’m blue in the face, but it’s not going to help you define who you are and how you will run your business. Who are you marketing to? How are you going to be different than all of the other people in your industry that are pursuing the same market? Find your strengths and capitalize on them, baby! Capitalize! Are you a creator, then create! Are you a giver, then give! Are you a service oriented person, then serve! Are you an organizer, then organize!
3. I–Invest. To get a business off the ground, you have to be willing to invest. It will mostly be in the form of your precious time and your valuable money and there is no way around it. If you are serious about pursuing a career in the events industry, call up people that you admire and volunteer to work for them (Be aware though that they’re not most likely going to teach you how to coordinate a wedding on your first day volunteering on the job!) You might end up filing papers in their office or running errands or in the case of photography, volunteering for events, headshots, whatever it takes! You must create an opportunity to show them your stuff without them having to take a risk to do it. The law of reaping and sowing is just part of our world and the way it works. If you want to reap relationships and skills, you have to sow. You have to put in the time and effort to show that you are worth it and to learn the skills that you need. It’s gonna cost ya. (but it’s worth it!)
4. L–Locals count! Start locally. Research the people in your regional area who are the experts in the field that you want to be in. Follow their blogs, learn from them, volunteer with them. I know it’s tempting to contact the most successful person in the industry, but I’ll tell you that you will be able to build (and reap from) relationship at a local level in a way that you won’t be able to from someone who is across the country. AND if they’re at the very top of their game in your industry, likelihood is that they don’t have alot of extra time. Yes, they have people who work for them to free up their schedules (for more work), but those kind of successful people are typically crazy dedicated and crazy busy! AND, truthfully, they probably get 30 emails a day asking them the same questions. They don’t have time to answer, so they just hit “delete.” Get in touch with the people that you aspire to be like in your regional areas. You will find a wealth of information and get to reap some local benefits as well.
5. D–Develop Relationships! Relationships are key to any industry. It all ties into the concepts of Being Patient, Investing, and starting Locally. Take the time to build relationships not just with clients, but with the vendors that you desire to work with. I think relationships are the most powerful key that one can have to meeting the right people and being in the right places. There are just some people that you will never get a chance to meet unless you have a relationship with someone that they respect. It’s just the truth in this industry. Find someone that you admire. Ask if you can take them out to lunch or even just bring lunch to the office for them and their staff. Or bring a treat! Make it genuine though, show that you care about them as a person…one can’t just show up with treats and think “Yes! I made it! I’m in!” (remember the patience and investment part!!) And here’s another tip—don’t hit the business right away. It’s important that you know people on a personal basis as well, not just a business basis. TIP: When you ask someone out to lunch, don’t start off with what we call the “NOT first date” questions like — What are your settings? How much do your albums cost? What company do you use? What is your profit margin? Ect, Ect. Big NO-NO. Yes, we are willing to build a relationship with you, no we are not willing to divulge the information that has taken us years of research and adjustments and changes to get to a place where it works for us. That’s the key—for us. What works for us will not always work for someone else. It is important to gather wisdom and experience from those that have walked the path before you, but if you try to do exactly what they do, you will fail. Why? Because it’s not you, it’s them! Oddly enough, in this day and age of technology and gadgetry, face to face relationship is super important for establishing yourself in any market. People want to know who you are, not just what you do.
So, these are my thoughts just from our own personal experience. I would love to hear yours! Please leave us a comment and tell me what additions you would make to my B.U.I.L.D-ing list!