Four Months Beyond the 9-5 and 8 Valuable Business Insights from Ottawa Wedding and Family Photographer

Swapping the 9-5 Shopify hustle for my own full-time photography gig has been wild! These four months have been packed with exhilarating highs, a few stomach-churning drops, and plenty of lessons. I had much less to tackle when North Saplings Photography was just a side hustle. And now that my business has been rapidly growing, I’ve picked up or was reminded of some real-deal lessons I was eager to share with my fellow photographers or entrepreneurs to keep in their toolbox!

1. Embrace Automation. During my time at Shopify, the power of automation was evident. Now, handling everything solo, I see the true value in a robust CRM (I.e. Dubsado, Honeybook, Iris Works), tailored email templates and experience guides (I will be launching templates for you in a few months), other efficient booking systems (such as Session for mini sessions is great), up-to-minute calendar management, and a steadfast bookkeeping system. They aren’t mere luxuries; they’re accelerators. If you’re looking for a smoother work-life balance, seamless client experience, and growth, these tools are your best friends.

Automation: It’s not a luxury; it’s your tool for growth. Embrace it wholeheartedly.

2. The Vulnerability is Real. Putting myself out there, growing an audience… it’s all kinds of humbling. Every ‘like’, share, or comment is a tiny vote of confidence, but I’ve also realized it’s okay if I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Or coffee. Or kombucha. You get the idea! And guess what? It’s impossible to be everyone’s favourite, and that’s okay. It’s how it should be, but it’s another layer of skin you need to grow and adjust your mindset to.

3. Prioritize Clear Communication. In our fast-paced world, clarity is golden. And it turns out over-communication is the secret sauce. With our clients juggling a million things, I’ve found that repeating, rephrasing, and reiterating is the name of the game. And guess what? It saves both of us a ton of back-and-forth later. Don’t assume your clients know or read your emails in full. Unless you’re a unicorn, when was the last time you read the whole email in full?? 🙂 

4. Oh, the Learning Curve! Every day brings a new face, a new challenge, a new perspective. Some feedback feels like a warm hug, some like a cold shower. But I’m learning to filter, reflect, and understand where people come from. Feedback isn’t about right or wrong; it’s a spectrum of perspectives. In a way, it can be a goldmine to 10x your business, and at times, it’s something you’ll let pass by without hurting your feelings.

Communication & Boundaries: Foster these two pillars, and half your business challenges will melt away.

5. Foster Client Relationships. Genuine connections foster trust. Step into your clients’ shoes, exceed their expectations and remain approachable and authentic. I genuinely adore my clients. Their stories, their quirks, their trust. But mistakes? Yeah, they happen. I make mistakes. When they happen, I’m learning the art of a sincere apology and finding that middle ground. Passion drives us, but we’re all human. The balance lies in heartfelt apologies and real solutions when missteps occur.  Perfection isn’t the aim; connection is. Own up, adjust, and move forward.

6. Establish Boundaries. While it’s essential to be adaptable, clear boundaries foster respect. Gently guide clients about your preferred communication methods and business processes. Remember, it’s about mutual respect. While it’s essential to connect, it’s equally crucial to have a roadmap – boundaries. Every DM, every email, every call – they’re not just interactions; they’re opportunities to guide our clients on how best to navigate this shared journey. 

7. More Than Just a Service. I’ve realized my camera and my skillset are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the stories, the passion, and the person behind the lens (yes, that’s me!) which truly resonate with my wonderful clients. And so reaching out to your audience isn’t just about showcasing what you offer; it’s about sharing why you offer it. It’s the heart of your service or product.

Stay Authentic: Whether it’s your style, storytelling, or approach, your unique essence is what sets you apart.

8. Time-Outs Are Essential. Over the last four months, I have already caught myself a few times feeling fried. And I felt empowered to slow down and recover. Taking time off doesn’t make you less dedicated. It makes you human. Embrace downtime. Recharge, rejuvenate, and return with a bang!

Thanks for joining me on this reflection! Here’s to more adventures, beautiful sessions and weddings, and stories to document.

Until next time (a.k.a. 6-month full-time entrepreneurship mark). 🙂

Love, Ina 📸🌟

Ina Soulis (owner of North Saplings Photography) is a Wedding & Family Photographer based out of Ottawa, serving families and couples across Canada, Europe, and beyond!

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