I'm Ali - a photographer who built her business from the ground up and wants to help others do the same.







5 Lessons from My First 5 Years as an Entrepreneur

August 30, 2022

It’s hard to believe that this month marks five years of me being in business! I have learned a ton in what feels like a very short time.

One of my very first headshots circa 2017

As many of you know, I did not go to school to be a photographer or a business owner. So when I started this business, it was a true leap of faith. I remember the early days when I was on fire about everything! But also nervous because I felt like I needed to be professional, but didn’t know I was supposed to collect taxes.

Despite not knowing what the heck I was doing, I fought through anyway. Some days I still feel like I don’t know what the heck I am do, but gosh…this entrepreneur thing…it’s been so fulfilling. It’s been so empowering. And with the empowerment of being able to make my business what it needs to be to serve me, it has made me realize the power of so many other things at play that have helped my business become successful. These are a few of those powerful things.

The Power of Community

From left to right: Ali Rae Haney Photography, Kassie Layne Photography, Hanna Morgan Photography, Lauren Diekhaus Photography

Entrepreneurship can often feel like an island, especially for those of us who work as solopreneurs. We are the marketing team, client relationship team, the service team, the whole team. Once I realized that my island didn’t have to be so lonely, that is when my business started taking off!

Community can show itself in different ways. Community can be bouncing new business ideas off of friends; it can be a referral network with others in your industry; it can be just simply venting about the ups and downs of running your own business. Trust me, I have indulged in all of these community relationships and it’s great!

One main member of my community has been a fellow photographer and multi-business owner, Kassie. If you’ve been around for a while, I am sure you’ve heard me talk about her before! I met her through an educational course that we took simultaneously. We were facilitating in-person monthly meet-ups to discuss the material and we just hit it off! Since then, we have helped one another with our growing businesses by brainstorming and troubleshooting new ideas, referring clients to one another, and supporting each other through major life transitions (having new children, moving, starting new businesses, etc.).

Once that community is established, the power of it makes me want to be better. So I highly encourage you to find your community that will build you and your business up.

The Power of Asking Questions

Asking questions can be intimidating. For me, it feels like I am showing weakness when I ask questions. But since I got over that fear of seeming weak, it has actually made me far stronger.

If I had asked questions when starting my business, instead of trying to Google my way through it all, I would have saved a lot of time and a lot of errors. That was actually one of the inspirations behind starting The Photography Framework–the vast amount of time lost behind a computer screen trying to dig up answers that could have been easily solved if I had just reached out to someone more established than me (which I eventually did).

Another item to note about asking questions is that it’s okay to ask the same question to multiple people too. Learning about others’ experiences is equally important. So find someone who can serve as a mentor for you who is further along in their business and find someone who can be in the trenches with you whose business is at the same level as yours.

The Power of Trying (& the Power of Failing)

I’ll be honest…as a Type A, Enneagram 3, ENFJ, and overall just overachiever who finds joy in achieving goals…failing is hard for me. Publicly failing…devastating for me.

But I quickly realized that if I was going to push passed the point of being an average business, I would have to try something out of my comfort zone. And that meant potentially failing…which, I did! Lo and behold, I survived though because I am here writing about it.

When I first launched The Photography Framework, I offered only PDF resources–no full course. Although I sold some resources, it wasn’t nearly as many as I had aimed to sell. Then I created the full video course. On my first launch…I sold zero. Yes, zero. And thus, yet another failure.

So I am outside of my comfort zone, but I know I am helping new and aspiring photographers because I get positive feedback all the time! It’s just a matter of finding the way to best deliver the information for those that need it, and that is where I am now.

Regardless, those “failures” have taught me so much more than if I was successful right off the bat!

The Power of Balance (& Imbalance)

Whenever I become really excited about something, it consumes me. I try to tamper my enthusiasm, but it often doesn’t work. In the beginning, I would find myself Googling things when I was supposed to be at dinner with my husband, or scanning social media trying to find marketing tactics that worked for other photographers at 2am when he was out at a field exercise.

For a long time, I used that enthusiasm as an excuse for the imbalance I felt. Yes, at the beginning of the business, that business will take a little more TLC, but I was putting more than just the normal TLC into things. It was impacting my relationships. So that’s when I noticed the power of imbalance.

Creating routines within my business that allowed for dedicated time to certain tasks (bookkeeping, marketing research, brainstorming for growth ideas, etc.) was a game changer! I make sure that I build time in for those bigger picture tasks that can sometimes feel overwhelming or wedge their way into “free time” if you let them.

Now that we have children, I am even more appreciative of having more of a semblance of balance between business and family.

The Power of Grace

Y’all, I make a lot of mistakes. I have skipped posting on social media. I have forgotten to send a specific client email. I have sent an album design a day late. And guess what? The world and my business still went on. My clients were understanding. And I had to give myself some grace.

I mentioned all the hats that we, as solopreneurs, wear. It is okay if we miss something. We are human.

Once I heard this analogy. We are all juggling, okay? It’s just that some balls are glass and some are plastic. The glass balls will shatter if they get dropped; the plastic balls, well, they’re a little more resilient. Things like family, your spouse, children, and parents–those are glass. Once they’re shattered they’re hard to repair, and even if they do get repaired you can always see the glue marks. Your business, with certain precautions and procedures built in, can be the plastic balls. If one of them gets dropped, it won’t shatter. Therefore, you can give yourself grace when those get dropped.

So after five years, I have learned a lot about photography, business, family, and life. I never want to stop discovering the power of new dynamics, and I hope you don’t either.

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