Rachel Woods | Smoke Signal Photography
As summer begins to wane, the rhythm and balance between work and outdoor time has become more challenging for me. Lately, I have found myself sitting at my computer, editing photo galleries and mentally returning to the outdoor location where I was shooting, or longingly looking out the window while I update my branding guide so I can finally launch my new website. As someone trying to run a business with ADHD – and who worked as an outdoor guide for a decade before stepping into an entrepreneurship role – making the time every day to step away from my desk and tend to my flower and herb garden has become a ritual to keep me balanced. Not only does this give my mind and hands a break from electronics and hyper-focused work, it also inevitably highlights the correlation between starting a garden and starting a successful business.
Breaking Ground — Setting a Solid Business Foundation
Gardening in East Tennessee can be challenging. The soil is full of rocks and a majority of it is red clay, so those that wish to start a garden need to consider how to work with the soil by choosing crops that will survive, or by altering it in some way. As I was weeding my zinnias around my mailbox a few weeks ago, I marveled at how tough and unrelenting the ground can be. So much work has to be put into starting a garden to make sure your plants will even survive here, that early on may even question, “Is it worth it?”. Through diligent tilling, mixing in compost, and selecting plants adaptable or native to our region and growing conditions, you can start with a strong foundation. The same can be applied to your business. Without a solid foundation, failure is inevitable. These are a few things that can contribute to solid ground to build your business upon:
Your customer base will want to know who you are, your values, and your voice. Make sure YOU know what your brand looks , feels, and sounds like before you start marketing yourself. Ask yourself what problems your business solves. For me, I help women entrepreneurs elevate their brand through photography that shows their beauty and personality with the world. I also shoot outdoors, so that type of photography caters to brands who have a certain vibe. Add as much personality as you want, and practice telling yourself and others about your business until it feels natural.
Separating your business from your personal life
This might seem like a no-brainer, but the reason this is at the top of my list is because my work as a photographer is SO PERSONAL to start with. When I started working from home, I was spending a lot of time on my couch or bed with my laptop, and it eventually felt like my work life was invading my down time. I decided to turn our unused dining room into a home office to designate a workspace with professional (but creative and inspiring) surroundings. I don’t use this space for anything else, and I don’t work anywhere else in my home.
Establishing working business hours and BOUNDARIES
This can be hard for those who, like me, work in the evenings on occasion – but I always finish my workday with an activity that takes my brain from work mode to home mode. For me, that’s having a cup of tea or taking one of my dogs for a walk. Resisting the urge to check emails or answer work-related texts was a challenge early on, but I’ve established with my clients that after a certain time of day, they may not get a response. Pro-tip: hide your social media apps in a separate folder on your phone and turn off notifications.
Other foundational steps include establishing a separate bank account to keep your business funds away from your personal finances (this will be helpful to see where your money is going and to also streamline tax season), creating and implementing a business plan, and setting up your pricing so that you’re able to pay yourself. Financially sound practices are a big part of your foundation. If this is something that makes you nervous (like me!), consider outsourcing to a financial advisor to help get you started. Once you have a solid foundation for your business in place, you need to consider the best way to GROW your business.