By Joe Josland
Some people are born businessy. We’ve all grown up with people who seemed predestined to do something special: the young entrepreneurs with the drive, vigor and guile to make a name for themselves, who pick up pace and never stop running. But so many other small businesses spring from dissatisfaction with work. Maybe your job is monotonous, and you’re convinced there’s something out there you can enjoy doing. Maybe you’ve built up experience and think you could do the same job better. Either way, all businesses start from a spark of passion.
As businesses grow and circumstances intrude though, these initial goals can become sidelined. Circumstances can force you to take practical decisions, and difficult periods can test the resolve of owners and employees, who often lack the same level of investment. The aim should be to restore this by creative and functional means for every member of a business.
I was one of those people who had to work at it. As a keen amateur photographer, I developed my Previewtechnique and a strong set of principles without ever seeing a career path in it. When I ended up in sales it was a means to an end, but I didn’t want it to be the end. The hours were bad and the pay was worse. I plugged away, and eventually ended up in a supervisor position at a reputable supermarket chain.
You wouldn’t think this would be the start of an epiphany, but it nurtured something in me that set me on a very different path. I found I really enjoyed the customer service side of things, with a particular focus on helping customers that can become sidelined in larger businesses. Despite the size of the chain (and the size of the store), there was a distinct focus on individuality and the customer experience which really struck a chord.
It was the birth of my baby daughter however which forced a change of circumstance and career. Looking for something more flexible that could also support a family, I looked back to old passions and found photography. But the landscapes wouldn’t quite cut it. It needed to be something I could enjoy on a human level, spreading the same kind of joy I had just experienced.
One mention of weddings and the gears started turning. Here was a way to form a business around the happiest events of people’s lives, utilize the skills I’d developed and resurrect a skill I’d barely even thought about. It was the perfect passion project and a viable business idea.
I’ve been lucky enough that those goals and that enjoyment has never wavered. But I’m a strong believer that whatever your business and occupation, having fun should always be the end goal. It shouldn’t just be something that applies to freelancers and small scale SMEs.
After all, travelling the country to capture memorable moments isn’t a walk in the park. The nature of my business is such that the responsibilities are varied, and the calendar always full. You need people skills, costing is highly variable and consistent funds vital, and my equipment is expensive and occasionally fragile (particularly given the environment!).
On top of that you have the technical aspect of creating and distributing your own products, tailored in some way to each individual client. Being a wedding photographer is a microcosm of many different business types. As such, it’s a great model to follow in terms of enjoying your work without compromising your business.
Of course, it isn’t all hard work. The things that make going to work so fun are the fundamental building blocks of success for any business: direct interaction and feedback, with the end result of creating something that people love. I have the advantage (and occasional burden) of this entire process happening over the course of a single day, dozens of times a year.
But the principles remain the same. Moreover, the environment in which I work fosters better work. Integral to my documentary style of photography is integrating with the wedding party, getting to know people so they feel at ease when I take snaps. Instead of floating around the periphery, trying to work without interacting with people, I get stuck in and enjoy the festivities. And when I enjoy myself, I get to create the opportunities which lead to the best photos.
It’s an idea I think applies universally. If your current project isn’t invigorating you or your employees, that might speak to the nature of the product or service at the end of it. At the root of starting a business based on a passion is the wish to share that passion with others; for people to enjoy the fruits of your labours as much as you enjoy the work. If you love shoes and get into making shoes, you want people to like what you’ve made. So if you aren’t enjoying the process of output, it might not be to the standard you would expect.
The best remedy for this is to get creative. Involve people at every level, and make them feel part of the process, however significant their input. Creativity drives innovation, and innovation should be the bedrock of every business. You want to be constantly learning and improving. For me, that’s a very direct process. But everyone in a business should have that opportunity. If there’s no end goal of improvement, your work lacks meaning and value.
Perhaps the biggest aspect of this is forming human connections. By the nature of online retail, even a small business without a brick and mortar store can lose sight of its customers. That feedback isn’t just important, it’s incredibly valuable as a means of gratification and validation that what you’re doing matters. You don’t have to be a charity to make a difference to people.
The customer service side of a job can be difficult and frustrating, but the good moments stick with you. Not only do they keep you adjusted and on the right path, they also drive you to work harder and better. We all need human interaction, and this shouldn’t just derive from office chatter or a weekend out. Forming the same sorts of bonds with customers as you have with friends and co-workers forms a community that will bind your business together.
Joe Josland is the founder of JJosland Photography, and works as a documentary wedding photographer in Kent and across the UK. His unique natural style aims to replicate the story of the wedding day through pictures, capturing the moments of joy that matter most. You can find him on Twitter here and on Instagram here.