I’m sharing some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since launching Haute Stock
With the five year anniversary of Haute Stock’s coming up, I thought it would be fun to share five of the important lessons I’ve learned since starting the business.
There’s honestly so much I could say about this, it could be a list of over 100 lessons (life as an entrepreneur means always learning, right?!) but I narrowed it down to five that I think will help if you’re just starting out, or even if you’ve been in a business a while and want to launch something new.
Let’s dive in to my five lessons I’ve learned in five years of running Haute Stock!
1/ You don’t need fancy equipment to get started.
I launched Haute Stock using the Canon Rebel camera I had purchased 4 years earlier when my first child was born. My only other equipment were some white foam boards from the dollar store and a few props. I shot in a small corner of my bedroom because it had the best light for more than two years!
As the business grew I slowly started investing in better equipment, a professional camera, better quality lenses, and a studio space.
Don’t let the illusion of not having the right equipment hold you back from starting your business or from showing up online! Work with what you have right now, and then invest in better equipment as you grow.
2/ Google it!
There will come a time in your business where it will absolutely make sense to invest in courses, coaching, or a mastermind, but when you’re first starting out, you may not have money to invest in those things. Don’t let that hold you back!
If you’re resourceful, you can find the answers you need for free. When I came up with the idea for Haute Stock, I was not a photographer — in fact I had never even used manual mode on my camera!
I was a self-taught graphic designer, and I figured if I could teach myself graphic design and run a successful design business, I could probably also learn photography. With lots of time on YouTube, reading photography books, and practice (like thousands of photos that will never see the light of day), I honed my skills enough to launch!
Once your business starts to take off, you’ll have more money to invest, and probably less time. At that point, you should start taking courses to hone your skills quicker, or invest in coaching or masterminds to help you reach the next level in your business or mindset.
The caveat to this, is that you need to have the skills you’re claiming to have. So if you don’t have them yet, that means you hold off on launching until you do (but don’t hold off indefinitely! #goodbyeimpostorsyndrom).
3/ DIY your website.
I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to hire a designer/developer for your first website. Why? Because if you haven’t launched yet, your idea hasn’t been tested, and you’ll probably need to pivot.
It’s so much better to quickly get a website up and running, make your offer, see who signs up, get feedback, and then adjust accordingly.
Spending weeks or months (and $$$) on a custom designed website just doesn’t make sense when you’re first launching. It’s also really important for you to know the ins and outs of your website platform, which you’ll learn if you build it yourself.
That way — when it is time to hire a designer — you have a better idea of what you need. And after they’ve handed you the keys to your new site, you know how to make updates and minor changes yourself!
Eventually, you’ll reach a point in your business where you’ll have a clearer idea of your target market, your offer(s), and the brand you want to build. That’s probably the right time to hire pros to help you with your branding and website development, but before then, you can absolutely do it yourself!
Oh, and don’t spend ages trying to get your website perfect because, frankly, it never will be! There will always be tweaks and updates. The key is to push past that and just launch it knowing you’ll continue to improve.
4/ Be ready to pivot.
You may think you know what your customers want, but honestly until you start selling and getting feedback, all you have are assumptions.
I believe that one of the reasons why Haute Stock has been successful is that we have listened to our members’ feedback from day one and worked really hard to incorporate their suggestions into our business model.
Everything from the types of images we create, to the color schemes we launch, to how our custom membership site functions, has been informed by our members.
We’ve pivoted many times — going from releasing images once a month, to once a week. Starting out with only styled desktop flatlays to doing a lot of lifestyle imagery, because of requests and suggestions from members.
Our subscription has evolved into so much more than stock photos because we’ve added pre-made designs, exclusive design assets and editable templates in an effort to help our members spend less time on their visuals and more time operating in their zone of genius.
There’s no way I could have envisioned all the additional design assets and resources we would offer our members as part of a Haute Stock subscription when I first started out.
The key to running a successful business long-term: always listen to what your customers want and then be ready to pivot to make it happen!
5/ Hire help!
I brought on my first contractor about a year into the business to help me with prop shopping and at photoshoots. About six months after that, I brought on someone to help with admin. I grew my team really slowly, and I honestly think that was a mistake. I’m sure I could have grown Haute Stock faster (and with probably less stress and overwhelm) if I had hired sooner.
But, I was worried about bringing people on for a lot of reasons:
Giving up control
Not being a good leader
Not finding the right people
Business slowing down and not having the money to pay my contractors
All those fears kept me from hiring contractors and instead trying to do everything myself. Which, you guessed it, only led to overwhelm and burnout for me.
I eventually got with the program and started hiring contractors for specific roles within Haute Stock and it has been a great decision! This year we’ve added even more contractors to our team, from contributing photographers, to stylists, to marketing managers, and graphic designers.
It has been a challenge for me to manage a growing team, many of whom work remotely, but it has also freed up more of my time to really take the role of creative director, work on more higher level growth strategies, and has ultimately led to better collections for our Haute Stock members!
Bonus Tip – The perfect time is now!
It may seem like you have to wait for the stars to align perfectly to start your business or launch your new offer, but in my experience you create the perfect time.
You’ll almost always want to launch before you’re ready. As the saying goes, if you’ve waited until it’s perfect, you’ve waited too long.
I launched Haute Stock 10 days before my second son was born. The timing was less than ideal, but it was actually the perfect time to launch because if I had of waited until after he was born it probably would have taken me months or even another year to launch.
Being the first to launch a styled stock photography library with a membership model definitely helped me grow the business early on. People were really excited about the idea of having access to a library of images that was updated on an ongoing basis, rather than purchasing individual images!
That excitement allowed me to grow Haute stock relatively quickly for the first year.
So, if you have an idea that you’re so excited to launch, I encourage you to figure out your MVP (minimum viable product) and launch with that!
You can use all the feedback you get from that first launch to make improvements based on what you know your customers want vs. what you think they want. It may seem scary, but just remember that nothing is ever truly perfect, you get to decide what’s perfect for you!
The entrepreneurship journey is exhilarating and overwhelming and all the emotions in between. It’s normal to feel on top of the world one day and the next wonder what the heck you’re doing with your life.
One of my biggest suggestions is to find yourself a group of like-minded people to support you. Whether you meet in person or online, having some trusted friends who are also on this journey will help you be a happier, healthier business owner.
And on that note, try your best not to compare yourself to others. You are truly on your own unique journey and it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing! “Success” can be very superficial, we have no idea what people are really going through behind those perfectly polished squares.
I hope that sharing some of my journey over the last five years will help inspire you on yours!