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How do you know when it’s time to pivot in your business? What are the steps you should take?
Recently I made a really fun announcement that I am hiring associate photographers. This was a huge step for me in business. This is my first official hire, outside of outsourcing my editing from time to time. I knew it was time to make some changes in my business when things just started to get way too busy.
Giving up that creative freedom and handing off responsibilities to someone else is scary because it’s still my business on the line. But if you want your business to grow and scale there just comes a point when you cannot do it all alone. You will come to a point where you either have to stop taking on more, or you have to pivot.
Pivoting in your business can occur for many reasons. Not all of them include becoming too busy. Sometimes you are just forced into it. Such as when the pandemic first happened and businesses that are non essential were forced to stay home.
As hard as it was, so many people got creative with this. Instead of letting their businesses fall flat, they stepped up in other ways. Photographers were offering porch sessions where they would take photos of families on their front porches from their car. I saw creatives step into educational spaces, and teach other people how to do what they do. There were facetime photoshoots, Brick and Mortar businesses that went online, and so on.
If you have ever been in a spot where you felt like you may need to pivot or change things up, then this is the episode for you.
My Personal Pivot’s
Horse training to full time photography
My career as a horse trainer began when I was 18. I had started giving riding lessons to kids my senior year of high school and the owner of my barn told me that he believed I should start taking on training clients. That scared me at first because I didn’t feel like I was qualified to do it but he seemed to believe in me, so I gave it a shot. To my surprise, this little business blew up. I took on so many clients, and before long my riding lessons were far and few in between and my full time business was training horses.
At the same time, I was also dabbling in photography. After college I hit the ground running with that business too. I would go out and work horses all day, and then in the evenings, I would head off to photoshoots. Feeling like a total hustler I was raking in the dough. But I was exhausted.
After my horse training accident when I met my husband, I was hit with the harsh reality that horse training may not be my lifelong career. Being that I wanted to have kids one day, putting myself and my body through that kind of trauma wasn’t realistic. The decision was made to ease back a ton on horse training and hit it hard with photography.
Photography to education
In 2020 when the pandemic hit, I was getting a lot of DM’s about what to do, how people should handle their businesses, etc. It made me realize that I had information people needed. And was getting asked the same questions over and over. So I figured I would give educating a shot. Coming from a riding lesson instructor background prepared me for my debut as a business coach\teacher.
Education to podcasting
Teaching students 1 on 1 became a huge passion of mine, but I wanted to go beyond that. Scaling that business even further and increasing my income in different ways became my new goal. The summer of 2020 was when I got the idea to start a podcast for western business owners. For 6 months I worked on that dream and launched it in January of 2021.
How To Know If It’s Time To Pivot
You Aren’t Passionate Anymore
It’s natural as a business owner/brand to go through seasons of feeling not as passionate as you used to about whatever it is that you do. There will be times where you are so inspired and motivated and full of ideas, and there will be times when you feel like quitting. In those random moments of uncertainty I think it’s important to take a step back and get some clarity. Never quit on a bad day.
At the minimum it might be time to start thinking about setting some boundaries for yourself. What would happen if you stopped working at 5pm every single day? And I mean STOP. No checking your emails, or going through business related DM’s or sending out contracts at 6pm. Setting healthy work \ life boundaries can open up a whole new world for you. It may seem like a small change but the impact it will have on your mental health will be astounding. If you set boundaries, or scale back on your workload and you are still feeling uneasy about what you are doing, then a pivot may be necessary.
The Profit Isn’t There
If your business is not making you money, does that actually count as a business? Oof, I know this might be a little bit of tough love but they don’t pay me to be nice they pay me to be honest. Sis, if you are running a “business” that makes you no money, why are you doing it?
I would highly encourage you to go through and check your finances, and look at how much you are charging vs. your monthly expenses. If you are not profiting… key word profiting not breaking even… you need to change something. Coming to a harsh realization that your business isn’t profitable doesn’t mean you have to change your business. It may just mean you need to run your business smarter.
Your Vision \ Lifestyle Are No Longer Aligned
As a fresh out of high school photographer, I was really into shooting senior portraits. When I grew older and began to walk into a season of my life where I was starting to think about marriage, I fell in love with photographing wedding days. Now that I am married and entering a season where we are starting to think about starting a family, I really love maternity photos and families.
Your business and passions may change as your life does. Aside from photography I am also looking to create more income streams that do not involve me working so much. This is why I decided to start hiring associate photographers for my company. Stepping into a CEO role means you have to be willing to change and face new challenges. For me, giving up some creative control is scary but so freeing!
Having Multiple Income Streams
Some people jump into a business thinking that is all they are ever going to do for the rest of their lives. And trust me I was one of them. I thought I would be a photographer forever and shoot 30 weddings per year until I was 60. The reality is though, I don’t want to do that. I want to be able to take a month long vacation with my family and have a business that is still making me money while I am gone. That is a true CEO mindset.
Business owners and entrepreneurs are very different. One is not better than the other. It’s just 2 different ways of thinking. A business owner usually wants to stick to one thing. An entrepreneur wants to have multiple things running at the same time.
I once heard a statistic that said the average millionaire has 7 streams of income. So my goal is to make at least 8. I have about 5 I am actively doing as it stands right now. Tune into episode 015 here, where I go into more depth about multiple income streams.
None of this is to say you HAVE to do it this way or this is the RIGHT way to be a business owner. But I don’t believe in putting all your eggs in one basket. Having at least 2 different income streams is important because there is never a guarantee one will be around forever.
How To Actually Begin Pivoting
To be able to pivot successfully in business, it is crucial to have built a brand, not a business. If you build a true brand (more than just your logo and website colors) you are in a powerful position to really do whatever the heck you want. Most business owners, photographers for example, focus so much on just their business itself. They put all their time and effort into posting their work and showing how talented they are, but they lack in sharing about themselves.
THIS IS HUGE! I say this probably in every episode/post and yet people still don’t listen. YOU make your business different. Not your work. Here’s another tough love moment, but I bet I could find someone else on the internet who does exactly what you do and their work looks exactly like yours. So why should someone choose you over them? This leads people to make decisions based on prices. And do you really want someone to choose you because you were the cheaper option???
I actually get flattered when people choose my competition over me because they are cheaper… ya girl will not be known as the cheap photographer. My experience is too expensive for that.
I have also had brides book me for their wedding solely because I shared my love for horses and my dog and they could relate to that. Sure they liked my work too but, they jumped in because they felt like we could be friends outside of this business exchange. That is a brand.
To wrap this all up just remember, you are allowed to be flexible and change things within your business when they no longer align with where you are going. Life changes, that is okay. Pivoting is allowed, you just have to be smart about it and know that it won’t happen overnight. It might be a slow transition as you move forward into the next best thing.
Take your time. Evaluate all the possibilities and outcomes. Find what sets your heart on fire and run for it in full force. Life is too short to live any other way. I believe in you, I trust you and I love that you are here with me on my own wild journey of business and life.
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I'm Sarah Elrod
I'm a Cowgirl turned serial entrepreneur.
I'm a horse trainer, western wedding photographer, business coach and ranch wife.
I help women in the western industry grow thriving businesses from rural America.
When I am not strategizing new marketing tactics, you will find me riding my horses, cuddling my cattle dog, or kissing my hot husband.
There is also a good chance I am buying way too many outfits from western boutiques.
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