The photography field is competitive.
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We asked Jeff McSweeney how he's managed to stay ahead of the pack in his area.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
My firm is Jeff McSweeney Creative Services. I am based in Eureka, Illinois.
I am a creative strategist who works with business clients and individuals who understand the value of great imagery and visionary marketing.
When did you start the business?
I went out on my own in May 2005.
Before this, I was in marketing and public relations for convention centers and a liberal arts college.
I have earned money from my photography since I was 18 but full time since May 2005. I have been a photographer for 25 years.
Where did you get the startup money for your company?
I invested in myself before taking the leap on my own. My parents offered a fallback guarantee in case things went bad.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
My main competitors are the highest-end wedding photographer located in a small town nearby and a commercial photographer based in the nearby large city (Peoria). I compete by being extremely responsive to clients needs trying to return calls and perform requests within 24 hours.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I am surprised that I need to be much more selective about the clients that I take on and how much influence some of the clients can have over my life.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I had done it sooner and had greater faith in my abilities. I still struggle with growing to fill what a majority of friends and advisors feel I can achieve.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
BNI networking groups, general networking, getting out and shaking hands so people remember who I am. Since the beginning of my business I have adopted red Converse high top shoes in my business attire. It gives me the air of 'artist' and makes me distinctive when people do not remember names.
That's a nice touch. Smart personal branding! What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a photography business?
Do what you say you are going to do. I am amazed how many businesses I have come across who say they want the check but do not follow up on the commitments they have made.
That's so true. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business.