Something you should know about me, I have an unreasonably large amount of friends. I don’t mean homegirls/boys who I casually know. I mean I have a lot of legitimate friends whose parents know me, and who I could call at 3 AM from jail, and know that they would show up for me without question. Well, there would be questions, but not until the car ride home. I consider this a huge blessing, but this year it revealed itself to be a bit of crutch for me in terms of my business life.
See, when you have a lot of people who you can lean on for advice or support, you don’t consult with yourself as much as you should. You fail to rely on yourself as much, because there’s always someone whose opinion you value more than your own. (Am I the only one out here working on their self-esteem?) You look for validation of your ideas from that network of people, and you slowly lose faith in your ability to make the right choices. Or you count on some of those people to come to your aid in situations where you likely could’ve saved yourself.
Resourcefulness is great quality, but only to the extent that you can rely on other people, which isn’t that often. People will offer to help you, and be very sincere in that offer, but once the real work starts, their commitment can become shaky, and next thing you know you’re left alone to pick up the pieces. The only people you can rely on are the ones who you are paying, and even they can become fickle.
For example, you may have noticed a sharp decrease in the amount of fashion photos I was posting for a while this year. Well, the photographer I was working with at the time was giving me a really good hookup on his rates. I mean really good. Then one day out of the blue, he sent a text saying there would be no more hookups on photo packages, and that if anyone wanted to schedule shoots they would need to do so through another person, and if that anyone had a problem with that, he’d be more than happy to direct them to someone else. Now, I am not the most…financially responsible person. My best friend says that I don’t have a cash flow problem, I have a cash control problem. I strongly dislike when she’s right, but I digress. For that reason, I was fully unprepared to start paying real photographer rates on a regular basis, plus the cost of clothes for the shoots, so I was high and dry there for a while. In swoops a homegirl who says she has a real camera, and would be willing to shoot for me until I could find an affordable replacement photographer. Great! Or so I thought. I’ll spare you the details, but she…changed her mind. We’ll leave it at that. So there I was without a photographer, in dire need of new content, and no disposable cash to pay for either.
My initial feeling was one of betrayal, and unfairness. I felt like a white woman who’d been served gluten without her knowledge. Like why would someone do this to me? It’s way too easy to fall into a state of victim hood. Sure it sucked to be left without, but I also should’ve managed my money better. There were steps that I should’ve taken for the just in case. In life, not just in business, it’s no one’s responsibility to take care of you, but you. Beyoncé taught me that (hey girl). People are basically trash, but you have to get shit done any way. Here’s how:
Don’t Wear a Favor Out
Unless you’re rich, you have to get creative with how you finance your projects, so a hookup can be a major blessing. However, if someone offers to do you a favor, only cash in on it a maximum of two times, and not in rapid succession. What constitutes a favor you ask? Anything someone does for you that you aren’t paying them for. Space your requests out, and diversify your resources. Never rely on one person to be your everything. That’s what God is for.
Outsource as Much as Possible
There’s still an awful lot that I don’t know how to do (professional photo editing, audio editing, etc.) so these are things I outsource. Paying someone on time lessens the chances they’ll screw you over, but make sure you shop around for the best rates. Students are always a great resource, because they’re broke as hell just like you, and looking to build their portfolios. Utilize the career center and job boards at surrounding schools. Those students aren’t professionals, so they won’t charge you as much, but you’ll still get a pretty good deal.
Learn it Yourself
You can save quite a bit of cash on outsourcing by learning how to do as much as possible on your own, and within reason (you don’t want to spread yourself too thin). For example, I wanted branded content for my Instagram page. There are graphic designers who charge for that kind of thing, but there are also websites that allow me to create that stuff for free, on my own, whenever I need to. That knowledge has given me more freedom to create on my own time. You don’t have to wait on anybody but yourself if you are willing to learn new skills. That’s another topic for another day.
Get it in Writing
Whenever I work with a new photographer, I make sure there’s a paper trail to reflect how much they’ve quoted for me, for x amount of looks, for x amount of edited photos. People can argue with you, but they can’t argue over their own words.
Contingency is Key
Again, people will let you down, even if they don’t mean to, even if you are paying them. You must always have a backup plan, but be okay with the fact that shit happens.
Make a Creative Budget
I am really fortunate to have a full time job that allows me to pay for NCB; however, I also have bills, rent, etc. I’m not willing to turn tricks at the Plaza Hotel, or sell Fit Tea, so it’s really important that I am intentional with my spending money. The only people who say money isn’t everything are the people who have a lot of it. It may not be everything, but it certainly gives you a freedom that being broke doesn’t. You also want to be able to reimburse people who hook you up whenever possible. For example, if someone says they’ll give you a ride somewhere, they’ll be a lot more likely to do so again, if you give them gas money the next time. People are more likely to contribute to your cause if they know there’s a payoff at some point.
Go easy on the people in your life. Life is happening to all of us, which sometimes makes it hard for us to keep our word. If someone flakes, try your best not to take it personal. Take a breath, and regroup. You know more than you realize you do, and you are capable of learning even more. There is always a solution somewhere in your mind if you can focus enough to see it, so be flexible, and willing to adapt and learn.
Trim Dead Weight
However, don’t let repeat offenders stick around. If someone is consistently inconsistent, it may be time to reprioritize their role/relationship to your business. This is your baby, and everybody ain’t qualified or interested in keeping your baby.