After working in other photography studios for a few years, Ben Williams decided to take a big leap of faith and went out on his own in 2012. He says his background provided an “incredible learning experience” as these days he does all the photography, videography, editing and everything else that comes with running your own small business.
For others looking to follow in his footsteps and start their own business, Williams emphasises the importance of learning from those who came before. He recommends finding someone doing the same role as you but who is perhaps a few years ahead of you in their own business.
“Try to spend as much time with them as possible,” Williams says. “There are so many things that took me a couple of years to figure out – the good ways to do things, the not-so-good ways – whether it was advertising or my website or delivery of photos and videos. On your own, those sort of things take a long time to test out, but if you find somebody who’s up to date in the tools of the trade, they give you a good place to start, which will give you a head start in the long run.”
It’s also given him a greater appreciation of being his own boss. “I like making clients really happy, and I like the fact that you get to have a final say about the quality of the product. When you work for another studio, you can do only the best job you possibly can, but then everything else is up to the boss. You have no control. Now, with my own business, from start to finish, I’m in control.”
What differentiates Williams from other photographers – and other photography businesses – is mainly style. “I’m not saying that my stuff is better than others. There are so many good photographers out there – people with amazing skills. So one of the most important factors when you’re choosing a photographer is to go with a style you like. I always recommend that people look at different companies and different photographers. If you like the look of the photos or videos, that’s the kind of thing you’ll end up with, so go with that.”
Meeting His Match with QuickBooks
These same attributes – the importance of learning about and testing different options, of championing high quality and professionalism, and of choosing a style that’s right for you – extended to Williams’ choice of accounting software as well.
As his business grew, Williams was ready to upgrade from doing his bookkeeping with Word and Excel. “When I started getting lots of jobs every week, I’d have a backlog of invoices for ages, and it was painful to deal with them all. Plus, I wasn’t receiving the money for them for ages either!”
So Williams decided to spend a little bit of money on accounting software. He tried and tested a few month-long free trials, just writing out invoices and seeing how the software worked, before arriving at the winner: QuickBooks.
“I tried Reckon, an Australian brand, and I tried Saasu. They were okay, but Saasu was so much more expensive. For me, it wasn’t the right value for money. QuickBooks Online was a good price and seemed to do everything I needed it to do.”
When it comes to the importance that Williams places on making a positive impression on clients, another plus of QuickBooks Online is that the invoices clients receive look professional. Also, it has an automated feature that allows you to attach your quote or invoice to an email generated from the accounting software.
“I think that can be an advantage as well. It shows your clients that you’re letting your accounting software work for you, so you can spend your time on the important things like creating a quality product or service. And that looks a bit more professional too.”
As Williams’ business has grown, so have the ways in which he uses QuickBooks Online. “I was using it primarily for writing quotes and invoices, but now I’m starting to use it more and more for expenses – all the outgoing stuff. I’ve started using the PayPal integration. I use the PayPal app to view my incomings and outgoings.”
Because he often does his invoicing and quoting after he’s been photo and video editing on the computer, 95 per cent of the time he accesses QuickBooks Online from his laptop and desktop. “However, I have used the QuickBooks phone app a couple of times, which has been handy when I’ve been on location and someone calls up and wants an invoice or a quote.”
As the Saying Goes, Time is Money
Williams doesn’t pay for a bookkeeper, but he sees QuickBooks Online’s bottom-line value in his time savings. “If I think about my time as being worth a certain amount per hour, that’s amazing! Because rather than my spending three hours tackling Word document invoices, the software is organising everything for me and doing most of the work.”
Williams already has an architect friend using the software. And he’d urge anyone who’s doing more than a few jobs a week to get on board with QuickBooks Online.
“Because of how valuable your time is, it just makes a lot of sense. Even if your company is not earning much yet and you feel like the accounting software is expensive, I’d recommend spending a bit of extra money and freeing up your time rather than saving the money, sitting in front of your computer and wasting that precious time.”