Should Small Business Owners Help Each Other?


Dear Jasmine,
In the past couple of months, I have had several acquaintances message me and ask if I would “meet with them for coffee and help them start their photography business” or if they could “follow along” on one of my shoots to practice. I feel uncomfortable, because I know them.
I love the photography world and how much we share together, but it also feels like a lot of people have been asking me to start their businesses for them or teach them things that are quite basic and that they should definitely know about their cameras if they are going to be starting a photography business. I barely have time to run my own businesses. What should I do? Am I just being a negative Nancy?
Questionably Negative Nancy

Dear Questionably Negative Nancy,
Let’s just state the obvious: small business owners have less time than The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I get it. But it’s important to first identify how you can help your friends without: 1. coddling their aspirations; and 2. losing too much time yourself. Since you emailed me with a question about others asking you questions, let’s just laugh at the irony and move on.

The reason people are asking you for help is likely because they like your work and consider you the closest thing to a mentor in their young career. Keep this in mind during moments of frustration…you’re becoming a leader, whether you asked for it or not. As such, decide whether you want to help others or not. There isn’t a right answer, but as soon as you know what you want, it’ll be easier to move forward. If you opt to focus solely on your career, great! Carefully craft an email explaining your busy schedule and offer a few resource links you’ve found on the web that helped you in the past, then move on.

If, however, you want to help, find ways to make your efforts scalable (helping more than one person at a time). Because I can’t personally help everyone who emails with a request, I’ve promised myself to write at least one photo-related post per week. In the past nine years, I’ve amassed a collection that answers almost every question…and those that haven’t been answered become new blog posts.

Sure, you can wish readers took more time to research business questions and photo tips on their own, but if they’re looking to you for answers, it’s a good thing. It means you’re doing something they love and want to emulate. If you’re still on the fence, consider what my mother tells me: Life has a way of returning what you give not in equal proportion, but in a far greater dose than you can imagine. And my mother is never wrong.

Hugs All Around,

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  1. Rima Hassan

    January 27th, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Beautifully written with wonderful advices <3

  2. Rebeccah

    January 27th, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Love this! Such honest, kind words to keep in mind as we work our way through this cut throat business.

  3. Edgar Duarte

    January 27th, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Helping others is such a rewarding experience, I love it. I recommend everyone to start watching Gary Veynerchuck videos and read his books. He built a multi million company just for caring for others!

  4. Cinthia

    January 27th, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Just an Idea… 🙂
    I think, with the minimus time you can have, you can schedule a meeting, maybe a small conference and present the startings and the difficulties that you had when you started on the photography business…

  5. Elda

    January 27th, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    What I love the most of this post is your Moms advised. Wise woman.

    Thank you so much.

  6. Erin Burk

    January 27th, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    This is all about collaboration…and a few talented business women working together!! We decided to celebrate each other and women~ On the cover of the Bismarck Tribune TODAY!!

  7. Nancy

    January 27th, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    As a newbie I love this! I have been lucky to come across friends who have offered to help and in turn I too have something to offer them. Even if it means recommending clients to them that I may feel are not a good fit for me. I love lifting others up. Please tell your mom that I got goosebumps reading her advice. Thanks for always sharing with us Jasmine!! Hugs from Conroe, TX

  8. Nancy

    January 27th, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    P.S. I’m so not a negative Nancy and so I cringe when i see the whole "negative nancy" LOL

  9. Levi Wiggins

    January 27th, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Well played, Jasmine. There isn’t a right answer, but being asked for help should be considered an honor, not a bother.


    January 27th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    The colors in that bouquet are so gorgeously vibrant!!

    Great post – always look forward to these!

  11. Brian Todd

    January 27th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Sooo, she’s asking you for help about other people asking her for help….? 🙂

  12. Yuliya M.

    January 27th, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Amen! The power of giving is amazing.

  13. Norma Skinner

    January 27th, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    A most insightful answer to a tricky question.

  14. Terina

    January 27th, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    wonderful answer…I was given advice many years ago "you get what you give and then some" I have been blessed so many times over in my business because of following this advice. Thank you as always for sharing with us.

  15. Maggie Amezcua

    January 27th, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    That IS the REASON you Have Been So BLESSED with you business. YOU have help so many on your post Facebook, etc. I not a photographer but i HAVE learned so much on how to take some wonderful pictures at CHURCH Events.

  16. Catherine Fiehn

    January 27th, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Yes and no! Tough one. I love to be helpful but have lost a lot of business and friends by "helping" other photographers and inviting them in. Sounds very harsh indeed, but having someone learn how I do things then having them run through my client list has not been fun.
    Leave the teaching to paid professionals that run workshops or use the time for someone who will work for you as a part of your team, with a non-compete.

  17. Michelle Moyer

    January 27th, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    I am a new photographer and I have been pouring over this website and many more trying to glean what wisdom I can from people who have established themselves already as a professional photographer. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with me. 🙂

  18. Judy West

    January 28th, 2014 at 12:15 am

    Jasmine, I’ve been a wedding photographer for 20+ years and I get so much pleasure out of your postings. Your generosity in answering people’s questions is inspiring and very helpful. You’re great!

  19. Mara

    January 28th, 2014 at 2:38 am

    That’s why we love you j*!

  20. Nika Photography Montreal

    January 30th, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Great answer, love the quote from you mom!

  21. Karina Louise

    January 30th, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Yes! The days of competition and hoarding information is over. Who knows what might come of a meeting with a new photographer. Thanks!

  22. Monika Greenaway

    February 4th, 2014 at 12:38 am

    Great post!

  23. Lornak

    February 27th, 2014 at 1:07 am

    This is a great question, and I so appreciate your answer, Jasmine. I think of how many people helped me along the way, and even though the merits of every request should be factored in, I can only but help others on their journey. And who can argue with your mother or mine!