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,