This lil photography biz of mine celebrates 5 years this month of officially being in business!!
In some ways, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long and in other ways, it definitely seems that long. Each year brought many blessings and many new lessons. I was in my mid-20s when I started my business and had NO clue what I was doing. I just figured I’d build this thing and see what happens. I didn’t start out with a detailed business plan or a set strategy on how I was going to actually build and run a business.
But I was going to do it.
Let’s take a trip, shall we?….to back over the last 5 years and a few of the important lessons I learned of building a business:
1 – Don’t ignore the fire.
I really have no clue why I started to enjoy photography. I hated it in college, I almost failed my darkroom photography class. I remember the majority of students in the class knew what they were doing, they knew how to shoot in manual and exchanged terminology with the professor that gave me a headache.
There were other photographers, like my uncle, that played a role in helping my view of photography change. It seems like it happened over night that a fire was built in me (I know it didn’t, but looking back it seems all of the sudden).
Starting a business is a BALL of frustration, followed by excitement and more frustration. Growing my business didn’t come as quickly as I thought it should and the frustration would often get the best of me. But I couldn’t give up, no matter how much the negative thoughts grew, throwing in the towel wasn’t going to happen.
That’s an important piece of the recipe in building a goal or dream. You absolutely have to be relentless. If plan A doesn’t work, try and try again.
2 – Stop trying to control everything.
For the most part, I can be a patient person…except when it comes to something I REALLY want. And I wanted a photography business…now.
Shortly after starting my business, I wanted so much to get bookings. It was a slow start, the first full year in business resulted in a few inquiries, a handful of sessions…mostly for family and friends….and for free.
It was even more disappointing to finally, finally land a consultation with a couple for their wedding photography and they ended up choosing someone else. It happened, more times than I wanted and it would sit heavy.
I was so frustrated. So frustrated. I took this fire and dove head first into starting a photography business. I literally had no plan, no strategy…just run.
When I realized that building this thing would take time, I had to pull out a lot of patience. I was going to do everything I could to make it work, but where the path led was out of my control.
3 – Negative Nancys are Wack.
Really though, who has time for Negative Nancys. Get outta here with that junk.
I believe there is a large difference between constructive criticism and just plain hatefulness.
After photographing a few portraits for family and friends, I had enough images to start somewhat of a portfolio. I was eager and nervous to show them to another photographer and receive feedback. They quickly scanned over the images and looked me in the eyes, “On a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the best, you’re around a 4.”
The comment was hard to swallow, but the comment had come from a place of “get your butt in gear and stop fooling around.” I needed to hear it and I needed to get it together. Game face on.
There are just plain hateful and unhappy people in this world that will make unnecessary remarks. It’s not your problem. You won’t be everything to everyone. It’s impossible.
The negative comments won’t stop, they just never will…but at the end of the day, I’m proud of where I’ve come from and what I’ve accomplished. I’ve built something that represents who I am and what I enjoy. That’s what’s important, they are not.
4 – There’s always someone better, but not better at being you.
Oh my…I’m just going to put it out there, I had a jealousy issue.
Since it was taking a while to get my business where I wanted it, I often spent time looking at others’ work and admiring where their business was. I got lost in a spiral of watching other photographers and making them my competition, it was such a waste of time.
It took me a while to release that energy towards them and invest it back in myself. Continuing to watch my “competition” was just hurting me in the end. It was taking focus away from my journey.
I say the word “competition” loosely, most of the other photographers didn’t even live in my city!! Or if they did, there were/are plenty of weddings to go around!
The point is, just be yourself. Do your best. Shoot the way you want to shoot and find your own audience.
5 – Learn to shoot in manual.
Have you ever been up against a big challenge, a learning curve, something that would require a lot of time and effort?
That was me, knowing I need to learn how to photograph in manual mode, but a bit overwhelmed. ISO? Aperture? Shutter Speed? White Balance? Huh????
Oh man, I took every way around to avoid shooting in manual. I failed miserably. Sometimes there just isn’t shortcuts. Buckle up and take the long way, you’ll learn a lot and benefit from it.
I read. I practiced. I cussed. I read. I asked questions. I practiced. Frustration. Wait, I think I’m getting it. Oh, that image doesn’t look too bad. Gaining momentum.
No one ever said it’d be easy.
6 – There are no rules.
You need to…
Why are you…
Don’t do that…
Do it your way. I don’t know how many people told me to quit my day job, structure my pricing a certain way and photograph with certain equipment.
Most people are trying to help, I get that, but there’s no real rules when it comes to your journey. There’s not a special formula that’s one size fits all.
Take the advice you want, keep it, use it and disregard the rest. Blaze your own trail, solider.
7 – If you feel it in your gut, listen.
If something feels a little scary, but in a good way, like an adrenaline rush…I usually feel it in my gut. It’s just a feeling, something I gotta do and can’t believe I’m doing it.
There were a few things a long the way that were scary. Like, um, networking. It didn’t come natural to me and my first networking event I felt like a ball of awkwardness. It’s like inside you’re screaming to just leave, but you know you gotta stay and work it out. It took a few events for me to finally feel somewhat comfortable with being in a room of almost strangers. It still isn’t a super fun experience for me, just not as awkward lol.
One year, I decided to book as many weddings as I could. Whhhhhhaaaaaat was I doing?! It felt scary, but in an awesome way. I ended that year with 17 weddings + working a full-time job. It was crazy. I would do it all over again though. Such cool clients and such cool images that still some of my favorites.
Another year, I decided to price myself differently. Entire new pricing structure and new rates. I really wasn’t sure how potential clients would react, it could’ve went either way. Dive in and take a chance. My gut was telling me it was crazy…but it could work.
And it did. Just fine.
Pay attention to your gut.
8 – Enjoy the ride.
Please. Please. Please take time to celebrate your successes & overcoming obstacles.
Take time for yourself.
Whatever goal you’re reaching for, celebrate the little things and be good to yourself. You’re learning, you’re growing, you’ll make mistakes. That’s ok.
Take time off. Buy things for yourself.
Enjoy the journey, it’s such an important piece to your destination.
And DON’T GIVE UP. You got this and you’re worth it.