“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Whoever coined that phrase was clueless!
A photography business can be greatly rewarding, but it can also be a nightmare. Much of that depends on our perception of our business and how we choose to operate. Let’s set the record straight though…if you’re hoping to start a photography business (or ANY business), and think that because you love what you do means it will never feel like work, I’m sorry but that is just not true. There are a few things we need to realize and understand if we want to be happy and successful in our career choice when we decide to “blaze our own trail”.
Like most of us that enter this career field, I had no idea what all was involved in actually being a full time photographer. I knew that it was what I was meant to do, and I also knew that it was something I needed to do…but what I didn’t know is that this is going to be hard work! This is something most people do not understand when they see you as a business owner. They see how nice it must be to “be your own boss” and “set your own hours”, but they don’t see that ALL of the stress in operating and sustaining a business and providing for your family now rests solely on you! There is no company or corporation to hide behind, there is no job security, and when something goes wrong there is NO ONE to blame but YOU! We need to know this up front, and the more quickly we come to this understanding, the sooner we can move forward.
Now that we know and understand that this can be hard work and long hours, it’s time to remind ourselves of a few things…that we are indeed our own boss, we do set our own hours, and that this is OUR business! Another thing to remember is that hard work doesn’t have to be stressful. Those are two entirely different things. Hard work is very good for you, but stress is not! Hard work leads to productivity and and sense of fulfillment. Stress leads to anxiety and numerous health problems. I’ve talked with so many working photographers that are so stressed in their own business because it’s like they are trying to work for the “idea” of a business and what they think it should be, instead of actually working for themselves and their clients. They feel like everyone around them is “competition” and the thought of trying to keep up with them or trying to match their services, well it just continues to add more and more stress.
If you’re reading this right now, you need to understand that YOU are in control! I am by no means even remotely an expert at business. I did however come to a realization early on that has been beneficial to me every step of the way. If I offer what I offer, my clients will be my clients, and my competition will be my competition. Go back and read that again. Notice what I’m not saying vs what I am saying. I am not saying that I am better than anyone else…because I’ve got just as much learning and growing to do as the next guy. I am saying that I am different than anyone else. Being different means that what I offer is up to me. I can choose to offer every photographic product and every photographic service under the sun, and by doing so never being great at any of them. OR, I can choose to offer the products and services that allow me to stand out and that give my clients options that they simply cannot get elsewhere, because I am creating work that is unique to me. This means that my clients see, know, and appreciate what I do. They know the value in what I offer because they want what is unique to me…and if someone does not see the value in what I do and chooses not to hire me, they are simply not my client. They are someone else’s client…and that’s fine (that is what allows our whole system of economy and business to work)! Then, with this understanding, I no longer see other photographers as competition, but rather as friends and co-workers. Instead of trying to fight against them I can then work with them to raise the bar on the services that we offer to our area so that more and more clients are happy (and we photographers can lay down at night knowing that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves)!
It’s great to seek advice and education from more experienced photographers. I would strongly urge and compel each of you to do just that through conferences, workshops and mentorships. Seeing other’s perspectives and learning from their mistakes can go a long way in creating a more profitable business. BUT, what we need to know more than any of that is, at the end of the day, this is our business. This means we make our own decisions, even if they go against the grain of mainstream photography. We choose our own path, even when it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. God has created in us a beautiful mind, capable of joy, creativity, love, imagination and the power to choose our own path! We have the freedom to take the bits and pieces that we pick up from others and mash them together with our own sense of artistry and desire to create a unique entity. Stress comes when we give up this freedom and chain ourselves to the “conformity of our competition”. If we compete with others, we can only ever hope to to one day be better than them…but, if we’re only competing with ourselves, we will never stop pushing to better and better versions of our self.
Spend some time reflecting today. What things are you doing that you hate or that doesn’t feel like “you“. Are you doing these things because someone said you should or because that’s what someone down the road is doing? Would getting rid of these things allow you to feel more free in creating a unique experience for your clients? Would getting rid of these things result in more hard work…but much less stress? This is your business. Do what is right for your family, your clients, and yourself!