I put together a blog post about the hard lessons I've had to learn to get to where I am now. I wrote about the things I struggled with as a photographer, the things I wish someone could have told me in the beginning, the lessons I had to learn the hard way.
I started with a wish; that turned into a dream.
A dream that turned into a goal.
If you're a photographer, I hope you take the time to read it.
Tell me - Which one do you feel you've struggled with the most?
1. COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS
I see this ALL the time. Photographers are researching what others in the area are charging and what they're offering. It never crossed my mind when I started as a photographer because, at that time, I was happy pulling in a little here and there for sessions. The more I worked, the more I valued my time, and I adjusted my prices based on what I wanted. It has nothing to do with what everyone else was doing. I see photographers compare themselves all the time to what others are doing, how much their charging, and setting their standards to what they see around them. Set your standards. Make your own goals. You're in this for you, not anyone else.
2. THINKING THAT THERE ARE TOO MANY PHOTOGRAPHERS
Every photographer feels that the market is over saturated. Too many photographers and not enough clients for all the photographers in the industry. That this is affecting your business because you no longer have customers lining up for your service because they are now going to Sally, who is charging half as much as you and handing over a CD. How are you supposed to compete with that?! Easy - you don't. As a photographer, you need to know who your client is, and you also need to know who they aren't. Don't get offended by customers who are going elsewhere because they found a photographer who will do more for less, or one that has a different style, or one that has a studio space. There are a million reasons someone chooses someone else. And you should be ok with that because it's the same reason a client will book with you over someone else. If you struggle with this, then you need to make the gap bigger between what you have to offer and what others have to offer. Your work should be unique. It should be something only you have and can give to a client. Work your hardest to improve your art, shoot what you love, and you'll soon attract customers for your style vs. your prices.
3. FOLLOWING TRENDS
This kind of goes hand in hand with #2. I see a lot of photographers who set up the same sessions; their work doesn't look any different than the other 20 photographers in the same town. They are following what everyone else is doing and following what they think is working for everyone else. Separate yourself as a photographer. Create a style no one else has. I want my clients to book me for my style. Not my prices. I want them to come to me and say 'THIS' is why I HAD to have you. No one else has your style, and I'm in love with it".
Follow your path and make it work.
Make it creative. Make it inspiring.
Don't pay attention to what anyone else is doing.
4. NOT SHOOTING WHAT INSPIRED THEM
Do you know what will burn you out quicker than anything else? Repeatedly shooting something that doesn't inspire you. You should be excited to shoot sessions; they should line up with your vision. "I know what I want my sessions to be like, but no one is ever booking me for it!". - I hear this ALL the time. You have a vision in your head of something that inspires you, something you want to show the world, but there's one problem. NO ONE, who is currently booking you for your session is up for it or don't want it. Instead, you have people booking you what you have shown since starting your business. You need to get out there and SHOW the world what you want to do. You only attract what you put out there. If no one sees that vision in your head, no one will book you for it. You have to create it, show it, and then find clients that want that exact thing. This is where your style lines with what your customers love. This is how you separate yourself from the other 100 photographers in your town. Don't get stuck in shooting the same thing over and over again if it doesn't inspire you.
5. BEING SCARED OF FAILURE
Do you know what sucks?
Learning things the hard way.
Having your heart drop after realizing your mistake.
Do you know what's even worse? Being scared of failure. There have been a million times where I did something wrong, screwed up, and felt like a failure. And the best way past that is to continue and fail forward. To get better with every lesson learned.
Take what you learned and get better. Let your failures be part of who you are and who you have will become. Don't ever let the thought of failure stop you from doing what you love. I can promise you that every successful photographer started somewhere. They struggled. They had to fail forward to become the great artist you see today.
"The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream."
6. LACK OF IMAGINATION
You're a photographer, an artist, a dreamer. You have to have the vision, goals & imagination to see your future how you want to have it. Work towards that every single day. Have tunnel vision, focus on your business, concentrate on shooting, focus on what will get you to reach goals. Do you know what's so great about imagination? You can think of anything you want. There are no rules. You will have people tell you that it's not possible. That you won't be successful. You have to believe in your dreams; you have to change your mindset and trust that it's possible.
7. NOT KNOWING WHO YOUR TARGET CLIENT IT
There are MANY photographers in the world and a lot of people looking to hire photographers. The people out there looking for a photographer know what they want. They might be looking for a particular style, a certain price range, a specific location close to home. There are so many factors in what makes a person book with an individual photographer. Sometimes it can get frustrating when you see people walk right by, or ask you for information just to never hear from them again. It happens. I promise - even to the most well known, sought-after photographers. Do you know what changed for me? I figured out who my client is. I know exactly when someone is going to book with me, or when someone isn't for me. For those that aren't for me, I'm totally ok with that. I know not everyone will be MY client. Take the time to find out who exactly is your customer. When you narrow that down, you'll have an easier time seeking them out, and you'll be more confident in knowing if someone will book with you or not. Accept the fact that not everyone is going to fall into the category of being your client, and that's ok.
8. NOT VALUING YOUR TIME
There are countless hours of work I put into this business. Countless nights that I would stay up all night to get my work done because it was the only time I could because it was when my little ones were sleeping. Countless hours on the road driving to sessions. Nights away from my family. Countless hours of trying over and over to get it right and countless of hours of failing and trying it again. Editing full wedding galleries while holding my son while he's sleeping. I have taken every day and pushed towards my goal, and I am the only one who knows how much I have had to sacrifice. You know who values what I do most? I do. I know how much I have had to sacrifice and how hard I have worked. I know the hours, the days, the years I have put into this. There have been millions of things that I have had to sacrifice to get to where I am now. I value every single minute of my day, and at the end of the day, I have become very picky in choosing where I spend my time and who I spend my time on. I am ok with walking away from someone who does not value what I do because there are people out there that appreciate everything I do. So the first step to getting others to appreciate your time, your effort, your work, you - it's to value yourself and your time.
9. TIME MANAGEMENT ISSUES
Instead of working at a job that is 9-5, I have one that is 24/7. The biggest lesson I've had to learn as an entrepreneur is time management. And let me tell you - it was a hard one to learn. I look at it this way. You can either run your business with lacking time management skills and work against yourself the rest of your career OR you can learn how to be a time management genius. Running a successful business is one big net of getting things done to get you closer to your goal. The only way to do this is to know how to manage every little thing that relates to you running your business. You don't want to run your business winging it and just going with whatever you feel like at the moment. You need to have a structure, a plan, a schedule, deadlines, and you need to demolish them. You need to be strict with work hours, and not let your business run your life. I think this goes especially for those of you like me that work out of your home. Your office in your home, and it is easy for your job to 'rule' your life when it comes to your family life. You feel like work is around you 24/7. You're always checking your phone for notifications. You're trying to squeeze in work in between making dinner and bath time. You go to bed only to be woken up by your phone binging and feeling like you need to get up just to answer that one email which we know will lead to answering just another ten more. You're stressed because you feel like you can't be there for your kids 100% and be running your business 100% no matter what, you never have enough time in the day.
Sound familiar? That was my life before I learned how to manage my time before I know how to handle 50 different projects at once. I am now running on a strict schedule; I know what I need to do when I'm in my office. My phone does not run my sleep cycle and for the first time, feel like I can be a happy, unstressed mom with my kids again. I can breathe again.
Here is my advice:
DESIGNATE A WORKPLACE
- Hint: it should not be your kitchen counter, your bed, your sofa, your patio. Pick a room or a corner in your home that when you sit down at, you know it's time to buckle down and get your work done. It's not the time to catch up on facebook or play on Pinterest. It's time to knock off items from your to-do list.
- Know what time you need to start working and should be done. It might not be a solid amount of hours; it might be three large chunks of time throughout your day. You run your business; you get to pick your hours. When you're at work, work. When you're not, then enjoy family time. Don't let the two cross one another.
- I have ONE relevant folder sitting on my desk. It's a to-do list. I have a million checklists, and it is never-ending. Anytime I have something I need to do (it could be answering a particular email, calling someone back, scheduling an appt) it gets added next in line. As I work, I check them off as I go. My bigger projects are added to the list as well - and they usually have their own to-do lists. You know how it goes. My checklists...have checklists... it's a never-ending list, but it is the one big thing that keeps me moving forward. And quick. When I get done with something I don't waste a minute thinking about what else needs to get done, I just look at my list and get it done.
- If you're working on something, work on that ONE thing. Not that one thing, plus three more. The only two things you should be doing is working on something AND drinking your favorite coffee drink. That's as far as your multitasking should ever go.
Know what's important.
Manage your lists by working on the most important thing first. Know exactly What's most important, and what is least important. You should be able to look at them and within a few seconds, know what you need to be working on next.
10. FALSE COMPETITION
If I were to ask you who your competition is, I would probably hear a lot of you say "all those cheap photographers in town that are charging pennies for their work." With that sort of mentality, you will never have success in the photography industry. You only have one person who is your competition, and you'll see them in the mirror. Being competitive is a great way to move forward and keep going. Competing against someone else in the same industry is putting yourself on the fast track of losing out on running a very successful business. You HAVE to change the way your mind looks at the photography industry. You have to realize that there is only ONE you. No one out there can be who you are; no one can copy your work and make it look identical, no one out there can offer what you offer. So when you look at the big picture, really, you don't have anyone but yourself to compete against. You are so special, and it is so silly to think that others in the same industry are wrecking it for you.
I'm going to give you an example of two photographers, and two clients and you'll see exactly why it's silly to be angry about people who charge less than you do.
Photographer A. Charges $900 for a session
They are well established
They have a particular style
They have an excellent sized client base
They have been doing this for quite some time
Their work is very consistent
Photographer B. Charges $50 for a session
They are pretty new to the photography industry
In the early stage of building a business
Trying to find their style
Their work is still developing
Client C is looking for a photographer with a distinct style they can hire to document a particular time in their life.
Client D is looking for a photographer they can afford to document a particular time in their life.
Where do you think Client C will use? Photographer A or B?
Where do you think Client D will use? Photographer A or B?
MOST likely Client C will be hiring Photographer A, and Client D will hire photographer B.
Now what you need to wrap your head around is this: Client D was NEVER going to consider hiring photographer A because their price point wasn't what they needed. And Client D was never going to hire photographer B because they wanted a different style of photography. Photographer A and B can be friends; they do NOT compete against one another. They do not have the same client.
Now I will say this - The only time this won't work like I just wrote it out is if you have two photographers who have the same style, same personality, they look alike, can deliver the same thing but one charges less than the other. In that scenario, they are indeed competing. And if you have a double out there undercutting you, you might just have to lower your prices. ;)
I want to end this blog post with this. I hope that this post helped you in some way. All the points I mentioned above are things I believe most photographers encounter. If your reading this and felt that you were the only one struggling with this stuff, then I hope you know that's not the case. Many people feel this way. The good news is that you should have a little insight into how to change it for the better. Anything in the world is possible, the only thing you need to do is create it in your mind, put it down on paper and start working towards it. Your business is something you should love, something you should be proud of, something that feeds your passion and empowers you as a person.
Here's a little look back on my photography journey. I started with a wish; that turned into a dream. A dream that turned into a goal.
'Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.'