This is a big post for me and one I have been excited to write and also a little nervous to write since I started this series back here!
I started my interest in photography a long time ago. I got my business license a while ago. So it would seem that I’ve been in the business so to speak for a while now, but it just hasn’t felt that way to me. I think it feels that way actually to a lot of people! It’s one thing to have all your ducks in a row (professional gear, business license, online presence and even business cards and the rest); but it’s an entirely different slice of cake to actually feel like you are a professional and then to be treated as such by your peers.
Because let me just say out loud… if YOU don’t feel like a professional or treat yourself like a professional, then no one else will!
So… I kicked my own hiney into gear!
There are so many times that I sat down and wanted to toss it all in. I felt like there was no way this was going to work, and last year was probably the worst year for that kind of thinking on my part. I had weeks where each day was a brand new up and down perspective depending on what hour you caught me. Tuck and I sat down and thank goodness for that amazing man though because he gave me the best pep talk I’ve ever had and BAM things are in getting themselves in gear!
It’s not quite there yet… I’ll be honest! There is still sooo much work that needs to be done (but I think everyone in the professional world can say that!) I think when you can finally say, I’ve done it! I’ve accomplished all I want to do for my business and there isn’t anything left I need to do in order to grow… then your going to retire I think!
There are a few things that I started to do specifically that really helped me change everything around this year! These things not only helped my business, but they also helped me immensely as a photographer running a small business which is a huge task and that transition of thought is really key. They helped me see things in a whole new light, and I want to share them with you today!
1. STOP THE EXCUSES and turn them into goals! This was HUGE for me… HUGE! This was the main source of my daily change in attitude about whether I could handle running a business and being a mom! I had sooo many excuses and they were really good ones too! But that’s the point! At the end of the day, they are all just excuses standing in the way of our dreams, no matter how good or how legitimate they are. You can find an excuse for anything if you want, and then you can convince yourself to stay right where you are. My biggest excuse was that I was a lucky enough to be a stay at home mom and here I am wanting to be a photographer which was now requiring me to find help in order to have a productive work flow system. Essentially I was a stay at home mom trying to be a part time working mom and getting frustrated that I just couldn’t do it all by myself without help. One day in the car (actually on my way to a coaching session) I realized that I had many excuses just like that but that’ s all they were…excuses and road blocks. I had to ask myself, did I really want this YES! Then what was I going to do in order to make it happen in a way that I felt comfortable, that my family felt comfortable. And that’s when the goal list started! I wrote down all the excuses I could think of that night when I got home! I had one column full of excuses and it was a scary column! In another column I started coming up with goals and plans that would relieve myself of those excuses and anxieties! I can’t tell you how freeing this was! TRY IT! Seriously…
2. FIND A MENTOR! Bottom line! One of the biggest fears I had was being critiqued by others, so I went out and asked one of (whom I would consider) the best photographers in the area to critique my work! She’s blunt and she tells you like it is (in the best possible way for education and growth purposes!) and because of that you learn FAST! I’ve had several sit downs with her and I second shoot with her for weddings and I will tell you… my technical ability has grown by leaps and bounds! Sometimes when you are self taught, learning something from someone else can be extremely helpful! They might be able to explain something in a completely unique way that will just click and make sense where as before it might not have. They also might have a new way of viewing something which helps develop and enhance your own creativity. I could never thank her enough for all that she has done for me and still continues to do!
3. MAKE FRIENDS with other photographers in your area! Join groups and talk to as many other photographers as you can! Find people that you have a personal connection with and can find yourself really having a friendship with and develop it. There is nothing better than having a friend to call on a gorgeous day to go shooting for fun or to go hunting for new locations! There are other photographers out there that want to be supportive and helpful so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Be a friend too… never under-estimate the value of helping someone.
4. GET YOURSELF TO A COACHING SESSION or a work shop! Realistically this should have been first on my list! Having a coaching session with Katelyn James was one of the biggest events in my photography life… so far! Sitting down with someone who is not only professional but experienced and who has “been there before” so to speak can do more for you than I could ever explain! My session with Katelyn was not only personally amazing…come on guys, it was Katelyn James! Seriously though, we talked over a lot of nagging questions I had, we talked over business questions and we talked over can I really do this kind of questions. It was also extremely helpful from a resource stand point and a connection point for me for tons of other photographers I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise! Coaching sessions and work shops are invaluable in that way. Get yourself to one this year if you are even considering it!
5. HAVE A PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE. At first, I would have said this didn’t matter at all, but it actually does! A great deal in fact, and so does a blog! If you sit down and think about it, this is most of your client’s first impression of you! If this is not professional (and trust me, mine were not because I never invested the time into caring if they were) then your clients won’t take you seriously! You are telling them basically that you aren’t a professional. Having a professional website that is clear and consistent with the rest of your social media says that you take pride in your business and you value it! Katelyn actually helped me to see this when she politely told me I needed to be re-branded, which is what I’m in the process of doing now!
The benefits of having a professional website also helped me eliminate some of the excuses as well, like being able to list my price points and to show case some of my work. It’s a place where people can visit to check and see what’s going on! This brings me to the blog. If you are a photographer and you don’t have a blog, you should really get one. It’s the best way to start a conversation with your clients. You don’t have to be wordy and you don’t even have to write. You can use it just as a medium to show case your images if you like, but a blog creates a space for your clients to open up a dialogue with you. If you are wordy (like I am obviously) it gives your clients and potential clients the chance to get to know who you are on a personal level!
6. TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY! This ties in with just about every single point above! In all the years I have owned a camera, never once have I ever taken myself seriously as a photographer and that was my biggest set back! I was never taken seriously because I never took myself seriously. I never wanted to invest any money into my business because I didn’t believe I was good enough to HAVE a business. I felt like there was some sort of check list or invitation you got in the mail that stated you were a pro photographer able to get this and this and this! But the fact is… if you really want it then you have to do it and not be afraid to fail, in fact you can’t have any fear at all! The saying fake it until you make it really does apply here! Art is subjective and as long as you are happy and doing what you love, then you are succeeding! So I started to take myself seriously since I was doing just that!
7. DECIDE YOUR GOAL IS WORTH IT! This last one is big. You have to decide every day that this is worth it! It’s not easy running a small business! It’s not easy stepping away from a full time or part time job with a steady paycheck to an unknown where you have busy seasons and down seasons! It’s not easy in a world where the gear is amazingly expensive and the work is not reflective of that as much as you would hope. BUT it’s sooo incredibly worth it when you are pursuing your dream! If you plan hard and you work hard, you have nothing to lose~
I hope this was helpful for someone out there. I’m so thankful for everyone that has encouraged me so far on my adventure! Just like raising a child, it takes a village and for me it has taken a family! I have a wide net that I consider to be my family on this one without any one of them, I think by now I would have for sure sold all my gear! So thank you for being such amazing and wonderful people!