As I start to reflect on 2015 and what is technically my 3rd year navigating my dream career of professional photography for local families and children, I recognize what hard work it has been. Not to say that the work is ever over, but sometimes it feels like amidst the many relocations, life changes, and learning that took place, I'm just beginning to find my groove. #honesty. That's exciting beyond belief. I'm not a quitter, but as long as we're being real -- there have certainly been times when I asked myself
- can I really do this as more than a hobby?
- is it worth it?
- am I wasting my time?
One of the hardest things about going off the grid and taking a leap of faith when it comes to any adventure, but particularly your career, is the people to meet along the way. I decided to describe some of my encounters in a little list below:
The 5 people you meet when starting a photography business:
1. The chatty business expert
This person knows everything there is to know about business and don't worry, he'll share every last detail down to his recommendations for a top-knotch stapler. It doesn't matter that his knowledge stems from his moving box company or that his boasted credentials date back to that college marketing class he took in 1972-- you should definitely do exactly as he says. Creativity, modern application, social media, design, quality, and production of a 21st centery, solo-owned, creative venture are exactly the same as his unrelated, stuffy, cubicle company.
2. The photography goddess
Every image in her portfolio looks like it could be in a magazine. Actually, it is in a magazine. She's the top of your field and you basically cling to every word of advice she tosses out to the virtual world. Every time you see a new image, you dually melt from admiration and disgust at how your own work suddenly looks like a child's watercolor painting in comparison. She's equal parts laid back, the ultimate multi-tasker, and creative genious. You wonder if you slipped her a fortune cookie, maybe you could go all Freaky Friday and see what's it's like to be her for a day.
3. The confusingly successful competition
This could be one of two people:
a. the person who pops up out of nowhere and in what seems like the amount of time it takes you to brush your teeth, has a waiting list of clients, a booming social media presence, and is turning out new images on the regular. She also infuriatingly does it all with her stylish boots kicked up on a cleanly styled coffee table, sipping a homemade cuppacino with her 3 kids coloring quietly in their rooms.
b. the person who's work is questionable in quality at best, though by all visable evidence, is booking regularly with clients who are happy to exclaim "I loved our session with ___! He's so talented!" Your stomach feels like you ate bad Chinese takeout as you realize your 7 year old nephew probably could have taken those pics with his point-and-shoot, yet confusingly successful competition guy is bringing in the dough while you're busting your ass over here like--
4. The coupon clipper
This is the person who brags enthusiastically not of her wonderful experience or the amazing images from last year's holiday shoot, but of the fact that she only paid $29 bucks for a sitting fee, 8x10, 2 5x7's, all the digitals, and a stack of Christams cards! Oh boy! Her kids will cringe one day at the faces they're making and she'll never actually get around to framing or displaying any of those prints because they'll be shoved into a folder in some dark cabinet and forgotten. But she did her duty and had those yearly photos taken.
This year, she'll remind you at least 3 times what she paid before to try to bargain your services for a similar cut-throat price, disregarding the fact that you have to feed your own family. Nonetheless, you'll be an unreasonable rip-off if you stand your ground.
5. The naysayer
Whether it's Grandpa Joe or the neighbor down the street, your mother, brother, aunt, or local grocery store bagger-- the naysayer is the one who says "good luck" in a way that really means "there's no way you can legitimately make money photographing families and kids and running a business by yourself from home, but have fun crashing and burning."
This person is clueless. He thinks the only definition of success = college degree + stable, 9-5 job at a desk - joy and fulfillment. You know that passion, determination, and love will propel you, no matter how long it takes.
Kick rocks, naysayer. Dreams work if you do.
If you're starting to set some goals for 2016 and need a little push, I hope you'll remember that no matter who crosses your path in photography or any other business for that matter, the only people that matter when going after your goals are yourself and the people who will encourage and support you. Everyone else will only drag you down emotionally and physically.
So dream big, have faith, make a change in the world, and do it with love. You are capable of great things.
...I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
...stand firm in faith. Be courageous; be strong. Do all things with love.
1 Cor. 16:13-14