When I started my photography career, I was like most newbies in the industry. I was constantly looking at other artist’s’ work and comparing my photos to theirs. I would try to replicate someone else’s picture and criticize myself for my post-processing flaws. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, intimidated and inadequate when you’re new.
At my first NAPCP Retreat in 2013, I was told by someone (I sadly can’t remember who) that you shouldn’t spend your days comparing yourself to others; instead you should find who you are as an artist and become the best version of yourself. Now — fast forward four years — I am finally comfortable in my own “skin” with my work. I feel confident, adequate, capable and determined to continue to learn and grow, but not feel out-shined in my picture taking ability.
Now that I feel more confident as an artist, I find myself having those same doubts and reservations about myself as a business owner. I compare how many Instagram followers I have, where my business falls on Google’s listings, how many Yelp reviews I have, how many featured articles my competitors have written, how many workbooks they have published, etc. I find myself feeling down and insecure all over again, and most of all … I constantly ask (myself), “How do they have the time to do all that?”
When I feel myself torpedoing into a downward spiral, I try to pause, breathe and remember these very specific pieces of advice that I have received from some of my fellow NAPCPers …
You Have Different Seasons to Your Life/Career: Mandy Johnson (of Mandy Johnson Photography) told me once, when I asked how on earth she did everything she does, that you have different seasons of your career based on where your life is. I’m in the early motherhood stage of my life. I have my career and my business, and I service my clients to the best of my ability … but I need to remember that I have two kids under three years old and they need me. I specifically gave up my well paying corporate job to have more flexibility and freedom to be their mom – and it’s okay to let that take priority sometimes. It’s HARD juggling work/life priorities. It’s a constant pendulum swing when you’re a mom and a business owner. It is inevitable that one aspect is getting the lesser version of you – and THAT’S OKAY. Like all pendulums … it always swings back. Remember what season you’re in of your life, and be okay with that.
Every Business Has Different Goals: Jennifer Kapala is incredibly inspiring and grounding when it comes to setting goals for yourself and your business. It is impossible to try to do everything with your business. Especially as a sole business owner and operator, you must make deliberate choices and focus your time, attention and energy on specific areas. When I begin to feel inadequate about a certain aspect of my business that I feel I am failing in, I try to reach back to the beginning of the year when I outlined what it is that I wanted to accomplish, why, and honestly assess how I am doing. You can have yearly goals, monthly goals and even weekly goals. Goals range from financial to personal, and the only way of excelling at anything in the business world is to hold yourself accountable to the progress you’ve made. Often you need to refocus and shift your goals, create new ones, tweak old ones, etc. Goals shouldn’t be stagnant, but they should hold you accountable.
You Can Be An Average Photographer & An Amazing Business Owner: Like any business, you have the product and then the business acumen. Sometimes, products sell all on their own with little help and direction (that is few and far between). Other times, you can have a product that sells like hotcakes because the person selling it is an incredible salesperson. Wherever you and your business lie, it is important to remember that you need both areas of this business to survive. It takes HARD WORK for clients to find you, trust you, book you, talk about you and use you again. That hard works comes for you, the business owner. When I am having a month that isn’t working out like I want it to, instead of feeling resentful or being full of self pity, I go back to the basics and think about what I can be doing to turn things around. If I need more money, I offer something “exclusive”. I’ll offer a model call if I need some new pictures to promote. Think creatively about how you can earn a bit more money outside the world of photography, too. Our talents carry to other places. If you let yourself get in a rut, you will be in a rut. Try to pull yourself out and ignite some fuel to fire up your business again.
Only You Can Control Where You Go: Sometimes you’ll swing and miss, and that’s okay. I’ve been working really hard over the past few months to try to get picked up locally with a media channel. The resources at our disposal within NAPCP are unbelievable. So far I haven’t met this goal – but I have a running list of new approaches, people to connect with, areas to explore, etc. It’s always my end of the week project to tap into when I finish all of my “must do” tasks. It’s good to push yourself and it is also good to fail. I know that when something finally connects, it will be that much sweeter!
You Are Not Alone: This job can be isolating and lonely if we let it be. Luckily, there are groups and organizations like NAPCP, Facebook communities, Rising Tide, etc. that help us to not feel so alone. If I’m having an off day/week or month, chances are I have someone in my support network that can kick me back into gear and help direct me to where I need to go. Whether I need advice, support or just a hug, I have to constantly remember that I AM NOT ALONE.