Building a photography business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. At least right now it is. I could argue that eating eggs or a really fishy fish could be hard. #protein
I’ve learned that much of the journey is similar to that of a teacher. (Can I get a ‘aye’ from my fellow educators out there?) In the beginning, you’re bright and starry-eyed. You are as prepared for any situation imaginable as you can be. Somewhere along the way, things become less than ideal and certainly not what you would have planned for. Most days you do what you have to do to get by. And then sometimes, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the reflection of the front office windows while walking your kids to lunch, LO AND BEHOLD, is that a professional I see there? She certainly is worth looking into because she is so devoted, focused, energetic, and her kids are standing in a line. Is that me?
This path of self-employment and business is so much alike. In the beginning, we are all bright and starry eyed, with plans for prosperity and growth in our first quarter. But then things either don’t take off or life hits you with something unexpected. And soon, you’re doing what you can just to get by. A huge percentage of businesses fail within their first year. Do they really mean to say that a huge percentage of business owners quit in their first year? And another large percentage fails within 3 years.
But I don’t really want to talk about why this happens, in terms of statistics or business models designed to help you understand how to make double your previous salary in six months. I want to help you persevere. I want to encourage you to keep going.
Even when you can see the finish line, there’s still that huge urge to quit.
I’ve been in business for about four months now. I’ve steadily had a photoshoot here and there and done a bit of branding/design work, and even booked my first wedding! This sounds super grand, but it doesn’t add up to “full time” or even “half-time”. I’m working time and 3 quarters for an outcome of “quarter time”. I get up every morning and pray for a booking. Most days it doesn’t happen. And to top it off, I live in a new city with less than interested potential clients. I get up every day and do something. I believe myself. I do beautiful work. I am really good at what I do. There’s no other intense competition nearby, but perhaps competitors bigger than another photographer…
Today and tomorrow.
Those two words are my biggest competitor. You see, I don’t book shoots the day before and hand out a CD the next week. I don’t snap quick shots and give you photos that are the equivalent of selfies from a high-end camera. Most clients want a quick session today, and if they can have the images today, even better, but if not today, then tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then they will find someone else who can. Read a bit more about my decision to change my client experience here.
As time goes on and I push forward into a move of audacious counter-culture, the competition of “now or never” grows. I long to turn photography upside down on it’s head and present something so different, but so good and beautifully long lasting. Let me draw a mental picture for you
Your goal is to use the portraits you have taken. Whether it be in your home or in a book as a gift, or your business page that you’ve strived so hard to work for, you have a purpose for getting your pictures taken. So you connect with me and we begin the process….
I welcome you into my home office where there is a gorgeous overstuffed couch that begs to be sat upon. In front of you sits a coffee table that stretches the length of the couch and maybe a bit more. It is a warm, textured wood, like mahogany or cherrywood. As you make yourself comfortable on the couch, your nose catches the fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies piled on a stand on the coffee table (because you told me that was your favorite) before your eyes do. I offer you a drink choice of hot tea or a cold drink. Your fiancé or daughter chooses a cold drink, after which a glass goblet (filled with ice) is handed to him. I open the mini-fridge and present the choices such as soda, Naked Smoothies, or water. He chooses water. You then choose hot tea. I knew you liked hot tea, because we connected before over our mutual love of Earl Grey. So I had a kettle brewing before you arrived. I bring in the tea tray with the selection of tea bags, and you surprise me by choosing Lady Grey this time. It’s sweet, citrusy flavor goes well with chocolate chip cookies- or so you’ve heard. So you give it a go because you like to try new things…
We spent an hour or two getting to know each other more and talk about your purpose behind scheduling a photoshoot. You leave confident that you’ve made the right choice and I see you out with a warm heart that anticipates our shoot day.
Photoshoot day has arrived! It could be your wedding day or senior shoot day, or even your newborn’s first portraits! Either way, you’re a bit nervous, so we talk a bit to cover what will happen during your shoot and why you will embrace the truest you. Then we jump right in. I like to talk with you during our shoot to aid your comfort, I like to show you images in intervals so you can see how beautiful you are and give you liberty to change a pose or an expression you think would be nice to try. Before you know it, THIS IS FUN!!!! 😀
Mail day arrives and you get a package. It is wrapped in brown paper, tied with string, and sealed with wax to add a feeling of official valor to the package. When you open it, an heirloom box is filled with gorgeous prints, a pretty USB, lovely paper products, and a few of those organic energy bars you love so much. On top is a thank you note for being such a lovely client. I think gratefulness and gratitude is timeless. You finally realize that during the whole experience, you didn’t just get a picture of yourself. You collected an arsenal of beautiful memories to draw from for the rest of your life. Like that time you quoted your favorite movie and I helped finish it because I just recently saw that movie. Or maybe you had a special, priceless moment with your newborn that you will never forget because they won’t let you cuddle them forever. You suddenly realize your eyes are welling up a bit because the prints in your hand are moments that will never happen in the exact same way again. Thankfulness floods your heart as you pin a picture on your wall, set it on a shelf, stick it in a birthday card, or slip it in a photo album. Then you go and hold your baby, kiss your new husband, tell your teenage daughter you love her, or spend time with your family. Because although pictures, people, or moments don’t last forever, their memory, spirit, and heart lives on. Life is short, so take every opportunity to breathe in deep, hug tight, kiss slow, and sweetly linger.
That is my vision. To light the way to meaning, purpose, and love. To be a light among the darkness of images that hold dark places and faces.
So as I sit in wait and pray for the right people, the right clients, I pray for them to find the right photog and friend. Even if it’s not me.
“You have kept what you promised to your servant, my father David. You spoke directly to him and you fulfilled your promise by your power as it is today.”
1 Kings 8:24
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