One year is all it’s been. I declared my new career in photography January of 2017, and we’ve already begun a new year! I have learned so much about starting, maintaining, and running a small photography business. Of course, I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve had some major successes. So without further adieu, here are some big things I’ve learned in year one.
Not So ‘Hobby’ Anymore...
This photography thing started as a hobby for me. In fact, my very first blog post was written about my newest hobby and obsession. But I’ve learned a lot in a year, and I may have downplayed the term “photographer” by calling it a hobby. It is a BUSINESS and needs to be treated like one. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job running it… At least, better than I thought! But I feel I need to address that this is no longer JUST a hobby. It’s still fun, and I still do it because I love it, but what started as a “substantial hobby” has turned into something bigger and deserves a bigger term.
Patience Really Is A Virtue
Heard this before? I have, several times from my parents and now from my husband. Despite all the times I rolled my eyes, I did learn how true it is. Especially in the photography business.
Patience is a great skill to possess in all aspects of life, but I especially have to be patient with people as they can be unpredictable, unaware, and sometimes flaky. It’s just the way things are. So when I’m am trying to schedule a meeting or a session, and it feels like they’ve disappeared off the face of the earth, I remind myself that they are busy with their own lives, and their photography session isn’t #1 on their priority list.
It’s Not About Me
To be a successful portrait photographer, it’s all about the people in front of the camera. Not about me. The image is to be seen as if it is only them in that moment. So my physical or emotional self shouldn't be seen or reflected in someone else’s photo.
I also know that the best photos are not the ones I’ve posed and constructed. They are the ones where the client shows their true self and personality. No matter how cool I think a pinterest idea is, sometimes it’s best to just let things happen. That doesn’t mean I can’t provide guidance in their session, but never force anything. This is what people love about my photography. The candid moments I catch are alway the most cherished.
Make things easy
With the internet and all the information out there, it’s hard to read something that doesn’t give you the answer/problem/purpose in the first paragraph. And my short attention span doesn’t usually allow me to take action unless I’ve been convinced almost immediately. I’m know I’m not the only one either.
People are either too afraid or too lazy to take action unless it’s incredibly easy for them to. I’m still working on how to master this in my own advertising, but at least I’m aware I need to work on it. From advertising my services to getting someone to actually book me for their photography needs, I’ve learned to make it super easy for them or they might decide against doing it. This means providing an action on posts, and including the link to everything I’m referring to. Provide everything so that they don’t have to guess or search for anything. Make it easy for them to click and ALWAYS follow up.
You obviously need people skills in order to do this kind of work. Even though I can be shy or stumble on my words a LOT, as long as I stay honest, friendly, and genuine, I find that it usually works out. It’s best to be myself because ideally, the clients I want to work with are similar to me!
Fake It Till You Make It
I have the talent, but I lacked the business experience in the beginning. I never thought of myself as business minded, and I’ve learned that “fake it till you make it” is a real thing.
I learned what to do and what not to do along the way BECAUSE I was willing to put in the effort. I knew I had the passion and talent, but here are just some of the things I wasn’t entirely prepared for:
Looking, sounding, and acting like a professional photography business who has done this a thousand times, advertising, following up to make sure the client is still interested (what? You mean they don’t have me on the top of their life priority list?!), being available and flexible, answering unexpected questions, constructing successful consultations, financial mumbo jumbo, keeping records to refer back to, and making sure I have a backup plan for everything. Etc.
(SHOUT OUT to my husband Zach for being my financial and business advisor. I love you!)
So like I just mentioned. I have to keep record of everything (for myself, my clients, and for tax purposes). When I started I wasn’t yet prepared for dealing with the number of files, contracts, payments, deposits, client notes, lists of important information, the reminders telling me to follow up and ask for reviews, and so much more. There are just too many things to not keep record of (hello Excel, my arch nemesis), and thankfully I’ve learned how to organize all these things. Otherwise, this business would be a shambly mess if anything ever went wrong.
So… be neat.
Keep Spirits High
Confidence is key! (I feel like a broken record with this one). I flip flop back and forth. Some days I am so totally pumped because I love my work, and the session I just shot went amazingly well. Other days, I’m thinking “O my gosh, everything that could have gone wrong, DID." I constantly remind myself that I’m not as good as this other photographer I’m stalking when I should actually be reminding myself that I am good at what I do. It takes work and practice, and I’ll never stop learning as long as I’m willing. Everything won’t be perfect all of the time, but more often than not I feel amazing about what I do!
There are, of course, more subtle realizations I’ve come to that are harder to put into words, but these are the big lessons I’ve learned. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, and I am excited to see my year in review for 2018! Even if I don’t become the world’s highest paid and best photographer, this is always going to be something I never stop doing.
I hope you all succeed in mastering your goals this year! Good luck and Happy New Year!
It’s going to be a good one.