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For photographers: Truths about being “Established”

Think you've "made it" after a few years in business as a wedding photographer? The truth is, the hustle never ends!

One of the most sobering statistics out there about small businesses is the fact that many of them don’t last for five years. And even more of them won’t make it to the ten year mark! I’m inching closer and closer to the 6 year mark and I have realized a few truths about being a business owner that I thought I’d share today:

Business card in a pineapple

The hustle doesn’t stop
I think there is a common misconception out there that at some point you will have “made it” and at that point you can sit back and relax and enjoy the efforts of all your hard work. That would be NOT TRUE. I’ve realized that there won’t be a time when I don’t need to hustle for my business to grow and be successful. There won’t be a time when I’ve got everything figured out or have all of the answers. There will never be a day when I completely stop making mistakes.

You’ve got to learn to evolve
The truth is, times change, trends change. The industry changes and new photographers join it every single day. In order to stay relevant and continue to be successful, you’ve got to evolve. You’ve got to be adaptable! When I first started my business, Facebook was where many business connections were made. Instagram wasn’t really a thing then and it would become a few years before it was anything besides somewhere to post a terribly filtered edit of a photo of your dog. These days, Instagram is a thriving community that is SO important to be a part of if you’re a photographer or a creative business owner. If I refused to evolve and grow with the times, I’d have been left behind as Facebook made it’s algorithms so difficult for business owners to succeed. This is just one example of how the industry has changed in the last few years! I’ve learned that this industry is very fast moving and you have to evolve and adapt quickly to succeed.

Sometimes you have to pivot
The other day when we were moving our things out of the 1910’s home we were renting, John and my Dad reached a point where our box spring was completely stuck in the tight stairwell. It wouldn’t budge from beneath the lower ceiling at the bottom of the stairs, so they were forced to swing it this way and that way and shimmy it up and down in order to get it out. The entire time I watched them work on this, I kept hearing Ross from Friends yelling “PIVOT” in my head and while I tried my best not to yell it out myself in a misguided attempt to be funny (so not the right time for that) I realized that in business sometimes the pivot is the key. This is actually one of the things I love best about owning my own business! If something isn’t working out…a project isn’t coming together the way you wanted it to, or you need more income for a certain month? You can pivot to something else. There are all sorts of ways of doing this, you just have to be creative!

You have to run your business like a business…not a hobby
This is tricky for a lot of creative entrepreneurs because business can be somewhat like a foreign language to folks who are more right-brained. But one thing I’ve learned is that you must run your business with the mindset of a business person and not of that of a photographer. When I’m behind my camera or I’m editing, my photographer hat is on. When I’m working on other things, my business owner hat is on. Decide for yourself what’s right for your business as far as systems and don’t worry about what’s trendy or popular.

You have to define your own version of success
There’s no real one size fits all version of what all a successful business should entail. I think as long as your financials are solid, you’re in a good place business-wise. The other things are all things that you have to determine for yourself! Do you want to shoot 35 weddings a year? Do you want to shoot a lower volume and focus on accepting only those perfect clients? Do you want to educate others? Maybe you want to do something else with your business! Maybe you work 30 hours a week…maybe you work 50. It’s up to you to determine what your vision of success looks like. Do you, BOOBOO (Kevin Hart fans should get this joke!)

The main thing I have learned over the past few years is that hard work is worth it. I love what I do and the life that it allows me to live! So putting in hard work to make it happen is something I feel blessed to be able to do. Hard work is never going to go out of style or become obsolete because you’ll find that it always pays off.

Hope this post was helpful! If you’ve got other topics you’d like to see me write about in the future, leave a comment or shoot me an email!

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