I'm going to tell you a secret. I'm a part-time photographer most of the year. Fall is my busy season, and the only time I really work full-time. I used to be a little embarrassed about this, and thought that people would think I was a failure because I wasn't booked out 6-months in advance with a wait list. I was comparing myself to others and letting that affect how I felt about myself and my business.
One of the most important first steps in shaping your photography journey is figuring out how you define success. Is it reaching a certain dollar amount or booking 100+ sessions per year? Is it teaching a class? Peer recognition? Photographing your worldly travels? Or maybe it is just for you. It is your creative outlet, or its about being able to document your kids lives in a beautiful and meaningful way. Figuring what type of roll you'd like photography to play in your life is tough, just like finding your why, and building your business.
Everyone's situations are unique. We all have different needs and wants. My husband travels almost every week. He is the bread winner. We don't have family in town. I feel like a single parent sometimes. I needed to be available able to my kids & their school, to run the house and everyone's schedules, but I also wanted to pursue my dream of having a photography business.
My goal was to continue improving my passion and make some supplemental income from it while also being able to spend a lot of time volunteering at school, and time to do what our family does - go on a lot of family outings. I needed flexibility. So I defined a sales goal, defined how many sessions I wanted to book each month, and did the math. I charge more per session since I’m a lower volume photographer in order to meet my goals. That was so scary to implement. Fear would often rear its ugly head saying, “I’m not good enough/smart enough/worth it.” I raised my rates anyway. My target customers pay it, but many don’t. And I’ve come to a point where I can now honestly say that is okay with me.
If you're having trouble figuring it all out, don’t fret. Start with the basics. What are you and your families' needs? Wants? How many hours per week can you devote to photography? Think about it and write your thoughts down then delve deeper the next day, the next month. How does your plan look on paper? How does it feel in your heart? Does your idea of success make you smile and think, “I wish it could be like that” or “That would be perfect!”? Then I’d say you’ve found your definition of success. If you know in your heart this is perfect for you, then go for it and don't look back.
Stop over-comparing. Stop doubting yourself. I've been caught in this trap many times. Doubting my pricing, my ability, and my choices. I see how busy other photographers are, and I see my year-end numbers - which were profitable (yeah!) but nowhere near the amount or volume of many others. And then my ego says I could have done so much more!! But you know what? Then I remember why I'm doing this. I remember my definition of success. My setup works perfectly for me and my family right now. The comparison mindset, if that is all you do, will bring you down faster than a lead balloon. Sure, some comparison is healthy. It can motivate you to be better, or to get that next sale - as long as you go out and do it. It isn’t productive to continually add things to your to do list and never cross them off. So get a small list, take a step back from what everyone else is doing, and do YOUR work to meet YOUR goals.
Oh, and you know what? This is the kicker. You can always change your idea of success, too, if reaching your business/life goals isn't all that and a bag of chips. Maybe when my kids get older, I’ll take my business up a notch, teach a class, or pursue my inner Nat Geo world travel photographer dreams.
Sure, it’s all scary. It is scary for me to share all this with you. We are putting ourselves out there for all to judge. Fear is the main internal voice holding us back. But don’t let it. Rally your cheerleaders to support you but also be real with you. It's all kind of an experiment, right? So stop being so hard on yourself and go out there and fight for your goals, dreams, & YOUR success!