If you aren't growing you are dying. Maybe it is pessimistic view or a harsh reality for our industry. If you and your business isn't growing and adapting with the fast pace of an ever changing market and technology, you will become irrelevant. I have read dozens of negative articles online about running a photography business- this isn't one of them. Instead, this article is meant to unite artists and entrepreneurs alike who run their businesses constantly striving for more and seeking growth in all aspects of their life.
I sat down for an interview with a local magazine last week. They are doing an article on the "success" of my business. All I could think about was how much better I could be, how many things I haven’t accomplished, skills I haven’t improved, or aspects of my business I could run more efficiently. From the outside looking in, it all appears to be in smooth working order, but in my mind I have only scratched the surface of my potential and where I hope to be in 10 years. As I grow in my business, I am more and more consumed with the expectations to expand and stay relevant. As a young entrepreneur, I have always felt alone in this fight. After speaking with other successful photographers and entrepreneurs in different careers, I have realized I am not alone. You are not alone. We are all hustling together. You are an entrepreneur and an artist; it is in your blood to never be satisfied. Learn how to channel your energy and commit to growing technically, professionally, and personally and you will see growth and returns you never expected.
Technical Growth: Your self-doubts and self-criticisms are what make you great. I can promise you don't "suck" if you continue to work on your art. If you don't have any appointments on the books, shoot for yourself. Do anything to keep your mind in creative mood. Remember, we are our own worst critic. However, if you were satisfied, you would stop trying to improve. The drive to create and innovate would diminish. When this happens to artists, their businesses decline and they become irrelevant in the marketplace. If you can barely look back at images you took a few months ago and not think of a dozen things you could have done better or different, this is technical growth. Looking back a year or two may make you physically ill and feel like refunding someone’s money. Give yourself a break from time to time. Be happy you can see noticeable improvements in your portfolio. This negative and sometimes stressful energy is what makes you grow. It is what makes you get up every morning to do something creative and energizing.
Professional Growth: Most of you reading this probably have the same fears and stress we all encounter on a daily bases: bookings, sales, and all the expenses incurred running this business. It is a bit overwhelming and consuming at times. These worries or fears don’t hinder you, they push you forward. It takes a certain type of person to succeed in this business. Normally these individuals are described as having a type A personality, control freak, perfectionist, workaholic, and an entrepreneurial spirit. If one of these traits describe you, embrace it and consider yourself a leg-up in this game of life. Wake up everyday with a purpose and an agenda. Accomplish your short term goals. Be organized and impress your clients by under promising and over delivering. The rest will start to fall into place.
Personal Growth: Your professional life is greatly influenced by your personal life. You career must start with a solid foundation. Not to get sappy, but I couldn't do this job without my parents and spouse cheering me on and encouraging me to keep going. Having a solid personal life will propel you in your career. Surround yourself with those supportive people whether it be family, friends, and/or a spouse/partner. You won't be worried about drama outside of your work, you will be focused on your job and your clients. You will grow exponentially when clients can connect with you on a personal level. Stop looking at clients as just a paycheck and start seeing them as people and friends. Your demeanor and communication will become genuine. Clients want to hire you not only for your work, but because they like you.
At the end of the day, I love what I do and if you are reading this you probably do as well. It is worth every drop of sweat and tear. We may not make millions of dollars, but that isn't why we went into this business. What I have realized from being in this industry for a little over a decade is how important it is to grow every day. It is hard work, whether it is finding new ways to bring in more business or accomplishing the never ending battle of pricing for what you are worth. It may feel like failure as your goals are still so far away, but you are experiencing growth as you continually take steps forward to accomplish those goals. Even the most successful photographers feel the constant need and drive to improve. They may accomplish their goals, but immediately set new standards to achieve. This is ambition. Once you get there you strive for more. It is not greedy, it is the joy of being an artist and running a small business.