If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Badly

If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Badly

A couple of years ago my friend Rob was droning on at me about “if its worth doing, its worth doing badly”. I ignored him, and this is why I was wrong.

I am a perfectionist. Which is a polite way to say I have such anxiety about rejection and failure that I never release anything. With the weekend approaching, I thought it a good opportunity to offer some advice to those looking to turn from their 9-5 job to photography who also suffer from being a perfectionist.

When out for drinks, my friend Rob told me about just getting it done regardless of how good it is "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly", at the time I thought it made him a hack. However, after 2 years of hiding away and making excuses that I can’t show this person my portfolio until XYZ work has been completed or I am not ready to launch my website until I have the following shots, I realized that Rob had a point. You need to swallow your pride/ego/anxiety and just go for it.

It is obviously not as simple as approaching Coca-Cola for an ad campaign a week into having your first camera, but chances are that the next hurdle you are holding back from is already within your reach. So this weekend, I urge you to just get it done and put something out there, even if it isn’t perfect. Pull together a portfolio from what you have or draft up that email to a client you really want to work with and complete the task.

What Is The Worst That Can Happen?

From my experience, there is always another reason to delay. When I first wanted to meet art buyers I had a handful of worldwide campaigns under my belt, but I wanted 10 before I showed anyone new my work, then once I had 10 I wanted to wait for the release of a newer campaign i'd just shot because I thought it was my best work. This continued for a few years. Needless to say, at any point in those two years if I had shown my book to people, worst case scenario would be that I would have ended up exactly where I already was, best case is I would have got a new client. By waiting for my perceived perfection I wasted a good few years and I pretty much stood in my career.

What are you currently holding back on?

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Rod Kestel's picture

As my Dad would say, the best is the enemy of the good. Hang out for perfection and you could end up with nothing.

Mind you, there is obviously a sweet spot. I've just produced a video interview and the talent complained about my choppy editting. He's right about that but I was getting really fed up with the incredibly cumbersome editting process so I just wanted to finish the blasted thing. Doing this pro bono and have other priorities.

Scott Choucino's picture

pro bono work is always a tough one. Especially with something as time consuming as video work

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I am as guilty as the next guy/gal in using the excuse of putting things off until the planets align and all is right with the world to create my opus.
But as my 9th grade shop teach Mr Collins said "If you don't have the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?"

Scott Choucino's picture

Wise words indeed.

Studio 403's picture

Sounds like self centered fear of criticism. Perfectionism has its roots in fear, Lets not confuse this with excellence.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yes I think you are right

lee arthur's picture

"God does perfection, I strive for excellence."

Scott Choucino's picture

I am now often happy with "That will do" haha

JetCity Ninja's picture


Rod Kestel's picture

Thinking it over a bit further...the standard you apply should be whatever you agree with your customer.

And if it's for yourself - whatever makes you happy!

Scott Choucino's picture

Yes I think that's a good way to think about it all.

David Moore's picture

The fear thing, yeah. Whether it is looking for new clients or working on projects looking for models to shoot with, I can always find a reason not to reach out. SOMETHING won't be perfect, I won't word the email wrong so I'll just toss it out. Anything. Yeah, gotta get over that BS lol.

Mark Harris's picture

I know that I have gotten several clients because their previous photog was so anal that he always delivered late, or he spent all his time on the first image, and then had to rush the others. The last 10% of refinement often takes as long as the other 90%, and I know which clients appreciate fast delivery over ultimate quality.

David Wierzbicki's picture

Interesting point of view. I'm also the kind of person that wants everything to be as good as it can be but my main question, always, is whether what I've produced would be good enough for me, were I the client.