A word of warning from one photography mom to the rest of the photography moms out there: you don't have to be a business person just because you have a camera.
Before I launch into this article, let me make one thing clear: I am not saying mothers should not turn their passion for photography into a business. I did it, and I know many other moms who did. Anyone can start any business they want, and anyone can be wildly successful following their passion. I think this is awesome. Are we clear? Good.
Being a Mom is a thankless job. Our customers don't smile and shake our hand, they don't praise us for a job well done, and the tears we deal with are not tears of gratitude. If anyone does have anything to say about how we do our jobs, it's usually in the form of criticism, and often from complete strangers; I'm looking at you, old lady in Walmart. So it's understandable that when we share a few of our first serious photos online (you know the one where you picked the perfect outfit for your little angel and sat them in the grass during sunset holding a balloon?) that you should feel the powerful surge of that most addictive emotion: validation.
When you're in the daily grind of caring for a family you can certainly feel loved and grateful, but those are usually silent moments. Most of the time you're too busy trying to stop one child from climbing into the dryer while the other one is smearing something questionable on the wall, and both of them claim you've ruined their lives. But when you share your photos online, people praise you. Friends and family members and, miracle of miracles, completes strangers, take time out of their day to tell you that you are talented... and damn, it feels good. It feels good to be noticed, to be praised, and to feel valuable, particularly in light of the constant invisible battle that is motherhood.
Pretty soon the requests start rolling in. Will you photograph my family? Will you take my daughter's senior pictures? So, not only do you possess the great talent, but people think you're good enough to actually pay you. The validation is almost too much to bear. Before long, you're searching up contracts online and creating your first, official Facebook business page. You are now more than just a mom, you are a photographer!
Moms, I get it. I was you. I was at home with small kids and, for the most part, I felt invisible. Of course I loved my babies, but the temptation of a side-gig that not only paid me in money but in those awesome feelings of validation and appreciation, was too much to ignore. The problem is, those feelings are so powerful that they often obscure the truth; not all of us are meant to be business people.
Photography is one of the few professions with a low bar to entry; you don't need start-up capitol or a degree. You can learn a lot online, and join the ranks of professionals in fairly short order. This makes it an awesome option for moms who are trying to balance a family budget. The problem is that running a business is much, much more than simply presenting a crying bride with her wedding photos. It's understanding contracts, customer service, marketing, book keeping, balancing schedules, and more while still trying to take care of yourself and your family, not to mention keeping your house from being declared a hazardous waste zone. The ease of entry coupled with the praise and the artistic fulfillment makes the idea of running a photography business a lure that's difficult to resist.
What I've seen over and over again, though, are moms who are at their wits ends. Moms who are giving up their sleep to edit gallery after gallery. Moms who are emotionally wrung dry by trying to please their personal clients, care for their kids, spend time with their spouse, and find time for themselves while often working another job to help pay the bills. Moms who feel like failures because they couldn't keep up with everything, and had to let their dearly-fought-for business go. I know this, because I am you, and I want to tell you, from one mom to another, that there is nothing wrong with not turning your photography into a business.
There is nothing wrong with remaining a hobbyist. You can take amazing photos on your own time, share them for the praise and connection of sharing your passion, and not take clients. Nothing is stopping you from becoming an amazing photographer, but take some time to do serious soul searching and ask yourself: do I want to be a business person? You need to know if you're up for the job of running a business, not just being a photographer, because running a business is a separate beast and it can eat you alive. You are not less talented and you are no less valuable than other photographers without at LLC at the end of your name. You do not need to run a business to be a photographer.
Are there awesome ladies (Dads and other caregivers, this goes for you, too) who are juggling everything and making it work? Just plain killing it? Of course there are. But we aren't all built the same way, we don't all share the same circumstances, and it's unfair of us to measure ourselves against other peoples standards.
If photography is your passion, then be the best photographer you can be and by all means, soak up that validation and well-earned praise. If you feel called to run a business and you've considered all the consequences but know that you can handle it, then jump in! But you don't have to be a business person if running a business isn't right for you. It might not be the right time for you. You might not be cut out to be an entrepreneur or a sole-proprietor. Don't start a business if you aren't able to deal with all that running a business entails. The consequences it will have on your life are real, time consuming, and while it can be incredibly fulfilling, it's equally difficult. Not every mom will have time for that difficulty in her life. You can be an incredible photographer and not be a business person. Do what's right for you. There is no shame in that.
Lead Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels