There is a big difference in excuses and reasons. I’m not going to sugar coat it: people want to fulfill their dreams, but stir their own pot with reasons as to why they can’t thrive. The fact of the matter is, these reasons are excuses stemming from fear.
There are only two reasons that you cannot have a thriving photography business: 1. You truly need some technical or shooting skills help (which I 100% believe this can be learned) 2. You don’t have that fierce hunger to be successful.
So here are 6 common photography business fears and my own advice, for what it’s worth, to overcome them:
1. My Camera isn’t good enough.
What do you think photographers had way back when? They didn’t have all this high tech stuff we have today. There are many famous photographers that worked without the newest, best camera on the market. There are photographers that blew up on Instagram only shooting with their phones. This is just an excuse. You can rent a camera from places like borrowlenses.com (love them!). You can run photo parties or mini sessions a few times to make enough to pay for that new camera or incredible piece of glass (lens). Yes, it’s probably not the best idea to step foot in a windowless wedding reception hall with an entry level dslr. But the point is, you can earn money to pay for the new piece of equipment if you are hungry enough to get out there and do it. Or, learn to work around your camera’s flaws. Shoot what your camera is capable of shooting and master it.
2. There are so many photographers out there already.
Boy, have I heard this a time or two! Newsflash, there is more than one type of photographer. Today’s mainstream photographer shoots a little bit of everything (boudoir, weddings, babies, family, seniors, or lifestyle photography) or perhaps has branched off into a particular niche (newborn, seniors). I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this for those that are happy in the trendy shooting styles. What I am saying is that you don’t have to be THAT. Shoot for you and I guarantee you will stand apart from your competition. Heck, you don’t even have to take on clients in the sense of families, couples, etc. What about product photography and working with businesses? Travel? Wildlife and nature? Working with a newspaper or other organization? Go where your heart leads you.
I’ll never forget when I first started and I thought I had to run out and buy newborn props and even had my husband build a backdrop stand out of PVC (Pinterest, anyone?). I thought these were like a business essential that went along with my camera. I thought I had to be on the hunt for the cutest things on Etsy for my kids to wear in order to make a beautiful photo. I thought I had to learn at least 20 different poses + some one-liners to make my photos appear natural. FORGET ALL THAT. Dive deep into what drives you behind the camera. This is not going to happen over night. It can take months or years even. You will change and evolve. My message is that you need to try different things and dare yourself to get outside of what’s popular and trendy. When you begin shooting for you, from your heart, I promise you will stand apart. Then, the number of photographers in your town isn’t even a factor. #boom
3. I am afraid I will lose my passion.
It’s my belief that this cannot happen unless you are bending your business policies. When you start taking on clients that don’t quite want what you offer and you start shooting to please them rather than what’s in your heart, I’d freaking hate it too! I did. I lived that way in my photography business for awhile! My heart wants to document and not set up posed photos. No matter where your heart is, if you are doing something you don’t like, why would you have a passion for it? You wouldn’t. And then, you get so busy doing session after session of (in your eyes) mediocre photos apart from what your heart craves.
I’ve learned that it’s not just okay to say no, but it’s a huge stress-saver. It may as well be therapeutic. Say it with me, “No Client, I will not try to replicate that photo you’re showing me from the internet and I do not shoot on Saturdays. Saturdays are family time.” Doesn’t it feel good? It can feel uncomfortable communicating with some clients and I have the solution for you: Dear Cheap A$$ Charlie. This is an ebook by myself and Colorvale® on how to communicate with unruly clients. If you dread the, “How much do you charge?” question, you need this book.
Today, I charge a bit more than when I first started. This was a scary, but necessary business change. Clients now are only clients that want the documentary style I offer. I have more time to spend with them from start to finish and shoot only what I want. This makes every session feel like a big, surprise gift. The excitement never wanes like it did when I took on a little bit everything. You need to learn and understand the root of your passion and build you business policies around it.
4. I’m afraid I won’t have enough bookings.
This is a scary thing. Especially when you have kids and a mortgage to keep up with. For this, my advice is to have a solid business plan. Understand where and how your money can come in. What else can you do when sessions are down a bit to maintain an income? I honestly could write a book on marketing and how to obtain bookings. There are so many opportunities! Coming from someone with 8 years of entrepreneur experience, the money and bookings are there if you want it. If you are putting a Facebook status on your page, sending out a single e-newsletter, and calling it a day, then you won’t have enough bookings. Nope. You can’t sit there and wait for the bookings to happen. Be hungry, baby!
How else can you advertise besides Facebook? Do you have a referral program? Have you connected with vendors or local businesses to do an exchange for referrals? How many calls have you made to reach out to past clients? Yes, I said calls. I can tell you all the cool looking business cards, flyers, and beautiful photos on Facebook are not going to drive your business. You being out there and talking will be your biggest asset. How can you become a resource for your clients? Dinner Tip Tuesday if you have a lot of moms in your audience? Get creative. Most importantly, be consistent.
I heard something once that resonated with me and I hope it has the same affect on you, “It’s just as much a numbers game as it is a relationship game.”
5. People won’t pay the prices I need to survive.
I call B.S. on this fear all the way. Yes, there will always be people that truly cannot afford you in this moment whether you charge $700 for a session or $100. But there will always be people that can. Payment plan anyone? If someone wants something bad enough, they’ll get it. The question is, what are you doing to make yourself be in demand? I’m going to try to be light on this one, because those of you that know me understand that photography pricing lights a smoldering fire in me.
Here it goes: you are screwing your family out of time with you and are asking for your own “Business is Closed” sign if you do not charge at least the bare minimum it costs to keep your business doors open.
End of story. If someone cannot afford you, oh well. I actually typed that a little more colorful to emphasize that last sentence, but then chickened out and hit my delete key 7 times.
Do you feel guilty when someone can’t pay for your services? Man oh man I used to feel this way. I hated telling people my rates whether in person or through email. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I still feel this way. In many cases, I pre-judged too. In my head I’d say, ‘this is a waste of time, these people won’t pay for me,’ and then they hired me. I think the pricing thing is a head game. And you’re right, a lot of people will not pay for services that seem higher than everyone else. They either don’t value the photography or some truly can’t afford it.
There is an amazing workshop you feel you must attend, because it’s going to change your business forever, but it’s out of your budget. You’re gonna find a way to do it, right? Look for the clients that want to choose you over their next big screen tv purchase or the photographer down the street. They exist in abundance if you put the time into the numbers side of it. Finding your steady clientele won’t happen over night, but it IS possible.
6. I’m not sure my photos are good enough.
This is a harsh reality that some people just need to live and a tough one to answer. You can still be a photographer and not have a business. Your passion for photography isn’t lost just because you aren’t making money at it. You might need more time to explore who you are as an artist or maybe you need some serious technical and shooting help (hey, we’ve all been there!!!) before making this a business adventure. Trying to heavily learn and develop the shooting side and sell a session at the same time is no joke. People may not understand what to expect from you at this point too.
Maybe you are just lacking confidence and your photos ARE ready for business. In this case, a mentor could be key.
Regardless, if you aren’t ready for business or you’re not 100% happy with your photos, find a mentor if business is the direction you want to head in. Take a workshop. Seek a group of photographers to connect with. Be hungry to make your photos incredible and they will be.
I used to think that a creative was a creative. If you rocked at photography, you must be amazing at home decorating, graphic design, crafting, and decorating sugar cookies. I can tell you that I have no creative bone in my body outside of photography. For example, I cannot match paint colors in my home to save my life. My husband will confirm this. One time, I made our house look like Reese’s Pieces. They are good to eat, but not good for colors in the home. Yep, 3 rooms in our old, open-concept home were orange, school bus yellow, and brown. Not cute. He had to repaint the kitchen and then painted the orange room red to fix my color disaster. I am so lucky he didn’t make me do any painting. Love him.
So, if I learned how to rock my camera without having some born-talent, I know you can beyond a shadow of a doubt. Have the determination of an athlete with your camera. You just need to be hungry. Crave it. Do it.