September 17, 2019
I started my wedding photography business at the age of 24. Perched in my studio apartment over-looking Ossington Avenue, I’d spend nights listening to the partygoers as I worked on my website, and days in the now gone Crafted Coffee perfecting my Photoshop skills.
And man do I wish I knew then what I know now. I could have saved myself tons of time, money, and most significantly, emotional turbulence. I put so much pressure on myself to be successful, and be successful NOW, that it only led to frustration and negative self-talk when I wasn’t getting to where I wanted to be.
Starting a business is damn hard, and now that I’m many years down the line, I can appreciate just how hard it actually was at the beginning.
I wish I could travel back in time, give that 24-year-old a big hug, and let her in on a few secrets. But given that I’m not Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, I’ll tell you instead.
I’d scroll through the gram, and see people KILLING it out there. Weddings every weekend, portraits sessions everyday, tens of thousands of dollars coming in. Everyone was busy busy busy, and I wasn’t.
It didn’t inspire me. It just made me feel like shit. How come they were getting all this business and I wasn’t?
Well guess what? They weren’t either. At least not as much as they claimed.h
A lot of people over-exaggerate the amount of work they’re getting, and how much success they have, to make themselves seem more in demand and sought after.
Sure they might be making six figures, but they’ve spent just as much on expenses. And sure they might do 100 sessions a year, if you count styleshoots, friends, creative sessions, and bathroom selfies.
Social media can make you feel like you’re less-than, and people who aren’t authentic only confound the problem. Don’t compare yourself to them, because it’s probably somewhat bullsh*t anyway.
STOP DOING WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING.
It’s one thing to go on Pinterest, Instagram and websites to get inspired. It’s quite another to cast your own creative truths aside for what you think your clients want because some super-successful photographer from California is doing it.
What your clients actually want is the only real thing you can give them:
Your eye, your vision, and your creativity are what makes you stand out. Be your damn self in your business, and stop trying to look like everyone else.
Que the angry letters from SEO experts now!
Listen, I’m not saying your website shouldn’t be optimized and that you can’t use certain DIY tools to help you get noticed (more on that in another post).
But signing a big contract with some company that claims to get you on the first page on Google probably isn’t going to work. I’ve flushed thousands down the toilet.
Save yourself the money.
The people you work with are everything.
Your couples will either make you love your job so much you want to sing from the rooftop, or they’ll make you want to jump off it.
If you find yourself in a consult with a couple that doesn’t seem to value your style, is relentlessly haggling you on price, or treats you like a glorified technician, walk away. It’s not worth giving up your valuable time for.
What you do is important. Very important. Work with people who appreciate that.
I can’t tell you how many late nights and Sunday afternoons were spent glued to my laptop editing. How many plans I cancelled to work on my website, and how I never ever said “no” to a job no matter what it was.
Make no mistake, building your business takes hard work and lots of it. But hey, every once in a while it’s okay to close Lightroom and take a bubble bath, nap, snuggle with your dog, or enjoy an extended patio sesh with your bestie.
Allowing yourself the time and space to do things for yourself that have nothing to do with your business will only leave you MORE ready to go full steam ahead.
You can’t shortcut success. There’s no algorithm, workshop, or Google ranking that will shoot you to the top of the wedding photography world without putting in the time and effort. Malcolm Gladwell is certainly onto something with his 10,000 hours.
Work hard, learn, be creative, make connections, build your portfolio, be kind to others and success will come.
So don’t be so hard on yourself if you’re not exactly where you want to be right this second. Everyone started somewhere, just like you.
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