Starting a business is hard. In fact, I’ve had a few jobs in my lifetime, and aside from mothering my two strong-willed daughters who are mini, fiery versions of myself, I would argue that building my photography business– with no business knowledge whatsoever– has absolutely been the hardest job I’ve had. If I could go back and give advice to myself before starting my business, this is what I would say.
Dear past self,
Do it scared.
Charge your worth from the beginning, and don’t be too scared of people not paying it right away. In time, people will naturally see your value. You’ll even have people tell you that you are worth even more, and to raise your prices (and you better listen).
You’ll also have people who will tell you you’re too expensive, try to talk your pricing down and even ghost you (Rude? Yes. Annoying? Also yes. But you’ll learn that it says more about them and less about you). You are not their photographer, and that is okay! You don’t want just any clients. You want the ones who are meant for you. Who see your value and know that you are worth every penny, and then some. And the clients who you do get to serve will be so exceptional and kind and appreciative that you’ll never think twice about all the ghosts.
You have to believe that what you’re doing matters. The stories you’re telling. The memories you’re freezing. The legacy you’re helping create. If you can’t see the value in your art, no one else will.
Reach out to that photographer you want to befriend. You’ll find your way to each other eventually, and it’ll be a lot less lonely of a ride if you just take the leap now.
In fact, build an entire community. Find people in your industry. Find people outside of your industry. Connect with other creatives— with people you can work alongside in your business and people who have absolutely nothing to do with your business. Just build a community. Surround yourself with people who see your talent and cheer for your success as if it were their own. And then turn around and do the same for them. Goodness knows we could all use a bit of encouragement now and then.
Don’t feel guilty for showing your daughters what hard work looks like. You are a work-from-home-mother, and you’re doing your best to juggle two jobs at once. Yes, jobs. This is NOT your hobby. You are not “just” taking photos, and “just” sharing them on social media. You are building a brand and a business from the ground up. Just you. And that is something to be so proud of. (Your daughters will see that one day and they’ll be proud, too).
Stop diminishing your dream. Stop making yourself smaller to make other people feel more comfortable. Own the fact that you left a respectable, secure job in teaching to follow your heart and your art. If anyone is judging you, it’s simply because they wish they could follow their own dreams.
Say it out loud. “I am a photographer”. The more you say it, the more you’ll believe it. Imposter syndrome is real, and you’ll waste a lot of energy wordsmithing your way around the truth– you. are. a. photographer.
Comparison will steal your joy. So cut. it. out. Protect your mind, protect your heart and get the hell off of Instagram once in a while. It’s a wonderful place to connect, but recognize when it’s causing more harm than good. When you see someone who’s work you admire, tell them! And then tell yourself “I can’t wait to get there. She is living my dream, and I am working on making my dream a reality.” Manifest that dream and it will come.
Mindset will be your biggest hurdle. Recognizing it is half the battle. Find the support you need to challenge your scarcity mindset and work on it every single day.
Stop buying crappy education. Do your research, ask for reviews, chat with people who have taken the course. Stop pouring your money into people who will feed you fluff just because they’re well respected in the industry. Not all education is created equal, and you’ll waste hundreds— if not thousands— of dollars learning that.
(And while you’re at it, stop buying presets, too).
Don’t give away your talent for free. Unless you really want to. And unless it’s for someone who is really special to you. Your time, talent, and energy is worth so much. Know it, charge it and make no apologies for it.
Your future self.