It was 10 years ago this month that I photographed my first wedding for pay. I was equal parts excited and terrified…I knew nothing! Goodness, what a ride the past decade has been. Travels and clients and opportunities and failures. Lessons and triumphs and set-backs and growth. I’ve seen our business hit some really high highs and some incredibly low lows. And after 10 years, I’m grateful for both the good times and the hard times of this journey.
Today I am reflecting on those highs and lows and am sharing the top 10 things that I can attribute to having made it 10 years and counting as a wedding photography business owner.
1) Set Goals.
I try to set yearly, quarterly and monthly goals for my life and business to keep me focused, productive and moving forward. Here is our process for our yearly goal setting meeting.
2) Look Back.
Looking back at where I started and seeing how far I’ve come is always great for me on the days that I struggle against the lies that I’m a terrible photographer and have no business doing business.
3) Develop Friendships.
Past clients turned friends. Wedding vendors. Fellow photographers. So many dear friendships have come from this business and have made it the richest of experiences for me. Having genuine people in my corner that just get it and that I can laugh with, commiserate with and ask for and share advice with. It’s one of the sweetest bonuses of business ownership that I am so grateful for.
4) Continue Your Education.
I’d be foolish (not to mention, arrogant) to think that I know it all. There are always new areas of photography and business that I can grow in. Continuing my education in my industry and craft has always been a priority to me…whether that be through in person workshops or online education (both paid and free). I intend to keep a posture of learning for as long as this business exists.
5) Remember Your Why.
Quite a few years ago I was overworked and was struggling through a season of burnout and was feeling uninspired. I was at the point that I could take pretty pictures like the back of my hand…but something was missing. If I was going to keep going, I needed to rediscover the purpose in this work and rediscover the truth that the photographs I make with my camera really matter. With Geoff, I took some time to dig a little deeper into “the why” behind this work that we do…why I started doing it in the first place and why I continue to devote a good portion of my life to it. From there we put some words to paper and developed our core purpose: “to create art that matters and genuinely care for others”. That purpose is never far from my heart when I’m photographing our couples.
6) Develop Your Boundaries.
In 2009 we photographed 32 weddings. Which also meant shooting 32 engagement sessions and around 10 bridal portraits. Granted, that was before we had kids, but even so, it was just too darn much. I can vividly remember the constant stress and panic trying to keep my head above water in that season to deliver a great experience to everyone. My health suffered and my marriage suffered. And eventually, I went through a phase of serious burnout.
Balance and breaks and rest and scheduling and boundaries and limits and saying no and rest. All of it. Y’all, pay attention…because it’s important if you want to last long term and simultaneously have a healthy and joyful life. Take the full maternity leave. Determine your workdays and shooting days. Take the vacation. Say no when you know you should. Regularly rest. Schedule days off. Do it. It matters.
7) Fix Your Focus.
My first year in business was when I shot any and everything. Weddings, kids, dogs, local music and improv groups, newborns. Everything. I even did a shoot for HazMat that first year! While I enjoyed this exploratory stage of determining what I was both good at and loved to photograph, I knew that fixing my focus on one thing to specialize in was what would propel me forward the quickest.
8) Keep What Matters Most #1.
What matters most to me in my life is that my marriage is healthy and thriving and that my kids feel loved, secure and cared for. Because these things are #1 to me, they must consistently come before my work. These are my priorities and my energy and time must reflect that. For me, it’s choosing to take a “mama day” and a “family day” each week. It’s pre-deciding to date my husband each month. It’s showing up for the school events even when it cuts into my already shortened work week. By no means do I do this perfectly…and it often means I have to pick up the work slack by working many weekday evenings…but it’s certainly what I’m striving for.
9) Just Keep Swimming.
When you get less than perfect feedback from a client. When you miss a deadline. When you’ve got emails you’ve never answered from months ago. When you have more work to get done than hours in the week. When you don’t get chosen for something you were really hoping to be chosen for. When you think you nail a potential new client consult, but then lose it to another photographer in town.
You just keep swimming. You let yourself feel what you need to feel, learn what you need to learn from it…and then you pick yourself up off the ground and you walk forward. You keep perspective that nothing is the end of the world…and you just keep going.
10) Build Your Support Team.
There is NO way I could still be doing this work without a team of people to help me. My biggest help has always been Geoff. He made my first logo (and about a million design projects thereafter). He came with me to those first weddings when I barely knew how to use a camera (which, I don’t recommend, by the way!)..and then he never stopped coming. He gives me ideas, is a sounding board and helps me solve problems. He has always been my biggest encourager and supporter. Gosh, Geoff. You are so good to me and I love you. I digress! Others that have been such a huge help to me through the years….those that have cared for our children when we were working – nannies, sitters, family and teachers. My housekeeper. CPA and bookkeeper. Graphic designers and web designers. Studio managers and interns. Bottom line, I couldn’t have lasted this long doing this alone. Investing in and enlisting help from others has been paramount.
BONUS #11 and a fall giveaway!
Keep the Fun In It.
Continuously engaging in the fun and creative parts of my business have been of utmost importance in combating burnout and being able to make it in this business long term. I keep my hands in the things that set me on fire and that I love to do! And along the same vein, sometimes I choose to do things in business “just for the fun of it” and not because it impacts my bottom line or increases my following. For me, gift giving is fun. It’s definitely my top love language. I love giving gifts to my clients, vendors that we work with closely and my employees. And sometimes, I like to give random things away to strangers through my Instagram account. Sure, I might get a few extra followers from it, but mostly, I like to do it because it’s just plain fun. And it’s fall y’all. So let’s do a giveaway!
When our team was making decisions about the items we should give away, I knew I wanted them to be centered around supporting some of our favorite small, creative, product based businesses…and many of them are from some pretty great female entrepreneurs. You aren’t going to want to miss this!
Join me tomorrow, Tuesday – October 3rd, 2017. I’ll be giving away a new item every hour, on the hour from 8am-5pm EST through my Instagram account. See you there!
Follow me HERE to participate!
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