A recurring piece of advice has been flying at me for the past few months from numerous different sources.
I've heard others mention it before in passing, but it hasn't become really "real" to me until recently. I think I tried to ignore it for a while as well, but the fact that it still keeps making its presence known to me, is making it pretty hard to avoid.
I heard the message loud and clear at Amy & Jordans workshop. I heard numerous speakers discuss this at WPPI including Katelyn James and Mary Marantz. Its part of my homework for my branding process. If I want to really be honest with myself, its actually common sense and I'm a little embarrassed that this didn't really occur to me sooner.
WHY am I in business?
Yes, that simple of a question kind of rocked my world.
When we moved to Ridgecrest and I found myself out of a 8-5 job and with lots of time on my hands I desperately needed something to occupy my brain. I needed to learn how to do something new. I had always had an interest in photography and felt like I enjoyed finding interesting compositions but never had time to delve into the subject. Now I had time. Oodles and oodles of time.
Once I started, I needed people to practice on. I found myself learning quickly and people were really enjoying their photos. The natural progression led me to start CWP. An entrepreneur! I never imagined that would be me, but I was enjoying the process immensely!
However, the world of photography is so massive it is easy to quickly loose your way. Business models vary greatly and everyone thinks their way is perfect. Shoot and burn, shoot and sell, the extremely busy low priced option and the higher priced boutique option. There is weddings and families and seniors and newborns and lifestyle and nature and commercial and on and on and on. All of a sudden you become the person who has the nice camera and can take great photos of everything even though all those everythings might not be things you totally enjoy. Its very easy to become completely overwhelmed and loose sight of why you started in the first place.
I feel like I struggled with it a bit. You want to get more and more experience shooting so you tend to take jobs that may not necessarily make your heart go pitter pat or stroke your creativity. If you take too many of those jobs, then that becomes what you do and then the whole thing is just backwards and upside down.
I quickly figured out that if you don't take the reigns you will be overrun. There are many, many people who enjoy taking photos and might say they have a business when in reality it is more of a hobby. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Lots of people say there is, but I certainly don't. The market is big enough and will not be overrun by hobbyists who enjoy what they do. However, I could see the future if I continued on my same path and I knew it was bleak if I continued in the same direction. For me this is NOT a hobby. My goal is to run a healthy, growing, sustainable and successful business. For that to happen some things needed to change.
Finding your WHY
Finding my why is a huge part of that. If you only do this because you enjoy photo sessions or you enjoy editing or you just need to make money for your family all of those things will DRIVE all of the business decisions that you make. If the decisions you make in your business don't match up to your WHY, you will quickly burn out and mostly likely shut down within two years. The two just can't compete. Your drive, creativity and fortitude will diminish quickly and you will begin to resent anything and everything. I've seen it happen and trust me, it's not pretty.
Take a step back and really evaluate WHY you are on this crazy photography journey. Do you absolutely love newborns and want to make sure every parent has a beautiful image of their sleepy cuddly new baby? Do you get a total kick out of kids and know how important it is to document various stages in a families life? Do you absolutely believe in marriage and how beneficial it is to our society and families? Do you relish in the technical aspect of all things photography? Do you love to teach? Is fashion a huge part of your life and you want to showcase that through photography? All of these things can turn into a why. At the end of the day, yes, running a business is a way to put food on the table and help you live, but it really CAN BE so much more than that. You have an opportunity to pour huge amounts of love and creativity into others lives through the gift of photography. Your WHY will help you identify that. Once you focus on that, everything else becomes much much easier and you can spend your time on the things that matter. There is no resentment in that, only joy.
So what are you waiting for? Take that first step and solidify WHY.
If you already know your why or have just figured it out, let me know in the comments!