In April I'll be hitting my two year mark of being a full-time, self-employed photographer based here in Flagstaff, Arizona and while I've come a long way I still feel like there's so much I'm learning and hoping to grow into. I've been reflecting on this a lot lately as I get complimented often by other local business-owners and people in my personal life on how "together" I seem to have it. And each time I get that compliment I'm a little confused by it, because I really am still piecing it all together. I spend a few days a month wondering if I should keep at it or if I should go back to a 9-5. I spend most days trying to figure out what else I can add to my plate, what I can look into to enhance my business-- you get the point. And I think that's probably normal when you're your own boss and you feel the responsibility of making "it" happen. I guess that's where we can really start with this blog...
I'm still learning to believe in myself.
And if I'm being totally honest, I wasn't the one believing in myself when I chose to go for this wild ride! I'm very fortunate that all my loved ones surrounding me believed in me enough that I started to feel confident enough to pursue photography as my career. The times I have the hardest time believing in myself are when I look at the BIG picture. Health insurance. Starting a family and trying to continue running this business. Where others are in their corporate careers. The big things make me feel so small. I've found that I believe in myself when I'm focusing on one task at a time. Each booking I confirm, each gallery I deliver, each connection I make, each little nod of recognition from the community, each month I pay all my bills with my craft. Those things make me feel powerful, inspired and like I'm in alignment. In learning to believe more in myself, I'm practicing focusing more on the little things.
I'm still learning the art of storytelling.
This is something that I'm actively exploring right now and that makes me excited about the direction of my business. There are a few photographers out there that I follow that are fantastic at going way beyond a regular "session" and who have learned to create powerful, emotional images and galleries that tell a story. I still feel like I don't fully understand how to do this. I can take great, emotional, powerful photos that really capture who my clients are, but integrating that into their entire gallery is a concept that I'm really fired up about. I've started looking into some courses that other reputable photographers and creators have put out that dive deep into this and hope to invest more energy into this in 2023!
I'm still learning my niche.
I've always said that I just want to take pictures. I never really cared what it was! But then I realized I was a portrait photographer - without a doubt. I loved spending time laughing with people, I loved their reactions when they saw the photos. But over time I've learned that what I really love is love. Couples. I love capturing the closeness of people in love. So I started shifting more toward that! And then I learned that I had a real skill for capturing boudoir photography and celebrating, de-stigmatizing and cultivating love for our bodies. So I shifted a little more. I went from being a "portrait" photographer to a "wedding + boudoir" photographer in one year. Do I still love both? Yes!
But niching down is important (GASP - if I had heard myself say that back in 2018 I would've been so livid). I'm glad I said yes to so many different kinds of clients and opportunities along my journey. I'm glad I dabbled in graphic design and car wraps, that clients hired me for their newborn photoshoots and companies hired me for corporate headshots and product photography. Heck, I'll still even take those jobs to keep things interesting from time to time. But what do I love spending time on for hours and hours? Couples. Weddings. Engagements. Boudoir. I can't get enough of them! I think that those are the types of jobs where my clients truly feel magical, loved and special.
I'm still learning to understand my seasons.
When I first started, other photographers would talk about "busy season" and "slow season" and "wedding season" and "engagement season" -- and they still do! I remember thinking that looking at your business this way really limits the quantity and quality of clients you attract and manifest into your world. But then I met my first real slow season and I was freaked out. What freaked me out most about it was that my slow season seemed to hit when other photographers entered their "busy" season. It really made me question my worth (see "I'm still learning to believe in myself").
Learning my seasons has been really challenging. Like, really, really, really challenging. Because during busy season I'll feel overwhelmed, like I can't catch my breath and can't give my clients 100%, I can't spend quality time with loved ones, I can't unplug! But then during slow season I'll feel like I'm in the void. It's a lot of existential dread, it's where I start looking at the big picture and freaking out, it's where I lose momentum and creativity and feel out of practice!
The good news is that each time I'm in busy season, I learn how to handle it a little bit better. Like this year, I'm making sure to leave gaps in my schedule for editing, breathing, being. For football with friends on Thursday or Sunday. For date night and watching the sunset because I want to not just because it's golden hour and I was hired to be there. And in this slow season that I'm currently moving through I'm exploring other ways to direct my energy so I don't feel so much at a standstill. I'm looking into ongoing education opportunities, I'm connecting with our local Flagstaff wedding vendors community for my blog series, I'm refining my website and my print resources, I'm exploring passive income strategies, I'm planning meet-ups for business owners. And, I'm reminding myself daily that this time of quiet and stillness is a gift and I am allowed to be in it and enjoy it. That I can unplug and still be relevant.
Thank you. Thank you for telling me you think I've got it together. But remember that there's so much going on behind the scenes and these lessons are going to take time to learn. I'm having so much fun and learning so much about myself and the world while running this business but there's a long way to go. I'll be taking it one step at a time, focusing on one foot in front of the other.
Are you a business owner? I'd love if you could share one thing you're still learning in your industry or business in the comments below!