Chapter 2: Are You Cut Out For This?
Are you truly willing to live with the downsides of running your own business. The whole "doing what you love for a living" movement is great when it is based on reality. It is not so great when it is being romanticised and idolised. The internet is full of stories, in any line of work and every area of business, of crazy fast successes. Of people starting a business, and making six figures in the first 3 months, or booking 30 weddings in their second year.
While those stories can be inspiring they can also be intimidating and make you feel like if that's not happening to you, you must be doing something wrong.
But I am here to tell you that YOU set the terms for your success. And that success doesn't have to be loud. Many of the photographers I know who actually run a sensible profitable business are not always the same as the ones you always see on best of lists, and blogs, and in interviews, or the ones who have thousands of followers on Instagram. I know that you may need to run a profitable healthy business to be famous in the industry but I also KNOW that you don't need to be famous in the industry to run a healthy profitable business.
Chew on that for a second!
Let it sink in...
And think, truly think and check your gut, and determine what it is you are genuinely after. Is it public acknowledgement, to be an industry "leader", to be admired? Or is it truly just to take beautiful photographs, have happy clients, and build a healthy business that can sustain you (and your family if you have one) on the long term?
It’s not easy. And definitely not for everyone. Here are some things to take into account as you determine if this life is really what you're after/suited for:
No one is ever going to give you permission. In the beginning I was the only one who knew that what I wanted to do could even be done. Even now, 10 years in, my own husband does not fully believe in what I'm doing, and in the beginning he was VERY reluctant. Still to this day people I meet are confused and in disbelief when I tell them I used to get paid to photograph weddings in other countries.
To start what you want to start, to create, to do or to dream, you have to give it to yourself. Even if it feels fake at first. Waiting for someone to give you permission is like waiting for perfect timing. It may never come.
Running a business that requires the kind of creativity on your behalf that photography does is very vulnerable. It’s so scary to produce things that other people might not like. If you are concerned with what others think of you, this can be paralysing. Don’t give in to it. Embrace it. Not everyone is going to like you, or your work. As Dita Von Teese said: "You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches.
Feel the fear, and do it anyway. Nothing big or revolutionary comes from staying in your comfort zone. Ever. Frame this on your wall.
Ask for help or seek out the information you need. You won’t be good at everything. Most things, actually, at least in the beginning. Which is the whole point of starting something new. The only thing stopping you from admitting and accepting that is your ego. And your ego can stand a little slap in the face now and then ;-)
It’s a disservice to everyone not to share your gift with the world. These words from my business "guru" Marie Forleo have helped me SO many times over the years. There is only one you, and your version of what you do can never be replicated by anyone else. We all have a place in this world, and if you feel deeply that this is your place, at least at this point in your life, then you have an obligation to live it to the best of your ability.
Running your own business requires discipline. With your time, your routines, your energy and your money. And structure. No one else is going to do this for you when you first start out. I hope that alot of what you have learned in the different Modules of this course has and will help you apply structure and systems to your business.
Become a part of a community. As I shared in the previous module, and as you may already have felt yourself, running a business can be isolating and lonely. Finding people that are doing similar creative things so you can share and collaborate (and laugh and cry) together is crucial to your long term success. The best thing I have ever done in my business was my willingness to take the first step and contact people I felt "attracted" to or who I felt I had alot in common with. I can’t even tell you how much this has changed my life and business. Don’t wait.
You will never work harder. Longer hours. But at certain moments you’ll also never feel more free, satisfied, and fulfilled. And you just need to decide daily if those moments make it all worth it.
Know yourself really well. Especially how you thrive in your daily life: what types of food enables you to perform at your highest level and what foods make your energy dwindle, at what hours of the day are you most productive/creative, in what kind of environment do you work best, are you an introvert or an extrovert, are you a big dreamer or down to earth. In order to succeed, you must embrace who you are, fully. And work with those traits, not against them. Find a way to work around the rest.
The hard stuff doesn’t go away and that includes both annoying tasks waiting to get done and difficult conversations needing to be had. You still have to do it, and it will all depend on you. But with practice it might get easier. Self doubt, exhaustion etc will never completely disappear, but to run your own business you must be able to look past it or work through it to continue on.
Realize the difference between working ON your business vs IN your business. When you're running your own, there must be time for both.
If the words below are not things that are naturally a part of your personality or if you are not willing to work hard to make them so, I will question whether you should really be running your own business full time. You need so much:
Patience. Grit. Time. Love. Energy. Resilience. Humbleness. Creativity. Confidence. Vulnerability. Sacrifice. Discipline. Willingness to ask for help. Willingness to give. A desire to serve. Kicking fear in the butt. A very positive attitude. Being a problem solver. And a willingness to continually invest in your own growth. There is going to be so much to learn and you must love or learn to love being a student.
So who is running a business very much not for:
if you have a tendency to procrastinate alot or easily get paralyzed when facing decision making
if you have a tendency to blame others for things that have gone badly in your life or like to play the victim
if you often let fear or anxiety control your life and your choices
if you’re not good with uncertainty or leaving your comfort zone
if you are already too stressed about your daily life
if you care so much about what others think of you or say about you that you let it influence your decisions or sense of self
if you feel like you already know everything and are really bad at asking for help or advice or seek out knowledge
if you get bored easily
if you want to base your income on in-person services and the limited hours you have each day.