I found this letter posted on a photographers forum recently. As a photography business coach I find it sad in some ways yet very inspiring and motivational in other ways.
Rebecca Tompkins 20 June at 08:23
” I sit here now still trying to wrap my mind around the decision. I closed my business today. After 2 years of trying, I just can’t do it right now. I am writing this post to acknowledge the many mistakes I made and to hope others will not make the same ones.
I closed my business for multiple reasons. One being no paying clients in over a year and the other being I just got diagnosed with a mess of issues with my back (degenerative disc disease, 2 herniated discs and spinal stenosis in 2 areas of my lumbar spine). It has been very rough lately. I am one of the lucky ones where I did not quit a full time job to start this venture, I was a stay at home mom with a partner who supports me in anything and everything I could ever dream of doing. My disappointment is due to my own personal guilt and feelings of failure.
The mistakes I made are common! Don’t get discouraged by my post but take into consideration as you amazing photographers out there start and continue on this journey!
- I started business too soon. I was one of those photographers you see everyone bash and hate on social media. I got a nice camera, took a few good shots and listened to everyone around me say “You should start charging for that. You are soo good!” I literally roll my eyes thinking about it now. I offered 25 and 50$ sessions with flash drives included. I just went out and thought I was a professional.
- I started my business to recoup the money spend on my hobby. I have troubles due to being a domestic violence survivor with guilt. I felt so guilty about how much everything cost that I wanted to make money to get back what was being spent. This is a horrible reason to go into business.
- I lacked confidence. I still to this day do not believe my images are as great as everyone else tries to tell me they are. I can find a flaw anywhere and after shooting consistently for 3 years, I have never, not even once been brave enough to ask for constructive criticism. If I get CC on social media without asking, I will usually delete the image and pretend it didn’t just destroy a small part of me in my head. You must believe in yourself!!! Believe in your work!!!
- I never found a niche! I certainly rebranded often enough to have tried them all. I did family, weddings, maternity, documentary, newborn etc. I just never found anything that quite lit my fire the way my own random shoots to bring forth a creative vision did. In a rural area (a town of less than 1,500 people, 10 photographers and no sense of community) a niche was needed. When I did market a niche, one of the more established photographers in my area would market the same thing I was marketing and well no clients came my way.
- I did not research enough. This goes back to number 1 and starting a business too soon. I never paid attention to who else was running a business around me, how they marketed, what kind of clients to market too etc. I just wanted to make money and that was it.
- I was no good at being a salesperson. How can you sell yourself, your talent and your product, if you don’t think it is any good??? If you cannot talk to someone and take the criticism or believe in your prices, you cannot profit off of your talent.
- I did not give myself fully to the business. Somewhere in the back of my head, I never thought it would be a success. So, I allowed myself to put less and less effort into it over time. Every disappointment was an affirmation that I was not good enough. The 5 times I advertised mini session and no one showed, the model calls no one followed up on, the lack of interest in anything other than standard posed images, well it all just added up.
I sit here and type this with tears rolling down my face, not knowing where else to lay it all out there, not having many who genuinely understand the frustration (my back) and sadness (giving up) I am feeling. I want any one of you who reads this to take to heart that running a business is not for the weak. You have to do so much to make it work, I have total confidence that you all will be a success and I wanted to share a few of the do not do’s to help you all along.
I am working through it all in my head and I may try this as a business venture again somewhere far in the distant future. For right now, I am just going to love taking pictures every chance I get and I am going to focus on my creativity and technical flow. The future holds a lot for me outside of a DBA and a tax number. I am and always will be an artist. My heart comes alive with the camera in my hand shooting the things I love. Thank you all for reading!!
Keep on trying everyone! Keep on striving and know that sometimes even if it doesn’t all work out, you are still a photographer and an artist when you go to bed!!!
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