Recently, we got an email from a photographer who felt down, defeated and discouraged about the future of his photography business — and whether or not he should even keep going — because of an article he read by another photographer who painted a very grim picture of the realities of running a photography business (or any small business for that matter). The article mentioned lots of reasons why running a photography business isn’t a wise career choice, citing examples that ranged from the expense of gear, heightened taxes, job pressure, high health insurance costs, and the amount of hours you’ll pour into the job without much of a financial return. That when you add it all up, you might as well just give up because the return isn’t worth the investment in time and money. The photographer who reached out to us wrote, “I’m hoping that you might be able to rejuvenate my appetite for this business and tell me that this photographer is wrong.”
So, we emailed him back. We didn’t tell him that the other photographer was wrong. That’s not really our style and, to be honest, there’s enough of people calling each other wrong on the Internet already. It’s always been important to us — and always will be — to show respect to other leaders and teachers in our industry, even when they have very different thoughts, ideas, feelings and philosophies than we do.
We believe we don’t have to say what we’re against in order to say what we’re for.
With that, here’s our response to the photographer who contacted us. As we finished writing it, we thought there might be some other people out there who might be wrestling with the same questions. Am I in over my head? Is all this hard work ever going to be worth it? Can I actually make a living doing the thing I love, or should I just give up now? Is it even possible to be successful?
Here’s what we told him:
Defining what success is for you is important, and success can’t always be measured strictly by the numbers.
There are intangibles that can’t be accounted for in Quickbooks or on spreadsheets. Happiness being one of them. According to polls, 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with their work. For a lot of entrepreneurs, working more and making less is actually more appealing than keeping their day job if it means they get to do something they love every day. If we’re going to spend most of our lives working, our quality of life is deeply impacted by what we do for the majority of our waking hours.
It is true that the majority of small businesses fail. In fact, the overwhelming majority of them do. That’s ANY industry, not just photography. But we know A LOT of successful photographers of all shapes, sizes, ages, sexes, colors, backgrounds, styles, etc. who are making a living shooting — and loving it. That doesn’t means it’s not hard. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
But the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.
Amy and I worked multiple jobs days, nights and weekends for YEARS before we ever paid ourselves one penny from our business. But, now, standing on the other side of the hill, we can tell you that, at least for us, it was 100% worth it — and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. We’re making more money than we could’ve ever imagined doing a job that we love, and serving people in a way that brings us so much purpose, fulfillment and motivation to get out of bed each and every day.
That doesn’t mean quit your day job tomorrow. We kept ours for years, building slowly and strategically before we made the leap to full time. But it DOES mean don’t let anyone or anything deter or discourage you from the dreams and desires God’s placed on your heart. It’d be a slap in the face to Him to bury those dreams out of fear of the future. We know that lesson all too well, because we’ve lived it. The fear part and the future part.
We always say it and we’ll say it again because it’s true: success is NOT for the chosen few; it’s for those who choose. So define success for yourself, and then go get it. There will always be naysayers and critics. Let them sit in the cheap seats and throw verbal grenades, but don’t let it keep you from getting to your dream job. It might take you proving to them and yourself that you can get there before they’ll have the courage to do it themselves.
We’re so proud of our shooting and editing course students all across the world! They’re shooting better, editing faster and serving their clients better than ever before!
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