So, a few weeks ago I wrote a guest post for Katy Murray Photography filled with my thoughts for photographers new to the game. My advice on how to navigate the treacherous waters of starting your own business. You can read that post HERE if you'd like. After I wrote it I got to thinking about how much more I wanted to say. Starting a business is one of the most exciting and worthwhile things I've done in my life but it sure is terrifying at times. I thought about how much advice like this meant to me when I was just starting out and how much it still means. Not just the technical business-ey stuff but the personal stuff too. In a business and industry that can be very cut throat and competitive, every piece of encouragement is valued.
Lesson #1 - Your comfort zone? Scrap it!
This may be a scary thing for me to start off with but it is the truth. In order for you to grow as a business owner you need to regularly throw yourself out of your comfort zone. If you never push the boundaries of what you think you can do you'll never become the best you can be. I've had to put myself outside of my comfort zone more times than I can count. Everything from calling people on the phone (which as an introvert I'm still not a fan of), to emailing venue coordinators and business people and meeting established photographers in coffee shops. The biggest one for me is driving to weddings all over the place, having to traverse big 400 series highways! I am seriously bad with directions so driving anywhere I've never been makes me anxious. There are alway things that will make you nervous, always things that will make you want to crawl under your blankets and hide, but forcing yourself to do those things is what makes you stronger. Growth happens on the outside of the lines you've drawn for yourself.
Lesson #2 - Go at your own pace.
This one I think is worth mentioning. There are lots of people in this world you can't help but compare yourself to. Why am I not where they are? How come that person is so much more successful than me? This is a dangerous trap to fall into and one that can hold you back. No two people are alike so why should every journey be the same? It is so important to recognize how you work and go at the pace that you feel comfortable with. A pace that allows you to grow but that doesn't result in the all to common burn out. Set yourself up with a solid foundation no matter how long that takes and just chug along. Comparing yourself to others can only bring negative thoughts and feelings about yourself and your business.
Lesson # 3 - Practice, practice, practice!
Sorry to sound like your annoying high-school gym coach but this never stops being true. Especially in an industry ever evolving like the photography industry, practice and knowledge is a constant thing to strive for. There are always new technologies emerging, always new techniques to try. If any professional ever tells you that they know everything there is to know you should never listen to anything they say ever again! Be a life-long learner and let your passion grow from that.
Lesson #4 - Don't let anyone discourage you.
People are going to tell you that photography is not a real career. People are going to question your dream and tell you that you'll never make it. Don't let the opinions and attitudes of the people around you dissuade you from following your dream. What would have happened if someone had told Bill Gates that tinkering with machines in his garage wasn't worth his time? No matter what that dream is, keep on keeping on despite what others might say. This negative attitude may come not just from people outside the industry but from inside it as well. Such a competitive industry can foster negativity even from the best of us. There is no one way to run a business, there is no one way to live a life. It is normal to feel discouraged, usually quite regularly, but don't let that discouragement become the reason you give up. The opinions of others are just that, opinions. They don't have to have a negative impact on you.
So there you have it. My final thoughts and tips for new photographers. But really this advice is transferrable to almost any business, to any entrepreneur. Now take a deep breath. We are all in this together.
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