A year ago, I was wrestling with the thought of what to do for my next career. I had done everything from a soccer coach to pharmaceutical marketing, to an assistant youth director, a job which I loved and dearly miss. When we found out David had gotten his dream job, it left me more confused than ever with what I was going to do with my life. Was I going to continue job hopping each city/country we lived in? The idea of photography full time had crossed my mind, but the details were so unknown. Could I actually make a living off that? Would I really get any clients? Where do I even start? I didn’t want to worry David with my career concerns, because he was head over heels into his job, thankfully God put it on his heart to talk to me about it. He was the one who suggested photography, because he could see how much job searching was killing me. And so, I hired a business coach and began the process! All while moving halfway across the country.
I had followed so many photographers who were now also educators, and thought I knew exactly what to do. My business coach was awesome at helping me get organized. I had all the “things” one would need to get started. Things being: a good website, networking skills, social media savvyness, marketing material, networking skills. I kept hearing over and over again from educators, market to your ideal client. I thought that’s what I was doing. I thought I had my “photography style” figured out, but each session I did I found a new edit that I loved and my consistency was all over the place. As much as I tried to tell myself I wasn’t comparing myself to others, the truth is I was. I excused it by telling myself I was learning from them. I’m now realizing the biggest problem was in the fact that I was comparing myself to photographers who had been in this game for years!
I tried to be just like them. I tried to make my images look the same way theirs were. I followed everything they said to do to gain followers. I signed up for all the webinars on growing your business, and being a good photographer. Nothing was changing. I had booked 2 of my own weddings, but that was it. I decided take on second shooting on my off weekends, so as to grow my portfolio and gain more experience. In the past month of second shooting, I have learned more about myself as a photographer than I thought…
This whole time I had been trying to build a business, and let’s just say I’m not a very good business person. I have learned from second shooting the importance of having a brand or a style not a business. People don’t feel connected to businesses, they are connected to the brand, the person selling it, or the products they offer. Take the cute boutique shop in Roscoe Village that I stop in every now and then. Any business could set up shop and sell cute clothes and paper goods, but it’s the fact that every time I walk in the owner greets me along with her cute dogs. It’s a cozy vintage vibe, and I immediately feel comfortable in there. Some of the accessories come from different countries, and I love reading and connecting with the stories she has on display from the women who made that item. This boutiques brand is what sets them apart.
In this past month I have done a lot of soul searching to figure out my brand and who my ideal client is. I thought I always knew – but after second shooting I am realizing, that maybe I never did. I am learning that maybe this process doesn’t happen overnight. For others it might, but for me it might take a while. In order for me to design a brand that I can really stand behind, I have to figure out my style. That’s something I’m learning I can’t copy from other photographers. It’s kind of like the process of figuring out who you are, it’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, and you can’t take it from other people.
I’ve only been at this for almost a year, and when I put it into perspective I realize a year is nothing. I had this vision of me being a successful business woman with my books full of clients by this time, but I’m learning this is a process. It’s full of bumps, discoveries, and joys, but it’s my process and I can’t wait to see what God has in store. It’s kind of like taking on a new DIY project. There is a sense of pride throughout the process knowing you are doing it on your own. There are times you want to quit, but the idea of seeing the end product drives you to keep going. That’s exactly how I feel right now!
Thanks for reading! I don’t open up enough about this process. It feels good to get it down in writing, and hopefully one day I can look back and see how far I’ve come. My other hope, is that this will encourage someone to not give up. Success doesn’t always come overnight. Work on being you, and drown out all the voices of people telling you what to do and who you should be. It’s great that success happened for them, but that is their brand and their voice. Not yours! Find yours, no matter how long it takes.
learned. learned. learned.