I’ve had the opportunity over the last couple of days to chat with some pretty amazing photographers… only, they don’t know just how amazing they really are! We’ve talked about how it’s so easy to point out how everyone else is succeeding but when we look at ourselves, we see only the failures and ways we’ve fallen short of our goals. We’ve talked about how frustrating it is to feel like we’re always working, always trying, always almost-but-not-quite-there. Many times, it seems like the harder we work, the farther away our goals move until they are just barely visible in the distance, so far away that we just want to give up because we’ll never reach them. Or so we tell ourselves.
I love the quote above by Art Williams, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” (<—- oooo, that’s tweetable!) It’s not going to be easy and I’m sorry if you started out thinking that it was. According to the SBA (Small Business Administration), somewhere around 56% of businesses close their doors in the first five years. Now, notice that I say “close their doors” instead of “fail.” I say that because not all businesses close their doors due to financial failure or lack of success. Many close their doors, rebrand, and open under a new name, some sell out to a larger company, some close that business and launch a different business entirely, and some simply want more time with their families or pursuing the life they love.
In the photography industry, we see new businesses launched all the time. In fact, I would safely bet that the majority of us here today are still in our first five years of business. I know that I am. Megan Marlene Photography was started in 2009, under a different name, of course, then I rebranded in 2011, and again in 2012, bringing me to wear I now happily reside. But I haven’t always been happy with myself. For a long time I believed that I “could” do it but didn’t think I would ever actually succeed, focusing instead on all my shortcomings and areas where I lacked skill and experience. It never occurred to me that I was gaining more skill and experience with every new client until I began to look behind to see where I had come from.
Suddenly, I began to recognize and even more importantly, acknowledge all of my success, growth, and accomplishments. And I was happy.
Technically, I’m still within that first five year span, but you know what? I plan to be part of the 44% that succeed. And that is really all it takes, setting a goal and doing everything possible to reach it.But at the same time, we can’t ignore the fact that we will struggle and face difficulties along the way. For some, those obstacles will be insurmountable, such as a family tragedy, moving to an area not conducive to a photography business, or having quadruplets (and if there is a photographer out there who is the parent of quadruplets, please introduce me!) Sometimes, closing our doors is the only option and we should never feel guilty about putting our families first or pursuing another passion. I’ve met several photographers who got into this business only to find that they were passionate about web design or creating handmade props, and decided to follow that road in their career, and they are happier for it.
For many of us, we find ourselves at those crossroads on an almost daily basis, asking ourselves two questions: “Can I do it?” and “Is it worth it?”
First of all, yes, I believe with my whole heart than you can achieve your dreams and have a successful and thriving photography business. And not just any ol’ photography business, but a boutique photography business that cares about people, puts quality above everything else, and pays attention to the little details. Yes! You can do it!
As for the second question, yes, it will be worth it in the end. One day, you will be able to look back and see the failures that made you stronger and the successes that helped you hold on and you will smile with pure joy and contentment. The thing is, when will that day be? Will it be five years from now? One year from now? A few months? Next week? Tomorrow? The answer to that is entirely up to you. Only you decide when you have succeeded, because true success is not found in the eyes of others but in your own heart.