I started my photography business in 2010 but have been doing it much longer. My work then? Totally cringe worthy and my post on progression shows just a bit of that.
When I first started, I was really only doing photos for family and close friends and when I did start charging money and took on other clients, I thought I had it made. I was wrong. It is not easy building a business in general, but a profitable one? Lets just say I'm still working on that.
I cannot tell you how many times I have told myself my work is not worth money, that people don't like my work, people won't choose me, I'm not worth it, this will never take off. While I'm not exactly where I want to be just yet, I'm on the path towards it and I am going to keep working until I get there. Why? Because I LOVE what I do! Photography is such a huge passion of mine, it's a part of me and that will not likely ever change. I have been a quitter of many things in my life, but this is not one of them.
Looking back in my folders, just going to 2015, I only had around 22 clients that year, and many were still family/friends. In 2016, that number doubled and in 2017 I started to increase my pricing, which was still not anywhere near where it needed to be to be profitable but it was about the same, around 40 clients.
This collage is my 2018, and some sessions are not included due to privacy but as I have improved, raised my prices and have really focused on the business side of things rather than just giving it all away and undercutting myself, my number is now over 70. I have raised my prices to now be profitable and follow my CODB (Cost of Doing Business) for what I want to be at for 2019.
Many of my clients that started with me did not follow and trust me, I don't blame them after looking back on my work then haha, and many that have come along the way have also parted ways as I've grown and began to charge for my services. It used to bother me when my clients went elsewhere, I would often wonder why they didn't come to me again and I would get that green monster in my ear telling me I was not worth it, they hated my work, they'll only come to me if I'm free, I shouldn't be charging money etc. Trust me, we are our own worst critic and that was me 100%. We all start somewhere, and the more we grow and improve, the worse our past looks.
In this past year, I have found my "no", and have found some very smart, educated and talented people that have opened my eyes to a whole different world of photography and business.
What is my "no"? Well, it's many things but it's me not being walked on, simple as that. It's me standing up for my worth, it's me valuing myself, my time and my work. It's me saying no to a client or a potential client asking me to do something for less than I was charging, or giving more than I was offering, or just doing something for free because they claimed "exposure".
I heard that so much I'm not surprised I let myself be taken advantage of for so long. The promise of raving about my work, showing all their friends, all the clients I was sure to have because they simply told them about me.
Well I'll tell you what, the numbers I gave above in just the past 3 years, not even back as far as I started, but those numbers are proof that this mindset does NOT work.
2015, 2016 and 2017, all were years I mindlessly followed that mindset. My numbers were pitiful.
2018, the year I stopped? 🤔 Mmm hmm. Exposure? C'mon now.
Yeah my work has improved significantly, but I'm doing much better on my own without devaluing myself by giving everything away for free at the promise of all that exposure that never once paid the bills. Don't get me wrong, many of my clients are by referral and I truly appreciate that but these are people who value me and my work, and don't expect me to work for free in order for them to refer to me.
It no longer bothers me when clients don't grow with me. I am not for everyone and that's okay! Some put the breaks on over my raised prices, some put them on over getting less in terms of how many images and what all is included. Some put them on when I simply said no to free, and by free I don't necessarily mean $0 session. There is a lot that goes into each session and just because there is a fee for it doesn't mean what's being put in, or given isn't free because the fee isn't enough to cover everything. I say no to extras, the things people want, often just expect but don't want to pay for. I say no to lowering my price to fit someone's budget, just to get the client., something I used to do all the time! It did not benefit me, it hurt me more than anything. I say no to lowering my price to KEEP someone with me. Sorry, if you want what I am offering, you need to be willing to pay for it. I say no to being taken advantage of, to being pushed around, to being told how I should operate my business.
Here is my personal affirmation for this year.
I am moving on from "I'm not worth it, I suck, my work is not worth the money, people hate my work, why won't they book me, why did they go somewhere else, people will only book me if I'm cheap or free, I need to lower my prices so people will book me"
"I'm totally worth it, I'm talented, my work is worth more, my clients love my work, my clients choose me and value me and what I offer, my clients won't ask me to work for free, I love my returning clients, I'm going to charge my worth from now on and those who value my work and the experience I provide will choose me"
Isn't it amazing what a difference words can make and to be confident enough to say them? Even better when the actions match! Another hurdle I have gotten over this year is hiding my voice, being afraid to say what I think and feel for fear of what others might think. If I don't say it, if I don't educate it, if I don't show it, how will you ever know? Fear be gone!
It's taken me many years to figure this much out and while I still have a ways to go to get to where I want to be, I am already on the right path simply because I made the decision to make this work and do what I need to do to make it happen.
A huge chunk of my success I owe to my amazing clients new and returning and I want to thank each and every one of you for supporting me and my passion. I wouldn't be where I am without you and my 2018 would definitely not look as awesome! 😃
I really do truly love and appreciate my clients because they allow me to do what I love, they support my biggest passion and they are my affirmation that my work IS good and that I AM worth it.
As I reflect on this past year, see it come together, I am reminded of why I do this and it's making me so pumped for a new year, for new clients, for returning clients and just another year of great photography and learning!
Happy New Year and thank you from the bottom of my heart! Here's to 12 new months of pouring into my passion, building my confidence, growing my business and overall, capturing priceless memories for many, many people 🤩 ❤️