Wow, it’s been 4 years! That’s like an entire high school career.
I have been an entrepreneur for 4 years, the most professionally fulfilling years of my adult life. (but I don’t have that many adult years under my belt). As you would expect, it has been amazing, but far from easy. When starting a business born out of an existing hobby, the thoughts go something like this. “I love photography, wouldn’t it be amazing if I got paid for it?” or “Can I really make a job out of this?”
Wishful thinking right? In the early days of my business there definitely was a “honeymoon phase” of sorts. Like, how is this real life? No one tells you about all the hidden hard things. Things like the extra job titles you get, or the constant questioning you have of yourself as you navigate being the CEO of your own business. It’s been a fast 4 years of business and through the ups and downs, here are some confessions I have.
At my very first photo session, I was pregnant. Like “within-weeks-of-giving-birth” pregnant. On paper that doesn’t seem like the best idea; starting a business right before giving birth. Most people take a break from their jobs in the days leading up to and the days after giving birth, not launch a business. I guess that’s just not my style…I decided to start a business from scratch.
I launched my business with Bluebonnet Minis; something I felt confident I couldn’t go wrong with. I cringe at some of those images now, but after leaving the sessions that day I felt alive, excited and just a new type of butterflies. Like “WOAH, I’m doing this thing and people think that I’m worth booking!”
However, in addition to all the excitement, there definitely was an underlying fear. Fear of not knowing anything that I needed to do to run a business or be in the least bit professional, and the fear of just being an all-around art fraud that people would see right through. (you know Imposter Syndrome) It was a vulnerable place to be. To think that my service would provide artwork for people who could criticize it into oblivion. I already have a relentless inner critic, and I become crushed when my fears and doubts are confirmed by those around me. Yeah, I was a little emotionally all over the place.
I think the best word for it was surreal, but I was full steam ahead.
I’d like to say that everything has changed over the last 4 years. Somethings have. I don’t have the jitters walking into every single session like I used to. I have gained quite a bit of knowledge and confidence along the way. Plus, I have used processes and resources around me to become much more professional and streamlined.
On the other hand, I wrestled with many emotions at the beginning that have not resolved themselves. They have just evolved with the business over time. More on that later.
So without further adieu, here are some thoughts and confessions I have after 4 years of business.
Well, technically it’s been a little longer. I picked up my first camera in my high school photography class, but I would not say I started developing actual skills until I started my business. And if I’m completely honest, I feel like I don’t have the stark “then and now” photos that a lot of photographers have. Yes, there is a difference in my work from the beginning. BUT, that being said it ain’t no huge ‘glow up’ or anything. The “then and now” comparison reels that are common amongst photographers leaves me full of doubt. “Am I really getting any better?” All the clients I have pouring in would say yes and I am definitely much more well-versed in Lightroom. However, in my heart of hearts, I’m a little disappointed that I’m not at some point further down the artist’s journey. Like I wish I was more wowed by my own work. I can’t even specifically define where I wish I was, but it’s this constant discontent with what I am producing and the following thought that “I should be better than this.”
This one sort of piggybacks off the last. When I started MBP I had a pretty huge growth from years 1-3. That makes sense right? I was starting from zero. Year 4 has still come with its fair share of growth in the business, whether it be financial, client base, or overall reach in the community. However, it just feels lackluster compared to years 1-3. Again, I’m less impressed with myself. I’m hitting a lull.
When I stop and think about it I can logically cut myself slack. If I kept growing at the same rate I did in the years prior I would not be able to handle the business on my own anymore (although, how awesome would that be to have enough growth to need to outsource or hire an employee). Yet, somehow the slowing acceleration of growth feels personal. “What is wrong with me? Is my work just not as good as it used to be? Are people taking their photo needs elsewhere?” “Am I old news?”
Again, logic steps in. Lots of this can be explained away. Inflation of all products and services has changed our whole economy and frankly how booked my calendar is. I can’t quite explain it, but the mental battle still ensues nonetheless.
Please let me add a caveat to this. I AM IMMENSELY GRATEFUL FOR EVERY SINGLE CLIENT. Even the ones who book once and never return. You trust me with something precious, and I don’t take that lightly. Looking at my business with emotional glasses instead of business glasses does something to my thought process that sends me spiraling down a deep dark hole of uncertainty and low self-esteem.
As I have grown in my business I have been reaching out to many different educators in the field. For me, it’s mostly on the podcast platform. After lots of listening, I just have one dominant thought. I am largely disappointed at the overwhelming amount of photography educators that preach the idea that “Raising your prices” is the only way to grow, the only way to make the industry better, and the only way to be respected as a photographer.
Yes, you heard that right…just about every photography educator out there has banged the “raise your prices” drum. I’m not talking about like $40-$50 per session either. I’m talking like doubling or even tripling prices overnight simply on the notion that I should “charge my worth”. Like what does that even mean?
I have a few of issues with this notion. It has taken me a while to feel confident enough to even state them on a platform that I know will not be widely seen, but here we go.
I’m not a boutique photographer and I don’t want to be.
Growing my business is something that I feel like I am just spinning and spinning and spinning my wheels for. There is no manual. No step-by-step checklist that tells you when you reach the “x” goal then move on to the “y” objective. The growth of my business is purely on me, what I decide to make of it, and the direction I want it to go. I’ve tried many new things, this blog included. I’ve brainstormed many ideas that never came to full fruition, like a STUDIO! And, I have agonized when I feel like nothing that I am doing is yielding the results I want. You’ve heard the saying “Do what you always do and you’ll get what you always get.” It’s just so much pressure and it’s so hard not to take it personally when my marketing ideas or efforts come back void. Being a business owner is definitely NOT for the emotionally weak. Ha, it’s growing my skin a little thicker every day.
I feel like I just spent the entirety of this blog post griping about hard things in my job, but at the end of the day, I LOVE what I do.
There is a lot to be said about owning your own business. Many of those things I didn’t even say here, but moving forward it feels refreshing to confess the things I have been feeling. It clears my mind. And now I can head into my 4th busy season ready to take on everything that comes my way.
Check out this NICU Newborn Session.
or this Eclectic Newborn Session.
Melanie B of Mel B Photo is a professional photographer based in Tomball, Cypress, and The Woodlands, TX. I specialize in Newborn, Family, and Maternity Photography. For more information on packages with me and/or opportunities to book, feel free to visit my website.
Specific Newborn Packages can be found HERE.
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