10 Photography Business Lessons From Running

I’ve always wanted to be good at running. At school I never excelled at it – I was always somewhere in the middle in cross-country, or towards the back if I couldn’t be bothered and it was an especially grim day. But I used to look at the people at the front, speeding ahead, and think how free and graceful and powerful they looked.

It wasn’t until about 15 years ago as I was turning 30, that I started to wonder if I should give running a whirl. With a young child, stuck at home a lot, feeling a bit frumpy and knackered with not much disposable income and even less time, something I could do directly from my front door, without breaking the bank, at whatever time fitted in around family life, seemed like the perfect solution to inject a bit of energy, fresh air and fitness into my life.

Since then I’ve been really sporadic with it over the years – shorter phases of running loads and then longer phases of not running at all. Until very recently I’ve never been able to develop any real kind of consistency or make any significant improvements with it. I’ve just been stuck in the same cycle of slight improvements for a little while then back down to nothing, on repeat, ad nauseam.

It’s only been over the last few months that I’ve been able to develop any kind of consistency with running and actually see real improvements, as well as starting to actually really enjoy it. It’s struck me several times that the reasons I’ve now been able to make a success of running this time are totally applicable to running your own business, and that most of the successes I’ve had in my photography business have actually been for the same reasons.

Here are my 10 photography business lessons from running:

 

 

1) HABITS ARE ONLY BENEFICIAL IF THEY’RE ACHIEVABLE

 

I used to aim to run every weekday, thinking I needed to get into the habit/routine of doing it. I’d run every day for a week or two, then miss a couple of days because life happens, then I’d feel really disheartened, lose momentum and stop completely, until the next same cycle repeated itself some time later. Now I aim to run 2-3 times a week which is something I can consistently achieve and it’s a lot harder for me to feel ‘derailed’ because my expectations aren’t so high – I’ve developed an achievable habit rather than an unrealistic one.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

Routines and habits are well worth developing, but start with routines that don’t overstretch you and embed those first before adding to them – you’re much more likely to maintain them – posting on socials twice a week rather than every day, blogging once a month rather than once a week etc. You can always build on them later.

 

 

2) STRUCTURE AND PLANS REALLY HELP

 

I used to just ‘go for a run’, choosing an arbitrary distance and route, on an ad hoc basis. There was no structure to my running routine, I felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing and didn’t really see any progression. Now I follow a training plan on the Nike Run App and use their guided runs that tell me exactly what to do and when. Within their weekly schedule, I choose one speed run, one recovery run and one longer run to ensure I’m doing all the different types of runs that will move me forward. I decide at the start of the week which runs I’ll do on which days and schedule them in the diary. Having a plan to work to not only helps me to improve but takes the brain power out of the process – I don’t have to figure out what to do, I have a clear goal and a clear plan to get there, and I just follow that.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

Regular medium term and short term planning (6 week planning, weekly planning and daily planning) ensures I have tasks mapped out in advance that are linked to my goals, my working days feel a lot less directionless and chaotic, and I’m so much more focused and productive than when I didn’t do any of this. Just as I schedule in speed / recovery / long runs each week, at the start of each week I schedule in dedicated marketing, planning and content creation time so that I know I’m going to be doing all the main types of tasks that will move my business forward.

 

Photography business lessons

 

3) DON’T SET OUT AT FULL THROTTLE

 

Still my most common mistake! Setting out too fast at the start just means you’ll tire quickly, burn out midway and at best struggle round the remainder of the route, or more commonly, don’t actually manage to finish the distance and tap out early, exhausted. Starting off the run at a pace that initially feels too slow allows you to fall into a gentle and comfortable, maintainable rhythm and means you have enough in your reserves to actually pick up pace as the route progresses and even have a burst of speed and energy when needed/desired.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

You’re in this for the long haul, and it’s important you don’t burn out. This means pacing yourself and not running yourself into the ground trying to do too much and move too fast right from the start. Create simpler, slower, ‘for now’ versions of things that you can always pick up the pace with later. Try to leave energy in your reserves so that if you do need or want to take things up a notch and use a bit more energy for a bit, whether that’s to get you through a busy wedding season, or run a big marketing campaign, or overhaul your website, you’re able to do it without finishing yourself off in the process.

 

Photography business lessons

 

4) GET SOME ACCOUNTABILITY

 

Now I have a ‘running buddy’, my friend Jo. She’s down in Brighton and I’m up in Manchester so we can’t run together, but we try to follow the same training plan where possible and we screenshot our runs to each other on WhatsApp. Being accountable to Jo, and seeing her make the effort to do it really helps motivate me to do it too, especially when I’m really not feeling like it.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

Get some accountability buddies – photography colleagues or a community with whom you can share your goals and plans and check in with each other to motivate each other to complete them (I’m biased but The Shutterhood is fantastic for this!) Alternatively (or as well as this!) you can get a mentor/coach who will similarly hold you to account and help keep you on track (and whilst similarly biased, The Accelerator is definitely fantastic for this!)

 

 

5) INVEST IN YOURSELF

 

Yes, running is free, which is wonderful. However, while I was running in old trainers, an unbreathable top, a worn out old sports bra and slightly too-tight joggers, I didn’t make much progress. Eventually I invested in decent running shoes and clothing, put my name down for a half marathon and signed up to a training plan. Investing in myself in this way meant that I took my commitment to run seriously and I made so much more effort because I didn’t want to have wasted my money.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

Having ‘skin in the game’ means that you automatically make more effort and perform better, because you don’t want to waste your investment and the very act of investing money into it means that you take yourself and your commitment to your goals more seriously. Whenever I’ve invested in myself and my business, looking at something that’s not working as well as it could and enlisting the services of something or someone to improve that, whether that’s more efficient camera / computer equipment or software, training courses, coaches/mentors etc, I’ve always ended up levelling up my business as a whole too.

 

Photography business lessons

 

6) LOOK AFTER YOUR MINDSET

 

Whenever I start a run feeling like it’s going to be hard or crap, it always is. If I expect too much of myself before I set off, I almost always return home disappointed. Using an app with guided runs where coaches help me maintain the right mindset throughout the run has really helped with this. I also now never have any expectations of myself other than putting on my running gear, getting out the door and running for a little bit. I just think, I’ll go slow, do what I can, and even if I don’t get far or go that fast, it’s still a win and still much better than not running at all. This makes the run far more enjoyable and ironically, when I go with that intention I’m much more likely to actually have the enthusiasm to run further than planned.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

Mindset is key. You can have all the training, skill and passion you like, but if you believe you’ll fail, you’ll hold yourself back before you’ve even started. Commit to working on your mindset regularly, whether that’s through meditations, audiobooks, podcasts, development books, affirmations, therapy, self-care, reflection, journalling, it doesn’t matter – just pick whatever works for you and embed it into your daily/weekly routine. I have heaps of free Mindset resources here for you to check out.

 

Photography business lessons

 

7) SWITCH UP YOUR ROUTES

 

It’s really easy to get into a rut with running – doing the same routes or the same type of runs, or listening to the same music. Switching things up really helps me to run easier and faster! Trying a different route I’ve not run before, listening to a different kind of music, or using a guided run where I have to switch between different tempos – things like this make such a big difference to how much I enjoy it and how effortless it feels. When you’re just going through the same motions, your perspective narrows and it feels boring – you notice aches more easily, you count the metres until the next ‘section’ that you know is coming up, the song starts annoying you and it drags. But when I try new things, the run passes so much more quickly and enjoyably.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

While it’s great to have structure and routine to ensure you’re doing all you need to, remember to switch up the way you do non-essential things. Working on a laptop on the sofa or in a café rather than on your desktop in your office, trying a different type of shot you’ve not tried before, sharing some behind the scenes posts on social media when you usually just share your photos, listening to a different type of music while you’re working, changing the colour scheme on your computer, getting a new desktop background, switching round your break times, changing the layout of your office a bit… all of these little things can really help to give you a bit of a boost and help to pull you out of a rut, energise you and help you to attack your work with more gusto.

 

 

8) DON’T COMPARE

 

I often see others sharing their running routes/stats who are loads speedier than me or running much further. I often find myself feeling disheartened and even embarrassed of my own very average efforts. However, I always remind myself that most of them have just been running a lot longer than I have, or invest a lot more time into their running, or are lucky to have been born with a great natural talent for running. Yes, their achievements are amazing, but their achievements don’t cancel mine out. For a woman in my mid 40s, who’s never identified as ‘athletic’, and who’s intentionally chosen to keep my running schedule pretty light to enable me to be able to give enough time to other activities I also enjoy, I’m doing pretty well! People might never gasp at my running achievements but they’re working really well for me and my life and my own personal priorities and that’s what matters.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

Stay in your lane. Comparing your photography business to others is pointless – you don’t know what resources they might have had at their disposal that you haven’t, they might have been doing it for a lot longer, they might have given things up to make space for this that you might not want to give up yourself, they might have got lucky, they might have worked themselves into exhaustion to achieve this. You rarely see the full story, so don’t assume that other people’s successes are easy and that you’re faulty because yours might not have been easy. Everyone has their struggles, everyone has their achievements, all for different reasons. Whatever they are, no-one’s achievements detract from yours. Focus on yourself, your own brand, your own priorities, your own goals, your own passions, your own style, your own path.

 

Photography business lessons

 

9) CELEBRATE YOUR WINS AND LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE

 

It’s easy to focus on the bad stuff, the times when we feel we’ve ‘failed’ – achey legs, a slower time than usual, struggling on a route you usually find ok, not actually making it out of the door at all… Unfortunately these things are all completely inevitable. But it’s important to focus on the wins too otherwise it all just feels like a drag. Every time I step out the front door I give myself a pat on the back for even getting that far, because starting it is the hardest bit and I did it, irrespective of how well the run actually goes. I love the running apps because they give me little ‘medals’ when I improve, and it’s good to look back over my progress long-term and see how far I’ve come. The last run might have been crap or short, but when I look back over the last few weeks/months and see how many kilometres I’ve run in total, I feel a real sense of pride for the big picture achievements and that helps motivate me to keep going.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

Sometimes you will struggle and fail in your business, and things won’t turn out as well as you’d hoped, it’s inevitable and we ALL go through it. Offset this by making sure you regularly note and share your wins – whether that’s by gratitude journalling, or sharing in a thread in a group, or telling your accountability partner or coach about it – celebrate your own achievements no matter how small. Psychologically it’s so important and gives you those little boosts that you really do need running your own business. Remember to look at the big picture too – you might have had a sh*tty week and done very little over the last few days, but look back to where you were this time last year, or even a few months ago – make sure you acknowledge what has changed and how far you’ve come. It will remind you that more is possible, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the short term.

 

Photography business lessons

 

10) RUN IN THE MORNING AND LAY CLOTHES OUT THE NIGHT BEFORE

 

If I get up and don’t see my running clothes, before you know it, I’ve slipped into something more comfortable and there’s no chance the running gear is going on that day. If I get my running clothes on but then delay my run until the afternoon, there’s similarly no chance that run is happening. My motivation to do it will keep sliding until the moment I shamefully switch my unused running clothes for my pyjamas at the end of the day. My motivation and energy is always highest in the morning, so now I lay out my running clothes the night before so I get into them first thing, then I do my run as soon as possible after that, usually straight after the school run if I can. These are the best ways for me to ensure that a run that I don’t ever really feeling like doing gets done.

What photography business lessons can you take from this?

Eat the frog. Whatever that task is that feels like the biggest ball ache, that will take the most energy to complete, get it done first thing. There will never be a point in the day when you have more energy and motivation, and as the day goes on, your inclination to tackle it will dwindle and dwindle even further. Likewise, plan out the evening before what you’re going to tackle the next day. Get all the resources ready that you’re going to need to tackle it – open any relevant documents, software etc – having it laid out ready for you when you start the day will make you so much more likely to actually do it.

 

I hope you find these useful! Have you learned any great lessons about business from any of your own hobbies and personal experiences?

Anna 🙂

 

 

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