When you’re in the process of launching your photography business, the biggest thing to get in your way is often your own head and lack of confidence. Getting the right mindset is just as important as getting all the right practical resources. What’s the use in knowing a load of fancy business tools and techniques if you don’t have the self-assurance to use them? Similarly, you can have the most amazing brand in the world with the most potential to succeed, but if you’ve not got the confidence to put it out there then you’ve sabotaged yourself before you’ve even begun.
At the point of launching, many photographers stay stuck in behind-the-scenes, preparatory work, constantly tweaking and perfecting… Messing around with editing presets, endlessly tinkering with their website, scrolling social media for ‘inspiration’… But the problem with this is it will never earn you a living as these actions don’t actually make you any money. You have to push past this, start growing your audience and actually selling your services to them.
The thing that stops people moving into these stages is ALWAYS mindset and confidence, worrying that their work isn’t good enough, feeling like they’re not a ‘proper’ photographer, finding it terrifying putting themselves out there incase no one likes what they do, worrying that more experienced photographers will think they’re silly.
If this sounds like you, first of all, DON’T WORRY! The fact is that almost ALL photographers feel this way when they start out. I certainly did. It’s natural and it’s normal. So don’t go beating yourself up about it. But now that we’ve acknowledged it and forgiven ourselves for it, let’s push past it! Here I share some basic tips and mindset shifts that really helped me to get out of my own way, that hopefully will help you to do the same so that you have the confidence to push your business forward.
Here are my top 7 tips to give you confidence launching your photography business:
1) Believe in the value of what you do
Take time to really explore the value, benefit and deeper purpose of what you do – your ‘why’. Connect clearly with your ideal client and their needs, desires and struggles – make sure they understand that what you offer supports them with all of these things, and make sure that YOU understand it too.
If you KNOW that what you do is beneficial to others, you’ll feel so much happier about sharing it with them. Keep your brand profile and your ideal client avatar visible on your wall so that you can see them whenever you’re having a confidence crisis and remind yourself of all the genuine value in what you do.
2) Learn to live with Impostor Syndrome
After over 15 years in the industry, I’m here to tell you that Impostor Syndrome is here to stay, so you need to learn to live with it or at least co-exist with it whilst treating it with the knowing contempt it deserves. Almost ALL of us feel like this, and experience and time don’t actually seem to make it go away! I say this not to worry you but to reassure you – it’s just a normal part and parcel of the journey! We sometimes stop feeling like an impostor about one aspect of the business, but then as we start to grow and take on more / different / new things, we just transfer our Impostor Syndrome to those instead.
You just have to commit to ‘fake it till you make it’! Counteract the thoughts with ACTION. Accept that you will always feel this way, and that your head might be telling you that you’re not cut out for it, but that you will ACT as though you are. The best thing for Impostor Syndrome (which tells you what you are NOT) is by doing the action anyway and showing it that it is wrong (by telling it what you ARE) – you ARE that person because you are DOING exactly what that person does.
Not a ‘real photographer’? But you’re taking photos and have happy clients who love their pics – sounds like a real photographer to me! Not a ‘real businessperson’? But you’re filling out your tax return and booking in clients – sounds like a real businessperson to me! Take the wind out of the sails of Impostor Syndrome by sticking two big fingers up at it and BE the person it’s telling you that you’re not.
3) Accept that you WILL struggle, you WILL fail and you WILL make mistakes
This is unavoidable. Sorry, I’d love to tell you otherwise, but it is. If you get your head around that from the start everything will be a lot easier for you in the long run. ALL of us photographers have at some point (or indeed at several points!) cocked things up… promoted things and got tumbleweed… taken photographs we’re not happy with… undercharged… panicked on a shoot… had months where we’re not sure if we can pay the bills. It’s a rollercoaster, and this is the nature of self-employment, especially in creative fields. It’s not all plain sailing.
Don’t let the fear of making a wrong step paralyse you and stop you from making any steps at all. Yes, you will make mistakes – but honestly, it’s almost never as bad as you think it’s going to be… you just dust yourself down and you move on. We’ve all done it, and come out the other side completely fine, I speak from experience.
Also remember that for every step that goes wrong, you will make a step that goes far better than you ever hoped. But if you never take the steps out of fear of making a ‘wrong’ one, you’ll never find out and will miss out on all the great ones too that will really bring you joy and move you forward.
4) Better done than perfect
This is one of my favourite ‘mantras’ – I only discovered it a couple of years ago – it was a total game-changer and is now something I tell myself on a regular basis. The simple facts are… Something finished will bring you at least some benefit. Something unfinished will bring you no benefit. It is not a binary choice between ‘perfect’ and ‘shit’. It’s perfectly acceptable to put something out there that’s perhaps not as perfect as you wanted it to be, but is still ‘good’ or even ‘amazing’.
Remember that each time you put something out there, it’s not set in stone and can never be changed, updated or removed. You can always tweak and improve it later. You will be your own harshest critic, and I guarantee that what you consider ‘not perfect’ is still pretty bloody brilliant. If you’re a perfectionist (which most of us photographers are!) then you’ll probably never get it ‘perfect’ anyway as you judge yourself by such harsh standards. You might have analysed it with a fine-toothed comb but other people won’t – they just won’t look at it in even nearly as much detail as you have done. So just get it out there. You can always improve on it later.
Also remember that NO ONE is doing everything perfectly – I honestly can’t think of one single aspect of my business that’s EXACTLY working how I want it to right now. That’s the truth! I have lots of ideas about how I can and should improve almost every element of my business. That’s just the way it is – as soon as you update one thing, you realise another is out of date or you get an idea or learn something to improve it. it’s an ongoing process.
People who are successful aren’t those who are perfect, they’re just the ones who are DOING IT when most people don’t have the courage to do it. I’ll leave you with this ace quotation from Ira Glass: “If you don’t feel embarrassed about your launch, you launched too late”.
5) Don’t look too far ahead
The journey from first launching to soaring full-throttle in your dream business is just too long and hard to contemplate – it feels undoable. Always remember that getting there is NOT one big step – it is a series of tiny steps. Break the journey down into small manageable chunks. You don’t even have to know what all those tiny steps will be. All you have to do is just get your head around making that first tiny step and do it. Then once you’ve done that, you get your head around what the next tiny step should be and do that. Just repeat, repeat, repeat, and before you know it you’ll be well on your way to the place that once seemed really out of reach.
Another thing – I guarantee that the end destination will not end up being what you think it is anyway, so don’t hold yourself back obsessing over that. You’ll find that as you progress through the months and years your circumstances or priorities change, or you end up enjoying something you thought you wouldn’t (or vice versa) and start wanting to head in different direction, and so the ultimate desired end result actually changes. Your career will be most likely be a series of pivots. If you’d spent all your time mapping out the entire journey and planning every part of it, you’d have wasted so much time obsessing over an end result that isn’t even happening after all. Set your goals based on what you most need to do right now.
6) Leap, and the net will appear
This is one of my all-time favourite quotations / sayings. I remember Stewart Randall (then a wedding photographer, now founder of the ace Folio Albums – who I use by the way for my own albums!) saying it at a training session 13+ years ago when I was trying to muster up the courage to make the leap to doing photography full time, and it really stuck with me.
When you commit to something, you make it work, because you have to. You could procrastinate and wait and never make something work because you haven’t created the space and commitment to actually make it happen. What you create space for, will grow, a bit like a fish in a tank! Sometimes you just have to have a bit of a leap of faith and fully commit to making it work – because that is when you truly open yourself up to new possibilities and the magic happens.
Of course you can’t predict the future, but when you have properly committed to something, you figure it out as you go along. It WILL feel scary – there’s no escaping that – any step outside your comfort zone is. But that’s the only place we grow, and if you wait for a time when it doesn’t feel scary any more, you could well be waiting forever.
7) Strength in numbers
Navigating running your own business can be difficult, scary and often lonely. It can sometimes be too easy to get lost in your own head and get caught up in unnecessary worries or fruitless tasks. Often we feel as though we’re making it up as we go along (and often we are!) and it can be scary not knowing if you’re wasting your time, or doing something that will benefit you in the long run.
It’s really important to find and develop a like-minded community – a supportive group of people who really get what you do and what you’re going through. Together you can share each other’s experience and share advice to help each other to both avoid common pitfalls and pursue things that really work. You can celebrate your wins and prop each other up when things are tough or don’t go as you’d hoped. Look at photography communities, and business communities. Try to find a place where you feel comfortable, supported and positive – and if you feel any negativity, step away. Don’t let others’ negativity pull you down.
As much as family and friends really love us and want to support us, they aren’t always the best people to go to for business advice, even if they have business experience themselves. They are heavily influenced by the fact that they love you – and this can cloud judgment and make their advice over-cautious because their primary fear is you getting hurt. It’s unavoidable that they will always look at you and your life through the prism of your relationship and their feelings for you. Especially if it’s a close family member whose daily life, finances or time spent with you might be affected by your career, it will be really difficult for them to be objective. Don’t be led by advice motivated by fear or subjective judgment.
Find a place you can access positive, objective support from people who really ‘get’ your industry and the challenges ahead of you. You will feel so much stronger and make such faster progress with this on your side! If you haven’t already, do check out The Shutterhood – us Hoodies are a very friendly bunch and we’d love to have you!
Best of luck with it all and WELL DONE for having the courage to follow your heart with this! By even setting out to try this in the first place you’ve already done more than most people dare to do! YOU CAN DO THIS!!! ?
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6 ESSENTIAL STEPS TO LAUNCH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS
In the early days of setting up your photography business it can be SO hard to know where to start! There are heaps of resources on the internet but it can be overwhelming not knowing which to do, what order to do them in or how on earth you’re supposed to find the time for even a fraction of them. This free pdf strips it right back, cut out the optional, more complex stuff that you can tackle later, and covers the absolutely-must-not-miss essential steps you need to launch your new photography business, in the exact order you need to do them.
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