Okay, this is so typical of me – doing things backwards. What I’m writing about today is a topic that I had planned to write about toward the end of 2016 as kind of a “go forth and prosper” finale article. And then last week, as I started to wrap up my business year, it hit me: this might actually be a better time to share this. Why? Well, it’s THAT time of year. We’re wrapping things up, tying loose ends, looking back over the past year at what we did and didn’t do. We’re setting goals for ourselves and maybe even redefining what kind of business we want be.
We’re seeing industry awards, “best of” lists, and “look what I did” posts and statuses. Everyone is celebrating and sharing how great everything has been this year. And it’s wonderful, it really is. There’s often no better feeling than seeing your friends succeed, and sharing in their joy, and being inspired by others’ success. For so many of us, it’s what drives us forward in our own businesses. But today, I want to talk about what goes on behind the shiny and sparkly filters of what we see on social media and about how what you see is not necessarily what you get. I know that we all know that we’re looking at most of this stuff through rose colored glasses. We KNOW it’s not 100% sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and cupcakes and kittens. Don’t we?
It can be so hard to hear your own voice in the onslaught of filtered and edited social media messages, especially when you’re trying to map out your course for the next year, and you’re trying to figure out where you want to go with your photography business and how you want to get there, and what you need to do to make it work. It can be hard, in the midst of all the noise, to set your goals. It seems like everywhere we look, there’s a course, a class, a book or a tool, or another person telling us what we should be doing. We should be doing in person sales. Have a senior rep team. Have a minimum order requirement. Don’t sell digital files. Do sell digital files. Have a sales average of $x,xxx. Have a studio. Use studio lights. Use natural light. THIS way is the BEST way because EVERYBODY IS DOING IT. It can be completely overwhelming, and if you’re like me, you’re often finding yourself looking at someone else’s standard of success and finding that maybe you’re not quite measuring up. That you’re not quite doing it right. That you’re not quite part of the club. This is something that I have struggled with this year – defining my own success and adjusting my course so that my business feels right to me.
Can I let you in on a secret? And this is one that is really hard for me to share. Even though this has been my best year in business, both in terms of financial and creative achievements, it’s been the hardest on an emotional and personal level. Early on in 2015, I found myself immersed in self doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Actually, let’s call it what it was: a complete and total pity party for one. Why? Well, as much as I love social media (you know I stalk y’all!), it has been my Achilles heel. I was in a constant state of anxiety from comparing my business to everyone else’s: my sales aren’t as high as HERS, my social media brand stinks compared to HERS, my editing isn’t as good as HERS, my posing isn’t as good as HERS, my bookings aren’t as consistent as HERS, MY image didn’t get picked for image of the week/stunner/weekly favorite, SHE got asked to do a periscope/blog/teach/feature. And though I KNEW that was I was seeing was only bits and pieces of everyone’s highlight reels, I allowed that little, tiny, seed of doubt in the back of my mind to take root. I let that need for validation – my ego – overcome my passion and my purpose. And I almost broke up with this great love of mine and put down my camera for good.
Thankfully, one of my sweet, very honest, no b.s. photog besties talked me off the ledge and helped me understand that I was JUST FINE. That other people’s standards of success are THEIRS and that what I was doing was what I was MEANT to be doing. That the way that I was doing it was what made it unique to ME and it was why my business worked for ME. And she was right. It was working for me and my clients. And that’s all that really mattered, because when I let a lot of that emotional, ego kind of junk go, and quit putting so much value on what everyone else was doing/getting/achieving? My work got better. And I changed a few things that didn’t quite feel right and my business got better. And I got happier. And my clients could feel that, I think. And then things kind of snowballed from there into what’s turned out to be an amazing year on so many levels.
So, what I want to tell you today is that it’s okay. It’s okay to put your blinders on and turn down the noise if you need to. When you’re setting your goals for next year, it’s okay to set your own standard of success. It’s okay to listen to that little voice in your heart that says “I don’t think this is the right way for me” and to do it your way. It’s okay to DO YOU, and you’re going to be just fine.
Oh, and what did I change in my business? I eliminated a minimum order requirement, I eliminated selling gift prints, and I added an all-inclusive session option with salon styling for hair and makeup, and all of the digital files on a USB. But that, friends, is a topic for another installment of The Struggle Is Real.