Most of the articles I read on photography websites offer advice on things like how to master different techniques, how to price your work, or how to market your business. But sometimes I think it’s important for us to take a step back and ask ourselves a bigger question:
Is photography adding to my quality of life?
In other words, are you getting what you want out of photography — or is something missing? Are you on a path to accomplish both your personal and professional goals, or are these goals at odds? Are you pursuing a direction that will let you live the life you envision — or have your choices or habits been holding you back?
Writing It Down
If you haven’t really thought about these questions, take a few hours to focus on them. Sit down with your spouse, or business partner, or by yourself to make a list of goals.
Start by writing down your personal goals. What is it that you want out of life, exactly? For the moment, don’t think about the possible implications for your business.
Now add in your business goals, and see how all your plans fit together. Are they a good match — or are there internal contradictions that will require you to make difficult choices?
I’ve found that spelling out my goals in this way has been a real eye-opener.
Choosing a Destination
We all have dreams in life. Perhaps it’s traveling the world with your camera in hand. Perhaps it’s having a flexible job while the children are young, so you can spend time with them. Perhaps it’s creating art or becoming well-known within your field.
I used to think I wanted to be a destination wedding photographer. That was a big goal.
But when I stopped to think about the quality of life I wanted, and to compare my list of personal and professional goals, there was a disconnect. More than anything, I wanted to have a family and raise children — which didn’t jibe with plans to focus on destination weddings and the travel they entail.
I had to think about what was most important to me, and to adjust my plans accordingly.
Breaking Bad Habits
Sometimes when we take a close look at our goals, we realize that some of our work habits are preventing us from reaching them.
A lot of photographers — myself included — are the type who want to do everything ourselves. We want everything to be perfect, and we fear that someone else won’t do the job as well as we could. So we are hesitant to outsource work, or hire an intern, or bring in the part-time office help that could give us the breathing room to grow.
If we can’t trust someone else to do our paperwork, enter our bills and cull or edit our photos, we may be setting ourselves up to fail. Everything revolves around us. We’re the center of the wheel — and the faster we turn, the sooner we may burn out.
If your goal is to grow your business, you’re going to have to identify and break free of the habits that are holding you back.
Planning for Profits
Writing out my goals has also helped to ensure that I’m making enough money from my photography jobs to be satisfied with the financial return.
If I have the goal of making $100 per hour after costs, for example, I make sure that I factor in all the time and expenses that go into a shoot — driving, shooting, editing, meeting with clients and so forth — in preparing a proposal. If a one-hour shoot is going to require six hours of my time, I have to charge $600 plus my costs to achieve my financial objectives.
Now, I’m sure that if I charged less I could have more clients — but I’d also have to work twice as hard and twice as long for not nearly twice the money. By establishing and sticking to my pricing goals, I’m adding to my quality of life as a photographer.
The most important thing is to be honest with yourself. Don’t be afraid to make some hard choices, and start working on your business rather than working in your business.