The phrase ‘tortured artist’ is a popular stereotype and it definitely applies to photographers.
Most of us are riddled with self doubt, but the torment doesn’t end there.
Photographers don’t tend to fall out of love with photography, they fall out of love with the mental anguish that comes with the job.
In this post I’ll reveal some of the most common and colourful ways we flagellate ourselves.
We also offer up the solution.
1. Comparing yourself to other photographers
It doesn’t matter how great your week has been, one quick look on Facebook or Google will reveal another photographer whose work or lifestyle will quickly have you seething with envy.
Sometimes I see a photograph that’s so elegant and shimmering with class that I don’t feel worthy of calling myself a photographer any more.
Or perhaps it’s one of those photography business people (like me!) who tells you about their latest portrait order for a £gazillion. Oh yes, I get jealous of those stories too, even though I have some nice ones of my own.
But remember 3 things:
- You don’t know how hard they worked to get where they are.
- They may be in a high income area which is great for getting high orders, but the photographer also has larger bills to pay. They may live in the same size house as you but have to pay 3 times as much for it because of their neighbourhood.
- They may be putting a strain on their family to get that success.
You rarely know the whole story, so don’t beat yourself up.
It’s much better to refocus that negative energy into working on your own photography business. If you consistently keep improving your sales, marketing and artwork then you can’t help but succeed. And remember, wherever you are in your photography journey I bet you have someone who’s secretly impressed by your skills and your determination to make a living doing something you love.
2. Feeling you’re not a real photographer if you work from home
You don’t need a photography studio to run a successful photography business. I’ve never wanted to be shackled by the overheads and repetitiveness of a studio so I’ve always worked from home. No commuting, no staff, no opening hours, nothing. I can shoot off on a holiday at a moment’s notice.
Studio spaces can help improve your average portrait orders, but I still get £2000 ($4000) family portrait orders from home, even back when I was part-time. And that’s in a low income city.
And remember, if someone has a studio they probably have to make £15,000+ before they even break even.
You don’t have to have people come to your home at all if you don’t want. You can photograph clients outside and do your design-consultation and in-person sales at the client’s home.
All that really matters is that you’re creating beautiful photographs and that you’ve differentiated your service fr om the competition.
3. Taking everything personally
Once you’ve been a photographer for long enough something bad is going to happen. Fact. Perhaps someone won’t like the photographs you’ve taken. Perhaps they’ll complain about your prices. Perhaps the client will just be one of those miserable sickos who likes complaining.
Taking criticism personally is a good thing in some ways. It shows you care. Of course you should always take the very best care of your clients, but it doesn’t mean you should do everything a client says. There are two types of complaint:
- A complaint where the client doesn’t like your procedures and wants you to change the way you work
- A complaint because you’ve done something wrong or they’re not happy with their photographs
It’s rarely a good idea to change your procedures. For example, I always want to do in-person sales and I won’t do online sales just because someone asks for it. Of course I make my procedures clear during my design consultation, so there’s no misunderstandings.
However, if I forget to do something, or my client isn’t happy with their photographs then I’ll do whatever it takes to put things right. That includes doing another session free of charge. I’ve even given a wedding client all their money back once.
When you know you’re running a well run photography business that’s built on great service then it’s easier to cope with criticism.
Because you know your procedures are there to protect your business and that you’ll take care of your clients if you screw up.
That way there’s never any stressful battles. You either follow your system and explain how your approach benefits the client, or if you screw up then you do whatever it takes to make them happy. There’s no fight or flight stressfulness. It’s all about helping your clients.
4. Changing your prices every 5 seconds
There are successful photographers who price their work in every way imaginable. Some use packages and some A La Carte. Some use various hybrids of the two. There are even some successful photographers who are cheap (they operate like a production line).
The only thing that really matters is how much you’re earning per hour and whether that meets your financial needs and wants.
Stick with your pricing for long enough to get a statistically significant sample of orders.
For example if you switched from shoot and burn family portraits for £200 to doing in-person sales you might get put off if your first 3 in-person sales sessions were also £200. You’d think the extra hour or two of time wasn’t worth it.
However, if you persist you’ll find that out of 10 in-person sales sessions you should get at least a couple of really nice orders that raises your average order value WAY above £200. It might go like this:
That’s now an average of £650 over 10 session, rather than £200 every time.
Now and then someone is likely to challenge your prices, even if they’re already low. That’s natural and normal. We all get that. Resist the temptation to lower them based on what clients tell you. The proof will be in the order values. Monitor your enquiries and orders and slowly raise your prices until you find the sweet spot that brings you the most profit.
As your service and sales skills improve you can get those numbers higher and higher, too.
5. Always assuming the worst
No news is always bad news when it comes to a photographer’s subconscious! That’s one of the many reasons I love talking to clients on the phone; you get an immediate response so you don’t have to sit their wondering.
We’ve all emailed a client or prospect about something and assumed the worst when they don’t respond.
Or perhaps we’re not 100% happy with the photographs from a session and we worry for days before the sales session. For all that worrying I’ve done in the past 9 years I’ve only once ever had a client who didn’t love their photographs.
It’s this worry that stops many photographers doing in-person sales. Or perhaps you’re scared to give a money-back guarantee in case clients try and ‘rip you off’.
I prefer to look at the opportunity rather than the risk.
The opportunity of in-person sales (IPS) is that you’re practically guaranteed to at least triple your sales averages.
The opportunity of a money-back guarantee is you’ll book many more clients right now because you’ve got one.
Weirdly it’s sometimes nice to think about ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Often it’s not that bad compared with the alternative.
What’s the alternative?
Struggling along the same as always.
6. Wanting instant gratification
Every other professional on the planet expects to put in many years of hard work before they make a living at it. I’m not sure why photographers think it will be any different.
You don’t buy a toolkit and become a builder.
You don’t buy a socket set and become a mechanic.
You don’t buy a copy of Sage and become an accountant.
You don’t buy a wrench and become a plumber.
All these people took years to get good at their craft and then they took a few more years to build their business.
Being an entrepreneur and owning your own business takes a while. Enjoy the journey and stop comparing yourself to other, like I said earlier.
Don’t beat yourself up if it takes longer than you expected. If it was that easy everyone would be successful. The people who make it are generally the ones who work hardest for longest – and of course the ones who work smartest get their fastest. And our membership site gives you 1 month free access to the complete system for being a smart and successful wedding and portrait photographer.
7. Listening to the nasty internal voice
When you’re new to the photography industry we assume we have to start at the bottom and slowly work our way up.
We tell ourselves that “I’ve only just started so I can only charge £X.”
The only thing that matters is ‘are you getting enquiries?’
If you are then you’re good enough to sell your photography. Even if you’re not getting many enquiries it may not be your photography that’s the problem. It could just be the way you talk about your services isn’t getting people excited.
Another nasty story we tell ourselves is “Who am I to charge that much for photographs when the paper / digital files only costs £X.?”
Clients are paying you for your time and talent, not for paper, ink and files. You don’t pay a plumber for a bit of metal pipe. You pay for their expertise. You have to pay a plumber handsomely just to get them to turn up and then you pay again for the hours of work they put in.
Why should you be any different?
Don’t listen to that punk-ass voice in your head that beats you down. As soon as you hear it switch to something else. That’s another good thing about being a Get Pro Photo Club member – we’re always there to keep you on the right path and answer any questions you may have.
8. Doing whatever your clients ask
The customer most definitely isn’t always right. If the customer is always right then why hire any professional, ever? As a photographer you’re the professional. It’s your job to guide and educate your clients in a way that doesn’t make you sound like a douche bag.
Sure, now and then some clients won’t want to meet up for a design consultation. It’s your job to gently explain why it’s in their best interest to do so.
Equally it’s your job to explain the benefits of beautifully framed wall portraits over digital files.
And it’s your job to articulate the benefits of in-person sales to the client.
People will only do things if they can see how it benefits them. Do that and they’ll generally do whatever you ask.
9. Undervaluing yourself
Earlier I talked about how other professionals value their time. Now I appreciate photography is a little different because photographers actually enjoy their work so much some are happy to do it for nothing.
There aren’t many plumbers that do plumbing for fun at the weekend…!
So, how do you compete with free?
Well, if the only food you can find in town is curry then open a Chinese restaurant.
By that I mean, if everyone in town is doing cheap shoot and burn then you’ll really stand out if you specialise in printing, framing and albums.
There are many ways ANY photographer can differentiate themselves from the competition. Once people see what makes you different the people that appreciate that difference will be happy to pay more to hire you.
10. Feeling guilty about relaxing
I harp on a lot about how too many photographers don’t work hard enough to get the success they want.
…those photographers who are truly passionate about their business are cursed with an eternal conflict. They either work 24/7 at the detriment to their relationships and sanity. Or, they feel guilty every time they take time off.
It’s important to find a balance that you and your family are comfortable with. Talk it through and set boundaries. Schedule in your work and relaxation time and stick to the schedule.
I find it difficult to drag myself away from work when I’m in the middle of something and my wife wants to go and do xyz.
However, I find it much easier to forget work when I know that on Saturday afternoon I’m going for a picnic with her. When it’s scheduled my brain no longer feels conflicted.
I know it’s nice to live life in a free and easy way, but successful people have successful habits and being organised is one of those habits. It’s the sacrifice successful people make for being successful.
11. The curse of the internet
The internet has so much information on it now that it can actually do more harm than good sometimes.
Do you find yourself scouring the internet for hours, days, months and years looking for THE 1 BIG BREAKTHROUGH for your photography business?
The trouble is one photographer tells you to do one thing and another tells you to do something else. You discover 20 great ideas but don’t know which one will REALLY work.
Or you try one and when it doesn’t work you have no idea why. There’s no-one to turn to.
The only thing that comes close to having a ‘magic success button’ for your photography business is to be mentored on a membership site because you can get all the answers in one place in a coherent structure.
Do this first, then this, then this. Oh, and this is EXACTLY how to do it. Oh and if you still get stuck then let us know and we’ll fix it for you.
That’s what we do. That’s what makes us different from everything else you see online.