4 Ways to Put Pep in Your Business Step with Vanessa Joy
I was sitting at a bar last night with my husband, who’s been a wedding cinematographer for 20 years. I’ve been a wedding photographer for the past 18 years, so we have similar ideas about what it means to do this for a living, day in and day out. We talked about the burnout factor not just in photography but in any creative field. Our world is oversaturated with creatives who haven’t yet begun to understand the burnout factor.
What can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen to you? First of all, you can’t prevent it. It will happen. If you look at business statistics, about 80 percent of them fail in the first year, and then another 80 percent of those that succeed fail within the next five years. And if you don’t fail, you’ll likely hit a few snags that’ll spiral you downward creatively. Burnout comes not just from how hard you have to work, but because you’re always trying to find a way not to be bored of what you’re doing every single day. It’s not easy to be a self-starter and conjure up a work ethic that could rival anyone’s. To add creativity on top of it and have to be creative on demand requires a magic formula that very few people figure out.
I want you to be successful not just in photography, but in life as well. Here’s what helps me in photography and owning my own business.
#1: Be Creative
I know that sounds silly, especially since I just finished telling you about the woes of being creative on demand, but creativity is in our blood. It’s our strength. That does not mean our creative muscle can be stagnant for years without getting weak. Being creative requires work and constant flexing. It requires exploring, experimenting and even failing. In fact, just today I tried something new in the studio and pretty much landed flat on my face in front of a client.
Look outside your industry or genre of photography for inspiration. If you’re a portrait photographer, look at weddings. If you’re a wedding photographer, look at fashion photography. If you’re a children’s photographer, look at food photography. Whatever it is, step outside what you typically do and draw inspiration from unfamiliar sources.
One of my goals this year is to bring a lot of portrait techniques and skills into wedding photography. I hope this will spark my creativity and give my portfolio a little edge by showing off things that are typically not seen in wedding photography. (If you’d like a little posing inspiration, visit bit.ly/2DMLUdm.)
#2: Be Lazy
A lot of us think that taking a break means we’re being lazy. Be lazy because you need to have a break. I always look with fondness on the Jewish community for taking a Sabbath day of rest every week. In fact, their old law says that someone who does not take a Sabbath day should be stoned to death outside the camp. They don’t do that anymore, but it’s certainly a strong statement about the need for rest.
It’s not just about the rest. It’s not necessarily lying on the couch with your feet up with a bottle of wine, although that does sound great. It can mean spending time with family and friends, and working on relationships and things outside of work, which need just as much if not more attention than the things inside of work. By making sure you take rest, you’re strengthening your world outside of work and strengthening yourself as well.
In the book Getting Things Done, author David Allen stresses that being bored is necessary for creativity. When your mind is relaxed, you can be your most creative self, and that’s when you come up with a ton of ideas. You can even jot down ideas while you’re relaxing in the shower with a waterproof notepad from Amazon.
#3: Push Yourself
It’s easy to be a photographer and find a bit of success or even make a living at it, and quickly grow stagnant. I’m a firm believer in being content but never complacent. Complacency leads to being bored, and that boredom can lead to dissatisfaction. I find it really helpful to have big long-term projects or goals that you are actively working on. I’m not talking about those goals you hope you will achieve one day. I’m talking about the ones where you sit down and make a plan in order to get there by a certain date.
Another favorite book of mine is EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey. In this book, he talks about goals not truly being goals unless you have an actionable plan to achieve them. If you don’t have that plan, then they’re just dreams. So find something you want to be, do or have within the next one or two years, and make a plan to reach that goal. Break down your plan by months or weeks and do things that move you closer. Sometimes it takes a thousand little steps to get to the top, sometimes maybe just five big ones. Whatever it is, keep yourself pushing ahead and wanting more, but at the same time, always be content and grateful for what you have. Having goals and pushing yourself forward should never be done based on envy or looking around at your competition. It should come from within, something you want and are willing to work for.
#4: Call for Help
Use your support system. It’s amazing how perfect everyone’s lives look on social media, and I admit I do try to paint a pretty picture. Social media has us thinking that everyone else has it all together, but no one does. It’s always the ones who portray the most perfect life who have the messiest house on the inside. After all, we want a clear, concise brand online that exudes professionalism and high-quality photography. But that doesn’t mean you can’t admit your struggles—yes, even on your business social media accounts. It’s amazing how much support you get when you lead an open dialogue about your struggles to those closest to you or even to those online.
It’s important to have close friends you can confide in. My confidants and my husband see the real me, every nitty-gritty thing I go through. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to your acquaintances or your audience online for some light support as well. Don’t write sob stories or do it too often; but sometimes, all you need are a few “atta boys” or a couple “keep your head ups” to push yourself past whatever burnout or struggle you’re going through. Plus, a little honesty online will probably inspire others.
I hope these tips help you find a way to push through burnout in your photography career. Try one of them or try all of them, but just keep moving forward. I’m going to leave you with a quote I have hanging up in my office by Martin Luther King Jr.: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”