It’s the end of the year. There are plenty of New Year’s resolutions, tons of hopes and lots of forgiveness for last year’s failures. Will you really change this year? Will this be the year you see your business double? Or will you once again forgive yourself for not crushing it and promise to do it better next year? You’re a photographer and you do work that you love and blah blah blah. But here’s the truth: Work that leads to success is so often work that you do not want to do. So here is a list of things you need to do this year that suck.
Have you ever felt you’re failing as both a parent and businessperson? As if the two are impossible to balance? My wife, Eileen, and I sure have. But there’s good news. While we’re still far from being perfect parents (like light years away), we’ve learned a number of habits over the years that make a world of difference for us and our three children. Actually, I think my own parents taught me most of these habits—it just took me half a lifetime to realize it.
In 2011, my wife and I took a big risk. We emptied our savings to fund the film project. We’d just experienced a loss in our lives, and we needed to step back from taking pretty wedding pictures for a while. Instead, we turned our cameras toward kids fighting to survive in one of the world’s most violent slums. The result was our low-budget documentary Lost Boys of Paradise, which raised money for the nonprofit Engadi Ministries, with which we still work. So the risk paid off, right? But not how you might think. Things change. Today, after five years writing for Shutter (now a premier photo industry publication), our tiny 2011 video project has led to something bigger than I could have imagined. Our professional life has come full circle—almost miraculously so. Because now you are part of this story, too.
One of the hardest things to do as a small business owner, especially artists, is to recognize when you’re approaching burnout. The signs are always obvious when we talk about them, but they’re not when they’re happening. I can’t figure out what’s wrong but I know when I’m off my game. Here are some strategies to think about.
I have worked my ass off building a very successful business, one that has been featured on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies three years in a row. But it hasn’t been easy. I am sure as you read this you can relate on some level. You have had things go wrong in your life or business. We all have. I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is share with you my lessons learned and how I have managed turmoil, adversity and negativity in my recent past.
Sooner or later, many of you will start dreaming of publishing your own book someday. Your images look terrific and your skill set keeps growing. Your friends and family love your photographs, and somewhere along the line, you’re going to decide being an author is the next accolade you want on your journey. Thanks to ePublishing, it’s easier than ever to publish your own work, but there’s one factor that’s stood the test of time since Shakespeare: Will people want to read it?
Am I good enough to charge these prices? Will people like my images enough to book me? XYZ photographer is so much better than me, why will people want to hire me? No way will anyone pay these prices for pictures. Does any of this sound familiar? Self-doubt is common for any artist. Every one of us has asked ourselves at some point if we are good enough to continue to do what we love. Why is that? Where does this self-doubt come from and how do we push through it?
We all fail. That’s life. Deal with it. Going through life chasing perfection, while noble, is exhausting. I work my ass off every day trying to be better than the day before, but no matter how hard I try, I still make mistakes. I still fail. This month I’m going to be ambitious and help you figure out how to make the most of your journey through life and business. What I’m not going to do is tell you to embrace failure. Screw that. Failure sucks, but denying failure is a recipe for disaster. Failure is how we learn. Every failure brings us a step closer to success.
“Why?” should be a simple question, shouldn’t it? But “Why?” carries so much weight. There is no easy answer. It’s probably one of the most complicated questions we can ask ourselves. We need to slow down for a second and ask ourselves a few simple questions to refocus our energy. What better time than now? Let’s start the year off right, and understand the things that should be motivating us in the year ahead.
I have been at this for 10 years, and in that time, I have watched my work continue to improve. We never stop growing. But that improvement was not haphazard in its execution. The things I know today as second nature, I vividly remember struggling with eight years ago. So that leads us to the next questions. How do I become better? How do I prevent burnout? How do I chart my career? Let’s dive into some ideas that will help you no matter where you are in your career.