This year, I did something drastic. It had been building for quite some time. Years of an inability to balance work and life caused me to lose focus. I photographed families, newborns, seniors, events, boudoir, real estate, interiors, editorial spreads for magazines and even some weddings. I tried over the years to make changes that I thought would help me achieve a sense of balance but it was to no avail. I was burnt out.
So, I closed my business. I’m not just talking making an announcement via social media. I mean, I officially closed it. I didn’t renew my license, I cancelled my insurance and I registered the closure with my state. I told you it was drastic. And it was the best professional decision I’ve ever made for myself. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
You see, I tried to be a jack of all trades which meant that my business was in constant flux. I had no streamlined process for anything because everything I photographed was different. That meant a lot of extra work. Everything from communication with clients to pricing was continually changing. I had no tried and true marketing because I had half a dozen very different “ideal clients.” My branding changed often because I was never sure which “ideal client” I should try to appeal to.
Oh, I knew how to do things the right way but I just couldn’t seem to say no when people would contact me with an inquiry. Even if I didn’t enjoy that particular genre, I’d say yes and then promise myself it was the last time. Then I’d see their joyous reaction to their images and I’d do it again. But you simply can’t run an effective business that way. For all my head knowledge, I still managed to get myself stuck in a revolving door of mistakes. You can have all wisdom in the world but it does you no good if you don’t apply it. Lesson learned.
Why was closing my business such a great decision for me? Well, for starters, I needed clarity. And to achieve clarity, you almost always need a little distance. I know myself too well and I’m a stickler for rules so if I wasn’t operating legally, I knew I wouldn’t be tempted to photograph anything professionally. I also knew that my business was like a big pot of leftovers. It had everything in it and none of the ingredients were very good together. If I was going to reopen a business in the future, it needed to be clearly defined and completely different. A clean slate. A fresh start.
Photography is fun and creative and can really refresh your soul. But running a photography business is only about 20% actual photography. The rest is made up of editing, invoices, client communication, taxes, marketing, etc. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons to determine if running a business is right for you. Maybe you’re in the thick of it right now and finding yourself feeling overwhelmed. When I was trying to determine if I should quit or keep going, I came across a video from Chase Jarvis where he offers two questions to ask yourself:
- Do I still believe in it?
- Is it working?
Simple, right? If your answer to either of those questions is “no,” then it’s a safe bet that a shift (or maybe even a fresh start) needs to take place in your business. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been trying to be a jack of all trades. Maybe you photograph newborns and hate it. Remember, just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you’re meant to do it.
I didn’t like the idea of quitting (be it a genre or running a business entirely) because the word definitely has a negative connotation. But then I realized that quitting something I didn’t believe in that wasn’t working would free me up to pursue something I loved that I could actually be successful at! What an exciting thought!