10 Lessons I Learned from My Photography Business This Year

December 14, 2023

As each year goes by, time seems to go faster and faster. It’s especially true as my kids get older and my business continues to evolve – I find myself wondering where the year went by the time fall arrives, and then I blink and it’s December! Anyone else? After a busy year in my business […]

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As each year goes by, time seems to go faster and faster. It’s especially true as my kids get older and my business continues to evolve – I find myself wondering where the year went by the time fall arrives, and then I blink and it’s December! Anyone else? After a busy year in my business and personal life, I’m reflecting on the journey and finding so much gratitude in the growth that 2023 has brought me. It introduced new challenges, wins, and breakthroughs, and I want to share 10 of the biggest lessons I learned in my photography business this year. 

10 Lessons I Learned from My Photography Business in 2023 | Jillian Goulding Photography Education

10 lessons I learned in my photography business this year

#1. It’s okay to not have it all together.

Starting the list strong, let’s talk about perfection. We all know it’s not attainable (#duh), yet I still find myself putting unrealistic expectations on myself to show up 100% in every area of my life, and do it well. In a creative business like photography, you have to be okay with going with the flow. It’s GREAT to have systems in place to stay organized and communicate well, but you can’t always do everything right or please everyone. And that is OKAY. If someone doesn’t decide to work with you, or you have to shift a session last minute because of weather or a personal conflict, give yourself some grace. It’s not life or death, and there will be plenty of other opportunities to shine. (At least, this is what I’ve learned to tell myself – and I fully believe it to be true for ALL of us!)

#2. Tech doesn’t have to be scary.

We live in a quickly evolving technology era, which is intimidating at times. The amount of online business platforms and social media channels available to us nowadays is straight-up dizzying, and if you start weighing and considering using or showing up on all of them, you might end up feeling like you’re not doing enough. I’ve realized it’s okay to focus on a few tech platforms that work for MY business, life, and personality. If a new one comes around that promises a million amazing things, I’ll give myself a half hour (tops) to look into it before deciding whether it’s right for me. Tech doesn’t need to be paralyzing if you let yourself stay curious.

#3. You’re never too successful to network.

Even though I’ve been at this for more than 10 years, I’m always looking for new people to connect with in my industry, as well as potential new clients. Things have shifted in the economy this year, and I recognize that paying for professional photography is a luxury for most people. Putting myself out there (both online and in-person) to meet new people is a way to continue building relationships that will in turn benefit my business.

#4. Taking breaks is not for the weak.

Whew, this has been a lesson I’ve had to learn again and again. We NEED breaks as humans. It’s not possible to continue hustling 24/7 – and we shouldn’t want to! It’s as important for our health as it is the success of our business to take breaks and allow our minds and bodies to rest. When I force myself to unplug for a bit, I often come up with my best ideas and new inspiration.

#5. Don’t be afraid to pivot.

One thing I pride myself on is pivoting in my business, and 2023 has allowed plenty of opportunities for that. Between offering new resources, creating new offers, and giving my clients opportunities to book sessions at a variety of price points, I aim to always give people options when they choose to work with me! I think as photographers, we need to find ways to serve a variety of clients and budgets, especially in times when money may be tighter. It’s not about shorting yourself, but about getting creative in serving mini or flexible offers to your clients.

#6. Embracing ADHD as a superpower.

I’ve really leaned into seeing my ADHD as a gift and not a hindrance this year. Whether that means embracing hyperfixations, running with big ideas that hit me at random hours, or working at odd times (I love middle-of-the-night work seshes), I’ve found that ADHD actually gives me such a unique perspective within my photography business. It keeps me pursuing new opportunities and looking into fun new ways to serve my clients.

#7. Learning what to say ‘no’ to.

This one is still hard for me, but slowly, slowly I’m getting better. As a mom of five and a business owner, my time feels limited always, and I have to really focus on my priorities. Yet, I don’t enjoy disappointing others, so saying no can be hard for me. But I’ve learned that to protect my sanity and stay focused on what matters, I have to look at every decision and opportunity through the lens of whether my future self will thank me for saying yes to it or no to it.

#8. Leaning on my team and their strengths.

As a photographer, it’s tempting to think you have to do everything on your own. This job can truly be the ultimate solopreneur pursuit – but it doesn’t have to be. I found that I was able to do so much more in my business and grow way faster when I found gifted team members to help support me in specific areas. Having a solid team has saved me SO much time, and this year especially, I’ve really felt like I finally have the dream team surrounding me and my business.

#9. Take time to be inspired.

It’s inevitable to go through times of burnout and creative fatigue as a photographer, but I find that when I seek out ways to be inspired, it helps me reduce my creative slumps a TON. Following photographers I admire, scrolling through Pinterest, and even getting outside and into nature are some of my favorite ways to gain inspiration and new ideas.

#10. My clients are the real MVPs.

I’m reminded year after year how blessed I am to work with so many incredible clients. I’ve taken the time to understand my ideal clients and seek them out, and so it makes me feel so fulfilled and content getting to work with families and couples who are so cool, down-to-earth, unique, and beautiful in their own ways. I couldn’t do what I do without having my amazing clients – new and old – and it’s so cool to look back every year and see how much we’ve all grown in different ways!

What a year it has been – with so many exciting things to look forward to ahead in 2024! I hope this year has brought you many of your own delights, wins, and valuable lessons, too. 

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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