We’ve all found ourselves in jobs that just do not fill our cups. I remember how it felt to just punch a clock, feeling like my work and my passion were miles away from each other. I just knew that launching the photography biz of my dreams would never feel that way—right?! But then, I saw people build businesses they loved, but fall into that same dang trap of feeling uninspired and unfulfilled after a while. So I watched. I took notes. And I learned exactly what not to do. I decided that I would always avoid these pitfalls so that I could keep my biz in its sweet spot. Want your job to light you up inside for the long haul? Here’s what not to do.
Say yes to everyone.
Maybe you’ve heard this advice: “Just work with whoever will hire you at first. It’ll help you build a portfolio, and you can always niche down once you’re established.”
Ummmmm, pump the brakes. How in the world will doing work you don’t love clear the path for work you do love?! Of course, not every project will be the gig you’ve always dreamed about. But I think you absolutely should know who you’re going to serve from day one—and then actually serve those people, not just fulfill any old request for any kind of photos. Let’s be honest: we didn’t launch our businesses to settle for “just okay” opportunities. We deserve to shine, and we do that by staying in the lane we genuinely love.
If you’re going to thrive in your niche, it’s time to get really specific about the clients you want to work with most. What kinds of brands or businesses do they support? What’s their personality? How old are they? Who do they hang out with? What are their hobbies? When you learn who your dream clients are, you know how and where to find them—and how to market yourself well when you do.
Plus, when you know who you want to work with, it’s easy to (graciously, of course) turn down those inquiries that just don’t fit the bill. Will you need to take a deep breath before turning down a paying client sometimes, especially if you’re just starting out? Yes, of course. But even when it feels scary, I promise a well-timed “no” will serve you well in the long run, mama.
Say yes to everything.
I know, I know. A full calendar feels great… or at least it does at first. Hustle culture is suuuuper appealing, and I’ll be the first to admit that hard work is pretty much a non-negotiable in running a business. But when you max out your availability all the time, you’re going to burn out eventually, and it probably won’t be cute when you do. How to avoid this pitfall? Easy—give yourself margin, even when it feels like you don’t need it.
Setting boundaries from the beginning is a beaauuutiful thing! It means you won’t have to course correct or slow your roll down the road. When you give yourself some margin, you give yourself time to rest—and rest brings that fresh creative energy we all love.
What kind of boundaries should you set? I’m so glad you asked.
- Automate what you can. Freedom feels like not having to type out the same responses to commonly asked questions in your inbox over and over.
- Take vacations and days off. When we give ourselves permission to unplug, it also allows us to be fully locked-in when we are working. It’s all about balance, ladies!
- Set your hours. I know, I know, flexibility is a major perk—and I’m all about creating a schedule that works for you! But when you don’t create a schedule at all, you end up working waaay more than you should. Ask me how I know. So decide when you’ll power down for the day and respect it.
- Set your limits. As you grow in your photography career, you’ll get a good feel for how much photo-snappin’ you can actually do in a month. As a wedding photographer, maybe that means taking one weekend off each month. Maybe it means only shooting one wedding each month. If you’re shooting mini sessions for families, maybe you can handle 4 in a row, or maybe you can handle 12. (More power to ya if wrangling a dozen families doesn’t wipe you out!) Bottom line: you’ve got to do what works for you, not what you’ve seen work for somebody else.
Honing your craft, building your biz, and making the money you deserve is worth celebrating, for sure. I just want you to still feel like this work lights you up inside in a year—or a decade. You’ve been brave enough to launch a whole business! Now it’s time to say “no” to a few things so you can say “yes” to a career with longevity and a life you actually love.
I hope these two tips are helpful as you grow your business! If you want to dive even deeper, I’ve got just the thing. Art & Heart Photography is a 6-part, self-guided business course for novice and experienced photographers alike, complete with a step-by-step roadmap to help you identify your photography business plan, create soul-centered & meaningful art, build a sustainable brand, and attract & book your dream clients… consistently. Basically, if you want to share art that’s true to you, make connections and impact, and build a reliable income on your own terms, this is for you.