When I was in college, I had a friend who was a professional photographer. The first time I went to her home, I walked in to find stunning photographs of her children on the walls.
There was a huge canvas in their living room and a creative photo display in the main hallway. I remember being so moved by the beauty of those images, thinking to myself, “I want to create images like this!” I bought myself a DSLR as a graduation present, learned photography from online courses and started my photography business about a year later.
I was photographing anyone I could for practice, and soon started to get requests for shoots. I looked at what I was currently doing and decided that it wasn’t what I wanted to do long term. I knew that I wanted to do photography full time, so I just jumped right in! My mission was to create art for my clients. I wanted my photographs to be displayed in their homes for decades to come.
One of my short term goals for this year is to increase the number of sessions I do. I’ve had a great sales average the past few years, but I tend to let myself coast on the “small wins” a little too much. I need to keep hustling through the small successes to keep the momentum going. I also want to start a YouTube channel this year and be consistent about my video marketing. In general, my long term goal is EXPANSION.
My goal setting process goes like this: write it down, declare it aloud, and take action immediately. Taking action is the most important part. It’s easy to write down goals, but it’s often difficult to take the first step in making it happen. The overall goal may seem impossible, but it just takes one step at a time. Then don’t give up until you get there.
I go through phases with this. In some ways, I think “work-life balance” is a ridiculous concept. It’s all just life. As a freelance photographer, I have the privilege of doing a load of laundry when I need a break from editing photos. In general though, you just have to outsource whatever isn’t a good use of your time. Whether that means hiring a cleaning service a few times a month, bringing on an assistant to field your client inquiries, or getting a babysitter for a few hours every morning. I’ve come to realize that I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to. It just takes a little strategy.
Be picky with what you spend your time on, and always make time for yourself. Eat right, move more, and get some sleep. What keeps me motivated is learning from people who are where I want to be. I’m always taking courses, listening to audiobooks, doing research, trying new things. I’ve noticed that I get really lazy when I stop feeding myself with inspiration from others. When I know that someone out there is currently outworking me, it makes me want to get out there and push myself.
Day-to-day is always different. Some days are focused on marketing, some are focused on client work. I recently switched from digital to film so after a shoot, I take my film to the lab to get developed. When it’s ready, I edit the scans, create a digital slideshow and create prints for the in-person sales session. I don’t currently have an assistant, so I do all of this myself.
When I start increasing my portrait sessions per week, I plan to hire some help for grunt work. After the sales session, I order the products, package them when they arrive and deliver them to the client. While waiting for their products to arrive, I post short videos of the shoot and some final images to social media. I usually wait until after the client has ordered to share anything online, besides short “behind the scenes” clips shot during the session.
I’m starting to blog again, so I’ll also create a blog post about the session. When I’m not working on client sessions, it’s all about finding ways to meet new people and speak to new audiences about what I do. Always looking for opportunities! Workflow was really about trial and error for me. I don’t shoot more than 2 clients a week at this point, so I don’t have to be too streamlined with it.
My favorite thing about being my own boss is deciding where and how I spend my time. It’s the ultimate freedom.
God. My only purpose in life is to show love to the people I come in contact with. In business, I do that by building relationships with people and doing what I can to serve them. For my clients, it’s creating a loving space for them to celebrate themselves and their relationships. When I do that, the world brings love back to me.
Also, all the men and women that did this before me. I’ve learned from hundreds of photographers, authors, business owners and companies who have shared their knowledge and life lessons.
Once you move through those fears and embrace your own worth as a creative, then you can start to receive money.
Shoutout to the wonderful people at Design Aglow for creating awesome resources for photographers like me!
Karilyn Sanders is a portrait photographer based in Dallas, Texas and New York, New York.
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