We are almost two weeks into the new year and I'm still reflecting on the growth of not only myself, but also my business. Owning your own business is truly not for the faint of heart. It's so much hustle and hard work, running into one wall after another, to finally having a door open. And it's worth it. To finally reach that day when you realize that your hard work is resulting in growth. I reached that day this last year. I'm not speaking of monetary gains, those are nice too. I'm talking about when you look at your work and you are more than just satisfied, you are proud of yourself.
I think since I first started shooting, I've always had it in my head that I needed to be like other photographers. I told myself that they're successful, at least from the outside in, so I needed to do what they were doing to be successful as well. Not only in shooting styles, but how they were running their business, how they interacted with clients, the services they offered, etc. I constantly found myself dissatisfied with my work and stressed that I still wasn't finding that elusive 'success' that other photographers found. I had it in my head that I was in a race and I was losing.
The crazy thing about that situation is, for those that know me, that's the furthest thing from my personality. Outside of maybe my youth, I do not make it a habit of comparing myself to others or even worry about what others possess that I do not. I am and have always been my worst critic, but I've never allowed what others say and do dictate who I am. Even so, the idea of needing to beat other photographers or be as successful as them was consuming.
It was some time after the beginning of last year that I decided it was enough. I wasn't finding any success in trying to be like other photographers or do things like them either. So I decided to do it my way, the worst that could happen is failing. I started noticing that I was less stressed going into sessions and because I was less stressed, my work seemed to improve as well. Not just improve, but I started being proud of the work that I was doing. Again, this was a big deal for me because I am so hard on myself when it comes to my work.
I also started noticing that I wasn't jealous anymore of other photographers. I found myself appreciating the work that they do. I no longer looked at them as competitors, but artists that I admired. After all, we all started just like I did, hustling and busting our butts. And we all found our own way of shooting. Photography is subjective, like all forms of art. It's in the eye of the beholder. While I may not shoot like another photographer, I can appreciate their work and appreciate that they could be a good fit for someone that I don't appeal to. After all, I certainly couldn't shoot for every person looking for a photographer. I want to be a good fit for my clients and vice-versa. There's comfort in knowing that I can't please everyone.
I guess what I ultimately realized is that running a successful business isn't a race, with a finish line, it's more like a marathon. The only person I should ever be competing with is myself, trying to be better than myself from last year. And I am. I hope to continue to be every year.
Growth takes a lot of work, but it's also pretty amazing.