I Don’t Want To Sell Anything
I’m going to date myself with a movie quote from 1989’s Say Anything:
“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” -Lloyd Dobler
That in a nutshell is me. Well obviously I create images and I process them, and I sell them to the client… I just don’t want to sell anything TO YOU. I don’t mean that in a rude way, I swear. What I mean is that I didn’t get into this business to teach workshops, to mentor, to sell YOU anything. I got into this business because I LOVE working with clients, capturing babies’ first portraits, working with children, capturing on camera what is unique and divine about each family, creating something lasting, expressing myself as an artist. Does that mean I’ll never teach? Oh, who knows… let’s be real, the industry may reach the point where the only way to make a real living is to sell to photographers, some markets are already there. My market is not… yet. I’m still making a nice living servicing real clients and doing a job that feeds my soul, so as long as I can I will continue to do so. Everyone out there is trying to sell something to YOU.
“Take my workshop, buy my posing guide, buy my software, buy my product, use my digital delivery service, let me mentor you, you need THIS!!!!!”
There is so much NOISE OUT THERE THAT YOU CAN’T EVEN HEAR THE ONLY VOICE THAT REALLY MATTERS… your own.
Since I’m not trying to sell you anything I’ll share some advice, for free. There is no magic pill, you cannot buy IT, or bottle IT. By buying into the workshop culture around you, you are not becoming a photographer, you are becoming a consumer of photography products. Workshops can be a great thing, but not when you are taking them in lieu of spending the time to develop your artistic eye. There is no shortcut, no easy 3 step process to finding YOUR OWN VOICE. Do you want to be one in a thousand photographers who learn to mimic someone else or do you want to be an artist creating something that is your own? If you are just starting out- shoot, practice, obsess, immerse yourself in your craft, read, digest, but DO NOT COPY. Find what you love, find what you are best at, develop a business you can be proud of. There is no substitute for blood, sweat, and tears, no overnight success stories as much as people are out there trying to sell you that dream. If you are going to go into this business do it because you LOVE it, not because you want an easy, overnight mommy job. If that’s where you are coming from be a yoga instructor, or sell tupperware. This is art, these are people’s memories, and that should matter to you above all else.
The Art of Balancing Business and Life
What do you think of when you hear that word? The fact that you are reading this indicates you’re probably somewhat like me. You think of the weight in your hands, the hum of your lens focusing, your view through the viewfinder… the way you hold your breath as you wait for that moment to unfold in front of you, the thunk of the shutter as you take your shot…. swoon. What could be better than making a living doing something you love? Having your passion turn into your paycheck, working from home, being your own boss… it all sounds great, right? Well it is great, but make no mistake… photography is a fickle mistress (or mister). She will suck out your soul, she will take over your life, she will burn you out, use you up, and step over your lifeless body as she leaves. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but I swear it’s true. Once you take that step to take this passion for making pictures and charge money for it everything changes. Let’s talk about some steps you can take to create a fulfilling career with balance for your life.
A little about me… what the heck do I know anyway? Well a lot I guess, but not everything… life is always a work in progress and no one is as together as you think they are. I am a photographer, a mother of four very busy children and two French bulldogs, and a wife to a pretty great guy… he ain’t bad to look at either. I’ve been with my husband for 24 years, married 17 years, been a mom for 15 years and this is my 6th year in business as a fine art newborn, maternity, child and family photographer here in California. I was recently named PPA’s California Family Photographer of the Year, top 10 photographer in California, and Fuji masterpiece award winner. I make my living working with actual clients, so I know what that juggle is like. In another life I was supposed to be a college History professor. I like to think I keep History of another sort and all those degrees look sort of cute on my wall. What I strive for in my life is balance. It is my biggest struggle and my biggest success when everything is clicking. It’s not always easy, we as women are pulled in so many directions, but balance is attainable.
First, you probably should decide if you really want to go into business. There is nothing wrong at all with being a happy and accomplished hobbyist. What makes you want to start a business? Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit, do you want to be your own boss, do you like working with people? The reality is you will spend way more time running a business than you will taking pictures. You will be a bookkeeper, a customer service representative, a sales person, a marketing director, a late night editor… 90% of your time will not be taking pictures. Really think about what owning a business will mean for you and your family before you take the leap.
The price is right, or is it? What the heck does pricing have to do with finding balance??? Well, kind of everything. So many photographers, women especially, start into business thinking that any money made is just gravy. I love taking pictures and editing, I would own all this gear anyway, if I walk away from a shoot with $100 it’s all good. While that may be true when you’re taking pictures of your friends as a favor once you hang your shingle that vibe changes. You are providing a service that a client is paying money for. That client will have expectations and demands… and oddly the lower your pricepoint the more demanding the clientele. Don’t ask me why this is true but it just is, its some odd inverse correlation that the lower the pricepoint the bigger pain in the butt the clients… a big cosmic joke. Soon you’re missing snuggle time watching trashy reality tv with your husband (or is my husband the only one that watches trashy reality shows???) because you have to edit alone at your computer. You stay up late, you’re tired and grouchy, you feel guilty playing hotwheels with your child because you have so much else to do. You miss little Billy’s soccer game because someone insists they need a photoshoot precisely at 11:00 on Saturday, even though you know the light will be crap, even though you would rather be at the soccer game. Suddenly that $100 or $300 doesn’t seem so worth it especially if then you are having to pay taxes on it. I won’t go into the details here but do your research and set appropriate prices so that your time is properly compensated and you don’t end up burnt out and resentful.
You cannot do it all, stop trying. We’re supposed to be able to do it all right? That’s what they tell us anyway… look at Martha Stewart… she does it all! Martha Stewart has a staff that does it all people. No one can do everything. You cannot be a full time mother, a wife, have an outside job, be a full time photographer, bookkeeper, marketing director, etc… You can’t. There will come a tipping point with your small business where you either need to scale back or outsource. Awe… it’s a magic word- OUTSOURCE. I outsource my editing, my album design, I outsource scrubbing my toilets and cleaning my floors. Darn if I could outsource cooking dinner I would, instead I’m trying to get friendly with my crockpot. You need to really look at which tasks need your personal touch and which tasks do not. Taking the pictures is all me, as is client relations… oh and raising my kids… those things need my personal touch. Editing the full gallery and scrubbing the toilets? Not so much. Outsourcing allows me to run a full time business working part time hours myself. I only edit my favorite 5–7 images I’m going to blog, my assistant does the rest. I shoot 3 days a week max, I can have my youngest in part time preschool and home with me the rest of the week, I volunteer, I tote my kids around to sports every afternoon. My evenings are spent curled up with the aforementioned hot husband and a glass of Zinfandel. Is my life perfect? No! But, it’s a whole heck of a lot better than it would be if I were trying to do everything myself. I am more present for my family because my business isn’t sucking up all my time and attention and that’s priceless. Speaking of priceless… while it is priceless, outsourcing does cost money. That brings us back to the whole charging what you’re worth thing… wink… wink. Outsourcing my editing also allows me to take on more shoots than I would be able to otherwise, making me more money. It’s a win/win.
Prioritize and Specialize. Photography is a weird thing, it’s “art” but it’s a job. How do you create amazing art but insure you provide what the client commissioned you to produce? Well, in short, you find the right clients. Working with newborns, babies, and young families feeds my soul. I am so inspired and energized by a newborn shoot and my work shows it. There are few things I can think of that would be more painful to shoot than corporate headshots or architecture. I think brides are pretty but I would loathe giving up my weekends to shoot weddings. Be real with yourself about what you love and what you don’t, what you’re good at and what you’re not. There are very few photographers that are good at everything. I know hundreds of photographers and there are maybe… two that I could recommend for a wedding, a newborn session, a child and family session. They are both crazy talented super freaks but that’s not most of us. When you first start your business you will dabble in lots of things and that’s fine but in time a clear path should present itself to you, follow it.
All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl. All business all the time will make you tired, boring, burnt out, and likely bitchy… who wants to hang out with someone like that? Fill your life up with lots of things and do it without guilt. Play hotwheels or barbies with your kids, get out and ride bikes, walk your dogs, work out, catch up with your friends on Facebook, go out for coffee, get a pedicure, see a movie, make out with your husband. While you are doing these things don’t be stressing about what you should be editing. Make yourself a schedule and give yourself the right to turn off your phone and step away from the computer. There is always something that needs to be done but just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should work around the clock. I love my job, I mean I really LOVE my job. I want you to love your job too.
* Please inquire for photographer’s pricing if you’d like to book a session for your baby or family with Laurie Sachs Photography.