Regardless of what your goals for your business are, or whether or not you’ve reached your ideal status yet, or not, take time to look back and see where you’ve come from. Chances are, you’re a lot farther along than you think, maybe than you ever even thought you’d be.
It has just struck me that next month will mark 7 years since I haphazardly launched my photography business – with a Canon Rebel Xti, two kit lenses, one photography class under my belt, and a whole lot of “What on EARTH am I doing?!” I knew so little of what I was getting into, and was so unsure I’d ever be able to make it. But the one thing I DID know is that I’d had a literal come-to-Jesus moment where He impressed beyond a shadow of a doubt that this business, this passion, was what He’d laid on my heart and if I chose not to pursue it out of fear of ALL of the unknown, I’d be missing out on some big blessings He had for me. And He was right.
So I gave it a go. In so many ways I say that I “backed my way” into this business. I hadn’t done second shooting before taking on my first wedding. But then again, I didn’t even initially set out to DO weddings. I just had a couple friends ask – who had little to no expectation of the results (because of little to no budget) – and I didn’t know any better but to give it a try. I often cringe when I think back to how I got started, and definitely give better advice to new photographers that I meet, now. But you know what? God can still bless those who don’t know any better than to just take the opportunities they’re given, and give it their best shot. I learned a TON as I went. I knew practically nothing about running a business, but because of kind photographers who were super successful in the industry giving me pointers without judging me and making me feel like an idiot for not knowing what they already knew, I grew. I still marvel at some of the first photographer get-togethers I attended in Indianapolis headed up by Kevin Swan, and his graciousness towards people like me who were charging $1000 or less for a wedding, and not even using a contract at first. So many things he could have berated us for, which I see so many photographers do to newcomers these days, but instead he gave wisdom and advice, and genuinely wanted to see us and our success grow. That was a hugely impacting time for my business, and it made me realize that just maybe I could do this.
But if you would have asked me 7 years ago when I was laying on my bed mentally and emotionally deciding to jump whole heartedly into this photography thing if I REALLY believed I’d ever have a blog that anyone read or cared about (besides my Mom) I would have said I really didn’t know. If you’d asked me if I thought I’d ever have a bride change her wedding date just so she could work with me, I’d have said no way. Or a bride who said my work brought her to tears because of the emotion she felt when looking at it? Not a chance. Or that anyone would want a mentor session with me to help guide them in their photography business? Me, just little old me, laying on my bed in the middle of small town Indiana….though I was mustering up the faith to take this plunge, I had no vision for actually believing I’d get here. Maybe that sounds like self-doubt, or that I’m not a big enough dreamer. But to me, the cool part is that it didn’t take all sorts of self-belief to do it, it took faith that God wasn’t calling me into something HE didn’t have a plan, purpose and vision for. And even if I didn’t see it right from the outset, I knew He was trustworthy, and I could follow His lead even if I couldn’t quite see where it would go.
7 years later, and I’m definitely not a “rockstar photographer”. I didn’t grow rapidly, and I don’t make a 6-figure income. But for me, those weren’t the goals. What I HAVE experienced is slow financial growth every single year – making just a little bit more than the previous year, and consistently making more for the same amount (or less) of work – learning to work smarter, not harder. I get to work a full-time job doing what I love, being in charge of my own schedule, and able to contribute to my family’s income. That’s success to me, no matter how quickly or slowly you get there. I have brides who trust me immensely, who seek me out and know for sure that I’m the only one they can envision capturing their day. Talk about an honor! I have girls I’ve never even met reach out to me because they follow my blog, which leads to opportunity to get to know them and sometimes mentor and pour into their pursuit of photography. I’ve made so many friendships with other photographers because of being in this industry who have become life-long, and life-giving friends, that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with. I’ve met other creatives and had awesome working relationships with them because of how photography can be a bridge to serve and connect with others. I’m about to have a baby and while I have no idea how it’s all going to work, yet, I have the privilege of working and still getting to be the Mom that I want because of taking the leap into this type of business all those years ago. These are what I call a success, and these are the blessings I would have missed out on if I’d held back in fear 7 years ago.
Maybe 7 years seems like nothing to most of you, and in the grand scheme, I know it’s not much. But for me, for the girl who was terrified to believe she could make it in this industry, 7 years of proof that she can is a big deal. But more than anything, it’s proof that where God prompts, He truly provides a way. Yes, it still takes hard work. Yes, you’ll still make mistakes. Yes, it will involve failure. And no, you can’t do it on your own. But He brings people along the way to help and invest just when you need it most, and He provides so much grace for the failures and the mess-ups. He instills wisdom as you learn from mistakes, and before you know it, He’s giving YOU the chance to pour into other people the way He allowed you to be poured into. This, to me, is such an amazing and beautiful picture of provision and discipleship. Regardless of what your goals for your business are, or whether or not you’ve reached your ideal status yet, or not, take time to look back and see where you’ve come from. Chances are, you’re a lot farther along than you think, maybe than you ever even thought you’d be, and that will instill gratefulness and passion for continuing to press forward with where you want to yet go.
There’s so much more I want to do with this business. So many more ways I want to grow. And on a regular basis I still doubt myself. But looking back on how far I’ve come really focuses my heart back to what’s true: one step at a time, change happens. God continues to equip me beyond what I think I’m capable of, and for that, I’m so grateful.