REVEALING THE NARRATIVE
What Does it Mean to be Successful as a Wedding Photographer? At different points in my career, success as a wedding photographer has meant different things to me. When first starting out, booking my first wedding was the ultimate success and I rode that wave for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. I remember the elation and sheer joy when I received an email from a client who wanted to move forward. It was a little bit of an adrenaline high and I didn’t mind it.
In my first year, I had a few goals for myself: book as many weddings as I could and second shoot as much as I could. I think the first year as a photographer I did something like 50 weddings between my own bookings and others. I figured out a lot very fast. I’m a bit like that with many things, impatient and direct, haha.
In the second year, I set yearly salary goals, and thankfully, I hit them. I felt successful. It was my second year and I was already grossing what my salary as a biologist was. I was on top of the world. I of course didn’t quite figure expenses into the calculation, so I wasn’t quite making my biology salary, but I was moving in the right direction.
Sometimes the business felt euphoric. I saw a significant improvement in my photography and that was reinforced by raising my rates and booking more work. I put myself out there. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but for an introvert such as myself, that was a huge success. To be able to walk into a room and talk with people I didn’t know was terrifying, never mind to advocate for my business and myself. However, with time this got easier.
As my business grew I made some mistakes along the way. I learned and grew from them. Making mistakes help put me on a path that led to more fulfilling experiences, in business, and work. I finally started to understand that having a great client match was necessary and that was the key to me being successful.
When I first started, 50+ photography gigs felt like a momentous success, but that led to burnout both creatively and personally. Now I take on a certain amount of work and put all my energy into those events. I try to tell the story truthfully and artistically. It has led me to meet some incredible people and photograph events that have moved me to tears.
Once I had envisioned destination work as the ultimate way of being successful. I started booking that work and loved it! Being gone for a few days and flying all over the place or to other countries was exactly what I wanted! But destination works means you have to turn away more work and miss more personal events, as you’re gone longer, and you’re away from your loved ones more. Now I love to photograph a client’s wedding, come home and check in on my daughter sleeping in her room and relax on the couch with my husband while our dogs snuggle up against us.
As you grow your business you will change your benchmarks, your goals, and what you consider successful. Change is great and growing is important to keep you going. Your mistakes will help drive you to be where you need to be. And don’t discount the courage it takes to take risks and step outside your comfort zone. Those small steps can lead to leaps in progress. So, think hard about what it is that makes you happy, both in your business and in your personal life. Don’t judge your success by what someone else’s might be.
Check out our ‘How to Make a Full-Time Income in a Lifestyle Business’ podcast with Jenn Bays here too.