"For Your Inspiration" is an ongoing series of weekly posts…
Intro by Skip Cohen
It’s funny how every photographer knows how to focus their camera, but often loses sight of focus on their business. Well, Sarah Petty keeps sharing ideas to help all of us prioritize and stay focused on what’s most important.
Today’s post is part of her podcast series, which always includes a transcript and it’s perfect for the challenge so many of you are dealing with now. The pandemic has had an impact on so many different businesses. You may not have been kicked out of your studio, but business took a drop and now it’s time to get things back in focus, (pun intended.)
Sarah shares four great tips to deal with an uncomfortable situation and they’re right on target for so many of the difficulties you’re faced with right now!
By Sarah Petty
You don’t need a photography studio to be a profitable professional portrait photographer.
I’m living proof of that. In my 23 years as a professional photographer, I’ve operated with and without a studio. When I got kicked out of my third studio location a few years ago, I definitely wasn’t expecting it.
Here’s what I did to stay in business and four steps I hope will help you when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
My husband Joe and I spent decades planning my dream photography studio. My husband is an architect and it was our shared goal to build a building where we could both run our businesses.
Once it became a reality, I let my current studio landlord know, plenty early, that I would be moving out. He was great and worked with us as long as he could, but he made the decision to have a new renter move in sooner than my new studio was built.
I was studio-less and going into the busy fall portrait season.
I was prepared for unanticipated project costs in the construction of my studio, but I hadn’t considered being kicked out of my studio early. After weighing the options, I decided the best solution was to go studio-less for a few months. I moved everything from my current studio to my dining room and started operating there.
Looking back, it worked just fine, but at the moment it was stressful. Here are the things I did that may help you cope with an uncomfortable situation like this.
#1 Realize That Clients Love To Be Part of the Process.
I was so worried about how my clients would react because I am a more expensive professional photographer, so any inconvenience to them stressed me out. What I hadn’t considered is how my clients saw that we were investing in our dreams by building a new studio. I didn’t have one client who was cranky, snotty, or rude with me.
In fact, when we finally got into our new studio, the Milling family brought a bouquet of flowers for me because they were so proud. It was a highlight of my career to see that my client cared enough that they brought flowers.
#2 Keep Your Eye On the Big Picture
I’m so glad I am not paying massive amounts of rent anymore. I remember thinking to myself, I’d been paying $2,500 per month for over 10 years, that’s over $300,000 that I was paying for someone else’s building.
Now I’m in my dream studio and I’m able to serve my clients at such a high level.
Was it easy? Heck no, but was it worth it?
I know it’s easy to forgo a hard decision of growth because it’s painful, but keep reminding yourself about the long run.
#3 Remember That Most Problems Are Solvable
We can always make more money to solve whatever financial problems we have. From the moment I was told I needed to move out, I knew there was a creative solution, even in all the stress and sleepless nights. Luckily, I had an amazing teammate and studio manager, Andria, who was willing to come to my house and work through the chaos. I knew financially we would catch up, and we did.
My husband kept saying to me, “It will all be worth it. Just stay focused on solving one problem as it comes, and it will be worth it. We’ll be in before you know it and you will be so happy.” I clung to those words. ‘We will be in before you know it and you will be so happy.’ He was right.
#4 Building Muscles Creates Short Term Pain, But It Is Worth It.
When you’re lifting weights to get stronger, you must first tear your muscles by lifting heavier weights. It’s the same way in business. You’re building muscles to run a successful business and stressing them is how you grow. Growth happens outside our comfort zone, so consider learning lessons that can create short-term pain, but keep you out of long-term suffering. The only way to build your entrepreneurial muscle is by actually using it. You can’t avoid it.
Work Hard To Reach Your Goals as a Professional Photographer
“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” I couldn’t find a source for this quote, but I really love it.
Joe and I were willing to be frugal for as long as it took so we could accomplish this dream.
When you’re making decisions based on what is best for you in the long run, have faith in yourself. Know that you are equipped to handle anything that comes at you. If you wanted a predictable job, you can get one, but you’re a professional photographer because you want more. You want to make money, and have the freedom and flexibility that succeeding in your photography business can provide. Keep working toward that goal and investing in yourself, because let me tell you, it is so worth it.