Lately, I’ve had several DMS from photographers going through tough times — and so, if this resonates, please just know you’re not alone. I’m with you, too (so many of us are)!
For me, the past 7 months have been some of the hardest of my whole life. Some of the days have seemed overwhelmingly heavy and the darkest of dark, and at times it’s been difficult to stay focused or motivated… much less even think about picking up my camera or opening my laptop to work.
But since connecting with a few of you, I’ve been reminded that we’re not alone in this and we can get through it together. I know these tough times aren’t a new thing for me… and probably not for any of us, really. There will always be hard seasons, no matter who we are. And, when I look back, I see so many times during my career where life was incredibly hard and sticky to push through. I remember that young Nicole, camera in hand, so close to just… stopping it all. Thinking I should probably just do something easier, stop trying to build my own business and find a consistent 9-5.
But looking back I’m so glad I didn’t — and I know that one day, when we all look back on the here & now, we’ll be so glad we didn’t stop now, either.
So, if you’re…
…struggling to find the courage to tell your partner you want to go full-time as a photographer.
…struggling to find clients and build a consistent business.
…struggling to pick yourself back up after a bad photoshoot.
…struggling in your personal life.
…struggling in your financial life
…struggling to find the courage to keep going.
Then, this one is for you, okay? This is a reminder that you can truly gain the momentum and the spirit to keep going even when it feels really hard to put one foot in front of the other.
Let’s take it back to the early days…
After graduating from college and moving to LA, I was pretty much … convinced (AKA, naive) enough to think that life was going to be easy-peasy for me as a photographer. I mean, I had all the technical training in the world, right?! What the heck could go wrong?!
LOL. Oh, sweet Nicole.
After monthssssss of living in Hollywood and trying to make it big, I wasn’t making it big. Like, I was barely making anything at all. I was spending hours and hours each day on my business, and I was barely making enough money to survive. All-nighters to edit were just a way of life for me back then, and then I’d spend the next day — after 2 hours of sleep — shooting to build my portfolio.
I was tired.
I felt like I was doing everything right and had nothing to show for it — do you know the feeling? I remember shooting one day with a friend and telling her I didn’t know how much longer I could make this work, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to physically or financially do it. She encouraged me to keep pushing, to reach out to people who were more in line with my style, and to keep searching for the clients that lit me up. She believed in me, and it gave me that boost to keep going. So, I did. I kept pushing.
I wish I could tell you that it all instantly changed for me … that there was some sort of lightbulb moment. But there wasn’t. I just kept trying. I just kept moving. I kept at it even when I thought nothing would come out of it. I leaned on the people who were doing it alongside me, who I was lucky to have & that encouraged me and believed in me.
I know how hard it can be to keep going when you see other photographers who started at the same time as you crushing it on Instagram. It can be hard to keep going when your personal life is in shambles and you don’t know how you’re going to balance THAT and running your own business. It can be hard when you feel like you DON’T have those people in your life that believe in what you can do.
But I want you to know I do.
The things that keep me going in tough times
I’ve realized — and I can’t tell you how important this is — that, even when life feels overwhelmingly heavy on your back, loving what you do makes all the difference. When you feel joy and passion for the work you’re doing (even when it sucks), it’s easier to keep going and pushing towards that direction of your dreams.
You’re not failing, okay? You’re just living. And living is really hard sometimes.
Take a break!
Sometimes work feels absolutely exhausting, and sometimes it feels absolutely exhilarating — and living in that in-between is just part of it! So, when you’re having those days where you’re more on the exhausting side of things, it’s ok! Take a minute. Take a walk. Go to grab coffee. Turn off your computer and hang out with your loved ones. Then, when you DO come back to it, it’ll feel so much easier and surmountable.
Plus, can we please remind ourselves that not everything is urgent?! You don’t have to finish everything in one day, and that gallery doesn’t need to be completed in one night. Give yourself extra time to work on things, create some extra time in your contracts to accommodate what you’re going through, and don’t feel so much guilt or pressure if it isn’t done immediately.
When I’m going through hard times (or, really, just day-to-day life), I try to be really intentional about self-reflection… and it’s a game changer for me. So, here’s your challenge: do some serious self-reflection to find out what’s really and truly going on and to find out how you can keep running a sustainable business that feels good to you.
Here are some self-reflection q’s that are great for tonsssss of scenarios as a photographer (and q’s that I regularly turn to in my own business, too).
- Do I need to manage my time better?
- Do I need to build on a specific skill that is causing me to spend too much time editing because I’m not getting it right in camera?
- Do I need a better workflow?
- Do I need more clients?
- Do I need different clients?
- If a client isn’t happy with their images, where do I need to improve so this doesn’t happen again?
- How can I get that support so that I’m not trying to piece everything together every day?
Put a plan into place
Once you’ve really dug into some self-reflection and gotten to the root of some of the issues in your business, you can finally fix what isn’t working. See, if you’re really, really being honest with yourself, self-reflection should really open your eyes and release some of that stress! Sometimes you just need a plan in place, you know? All of us are on the journey to get better.
Remember your why
Now, I want you to close your eyes and come back to something really, really foundational… AKA, the WHY behind the work that you do. Why did you want to become a photographer in the first place? What was it that made you want to choose this career? It’s so easy to get sucked right into the hustle, and then when we decide that we want to start a business as a photographer we forget why we started in the first place. Plus, remembering your why when you really want to give up is the best way to re-center yourself.
Here’s the thing, my friends: life can be overwhelmingly, painfully, deeply hard sometimes. Business can be, too. But, if there’s anything this last year or so has taught me, it’s that there’s always something to be grateful for…even when it feels like there isn’t. I promise. Don’t give up. Keep walking the path in front of you, keep your eyes on the things that make you feel the most like yourself, and keep going.
You can do this.
If you’re looking for additional support from people on the same path as you, come join us on the waitlist for The Photographer’s Path — my A-Z photography course designed to guide you towards your photography dreams. I’m always there to remind you that, while the path might not be easy, it’s SO worth it.