Recently, we got an email from a photographer who felt down, defeated and discouraged  about the future of his photography business — and whether or not he should even keep going — because of an article he read by another photographer who painted a very grim picture of the realities of running a photography business (or any small business for that matter). The article mentioned lots of reasons why running a photography business isn’t a wise career choice, citing examples that ranged from the expense of gear, heightened taxes, job pressure, high health insurance costs, and the amount of hours you’ll pour into the job without much of a financial return. That when you add it all up, you might as well just give up because the return isn’t worth the investment in time and money. The photographer who reached out to us wrote, “I’m hoping that you might be able to rejuvenate my appetite for this business and tell me that this photographer is wrong.”

So, we emailed him back. We didn’t tell him that the other photographer was wrong. That’s not really our style and, to be honest, there’s enough of people calling each other wrong on the Internet already. It’s always been important to us — and always will be — to show respect to other leaders and teachers in our industry, even when they have very different thoughts, ideas, feelings and philosophies than we do.

We believe we don’t have to say what we’re against in order to say what we’re for.

With that, here’s our response to the photographer who contacted us. As we finished writing it, we thought there might be some other people out there who might be wrestling with the same questions. Am I in over my head? Is all this hard work ever going to be worth it? Can I actually make a living doing the thing I love, or should I just give up now? Is it even possible to be successful?

Here’s what we told him:

Defining what success is for you is important, and success can’t always be measured strictly by the numbers.

There are intangibles that can’t be accounted for in Quickbooks or on spreadsheets. Happiness being one of them. According to polls, 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with their work. For a lot of entrepreneurs, working more and making less is actually more appealing than keeping their day job if it means they get to do something they love every day. If we’re going to spend most of our lives working, our quality of life is deeply impacted by what we do for the majority of our waking hours.

It is true that the majority of small businesses fail. In fact, the overwhelming majority of them do. That’s ANY industry, not just photography. But we know A LOT of successful photographers of all shapes, sizes, ages, sexes, colors, backgrounds, styles, etc. who are making a living shooting — and loving it. That doesn’t means it’s not hard. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

But the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.

Amy and I worked multiple jobs days, nights and weekends for YEARS before we ever paid ourselves one penny from our business. But, now, standing on the other side of the hill, we can tell you that, at least for us, it was 100% worth it — and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. We’re making more money than we could’ve ever imagined doing a job that we love, and serving people in a way that brings us so much purpose, fulfillment and motivation to get out of bed each and every day.

That doesn’t mean quit your day job tomorrow. We kept ours for years, building slowly and strategically before we made the leap to full time. But it DOES mean don’t let anyone or anything deter or discourage you from the dreams and desires God’s placed on your heart. It’d be a slap in the face to Him to bury those dreams out of fear of the future. We know that lesson all too well, because we’ve lived it. The fear part and the future part.

We always say it and we’ll say it again because it’s true: success is NOT for the chosen few; it’s for those who choose. So define success for yourself, and then go get it. There will always be naysayers and critics. Let them sit in the cheap seats and throw verbal grenades, but don’t let it keep you from getting to your dream job. It might take you proving to them and yourself that you can get there before they’ll have the courage to do it themselves.

 

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Alisa

21 comments
filed in: Education

    Jerry Saenz

    Great words of wisdom! I also share the same concerns but I'm going to try anyway. It's mine and my wife's dream! Thank you for your words of encouragement.

    Claudia Wolff

    Cannot get over how amazing this post is! Not too long ago, I was in a period of deep depression. One of the things I thought about constantly was quitting my business because I was feeling overwhelmed due to everything involved in running a business. Recently, things have started to turn around, and I could not have read this post at a better time! I take it as a sign that I need to keep plugging away, as a few good opportunities and leads have come my way this week. Thank you so much for posting this! It will help propel me to keep going on my way to achieving success(as I define it) as a photographer! ❤️

    Stephanie

    Well that's strange.... I was literally thinking about this today. Is all of this even worth it?! Sign maybe? I dunno. I've been back and forth for over a year contemplating if I should continue... for some reason I keep sticking it out.

    Lucy Crawley

    Love this! Such an encouraging post to someone stuck in a rut and with disbelief that they can run a successful photography business. Love how you kept it real and said that it IS hard work and that there may be struggles along the way but it will all be worth it to pursue something that you're passionate about. Fantastic advice and great words of wisdom...

    Really enjoyed the read! :)

    www.lucylouphotography.com

    Morgan

    Wow thank you so much, I needed this today! You guys are such an inspiration and I love getting your emails and following your blog!

    Morgan

    Wow thank you so much, I needed this today! You guys are such an inspiration and I love getting your emails and following your blog!

    Annie Dash

    Thank you so much for sharing such loving kindness and encouragement with us, Amy and Jordan! This post is full of wisdom. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and burned out in this (and many other) line(s) of work. Thank you for the heartfelt reminder that we have a choice in how we see things.

    Stephanie Wood

    Love this!! Thanks A&J! You guys rock!!!

    Peter Temple

    Sound & Encouraging advice, thank you both.

    Lisa Villella

    Thank you! I wonder this same thing often, but I refuse to linger on it. I refuse to let my mind run wild about failing - about giving up. It's scary, but I can already look back and see all my growth in the few short months since I have made the decision to choose. <3

    Nilo Burke

    Amy and Jordan: these words are so true and so beautiful. I can totally sympathize with this photographer who is ready to throw the towel in. I've felt that way. But I know that giving up on my dear will be a travesty! I will keep fighting. Keep working had to make that dream come true! Love you both!
    ~Nilo

    Mary

    So funny! Just today I was talking about this with a friend and in the afternoon, while I was trying to workout, I couldn't finish because of this thoughts. I go to sleep now with a new hope on this, not on just having it as a hobbie but again considering it as a job. I don't have my full time job any more but I'm sure that God's plans are much more greater than mine and everything happens for a very good reason and always for bigger blessings, because His mercies are new every morning! Thanks so much! Blessings to all!!!

    Arlene

    Thank you for sharing your love of photography. I too have the love of photography, but I have battled the fear of failure for decades. So I would hide behind my other day job, and venture out to do a few photography jobs intermittently. Your perspective and uplifting words are appreciated and another powerful nudge that I needed.

    RAYMOND MURPHEY

    Simply put, Thank You.

    SOMMER QUILLEN

    Oh my goodness how I needed this today!! As a newbie (3yrs) this is my daily struggle!!! Thank you for this boost! Its great to know I am not the only one who feels this way!!

    Gary Rawls

    Amy & Jordan,

    Thank you so much for your "realness" and willingness to share your humble beginnings. Thank you for the encouragement to your fellow photographers. What you offer in words of wisdom is priceless!

    Leti

    Wow, just what I needed to hear since I am in the process of setting up my business now. I thank God for you two. I can see God's hand on your business, your marriage, your responses.... you guys are a breath of fresh air.

    Lisa

    Thank you! I will continue my dream.
    Appreciate hearing your positive encouragement.

    Sara Lynn

    I agree totally! It's hard when we want it now and other photographers don't tell you the back side of their journey. I work 3 jobs including photography not to mention being a mother to 3 kids. The hardest thing I find is the inability to learn new things. I'm overwhelmed with editing, there isn't enough time in the day.

    Brittany Parrish

    I have definitely been struggling to get my photography business up and running, trying not to get discourage is the hardest thing to do. I have been praying about it everyday and still have confidence that I can do it and trying to learn how to become better.

    Thank you!
    Thank you...
    - for continuing to be positive and encouraging
    - for being open and honest
    - for valuing respect and integrity
    and for reminding me how much I love being a photographer. It isn't always easy but it's still the best job ever for me.