six-figure photography business
After five years of running a successful photography business, I have learned a lot of lessons along the way.
I’ve learned a lot of do’s and don’ts.
I had a lot of good and bad decisions.
Plus, I learned some of the biggest lessons on running a successful six-figure photography business.
Here are the top four lessons that I learned from building and running a six-figure photography business based out of two different cities.
1. Burnout is predictable
For three years in a row, I could pinpoint exactly when I would hit burnout. It was every May through June. As soon as May would hit, my calendar would be full and I would hit the ground running with traveling, Retreats, conferences, shooting multiple weddings a weekend, and filling my weeks with engagement sessions. It was nonstop for eight weeks every year.
One year was so bad I only slept in my own bed only 12 nights over a 7-week period. Within a matter of a couple of weeks, I would start getting sick every year. I would get overwhelmed, behind on work, the all-nighters would begin to kick in, and I would still have four or five weeks left of busy season. Every year I would take the entire month of July off because I knew that physically, mentally, and emotionally I couldn’t do anything that month related to work after those 8+ weeks of nonstop sprinting in my business.
The real question is, was it worth it? Honestly, those months were the biggest money-making months in my business. I would easily pull in ⅓ of my yearly income within those 2 months, but once year three of burnout hit, I didn’t recover like I had years before. This time it took me months to pull out of it, I didn’t pick up my camera for 3 months and it was probably close to 6 months before I actually enjoyed my job again.
The next summer, I didn’t care how much money I would lose, I just knew that I refused to go through it again. I realized that knowingly putting myself in situations that would cause burn out, again and again, wasn’t a smart way of running my business. The next year I found other ways to make-up that money without needing to be gone every week and I had one of the best summers I have had in years ( and just as profitable! )
So long story short – Knowingly setting yourself up for burnout is NOT the best way to run your business just to hit a financial goal!
2. Emails Can Wait
When I first started my business, I was obsessed with my inbox. I was glued to my phone. I would answer emails in the car, on trips with my husband, sitting at restaurants, even at midnight if my phone went off. I had absolutely no boundaries around my email for the first three years of my business because I had been praised by past clients for how quickly I answered and I knew that that was part of my success up until that point.
The funny thing is though, as my prices raised, the more I found that my clients weren’t responding back to me as fast as I was responding back to them. Mostly because they had planners who were taking care of things for them or because they were just as busy as I was and they knew that they had time to get back to me. For some reason, it took me three years to realize that I could still make my clients happy with my response time as long as I responded within 24 hours during business days. I found that responding within 24 hours was still a faster response than what they were getting from most vendors, and they were still delighted at how fast I was responding to them.
The lesson here is, emails can wait. Do your most important work first during the day, check your emails at the end of the day before you sign off, and then enjoy your life once your workday has ended.
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3. You don’t need to be the “best” at anything
In order to have a successful six-figure photography business, you do not need to be the fastest when it comes to response time or delivery time for the images. You don’t need to be the cheapest person around or give a discount just because someone asked for it. You don’t need to deliver the most images. You don’t need to have the biggest or the best portfolio. You don’t need to have the best gear or training. You just need to show up, and do your best within boundaries that work for you and your life, and serve your clients well. If you stick to those three things, you will see success.
4. Don’t try to do it all
You don’t need to offer every type of session under the sun. You don’t need to Market on every single platform just because others have seen success there. You don’t need to offer 20 different add-ons for your packages. You just need to find what works best for you.
Offer the sessions that you love taking and that you feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable working with kids, then don’t accept family sessions or newborn sessions, stick to what you find joy in.
If you feel you’re most comfortable on Instagram, then build your business on Instagram. If you feel more comfortable on Facebook then build your business on Facebook. ( I built my business on Facebook alone for FREE, no ads. I was almost to six figures before I ever introduce Instagram into my business and I passed six figures before Pinterest came into the mix. ) It is 100% possible to build a strong business on one platform that you feel the most comfortable on.
Finally, keep things simple. Find the things that your ideal client will love, the things that you love to talk about and promote, and stick with those. It is far easier to sell a handful of items versus 20 different items.
When you feel comfortable and confident in the way you show up, and talk about your services or offers, your client is far more likely to feel a connection to you and your services because they can trust you and feel your excitement and passion for what you are promoting.