OMG, I Can’t Really Do This, Can I?

This post is Day 3 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

Have you reached this point yet? It’s the sudden realization that you are making a change in your life – a BIG change – and the weight of it all comes crashing down on you like a ton of bricks. You may momentarily start questioning your overall sanity. You’ll probably ask things like:

  • Am I crazy? What was I thinking?
  • Nobody around me does this, what made me think I could?
  • I’m screwing up my entire life.
  • I don’t know any of this, there’s no way I can make this succeed.

Once you start asking these questions, then the real fun starts. Your imagination takes hold, thoughts start to fly, and you come up with every bad scenario in the world. Only huge risk takers do things like this. What if your savings account disappears? You’ll soon be homeless, penniless, and friendless – after all, who would want to hang out with someone who takes this kind of risk?

You literally start freaking out.

Don’t worry. This happens to everyone.

When you start reaching beyond your comfort zone, the fear starts in. And if you let it get the best of you, your mind puts the breaks on, and holds you back. The world in front of you suddenly looks too big to charge into, so you do what any sensible person would do and hold back. And the funny thing is we may even know it and be able to define it. Yet that still doesn’t help. We’re still enthralled with it.

I received an email from Jeffrey who defined it this way.

“I’ve been doing photography for almost nine years and I’ve been wanting to sell my work to galleries, private collectors, business, etc, yet I haven’t a clue where to begin. Part of what’s holding me back may be fear of failure (even though I’m extremely confident about my photographic skills). I’ve even gone as far as building a business, a website, pricing for my work, printing, matting, and framing some of my work, networking, etc, yet for some reason I can’t seem to figure out what the next step is.”

In just those couple of sentences, I can tell Jeffrey loves photography. He’s very passionate about what he does, and probably photographs on a daily basis (or close to). He loves the photography side, and has been dreaming of doing it for a living for nine years now. He can see himself as a photographer, and imagines it over and over again while he’s doing the fun stuff: photographing, putting together his portfolio, and even talking to people about it.

But what he’s afraid of is the business side. How do you set up a business – do you incorporate? Do you need a tax license? How do you run an accounting system? How do you sell to clients? How do you find clients? How do you motivate someone to take the next step and book you? How do you create packages they will love, and be happy to spend money with you – lots of money hopefully?

While Jeffrey may not be asking all of these questions, I bet he can quickly list out a variety of business related questions that are holding him back. And I bet you can too.

How To Beat Fear of Failure

The first thing to realize is if you are freaking out, it’s a good thing. It means you are taking a chance on something new, and it’s allowing you to grow in many ways. You can do this; it may be hard to do, and you may have little support around you, but you can do it. And if you truly think about it, what’s the worst that could happen?

Yep, I know one studio that taxed their products incorrectly for over three years. When a city auditor came in for an audit, they were hit with a $30,000 tax bill. That was definitely bad news, and it almost cost them their business – how do you come up with that much money? But on the flip side, it was a good thing. Think of how much money they made – they made a ton if they had to pay over $30,000 in taxes, right? And while this could have destroyed their business, it actually made them stronger. They learned from their mistake – okay, it was actually a disagreement with the city and they didn’t win – but they learned. And they moved forward with new knowledge.

And that’s really all we can do. If you are afraid to take the next step, you’ll have nothing to learn. And nothing to show for it. Even if a step takes you into a bad situation, I bet you’ll learn from it. So why not take that next step?

Think Small, Not Big

If the future is too overwhelming, just take one step at a time. If you’ve been waiting nine years for something, declare this is your year, and take one step at a time.

Don’t over-plan; just do one thing to get you closer to where you want to be.

Fill out the paperwork to declare yourself a business – here in the US, all paperwork is online at the Secretary of State within your location. Download it, fill it out and send it in. One day’s worth of work – and one check mark.

If you want to get into galleries, and don’t know how to begin, start with one. Pick out one gallery you would love to have your work in, and go talk to the manager. Ask how they pick their artists. What do they look for? Share your work and ask how you can make it better. And if you talk to one gallery owner that refuses to share with you, go to the next one. Most people are willing to talk and share. Find one who will spend 30 minutes with you and find out steps you can take to get there.

The key is taking one step. Find one person that can answer a question, or give you advice. And if you hear “no”, move to another. Don’t get discouraged. You’ll eventually find your “yeses” if you don’t give up when you hear your “no’s”.

Your Homework:

1. Commit to moving forward.

2. Find one person to talk to that can bring you closer to your goal.

3. Write down what is truly holding you back. What are you really afraid of? This can be a difficult exercise, but stick with it. Keep asking yourself and digging deeper to find the true problem. Then create a detailed plan to fix it. “Setting up the business” is monumental. But if you break it down into workable goals – “get a tax license” and “get a lawyer to incorporate” – it becomes much more manageable.

4. Acknowledge your feelings, and work to get around it. Its okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel stuck. But being stuck forever won’t get you anywhere. Acknowledge your fear, and commit to doing one thing a day to get unstuck.

It’s the only way you’ll make 2011 better than last year.

2 thoughts on “OMG, I Can’t Really Do This, Can I?”

  1. This is so true. There are so many wannabees out there it’s too funny. I’ve been in it and shooting for money since 2001 when I switched to digital ( a whopping 3.1mp camera) Woo hooo!
    Today, I shoot D700’s, slew of Nikon Glass, and medium format film and digital. I too freaked out. Now, with an annual gross of over 150k I don’t worry so much.

    Go for it! you’ll love it. But you also have to be realistic and not (literally, and figuratively) bet the farm. ALSO make sure your family and friends support you! No negative nellies in your camp! Financially, my spouse and I set a goal, and a number as to what would have been the lowest I would let our savings drop to. Luckily, we didn’t hit bottom. And BTW: I don’t do weddings – only by request. I don’t know how many folks I’ve talked to in the years who want to get into photography full time and will “shoot a wedding for the income” With an attitude like that you won’t get far as the client WILL see right through you. You have to truly love photography in general, and what you are doing with a passion.

    Also, when I started I was (and still am) completely debt free except for my home. I didn’t have to worry about paying American Excess, or “master” card, or anyone else other than my mortgage and utilities –not even a gas credit card. I paid, and still pay everything with a debit card, and my amex which is due at the end of the month. Period. No excuses, no credit, no time payment. There is no feeling like knowing the income that comes in, is MINE TO KEEP; not the banks, or credit card, or finance company. And when you are starting out there is NO FEELING like knowing that you don’t have to worry about making this months nut (the bills). I firmly believe a person with debt looming at the end of the month sounds desperate to a client — your mentality changes, your voice, and your attitude as well — and potential customers, and clients pick up on this.

    This meant that I had to save to purchase all my equipment and supplies. Cash. All the cameras, lenses, medium format, studio stuff. All of it paid in full when purchased. Worse case if the business didn’t work out could just as easily sell my stuff, and go get a full-time gig somewhere. No big deal. But, so far, luckily, I’ve been successful at something I’ve wanted to do for thirty plus years.

    Good Luck


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