Planning for success is a strategy, not an accident. Businesses don’t plan to fail, but a lack of planning can lead to failure. And not just financial failure. Since many photographers are operating micro businesses, there are real personal consequences to a failed business—the failure to serve through your art and talent, and what it means to you to have a future without it. I’ve struggled with planning at various points in my career. Each time I find myself floundering or succumbing to the will of others who have their own plans for me or my business, I remember my wife Carolle’s words: “We are the authors of our life.” This phrase always reminds me that decisions in my control are, in fact, in my control.
We can’t alter the outside forces that impact how we live our lives, spend time with our families, or operate our businesses. Being the author of your own life requires that you to spend time daydreaming and planning to make those dreams real. So take time to dream about how you want to spend your days, how many hours you want to work, which tasks should fill your bucket, and which ones might drain it. When you take time to dream, you get to the root of setting goals. You determine how you should structure your business, what needs your attention, and what you should outsource. When you think about how you want your story to unfold, you might notice there are challenges to overcome. Caring for an aging parent, working around youth sports schedules, or trying to build or rebuild a business in the wake of a pandemic are examples of obstacles you might encounter when planning for your success. Although these barriers could slow you down, they don’t necessarily need to stop you in your tracks.
"You don’t have to let outside forces write your story. You can choose the direction of the plot, the action, and the success of your story."Jeffrey Dachowski, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
When you’re the author of your own business and life, you work around these obstacles to achieve the success you hope to write into your future. The key is to make small changes to keep your story on track. Perhaps you can schedule specific times to help your parents so you don’t have to be available at a moment’s notice. Team sports are wonderful chances for your children to learn and grow, but ask yourself if they need to play on three teams. The pandemic and other world events have shifted and disrupted businesses. Could you send clients positive reminders of their love of family to get your business rolling again?
There are many things in your story over which you have limited control. Focus on the things you can control—your attitude, mindset, reactions, and calendar.
Attitude. Are you a have-to or a get-to kind of person? I understand that some duties in my field are have-to obligations. Although I’m not a fan of grip-and-grin photography, it does help the bottom line. It’s benefited me to adjust my attitude from I have to do this work to I get to do this work that funds my life.
Mindset. I keep pushing my core beliefs into a growth mindset rather than a fixed one, meaning that I believe my intelligence and talent can be continually developed rather than seeing them as unchangeable.
Reactions. When a potential client reaches out about a session for which I’m not a good fit, I try to react as if it’s no problem. I don’t get upset if an inquiry isn’t my target client. I can’t work with everyone who inquires. There isn’t enough bandwidth and, honestly, there’s plenty of work out there for everyone.
Calendar. Here is where I struggle. A client calls and asks, “Can we do our session on Sunday at 7 p.m.? It’s the only time we’re free.” I really want to help them. My checkbook really wants to create work for them. But I am the author of my life, and Sunday dinner is a sacred time for my family. This is something I do control. I will likely do a better job for my client if I stand my ground and protect my family time.
You don’t have to let outside forces write your story. You can choose the direction of the plot, the action, and the success of your story. Dream on and keep writing it.
Jeffrey Dachowski operates a photography studio in Bedford, New Hampshire, with his wife, Carolle.