the prosperous photographer

Ep 13. What Story do you Tell About your Photography Business?

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My mission is to help you create a business and life that you want: profitable, inspired and on your terms.  Give yourself permission to have the business you truly want. 


Listen to Episode 13

Welcome to another podcast. I am back from Dallas with COVID This is my first time actually testing positive for COVID. I assume I’ve had it before, but this is actually the first positive COVID test I’ve ever had.

It’s been seven days already, and I still tested positive this morning. So I’m hoping that by tomorrow that I get back to normal and can rejoin regular life anyway, so it hasn’t been that bad. Though I will say I’m feeling pretty good. Just a little bit of congestion, and other than that, I’m feeling pretty okay.

Last week we were talking about feelings, and I wanted to kind of pick up a little bit where I left off and actually take a few steps back and begin with a discussion about what is a story that we tell ourselves about our business.

So what do you tell yourself about your business?

We all think our stories are true. The stories that we tell ourselves about our business are, our opinion, a fact.

And what do I mean by that? we say things to ourselves? Stuff like, I’m not busy because there are too many photographers doing exactly what I do? Or maybe it’s something more like, I live in a small town, there’s not enough people to support my business, maybe you think something like, money is available for other people, not for me. I have only been doing this for a year. What can I expect? Why would I be busy? I don’t have enough experience. I don’t have a big enough portfolio, I don’t know what to charge. And I can’t seem to get any traction with clients supporting me. I guess just because I don’t have enough experience, I’m not booking any clients.

Even something like what you tell yourself, I don’t have anything different to say. I just blend in with all the other photographers. For some people, I think they find it so much easier to blend in, just to be like everybody else, to not have a voice for their business or what they stand for.

But wonder if I told you that the way you interpret your business world or the world around you and your business might not be true.

If you told the story to yourself and anyone who will listen, so it becomes true to you. But it’s really not.

Wonder if I asked other photographers in your town, would they all say the same thing that you say?

There’s some busy photographers. Maybe there’s some photographers charging exactly what they want. Maybe there’s other photographers that can’t attract their ideal client, maybe they are working with everyone and anyone just to get by. Others that are finding it super easy. They’re booking their ideal clients. And their ideal clients are raving about them. And they are so busy that they have to turn away business.


Which photographer is telling the truth?

Moral of the story is that the truth exists differently for each of us.

This is where your power lies.

Let’s start by separating our thoughts from our facts.

When you believe that your business sucks, or you can’t attract the right clients, or you attract the wrong clients, how do you show up with this belief system?

What are the actual facts of your business? Not your interpretation, not your emotion, the actual facts of your business.

Can’t find new clients. That is not a fact.

I’ve tried everything and still I’m not booking anyone. That’s not a fact. These are not facts that everyone could agree with 100% to you, they’re fact because that’s exactly what you have decided to think.

A fact is something like, I made $0 in September. That can be proven. Someone could look at your bank statement and see that you actually made $0.

I can’t find new clients. That can’t be proven. If I asked 100 photographers if they found new clients this month, some would say yes and some would say no. Maybe I sound like I’m splitting hairs, but what I’m really trying to point out is that we are really good at telling ourselves, telling our brain stories that aren’t fact based.

I want us to start separating the facts of your business from the drama that we sometimes create in our own minds.

Your brain wants to keep you safe.

A photography business can be scary. It’s a roller coaster of highs and lows, of not knowing and knowing.

You have learned the craft and now you have to magically make clients appear. And not only just make clients appear, the right clients have to appear. Being exactly what you value your photography at with no questions asked and loving everything that you do, love everything that you do, and value it enough to pay you what you’re asking. This can be scary.

And the brain wants to keep you safe. It tells you things like, this isn’t going to work. You can’t charge more. You can’t hang your photos in a gallery. What if no one shows up? You can’t raise your prices. If you raise your prices, maybe you’ll never book another client ever again.

See what I mean? Your brain is programmed to look for the negative, look for danger to keep you safe.

What happens is that we end up creating fear and doubt around our business. We stop believing in ourselves. We have this narrative going on in our mind not based in fact, but it’s in this fight or flight belief system that our brain has helped us create in order to keep us safe, keep us away from failure.

Does this sound familiar at all?

Sounds a little bit familiar, right?

Here’s an example. I’m going to read this as if I’m another photographer speaking.

‘The reason I’m so frustrated is because I’m doing everything I can to book new clients and nothing is working. [That emphasis on nothing is working.]

Not a fact, right? That’s a circumstance that we’ll say is neutral. I’m going to say it’s not working means I haven’t earned any money this month. I can prove that. But it’s a neutral fact that I haven’t earned any money this month.

When you think nothing is working because you think that the facts are the facts, that you are doing everything you can to book new clients and then it gets emotional or you have feelings like frustration, disappointment or fear, this fact is neutral. $0 earned this month. It’s just a fact.

It’s not the fact that’s causing these feelings. It’s your thought about this fact.

The thought that I’m doing everything I can for my business and look at my bank account. I’ve earned $0 this month. I’m doing everything I can to book clients. And that is what makes me frustrated.

Not the circumstance, it’s how I’m thinking about the $0.

I look at the $0 and I get frustrated that all my efforts have resulted in nothing.

When I feel frustrated, maybe it’s disappointed or afraid.

However, if I had $0 in my account, I could also be feeling afraid that I can’t pay me, that I can’t pay my bills. I could be disappointed that all my effort landed in a big zero in my bank account. Whatever that emotion or feeling is for you, I’m going to continue with frustrated.

So when I’m feeling frustrated about my business, what do I do?

Or another way of saying is, what do I don’t do?

How do I act? How do I show up in my business?

For me, I might retreat. If I’m frustrated, I might retreat. I might stop doing anything to help my business. Stop doing things to find new clients. I’m pretending that scrolling on social media is my new tactic to find new clients, but really I’m just wasting time.

Maybe I’m not showing up at all. Maybe I’ve decided to go hide in plain sight, doing useless activities, pretending that I’m trying to book clients. But really I’m just so frustrated because my thought is that I’m doing everything I can to attract clients, but I have zero money in my accounts this month.

I’m frustrated. So now what I don’t do is show up for my business and keep going and keep looking and keep trying to find new clients, trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong.

In the end, my result is proving my thought. Do you see the circle here?

Then I just keep further proving to myself that nothing is working for my business. Isn’t that crazy? It’s like a cycle.

So you have the thought that I’m doing everything in my business to make it work, and it’s not working. See? Look over here. I have $0 to show this month in my business.

I think that that circumstance is what created my thought that nothing’s working for my business. Then I become frustrated. And then when I become frustrated, I stop doing productive things to help my business move forward. What I also don’t do is work on my business.

Guess what my end result is?

So what do I need to do here? I need to change this thought. I need to change the thought that nothing is working for my business.

When I change that thought, that circumstance of me having $0 in my bank account this month, could mean a lot of things to different people. I could be saying, look, I have $0. But, wow, look at everything I created. I now have thousand followers on Instagram. I’ve built a sales page. I’ve created an excellent price list. I’m moving everything forward in my business.

Instead of being negative, I could actually turn this into a positive.

So I’m going to play another scenario here just to come at it from a different way.

I still have $0 in the bank this month, maybe you’re not quite ready to think a different thought about this. I know you’re disappointed you put all this effort in and you have $0 to show for it.

Let’s think about it differently. Let’s come up with a different thought.

What if your frustration became curiosity?

What if you decided to stop focusing on the negative – everything that didn’t go right for your business and you refocused your thinking about what you did do well.

What if you pulled out some details about what actually worked this month?

Yes, it may have resulted in $0, but that doesn’t mean everything you did have some positive impact on your business.

What could we do differently?

What busy tasks did you do that you know you could have not done, that you knew going in weren’t going to move the needle forward? Can you throw those out? What about on social media? That was really just a waste of time.

And what about the endless research? You jumped into Google and went down that rabbit hole of looking about other pphotographers, pricing and looking at other people’s websites and these I don’t call them useless tasks because obviously research is critical to growing your business.

But sometimes we spend in a ridiculous amount of time doing ‘research’ and thinking that that’s doing something to move our business forward. And then we’re shocked when there’s $0 in the bank.

What we need to do is create an outline of useful tasks that you could implement next month.

I like to use this term a lot, we are too busy being the employee, the $10, $15 an hour employee of your business.

You need to be the CEO of your business and find those important tasks.

Those jobs that you need to do to work in your business, work on your business

Move that needle forward so that you don’t have another zero dollar month.

And again, I’m using this one circumstance, this one neutral circumstance stance of $0 in the account. We could come up with a million other scenarios in a business and a photography business, I’m sticking with that through the end of this episode.

Create a list of things that you’re currently doing that are actually working, that you’re noticing, that you’re getting some traction and. Are moving forward the way you want them to.

In another column, come up with that list of CEO type activities that you’ll try. They may or may not work, but you will look for the 5% activities that actually will move your business forward.

By playing a little bit in this other scenario, we’re able to see that if we do change our thought, I know I’m not trying to oversimplify, like change your thought, you change your life. But if if you see how you can change your thought towards something that is more productive for your business and not get caught up in $0 in my bank account, everything I’m due ends up for nothing.

Shift that to something where you can actually feel productive and think about what do you want the results to be in your business?

You don’t want the result to be that, I’m doing everything for my business. Nothing’s working, and I have $0 in my account.

So what if we change that thought? What can we change that to?

Start by asking yourself the question that we started with what story do you tell yourself about your business? What story do you want to tell yourself about your business?

A really good exercise is to write, it can be a journal prompt. You could grab a piece of paper, whatever works for you, but definitely pen to paper. As I always like to say, I’m a broken record. If you haven’t noticed by now, write your current story about your business. Do a thought download. Write down a bunch of thoughts that you’re having about your business.

And then when you think of these thoughts, think of the circumstances you think are causing them.

Then also think of what feeling you have attached to these thoughts. So, again, in this scenario, we used frustrated, disappointed, afraid, whatever feelings come up for you or emotions come up for you when you do this thought download.

The second part of the exercise is going to be similar, but it’s going to be a future based approach.

What do you want your business to look like? What story do you want to tell yourself about your business as if it is your reality?

Fast forward to that dream business that you want to have. What does it look like? And write it down from a future like, I am this, I am making that. This is who I’m working with. I only work with my ideal clients. They’ve become raving fans. This is exactly what I wanted. My business is easy, and I just love it.

Two and a half exercises here.

Number one. Write down – just blurt it all out.

What is your business like right now?

What feelings are you having?

What thoughts are you having?

What circumstances do you have?

Then do a thought download where you just throw it all down on a piece of paper. It could be ugly, but just fill a whole piece of paper with everything you’re thinking about your business right now, and then go to that journal again or that piece of paper and write down exactly what you want your business to look like as if you’re living it now. Write it from the future. This is what my business is.

So to round this whole episode out, which you may be like, what on earth are we doing here, Melissa?

But what I’m doing is – I really want you to start to see how your thoughts affect your feelings, affect your actions, and affect the results of your business. So this is all tied together and it’s going to start all becoming more understandable when we practice this more.

And I plan on doing live coaching calls with people, with fellow photographers so that we can kind of walk through and pay attention to the way we do think about our business and what the end results are because of the way that we’re thinking.

Anyway, I appreciate you hanging in there with me. This is all going to make more sense as the weeks move on.

So excited to be working with you and I know that if you hang in there with me, you’re going to see how this all makes sense. And I am so excited that to have you here again. Thank you so much. I’ll see you next week.

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