I started my small business in 2013, and my first year was filled with passion and drive. I was excited for each success as it came, and I accepted my disappointments and failures with patience because I knew it would take time to build my business. And then towards the end of my second year, I realized that my failures and disappointments were hitting me harder than they had before. My business wasn’t where I wanted it to be and I was blaming myself for it.
But then I realized that I had taken someone else’s definition of success and made it my own.
The Stereotype of Success
The stereotypical definition of success is different in every industry. In the wedding photography industry, success is shooting 25-35 weddings every year, offering mentoring and workshops to other photographers, having a blog that’s read by your clients as well as your industry peers, and speaking at photography conferences around the country.
But the result of that stereotype isn’t all peaches and cream. It’s multiple double header wedding weekends and 8-12 weeks without a Saturday off. It’s long hours and late nights spent editing (or a significant amount of profit going out the door to cover assistants and outsourced tasks). It’s missing out on beach days, pool parties, and cookouts that your friends and family host throughout the summer. It’s working your hardest on the days when your loved ones are not working.
I knew I would have to make some sacrifices for my business, but I also knew there were some sacrifices I didn’t want to make. I knew that working on weekends was part of the job. But I didn’t want to work every weekend. I knew some weeks I would have a lot of editing and office work to do, but I didn’t ever want to feel like the weddings were piling up and not getting out the door to clients on schedule. I knew I would spend some of my evenings shooting engagement sessions or at networking events, but I wanted to spend the majority of my evenings at home.
The more I thought about what I wanted for my life and how I wanted my business to work for me, the more my definition of success changed.
Defining Success Changes Your Business Goals
My wake-up call came when I saw another photographer post about working 60-hour weeks all wedding season long. The first thing that popped into my mind was, “If that’s what shooting 25 weddings a year means, I don’t want any part of it!”
When you sit down and think through what you want for your business, your goals will start to look very different. Your business doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It just has to work for you.
That might be fewer clients. That might be 30-hour work weeks, instead of 40 or 50. That might be one weekend off a month or taking a two week vacation in the middle of the summer. That might be working in the mornings and spending the afternoon at the pool with your kids. That might be hiring an assistant or scaling back your business. Whatever works for you.
Defining Success Changes Your Outlook on Competition
Once I changed my outlook on my own business success, I found that I viewed others in my industry differently. It’s very easy to be jealous of others when they have the life that you think you want for yourself. But when you redefine success for yourself, you find that it’s easier to be happy for others.
Defining Success Changes Your Mentality
Having realistic expectations for your business success will help you enjoy your business more! Instead of being sad that I didn’t have as many weddings as someone else, I chose to be grateful that I had an entire weekend off. I started making room in my schedule for the things that make me happy, like coffee dates with friends.
Success is not all about the big career accomplishments that bring you recognition. Success is having time for the things that make you happy. Have brunch with a friend. Run your personal errands during the work day. Take your kids to the park. Give yourself the afternoon off to enjoy at the beach. Spend the evenings with your family instead of at the computer. Being your own boss is likely why you started your business, so be a good boss to yourself.
My definition of success has been one of the biggest struggles in my photography business because I had set myself up for failure. I had made success unattainable. But once I changed my outlook on success and personalized it to fit my business and my life, I found that I loved my job even more!