Run Your Business Without Sacrificing Your Joy

Run Your Business Without Sacrificing Your Joy

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One thing I’ve found to be true among my photographer friends is this: When asked to name things we love, photography is always near the top of the list. Lately it’s been an unconscious love of mine — I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my love for it, but when someone asks me about it, they’re sure to get an earful about my passion in life.

The thing is, owning and operating your own business is hard. Reality isn’t always an ideal situation. I mean, when I envisioned owning my own photography business growing up, it seemed so…

GLAMOROUS.. 

I’ll spare you my karaoke version of Fergie’s smash hit.

The reality of the situation is that photography is, by all accounts, a very UN-glamorous job to have. I sacrifice time with my friends and family most weekends because of shoots. I work full-time, on top of running my business. That means most weekday nights are spent glued to the computer screen catching up on edits, answering emails, tweaking my website, updating my portfolio, or trying to get a schedule down for my social media accounts so that my posting is consistent (sorry, Facebook, I know I neglect you!). 

When I tell people what I do outside of work, I’m usually met with this: “Oh, wow. That must be SO MUCH FUN!” Ha. It sure is. The thing is, though, just like anybody, I get burnt out. As a wedding photographer, there are days when I can’t hear certain songs without having PTSD flashbacks of the six May weddings I shot that all danced to the same song at the Father/Daughter dance. 

*I Loved Her First plays softly in the background*

Weddings. Are. Repetitive. 

Sure, there are diamonds in the rough. Some weddings take a completely personal and unique approach to the day. It rejuvenates our souls and we cry a little as we leave because we know how rare these nights can be. But for the most part, it’s hard to do the same thing for ten hours or more every weekend and NOT lose a little of the joy that comes along with capturing these timeless moments for your clients. 

The question I get a lot is this: How do you avoid the burnout? How do you stay inspired and motivated and excited about what you do? 

The answer? It’s simple. I shoot more

No, I’m not out booking more weddings. I’m putting things together for myself. Scheduling time with models, booking my favorite stylist that has a far-out vision, finding other photographers that want to collaborate on out-of-the-box things that we don’t get to shoot for money. I’m having fun. I’m shooting for ME. 

I started this last January after my busiest year of business. I know some of you tackle more every year, but with a full-time job and a full editing queue, I was one late bridesmaid away from being institutionalized. We shot 24 weddings. I was spent. I considered taking a year off. The thought of 20 more weddings, no matter how gorgeous, gave me those pre-puke grunts that dogs get right before they barf on your brand new rug. 

So I did something new: I attended a workshop. I met the makeup artist, the stylists, the models, and I networked – I networked hard. 

I started reaching out to models in my area on Instagram and setting up shoots that were just for me. No client agenda, no expectations, just an opportunity to see my own cool and beautiful vision become something real. I decided to shoot once a month just for me.

And I did it.

The end result? I was refreshed. I felt new for the first time in years. I had no expectations to meet and deliver. I had fun shooting. I blasted Beyonce, danced with my models, and made an absolute fool out of myself in the process. But it took me back to the start of my career when picking up that camera was my biggest joy.

It brought me back to when I formed connections with what I was creating. 

It’s so easy to lose sight of why we do what we do. The money gets in the way, the client expectations cloud our vision, the deadlines pile up and what we once loved starts to feel like a job more than a passion. Sure, we’re PROFESSIONALS so some of that is absolutely unavoidable. But owning a business doesn’t have to take away your joy for creating.

I create because I have a need to do so. There’s something inside of me that I need to say, and sometimes the only way to do that is with my camera. I crave that connection with those around me, and I want that to be prevalent in my body of work.

So the next time you’re feeling beaten and downtrodden because your workload is heavy, take a deep breath, call up your favorite model & stylist, put on some Beyonce, and have yourself a damn dance party. Because you love what you do and it’s time you remembered why. 

BJ Matthews
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7 comments
  • I love this post BJ. Personal projects are the shit.

  • The struggle is real. I try to take time to shoot for me, even if it’s just a few minutes a week. I have been wanted to plan a styled shoot but the idea of it in the middle of all the regular busy seems a bit daunting. I know I just need to take the leap. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • It is a bit overwhelming to try to plan for it in the midst of busy season, but the pros outweigh the cons when you’re able to relax, enjoy shooting, and create something personal to you in the middle of working for everyone else. Looking forward to seeing you take that leap, Melissa!

  • This feels so counter-intuitive at first, but honestly digging in on the FUN parts, the stuff that got you into shooting in the first place is important. Thanks for sharing this. We are currently working on similar projects.

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