Getting to the Top Of the Ladder, Only to find it’s against the Wrong Tree!

Many times we set off in the life so focused on getting to the top of the ladder, we hardly spend any time looking to see if the ladder is against the right tree.  When I used to do weddings I would see this in brides.  Brides would go on and on about her wedding day, but then when you asked about the groom, she would explain him as though he was just some schmuck she met in a bar and would actually marry her (ah, true love).  In business the same thing happens.  We get so busy trying to create a functioning business we don’t take the necessary time planning the type of business we actually want to have or we dream of creating a photography business that could only exist in a dream!

Over the years I have employed many student photographers in the local photography program at the college.  After a summer season working in the studio, many change their major from photography to something else.  They start studying photography with the dream of taking hours to photograph one beautiful person after another.  When the reality of the photography “business” hits them it destroys their fantasy.  The realization that time is money and not every client looks like a pin-up model makes the average photog hopeful look for greener pastures.

Even if one has a more realistic view of the photography business, many photographers stay in business spending a majority of time photographing a type of client they really don’t enjoy working with.  If 70% of your profit comes from weddings, but you hate doing weddings, your ladder is against the wrong tree!  This is what leads photographers to simply walk away, even after they have struggled to build up a business that most other photographers are envious of.

When you take the time to figure out what it is you want to do, you can accomplish it.  When your ladder is leaned against the correct tree and you get to the top, it is an accomplishment that is real.  When I first started my photography business, I did every kind of work that came my way.  I was photographing a baby one minute and a horse the next, with a wedding every weekend.  I knew I didn’t like weddings, so I started raising my prices slowly to price myself out of the wedding marketing, while create more profit in less time to pursue the areas of photography I love working in.  I loved working with and excelled in photographing seniors and families, so that is the tree I put my ladder against.

Shortly after opening my studio,  I went to a Charles Lewis Seminar with my father, who wasn’t a photographer, but he agreed to keep me company on the drive (my dad was my best friend).   After that seminar, I looked at my father and said, “I know I am just starting into photography, but I wanted to be good enough at photography and business that other photographers would come to hear what I had to say”.  My second ladder was put against another tree.

Struggling and working toward those goals I started to specialize in seniors and families.  After I started mastering photography and business and felt I was successful enough to help other photographers become successful,  I wrote my first book.  With my first book out I was the keynote speaker at senior photography convention and I sucked!  Everyone told me I was good and they learned a lot, but I knew I was far from smooth in my presentation.  Hating failure, I immediately set up 2 seminar dates in Ca.  I rehearsed and studied and rehearsed some more.  I gave a 6 hour seminar and I rocked!

I had achieved the two main goals I had set for myself, but I found after the seminar, it really wasn’t all that great.  It was a huge undertaking putting on the seminar and I would have made a great deal more money photographing in the studio for a day, even with the sale of books and videos.  I found that while it was important to me to share what I knew with photographers and help them achieve their own success, writing books was much more enjoyable to me than speaking and much easier to work into my schedule.  Over the years I have been ask to speak at a variety of functions and it always seems to come at a time when I am busy at the studio, traveling or busy with other projects.

Taking the time to figure out what it is you want to do is the key to long-term success.  After 26 years in business, I still get excited the first day of photographing a new senior class.  When you find the right tree, it makes the climb up the ladder much more enjoyable!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on April 28, 2010.

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