It is impossible to find success in your photography business if you stay in your comfort zone. There! I said it! And trust me, I don’t like it any more than you do.
I don’t know about you but I enjoy feeling comfortable. Wearing my leggings and favorite sweatshirt brings me joy. I like knowing what to expect and stability. Comfort zones are natural and they happen in every single area of our lives, including our business.
For photographers, comfort zones are often familiar routines and habits that over time create a sense of complacency and boredom, not just for you but also for your clients. So while we might like the idea where we write email templates and then never have to update them again, it’s not feasible. We might like the idea where we don’t have to change my pricing, packaging, or branding, but again, it’s not realistic. We might like the idea of a formula of marketing where I just have to do “x, y, z” every single day and then I’ll get all the clients I want… that’s never going to happen!
Constant change and growth is what brings about success, comfort zones are where businesses go to die. When we find ourselves in our comfort zone, we begin to settle for mediocre performance and mediocre results. It’s a place where we are happy with what is, and as a result, can’t see what could be.
Pushing past comfort and into growth can happen one of two ways…
As photographers and the owners of our businesses, it’s our responsibility to examine our businesses and our lives to assess where we are currently living in our “comfort zones,” which ones are okay and which ones are not serving our current goals.
Sometimes we can push ourselves out of our comfort zones with a new course, investing in coaching, or reading a book. Personally, I recommend that ALL photographers take part in at least one “growth by choice” scenario every single year.
This type of growth is the kind of growth you see inspirational quotes about on Pinterest. Things like, “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start getting excited about what could go right.” This type of growth is all about feeling fear and doing it anyway! It’s about having 20 seconds of insane courage dreaming big about what could come of it. But there’s a less Pinterest-friendly type of growth too. It’s a kind of growth that doesn’t happen by choice.
I have never liked the phrase, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” To me, this is oversimplified. While something may not kill us, it can still drastically affect us on a psychological level. And simply experiencing something hard doesn’t mean we will automatically grow and flourish from it.
These kinds of things can happen in life, but they can also happen in business. For me, 2020 was one of those years. I had a debilitating concussion almost immediately followed by a national pandemic where literally my entire state was shut down for 3 months. Then, 23 out of my 35 weddings were affected. As a mom to three littles I was now running a six-figure photography business, coaching 15 photographers and running my marketing/education business, homeschooling 3 kids and it literally felt like I was drowning.
It took a hot second to figure out how to find my grounding in this situation and to not just survive but to grow and here’s the steps I took to do so:
I believe in acknowledging how one feels. I know that my hope doesn’t like in any of the things that I lost in 2020. But that doesn’t make it easier. Acknowledge the loss that you feel or else it will always come creeping back in. Once I acknowledged how helpless I felt, I was able to overcome it by:
In times when I struggle with anything, it helps to know my why in life, not just in business. It helps me to stay focused on what is most important for me right now and what I can strip away. To learn How to Find your Why, check out THIS blog post.
I cannot stress enough how important perspective is. When I’m going through a time of forced growth, I make sure to have quotes surrounding me that help me to “re-align” my perspective to where it needs to be. So during this time of struggle in quarantine, I had quotes like the following posted all over…”
Wherever you are, be all there!
Everything will work out exactly how it needs to. Let your faith be stronger than your fear. Remember that good things take time.
Life is painful, growth is painful, change is painful. But in the end, nothing is as painful as staying stuck.
God’s plan for you is bigger and better than your plan for you.
Life was never meant to be lived alone and I believe that the best growth happens within community. Communities are quick to point out blind spots. Whether that’s something positive that we aren’t noticing or something we could do better. They are accepting no matter what. They can encourage you to take necessary risks and to keep going when you experience minor setbacks.
We live in an individualistic culture and so it’s tempting to not share our wins and our setbacks publicly but I believe that if we don’t, we miss out on important growth. As someone who coaches photographers, it’s pivotal to have someone encouraging you to keep going when things are rough, to not let self-doubt creep in and keep you down. Communities are the best at providing hope and reminding you that you are loved no matter what.
Moving from our comfort zone into a growth zone whether that is by choice or by force often follows the same path.
First, we step out of comfort and into fear. In the fear zone it is PIVOTAL that you see failure as a stepping stone to your success because in this zone, you will not have self-confidence to keep you going. This is also where a healthy community is extremely helpful! A lot of times when you are in the fear zone you will allow the opinions of others to affect you and then you will find excuses to move back into your comfort zone. But surrounding yourself with a healthy community or a business coach is a great way to remember that their voice is the only one that matters.
Next comes the learning zone. Getting out of the fear zone and into the learning zone happens in waves. Often times I find that the photographers who I coach through my marketing course will teeter-totter between these to phases for some time. However, after they keep going long enough for a new habit to be made, they will successfully and officially cross from fear to learning.
Once in the learning zone, they will be more aware of opportunities that they simply couldn’t see before. This is when they begin to take all the advice and coaching I’ve been giving them and make it their own. They will begin to make decisions to face challenges head on and will become more confident in their abilities to do so.
This is also when I have to encourage them not to STOP learning. In order to push into the growth zone, you must keep learning, keep reading, keep watching the videos in the course, keeping working through the workbook, keep coming to group coaching sessions, etc.
By doing so, you will reach the final zone.
This last zone is when everything “clicks.” Your why begins to make more sense as you apply it to your business and life regularly. The role of marketing and social media and blogging all begin to make sense and you don’t just do it… you love it! You are able to realize your dreams and acknowledge the exact steps it take to achieve them.
By remaining humble, persistent and mentally strong, you’ll be able to survive the growth zone and eventually start to feel “comfortable” in this new level of growth.
There are so many avenues towards growth in your business and it includes spiritual, psychological, academic, and business related growth as well. And while growth is hard work, it shouldn’t be avoided because it always pays off ten-fold.