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Letter to a Photographer

January 21, 2020

My letter to a photographer!

Letter to a Photographer | Marketing for Photographers with Ariel Dilworth

Dear Photographer,

I know it’s not easy!

I know that you are doing ALL THE THINGS and that sometimes you feel like you are treading water. Sometimes you feel like you are behind for 2 months straight and other times you are ready to pay someone else to let you take their picture. Sometimes we feel like we our business is finally experience success and other times we truly consider quitting all together.

And while I’m not sure where you are in this very moment…

allow this story to encourage you…

I just got off a coaching call with a photographer that broke my heart. After asking her about how long she has been in business and where her business was at… she burst into tears.  She said she was “frustrated” that she wasn’t as far along as she thought she would be right now.

She was posting to social media daily, she was going to bridal shows, she was keeping her website updated and even hired a designer, she was doing a referral bonus, took multiple courses to perfect her posing, photographing and editing. And yet… she still wasn’t where she wanted to be. She felt as though she was talking to a wall.

Writing posts was difficult and took way to much time. Then, if she got any engagement at all on social media, it wasn’t from the right people. She wrote blog posts that nobody was reading, has researched SEO and even shows up on the first page of google, and yet… she was still struggling to find bookings…

I asked her this question…

“Do you remember growing pains?”

She said, “yes…” clearly unsure of where I was going…

I told her this story….

“Last night, my 5 year old came into my room crying real tears because her legs were aching from growing pains. And you know what she asked me, in the midst of her tears she said, “Mommy, why does growing hurt so much?”

I empathized with her pain, rubbed her legs and asked an even more intuitive question, “Mommy… when I grow up will I have to grow anymore?”

I sat there not knowing how to answer her question because the truth is…

Growth never ends….

Growth sucks. It’s never fun. It takes a long time and there is nothing we can do speed it up… we just have to experience it! So while I told my daughter that yes, her growing pains will go away, my mom heart continued to ache! Because deep down I know that psychological, emotional and spiritual growth will continue and it is no less painful!

Because the thing about growth is that it requires our full participation! We must pay attention to it. We must learn from it. And while try to deaden it, ignore it, patch it up with band-aids, we cannot run from it! Growth is unavoidable and giving up only makes it last longer!”

As I finished this story and looked at the photographer with tears streaming down her face, I said…

But growth is also beautiful…

It is not something we should avoid but rather pursue because #growth is the ultimate form of loving ourselves and others. Self-love isn’t just accepting our faults as part of us and owning them… sometimes self love is acknowledging our weaknesses and changing them for ourselves AND for others. And while growth is painful… nothing is MORE painful than staying somewhere you don’t belong.

As I sat with this photographer in her pain, I found myself wanting to reach through the computer and hug her because I’VE BEEN THERE!  We’ve all had those moments where we question ourselves and wonder if this is what we should be doing in the first place. 

Running a business can leave you feeling like a failure sometimes…

I get it! I remembered feeling exactly how she was feeling and my heart phsyically hurt for her. So here is what I told her…


I told her I wanted to take some time to look how far she has come. Go pull up photos from when she first started. Social Media posts. Her very first website copy. And acknowledge how far she has come.

Then, I want her to go find every kind email, text, facebook message, facebook comment and start a folder on her computer that says “kind words.” And I want her to screen shot each kind thing that someone has said about her pictures, her, her business and save it in that folder for the days of doubt.

Your pictures are beautiful…

Stop doubting it! I told her that as photographers when something goes wrong in our business we like to blame things like:

  • our pictures
  • our editing
  • how often or when we post to social media
  • where we are marketing ourselves
  • our website is outdated
  • etc.

But the truth is… marketing, pictures, editing, social media, your website, your blog, etc. All of that is a small portion of your business… and while they ARE important… they aren’t the ONLY thing that is important.

Stop comparing…

As she was talking I could tell that when she’s wasn’t comparing herself to the highlight reel’s of her competitors, she was feeling defeated by her own self-doubt and perfectionism! 

But all of that just left her feeling defeated, like she couldn’t run her business as “effortlessly” or “successfully” as someone else.

So I told her that comparing is useless!

What you are seeing is the big picture. There’s a giant lie going around out there that success happens over night. And i’m the first to admit, as an entrepreneur, sometimes it truly feels that way! But in reality, that is NOT the case… AT ALL! What you aren’t seeing is the early mornings and late nights. The times where we worked so hard that we didn’t even have time to change out of our pajamas. The rejection that we experienced. The tears that we cried. The frustration and self-doubt that consumed us. The fear that was so real we questioned if we had made a huge mistake.

I am where I am at in my business because I took MILLIONS of small steps in the right direction. Some were easy, some were hard… but every step mattered.

Growth requires risk…

Owning a business is a healthy dose of excitement AND fear. Because the truth is… growing a successful business requires RISK and SACRIFICE and DETERMINATION!

Letter to a Photographer | Marketing for Photographers with Ariel Dilworth

When my husband and I and our two kids first moved to Illinois and 2015, he couldn’t find more than a part-time job and was making only $10,000 a year! There is no word to describe the fear that I felt pouring every ounce of energy I had into growing a photography business. But that’s where the “sacrifice” part comes in! As a mom of a 2 year old and a newborn with no family in town… I was sacrificing sleep, “alone time,” and an “easier way.”

I didn’t pay myself anything. I had to market myself in all the free ways I could think of. I built my business on late nights & early mornings. I hustled my butt off. I read all the books. I pursued education. I threw everything I had at this dream and I made it a reality.

It felt a lot like I was pushing a boulder up a snowy mountain. Unable to see any progress that had been made. A few times I felt like giving up. In the moments where I wanted to throw in the towel… I didn’t because I knew my deeper why behind what I was doing. The successful photographer road is a road less traveled and IT IS HARD. It’s a lot of work. It’s unknown and feels like there is NO SENSE OF SECURITY! (read more of my story here)

Be Honest…

Next, I told her to answer these questions honestly…

  • Am I really doing everything as strategically, sacrificially and intentionally as I possibly can?
  • Am I actually working every hour I can? Am I living on way less than I make?
  • Can I say that I’ve done everything I possibly can to make my dream a reality?

I asked her this out of a place of love because sometimes… when we do an analysis of our time, we begin to see that we are using every minute to the fullest (check out my Productivity Tips HERE)!

Whether you have or haven’t. I encourage you to jump in with both feet first. Sell the car that’s costing you each month and trade it in for a crappy car that you can pay cash for. Move to a less expensive house. Do date nights at home. Budget your life strategically. Shop consignment instead of retail. Save money in every place that you can so you can make investments in places that will make you grow! That’s what I did, and even though it took years, not months! I now see the fruits of my labor with my debt-free life and six figure business. And it tastes wayyyyyyy better than any of those temporary things I could’ve had.

Find your purpose…

Alright, and this is where the mood shifts. Because up until this point, I’ve given you a list of things you can practically do. But this one… this can’t be forced and sometimes it can only be done in community!

You must find your why! When you run your business based on your why, your unique life purpose! You are less tempted allow self-doubt, perfectionism, and comparison to overcome you! Because everything you are doing isn’t being stemmed by family security, financial security, winning, competition, comparison, perfectionism, doubt, etc. It’s coming from your why and as a result, personal fulfillment and business success is inevitable. (CLICK HERE to check out this blog post on overcoming self-doubt as a photographer)

Every single day I get to pour into photographers just like you… and my job isn’t to teach them how to be great… it’s to show them that the greatness is already there! To help them find their why, their unique purpose for being on this earth and then help them build their business to DO THAT!

Because the truth is while you are over there doubting yourself… I’m over here seeing nothing but potential.

Because success isn’t just for some… IT’S FOR THOSE WHO CHOOSE IT! You’re in control of your life. You can do this. You just need to stop messing around and make it happen!

The good news is that success isn’t just for some… it’s for those who choose it! You’re in control of your life. You can do this. You just need to stop messing around and make it happen!

I know what’s it feels like our backs against the wall, like there is nothing left we can do. But you can fight your way through! And you will!

So, Pick yourself up and dust yourself off and start running towards the prize…. YOUR prize…

I’m cheering for you!

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