Mindset: Your Secret Superpower in Starting a Thriving Photography Business

By Belle Verdiglione

Last updated on 07/08/2024

Hey, remember the late 90’s?

Picture this: I’m rocking my flannel shirt, binging on “Friends,” and blasting some Nirvana on my Walkman. I’m halfway through my photography degree, convinced I’m the next big thing. I mean, I’ve nailed the Exposure Triangle, got my trusty nifty 50 lens on my SLR, and a pocket full of Kodak Portra 400 film. What more could a budding photographer need?

LOL.

Turns out, I was so off. Sure, having a camera, film, and a darkroom might’ve felt like the holy grail back then, but fast forward to today, and it’s a whole new ball game. A quick Google search on “how to become a photographer” will flood you with advice like:

And yeah, there’s the all-important tip: Promote yourself and your photography business.

But hold up. What the fudge does “promote yourself” even mean? Do I plaster my face on a Times Square billboard? Break into a can-can on the evening news?

Let’s reel it in a bit. Because, after 13 years of running my own photography biz and mentoring countless shutterbugs, I’ve uncovered a little secret: the biggest game-changers aren’t improving the workflow and tools you use, upgrading your gear, or even leveling up your Instagram game

It’s your mindset.

Yep, I said it. Mindset. What’s going on in that brain of yours? Spoiler alert: Starting a photography business and eventually making it successful is 80% mindset and 20% photography. Okay, I might have made those numbers up, but hear me out — they feel pretty darn accurate.

Take “Money” for instance. It’s a huge part of running any business, but it’s especially tricky for us creative souls. So, let’s dive into what I call your “money story.”

Think of your money story as the highlight reel of your relationship with cash. It’s made up of all the beliefs, thoughts, and feelings you’ve had about money since you were knee-high with your Fisher-Price camera. This story shapes every financial decision you make, from how you price your sessions to how you handle your business finances.

Here are some classic money stories you might have picked up along the way:

  • Starving artist syndrome.
  • “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
  • “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
  • “Rich people are evil.”
  • “I need to work hard to make money.”

Sound familiar? These beliefs sneak into our minds and silently influence how we view and handle money.

So, let’s say your money story is whispering “Money is scarce.” How does this affect your business?

  • Pricing: You might undercharge because you believe clients won’t pay more.
  • Managing Finances: You could struggle to save or set aside money for taxes.
  • Quoting: You may feel icky or anxious quoting higher fees or upselling.

Your mindset isn’t just some woo-woo concept; it’s the driving force behind how you run your business. If your money story is filled with negative scripts, it’ll show in your business decisions and growth.

Photo by Belle Verdiglione Photography
Photo by Belle Verdiglione Photography

Fear of Failure: The Dream Crusher

Now, let’s dissect another sneaky mindset monster: the fear of failure. This is the fear that can stomp all over your “I’m going to make six figures as a photographer in my first year” dream.

Let’s circle back to 90’s Belle. There I was, flannel and all, getting asked to shoot my first wedding. Cue the freakout:

Sound familiar? These thoughts swirled around my head like a tornado. And what did that fear of failing lead to? Undercharging, over-delivering, and, ultimately, burning the F out. Before I knew it, I was back at my day job, with only a handful of weddings under my belt.

So, here’s a reality check: knowing how to charge to make a profit and how to pay yourself as a photographer – is your first step to survival. Even if you set your rates on the higher end, like those seasoned photographers you look up to, it’s okay! You can always offer a limited-time discount for portfolio-building. This way, you’re not undervaluing yourself from the get-go. You’re future-proofing your business, and trust me, your future self will be giving you a high-five.

Fear of failure and the money mindset can make or break your journey as a photographer. But when you tackle these head-on, you’ll set yourself up for success and keep that dream of moonwalking into your Annie Leibovitz-inspired studio alive and kicking.

Photo by Belle Verdiglione Photography-2
Photo by Belle Verdiglione Photography

Taming the Inner Critic

Here’s the thing: I didn’t let my fear of failure stop me, but it did take me two decades to finally leave my 9-5 and dive headfirst into photography full-time. So, where are those pesky thoughts of “you’re not good enough” holding you back from living your big, audacious, wild, and impossible dream?

Where are you diluting your potential income and underestimating your badassery as a photographer earning bucket tonnes of money? Maybe it’s that inner voice that sounds like mean Aunt Sue, whispering that your work is crap and no one will ever pay you big bucks for it. Or that you shouldn’t start that photography podcast because your voice sucks and you have nothing worthwhile to say.

Extreme? Maybe. But let’s be honest. How do you speak to yourself?

This, my friend, is the real work. Not learning your camera, editing like a boss, or perfecting your couple poses. Tackling the thoughts in your head is the beast that needs taming.

I won’t leave you hanging with just the what; here’s the how. Sure, it’s totally Googleable, but give this a shot:

Write down all your thoughts over one day. What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror? What runs through your mind when you sit down at your computer and open up your gallery? How do you feel when you check your inbox and there’s no new inquiry or lead?

This is the first step: Awareness. Becoming aware of what mean Aunt Sue is saying inside your head. And let’s not even get started on seeking external validation from Instagram — I see you, boo. But that’s a topic for another blog. Back to our thoughts: becoming conscious of them is the first step. Because with awareness, we can change.

So, what’s the substitute? Focus on your wild, impossible, audacious goals. What photo shoots are you dreaming of? How much money would you love to make? Knowing our actual goals and desires and writing them down has been proven by multiple studies to fast-track your success. Focusing on what you DO WANT and not on what you fear might happen is key.

You’ve got this. Get out there and create your story, and remember to keep that mindset in check. It’s the secret sauce to making those big dreams come true.

So, before you dive into promoting yourself, marketing your photography business, perfecting your portfolio, or even deciding on your gear, take a good look at your mindset.

How do you think about money, success, and your worth as a photographer? Changing these inner narratives can turn the tide and pave the way for the thriving photography career you dream of — flannel shirts and all.

_______________________

belle verdiglioneBelle Verdiglione is an award-winning published photographer and photography business coach. Speaker. Proud mama of two. Unapologetic feminist, collector of punk records, and enthusiastic Espresso Martini drinker (but not all at the same time…usually.).

Belle Verdiglione is your break-the-rules mindset and business coach, speaker, and founder of Camera Queens, a female and non-binary photography community.

You can listen to Belle chatting with rad humans on her Camera Queens podcast.



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