The two biggest fears of artists-turned-owners

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on September 1, 2014

in This is Business,This is Life

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Two of the biggest fears we artists-turned-owners have about ‘going pro’ are:

1. Selling ourselves

2. Selling our art

The positive attention and encouragement we receive as enthusiastic amateurs can give us a false impression that we don’t have to ‘work’ to earn business – that we can just exist, just hang our shingle, publish our work to our portfolio site and Facebook, and paying clients will beat a path to our door.

Typically introverts, folks like you and me are fueled from within instead of without. Shy or not, social situations deplete us more than they energize us, and our alone time is where we regroup and recharge.

We’re also humble creatures. We’re quiet, unassuming, and while we don’t brag, we enjoy positive attention as much as anyone.

So the prospect of marketing and selling – getting our art, name, and message in front of our ideal clients – sends a lump straight to our throats.

The only thing most human beings fear more than death is public speaking, and both marketing and selling feel like close siblings to this boogeyman.

So what’s an introvert to do?

There are always going to be “best practices.”

But so many of those best practices are hand-built by and for extroverts. A quick flip through most Marketing 101-type books shows as much (and can set an introvert to reckless perspiring).

I’ll always encourage you to step outside your comfort zone to test the waters on good ideas and practices – you never know when what’s holding you back is a true aversion, or just an unnamed and unfounded fear that can be overcome with doing.

We’d all love to have business fall in our lap.

But we can’t just wait for our clients to find us.

The secret sauce for you will be finding the most effective and efficient methods of marketing and selling that get (and keep) you booked solid, maximizing both your enjoyment and profit for the time you invest in your business.

The advantage obviously goes to the extroverts, folks energized by the attention of others.

As I’ve written, attention is fantastic for business, so long as it leads to paid work.

Three important things:

  • Accept that the fastest ways to get booked solid are extroverted practices;
  • Accept that the maximum profits per client are going to come with extroverted sales practices;
  • And accept that your “best practices” as an introvert aren’t going to look like their best practices.

You need to write your own playbook.

And you know what?

That’s okay.

Don’t buy into the cult of maximum productivity and maximum efficiency.

Don’t worship profits at all costs.

The boutique photographers turned business gurus are some of the worst about selling you their $500 playbook without knowing anything about you or what kind of player you are.

Let’s be real: you don’t have to do this.

You chose photography.

You chose to go pro.

You’re doing all of this because you want to.

You never have to incorporate practices into your business that make you hate being a professional photographer.

Stretch yourself, test yourself, challenge yourself, but never forget that you are in ultimate control.

As always, you define your success – nobody else.

What then are your blood, sweat, and tears worth if you build a business that brings you no joy? That, in fact, saps your energy, creativity, and happiness?

You face two great tragedies: succeeding in building a business you hate, and failing to try at all.

There’s a huge range of opportunity between these poles: plenty of room to study, practice, learn, test, fail, adjust, experiment, succeed, do better, do worse, and every moment, take another step closer to building a business you enjoy – even love.

I can’t imagine the last 15 years of my life without Outlaw Photography; all of the friends I’d have never met, art I’d have never made, money I’d have never been paid with which to bless my family, the stories I’d have never earned for the telling, the blog I’d have never written (howdy y’all!)…

The blessings have been countless.

If I had never pushed myself outside my introvert comfort zone, I’d have never plumbed the depths of my talents as a marketer or salesman; I’d have never tried new things, broken new ground within myself, and discovered where my honest personal limits lie.

If I had forced myself to continue with “best practices” which made me miserable, that despite facing my fears continued to create more stress than success for me, I’d have burned out. There would be no Outlaw Photography to serve my clients or enable life experiences for my family we couldn’t otherwise afford.

I found my balance.

Not by luck, but by consistently trying new things, testing myself and adjusting course by what new things I learned – about photography, business, and myself – along the journey.

Give yourself the opportunity to succeed.

To do what you think you can’t.

To realize you’re capable – and maybe even enjoy – things you didn’t think you could do.

And to have tested and consciously chosen not to adopt the “best practices” which leave you burned out and depleted.

I could have made more money.

I could have booked more shoots.

I could have done a lot of things that would make my business more successful on paper.

But I’m thankful I didn’t.

I am thankful for the strength to challenge myself and the wisdom to discern which of the countless branching paths to success best balanced risk and reward – choices unique to my personality, my experiences, my strengths and weaknesses.

Let me assure you, it was a messy, disjointed, graceless, downright butt-ugly adventure. Lord of the Rings, it was not. I’d have never found my personal success without many trials and errors.

The indefatigable villain named Resistance fought like hell on every battleground to deter me from my victories.

But I persisted.

And I am so, so glad that I did.

Don’t give up, fellow introvert.

Marketing and sales aren’t as bad as the boogeyman in your head has made them out to be.

You will find what works best for you, your own best practices, and you’ll learn to thrive just like I have, just like countless other artists who were able to reach just far enough outside their comfort zones to grasp success.

Remember the “self” in self-promotion is you, and guess what? You are in charge of you! Introvert or not, you make the calls on what fits and what doesn’t. So do things in the unique way that works for you.” – Paul Jarvis, Effective Marketing For Introverts

Next Steps

  • Let’s make some lists! List 1: Let’s say you are absolutely not allowed to do any marketing or sales that you don’t know for sure, right this moment, you would enjoy. How would you market yourself? How would you get your art and message in front of your target market? List every venue, physical and digital, every opportunity, every method you can think of to make the connection between what you have to offer and Your People.
  • List 2: Now, make a list of every marketing idea and effort you can think of that isn’t on List 1; all of the extrovert stuff, the public speaking, the cold calls, the in-person introductions and Asks, the direct approach, the collaborative work, the PR / press opportunities, absolutely anything and everything you can think of that would get your art and message in front of your target market that isn’t on List 1.
  • List 3: Pick three marketing ideas from List 2 that you believe wouldn’t kill you, but would help you get more attention and bookings. Three things you think you can do, but don’t think you would enjoy. Let’s just say, for funsies, that you were going to do those three things. What are the all the baby steps involved? If you were really going to do them, outline the effort – what would be involved? What would it look like? What are the steps? What does that path look like?
  • You knew this was coming: Pick the idea from List 3 that you feel you’re most likely to really do, and… Just Do It! Let go of the results. Focus on process. Disconnect from identifying with the success or failure of your efforts. Just…do. This is how you test yourself: look outside your comfort zone for an opportunity you would not naturally gravitate toward, make a map of the journey, and then adventure! No matter what happens, you will have grown – you’ll have studied, learned, practiced, and grown as a marketer and business owner. Repeat this process as often as you can to really feel out the risks which lead to the best rewards.
  • Brainstorm session: Get out your pen and paper. If you weren’t the one responsible for taking action on your marketing ideas – let’s say you were given a nice grant to hire a master marketer to enact your dream marketing plan – what ideas would be your favorite? What would your marketing plan look like? What are the ideas that excite you about how they present your art and business to your community? Let your imagination run wild, free of the fear of having responsibility to act on anything you write down here. Later, mine this list of ideas for things you can slip onto List 2…and maybe List 3.
  • My writing at exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
  • If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below, drop me an e-mail, or call or text me at 830-688-1564 and let me know. I’d love to hear how you use these ideas to better your part time photography business!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Deb Bailey September 6, 2014 at 10:37 am

Wow- I just googled “day jobs for part-time photographers” (not expecting much that would be specific) and was 1) excited to see a site for pt photographers and 2) your emphasis on most of us being introverts! Lokk forward to hearing more!Th amks!


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor September 6, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Thank you so much for your readership and kind words Deb!

I’m an extroverted introvert (if that makes any sense), so I know many of the feelings we artists suffer on our path to comfort and success. I’ve been blessed with enough experience and introspection to recognize and give name and shape to these feelings, and I hope I’m able to write about them from a place of empathy.

Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!


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