On the journey of life you are faced with making a number of decisions, some of them extremely difficult. Each decision will undoubtedly lead to the exclusion of many other possibilities. However, by making a decision, you are taking a giant leap towards your goal—towards success.
Here in the modern age we have been given the burden of choice. Choice, for many, can be completely debilitating, locking them down into a cycle of indecision that leads them nowhere. Indecision is one of the great indicators of impending failure, because the person who does not know what he wants will never be able to attain it.
One of the biggest causes of indecision is the need to please people instead of following instincts. There’s a hard truth that hopefully you can learn before too many years have passed: trying to make everyone else happy will get you nowhere.
So what do you do?
Stop trying to please everyone
You didn’t become a photographer for other people (if you did, you might need to reevaluate your career choice). You became a photographer because you wanted to be a photographer. Now is the time for you to decide what kind of photographer you are going to be, taking into account what sort of work you are best suited to (e.g. if you hate extreme conditions, then maybe you shouldn’t aspire to be a wildlife photographer).
If you’re under the impression that by being a photographer jack-of-all-trades you are going to be successful in your line of business, I’m sorry to inform you that you are probably wrong. Photography is currently an over-saturated market. This isn’t a bleak diagnosis but a fact. The only way that you are going to stand out in this field full of jacks-of-all trades, masters-of-none, is to choose one specific subfield and become the best you can possibly become.
The Pizza-Schwarma-sushi joint scenario
Imagine your favorite restaurant. Think about what kind of food it serves and the atmosphere. It could be Italian, Mexican, Thai, or a burger joint. It doesn’t matter. Now, think of why you love this restaurant. Is it the food? The atmosphere? The tikka masala that reminds you of the time you spent in Punjabi?
Now, imagine that your favorite restaurant had never spent the time to focus on creating quality food and atmosphere for its customers. What if, from the outset, they had established themselves as a place that offered pizza, shawarmas, sushi, bagels, and frozen yogurt (alongside a cornucopia of other mismatched items). You might still go to this restaurant, but the odds are that the food won’t be great, and you certainly wouldn’t want to take your boyfriend or girlfriend there for his or her birthday dinner.
It’s an easy trap to fall into—thinking that by offering a one-size-fits-all photography business you will be catering to a much wider audience. The reality is that your reach will be much shorter. We live in a society where people are accustomed to specialists. They no longer want someone who can do everything sorta well; they’ll want to hire someone who can do one thing extremely well.
But won’t I be limiting myself?
Yes. But this is a positive thing. If you don’t focus your abilities, you are limiting what you can become. If you don’t limit yourself, you won’t be able to focus.
Still indecisive? Here are a couple of ways to narrow it down
1. Come to grips with the Pareto principle
Named after the early 20th-century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, and put into action by Romanian quality management expert Joseph Juran, the Pareto Principle states that 80% of the results will derive from 20% of the causes.
“Ok, Adam Smith, how does that apply to me?”
Take the Pareto Principle and attach it as a layer mask over your business. If you’ve been a self-described Jack-of-all-trades and have never done this before, odds are you will soon discover that approximately one-fifth of your efforts are producing four-fifths of your successes. Focus there.
2. Examine your work
Pull out your portfolio—whether it’s online or in print form it doesn’t matter—but I want you to look through it carefully. Spend two minutes going through each of your best images. Remember what it was like when you captured that moment—the way the client thanked you after the session, the excitement you felt when you realized you actually got the shot. The ones that bring the most joy to you and have the greatest positive impact; put those in a separate pile.
The answer should come to you fairly quickly.
3. Just pick something
The worst thing that you can do is waste time by being indecisive. If you’re struggling to find business doing things the way you have been doing, take a risk and branch out. Attend workshops, put serious effort into getting really good at one branch of photography, and then dedicate yourself to marketing your skills. The worst case scenario is that you may hate it, but then again, you may just love it.
The curious disclaimer
Now that you’ve read all of this, hopefully you are at least one step closer to success in your business as a photographer. But there is a disclaimer. If you are in the beginning phases of being a photographer, and haven’t yet crossed over into the professional world, you have the freedom to try things. How are you going to know what you like until you give it a go? You don’t have to know from day one what sort of photography you’re going to spend the next few years mastering. Give yourself time to grow into it, and then choose.
And once you’ve chosen, stay the course, and become the best you can possibly be.