When I made the leap and bought my ticket for The Family Narrative, I fully believed I had a great business. I worked a lot - okay, a ton - but that was okay: I had great clients who loved me! I made good money! But yeah… I worked a lot.
The Family Narrative was beyond what I expected. It turned out that what I anticipated would be a fun way to learn some new tricks and meet some new people was just the beginning of a journey to create the career of my dreams. Within minutes of stepping into that room full of family photographers, I realized had a lot to learn. I still do.
I learned so much that week, but the biggest “aha” moment came when I realized that I wasn’t charging enough. That realization hit me with what I can most closely describe as anxiety, but good anxiety. An nervous excitement that left me on a high.
Throughout my career, I would take on any client willing to pay my rate without thinking twice. I worked as much as humanly possible (and then some), but would inevitably go through intense phases of burnout. At TFN, I realized that by not charging enough, I was limiting myself (and not just my bank account). Yes, I was photographing a ton of families, but I had no personal life or room to grow, professionally or otherwise. I had no chance to enjoy Brooklyn as my home, and I wasn’t able to give my clients the experience I wanted them to have. I wanted my clients to feel like old friends, but by booking myself to the brim, I didn’t leave room for that. The ladies at the Family Narrative helped me see that whereas higher prices might mean fewer clients, if I could make the same amount of money without filling up every bit of my time and headspace, both my clients and I would benefit. As Dana Pugh says, “Raising your pricing is a REVOLUTIONARY ACT!”
My pricing change came as a wave: a big, wild, unsteady wave. It made me so nervous and doubtful… more than ever before. I kept trying to figure out why I was feeling so uncertain about it when it hit me: I was honestly having a hard time believing that my work was worth the money. I was my own worst enemy, standing in my own way, questioning my own self-worth. That little jerk in the back of my head kept reminding me that I’m just a self-taught photographer who never went to school, I don’t always know all the answers to all the questions, and I fly 100% by the seat of my pants. Who was I to believe that I was worth large(r) sums of money?
But recognizing that my self-doubt existed was the first step to getting around it. This was by far the hardest pill to swallow. I had to admit to myself that I am worth what I needed to charge, and commit to living up to that number both in quality and service. Taking that leap made me grow not only as a businessperson but as an artist. Charging more for my work has made me more aware of the work I love and the work I don’t, and has made me more concerned about the work out there representing me. It has also made me aware of my ultimate goal to attract those types of families that see the same value as me, and not just those looking to check family photos off as a task on some random to-do list.
I know how scary it can be to look hard at your business model, set your value, and raise your pricing. But I have realized that having clients that value my time and talent as much as I do makes the emotional roller coaster worth it. It makes this job feel like a true career that I feel respected in, and I love it beyond words.
Giant thanks to Amy Hanen of Amy Frances Photography in Brooklyn, NY for her words and photos. When she told us about her biggest takeaway from TFN and how it has transformed her business this year, we knew there would be people out there (especially at the end of the busiest, burn-out-iest season of the year) who could really benefit from hearing her perspective.