Don’t Let Fear Keep you from Jumping
Fear. It’s an emotion that every person deals with on a regular basis. I think photographers, as artists, are more susceptible to this emotion than others… I know it’s something that I struggle with on a regular basis. It’s terrifying to take that first step at starting your own business or to put your work out there for others to see and critique. Rising above that fear is the only way to grow, the only way to learn and the only way to succeed.
Just to give you a little bit of my story, in 2007, I was an average graphic designer with no passion for my work. It was easy, I was decent at it, and I had a good steady job with great benefits. I had everything my parents wanted me to have. “If you stay there twenty years, you’ll have a great pension!” was something my mother reminded me of on a regular basis. UGH. Thinking about working for someone else, in a career I was bored with already, for the next twenty years made me want to cry. My husband (an artist as well) posed the question to me “If you could do anything and live anywhere, would it be what you are doing and where you are?” My immediate response was “NO!!” From that point on, we knew we had to change. That’s when the fear started setting in.
Throughout the next six months we both proceeded to quit our full time jobs, move to another state, and go back to school. After graduation, we moved to NYC with no jobs, rented a tiny 400 sq. ft. apartment and started figuring out how to make it work. Here are a few things we learned along the way:
You become who you pretend to be. Start pretending.
Everyone struggles with confidence, artists especially. Because there is no right or wrong answer, it is common for us to second guess our art/work. Confidence is built by letting people in. The tighter you hold your work, the less you let people see it, the more fear starts to take over and wreck your confidence. We’ve all heard that saying “Fake it until you make it”? Well, it’s true. If you let people see what you want to be, and consistently present that message, or that work, you will become what it is you want to be. When we first started Moss + Isaac, we had only photographed a handful of weddings. We didn’t tell anyone that, we just showed them the work we had done. Our image was very important to us. We had an amazing graphic artist (Chris Thompson) develop our branding and website so that we looked professional and experienced. Two years and 60+ weddings later, no one questions what we do. If we hadn’t pretended to be bigger than we were, we probably wouldn’t have booked half of those weddings, especially in the beginning.
You don’t have to please everyone.
Fear of approval keeps us from putting ourselves and our work out there. Sometimes, I get so anxious after I meet with clients for the first time, or when deciding which images to put on our blog or Facebook. Worry sets in… is my work good enough? Do they like me? Do they like my work? Are they going to hire me? I have to remember that there are always people who will not like my work, or me, but those people are not the clients I want to work for. The right people will come along, the clients I am supposed to work with, and they will love me and my work. Once I started thinking that way, it was easier to overcome that anxiety. In the long run, the more exposure you get, the more work you put out there, the easier it will become to find the right clients.
That’s sometimes a hard one… and one that seems to contradict my advice to start pretending… just hear me out. In this field, you have to follow your intuition because imitation will only get you so far. Your own perspective is the only one that is unique and authentic. Copying someone else’s work is never going to get you to a place where you are happy with your own work. Once you start staying true to yourself and find your own vision, pleasing others will come naturally. We’ve had clients come to us, show us other photographer’s work, and tell us that is what they want. In the beginning, we tried to make those people happy, because we needed every single client that came to us. We were scared to say no. As our business has grown, and we have put work out that is meaningful to us, work that we think is authentic… those requests have waned. If we had continued to do work that copied other people’s style, our own perspective would have gotten lost. We would have been unhappy in our work and it would translate into unhappy clients. Don’t look at a direct competitor’s work for inspiration. Figure out the things you like, whether it is music, dance, tv, movies, other genres of photography, whatever, and take inspiration there. Mix it up. Do something unique and authentic in your work and you will stand out.
Jealousy is a good motivator, but don’t let it get in the way.
I get jealous when I see other people’s work featured on blogs, or in magazines. Most of the time, I realize that I am only jealous because I know my work is good too and it motivates me to get my act together and start submitting work. Unfortunately, sometimes fear sets in, and I let that jealousy go too far. It becomes anxiety and obsession. I get lost… spending hours looking at other people’s work and wishing mine was better, wishing it was my work featured instead. It’s unhealthy, and it is time wasted. If I had spent those hours working on my images instead of looking at other’s work, how much farther along would I be today? Jealousy can be a good thing… you just have to be aware of the effect it has on you and make sure it is motivating you, not hindering
I truly believe things happen for a reason. If you believe in yourself and your work, others will also. Parish Kohanim, a fellow photographer, once said “Jump and the net will appear.” Don’t let fear stop you from doing the things you are passionate about. If I had listened to my head, or some of my friends and family, I never would have jumped out of my comfortable boring life, into being a photographer in NYC and doing something I am completely and utterly in love with. I listened to my heart and had faith that it was leading me in the right direction. It hasn’t been easy by any means… there has been plenty of doubt and fear over the decisions that I have made, especially in the beginning. Unfortunately success doesn’t happen overnight so there is plenty of time to let the negative, destroying thoughts in. The only way to keep them at bay is to have faith that you know your path in your heart and as long as you work toward your passion, success will eventually follow.
Whatever it is you want to do, start now. Small actions eventually gather steam to become large actions. Every day you wait to do something you want is another opportunity missed. One of the first things we did, once we had a website and business cards, was to get out and meet people. Anywhere. We went to photography networking groups, wedding networking parties, and other random events that were not related to our profession in any way. We emailed planners, stylists, caterers, florists, etc. and asked them to meet us for coffee so we could pick their brains about the industry. Some of those connections have turned into friends and colleagues, while others have not. Some connections have taken up to two years to become a relationship. Opportunity doesn’t strike while sitting on the couch or browsing the internet. It comes when you step out of your comfort zone and tackle that fear, head on. Go network. Create your website. Take a class. Create a Facebook fan page. Plan a experimental shoot. Whatever.
Don’t let fear keep you from jumping. A year from today you’ll be glad you started now.