What a year that 2023 has been!
If I were to describe 2023 in a word I would use "challenging".
2023 started being the quietest year in my freelance career. So quiet it was scary, so I kept myself busy starting lots of other projects related to my other business Espasa Studio.
One of the main issues of being so quiet it's that you can start doubting yourself. You start wondering if the lack of bookings is due to your work, your style, your professionalism...You start overthinking EVERYTHING and asking yourself "What are you doing wrong?".
I started going above and beyond trying to see what else I could offer, where I could find the ideal client, tweaking the offers, reducing the prices...
I was afraid no one else would book me ever again - a bit dramatic, I know... - so I tried to make myself as available and "easy to book" as possible.
The truth is that with this fear mindset, I only attracted clients who wanted a cheap deal service, which made me almost hate my job and quit.
And I love my job! I love photography, I am always taking pictures! So I decided I would not let myself get into this position again, so here are the lessons I have learned and I hope they will be useful for you too.
Lessons learned for the new year
Don't let others dictate your value.
I know it is scary when money doesn't come in easily. But there is something that happens, not sure what it is or how to describe it, but if you have experienced it before you will understand it immediately.
It seems that for some magical reason, when you are negotiating and someone asks you for a discount, a reduction on the price straight away, and you accept... ( and you don't know that person), seems like there is a shift on the energy and seems like all of a sudden, the new client has become entitled and feels like they can ask anything, and you hate every question and maybe every minute of the project. But why does that happen?
I discovered why.
You had your price in mind which took you a good few hours ( or maybe days) to decide because pricing isn't easy. Then someone comes around who doesn't know you and asks for a discount straight away.
You get into an awkward position because you haven't been booked as much as you would like this year and you fear losing this opportunity, so may accept. BUT if you accept a lower price than what you think you deserve, then you feel like you are in an unfair position, and you will only do the amount of work that they paid for.
So you go to work thinking "I won't do any extras because I have been paid only for this" and that isn't a great mindset for doing a creative job or a good job in general, because if the client asks for something else, you will internally be hating them. And the client will ask, because they asked for a discount and you said yes, so they realise if they ask, they may get, so you kind of opened that way for them. You made them a favour, but that was no favourable to you at all.
Give them a hand and they will take your arm, isn't that what they say?
If you were paid everything you asked for in the first place, you would go to work thinking: "Uh I am so excited, I may even try to do X, Y , Z and see if the client likes that". The client may ask " can we try this, can we try that?" and you would think:"yes, we can, because I am being paid what I asked for so I feel respected and open to try things".
See the difference? This has happened to me before, and that is something I am going to identify straight away next year!
We all love a good discount or a great find, let's not deny that, and with the crisis we are living at the moment, it is true that not everyone can afford as much as they used to, and a discount can really help them and help you get that project booked.
I think the main difference here is that YOU are the one giving the discount, not them. So let's say you have met this new client who is lovely, and you see they are a small business, and they would love to use your service but you see that is a struggle and they can do with some discount, and you feel like offering it, then if you want, do it. They would be so grateful and you will feel like a good person. But make sure you set the boundaries and expectations. Otherwise you will feel like I described on the paragraph before.
The issue with discounting is that it can devaluate your work, and some people may seem lovely and then become nightmare clients, so if you aren't sure about giving a discount, what not too add an extra instead? You can always say for this price I will include X service.
For example, I often offer a post-production service included with my photography service: it is something I can do, helps my work because I control the outcome of the final images and my client doesn't need to go and find a retoucher. Maybe a gift wrap option? Get creative and see what can you add instead of take away from your value.
Learn to say NO.
I didn't listen to this advice at all this year! It has been the year to say yes to everything and I have paid the price recently. The reason why I said yes to everything is because photography work was so quiet that I really felt like I had to start looking somewhere else to make some money, so I did, but then everything came at once and I was overwhelmed with it.
Other opportunities were coming up and I didn't want to let anyone down, so I said "yes of course I can do that". But the person I was letting down was myself.
I underestimate how much work and hours some projects take. I have been feeling so exhausted these last months I can't even explain. So now I know where my limit is and I will think about it twice before saying "yes of course" and see if it is a " actually no, thank you".
I find also it tough sometimes when people put you in the spot for an answer.
I am not good at making decisions on the spot. I want to make sure I can make the right decision, and for that, I need time to think about it, sleep on it, write all the pros and cons,etc. So I am going to learn "let me think about it and I will come back to you".
Decluttering: making space for new things
These last months I have been feeling very overwhelmed: I had 6 different jobs going on and too many projects. I also felt like I didn't have enough time to do things properly, so I ended up not doing my best and feeling all anxious because I always want to do a good job, but I couldn't. I didn't have the time nor the energy for it.
Also, I wasn't picking the most profitable projects for me: I was doing a lot but not getting much in return, neither joy or money.
When talking with a good friend of mine about how I was feeling, she said: "you need to make room for new things to come in".
That sentence stack to my brain. I believe in energies, but I am not a "let's manifest things"person.
I feel like some people are selling you the idea of "let's manifest our brilliant life" and then just wait for it to happen. I believe more on "write down what you want and just make it happen, or at least try and see what happens".
And I kept thinking about what she said. I wanted new projects, great clients who would pay me for my value... but how could I get them if I didn't have an hour free to do so?
So I sat down one evening, and check all the work I had one, and identified what was working and what wasn't. It wasn't easy, as I am not great at making quick decisions, but I decided to quit some of the projects that I wasn't enjoying anymore or making enough money.
I made the decision, and then is when the energy shift happened: the next day I got booked in a job from a new client straight away. She contacted me a year ago but couldn't do any shoot back then, but now she was ready. And so was I, because I cleared up some space for it.
Detect red flags (and don't ignore them!)
My last advice would be: listen to your gut, but this time, properly.
Listen and don't ignore what is telling you... because you are right: if something doesn't sounds quite right, don't ignore it, listen to your inner voice, gut, call it whatever... you know the feeling and we have ignore it too many times, not anymore!
If you have been desperate this year, don't beat yourself up, I have been too, it has been a bit of a shit show year, so I am sending you all my love and support!
And I want to make sure that you and I start 2024 a bit better, so let's recap:
Don't let others dictate your value, you set up your prices, not others.
No discounts, just add extra value to your offer.
Learn to say NO, learn to manage your time and energy.
Decluttering: making space for new things so better projects can come your way
Detect red flags (and don't ignore them!) just listen to your gut.
Let me know if that post has been useful!
Have a lovely Christmas break and see you in the new year :)