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Just wait until you read number 10...

We help people take great photos and build profitable businesses that change lives. We’re high school sweethearts, former elementary school teachers and professional photographers. We're experts at making the complex feel simple and believe education is serious business, but learning should be fun.

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Is it even worth it?

A while back we got an email from a new photographer who felt down, defeated and discouraged about the future of his photography business –– and whether or not he should even keep going — because of an article he read by another photographer who painted a very dim, grim, pessimistic picture of the day-to-day realities of building and running a photography business (or any small business, for that matter). The article mentioned a lot of reasons why building a photography business isn’t, in the author’s opinion, a wise career choice: the startup costs of gear and equipment, the ongoing costs of taxes and health insurance, not to mention the amount of hours you’ll pour into the job before seeing much of a financial return — if you see one at all. That, when you add it all up, you might as well just give up now. Because it’s hopeless.

The new photographer who reached out to us wrote, “I’m hoping that you might be able to rejuvenate my appetite for this business and tell me that this other photographer is wrong.”

So, we emailed him back, and decided to share part of our response (with a few edits and additions for context and clarity), because as we finished writing it, we remembered one thing and realized another.

First, we remembered that when we were new photographers, we felt the same way he did.

Second, we realized that if he felt that way, and we felt that way, then he’s probably not the only new photographer that feels that way right now. Asking themselves the same questions we did: Am I in over my head? Am I even good enough? Is all this hard work ever going to pay off? Can I actually make a living doing the thing I love, or should I just give up now before I’m in too deep? Is it really possible for “me” to be successful, or is it just for a select few?

Here’s what we told him (and we’re telling you):

The first step is to define success for you. Not what you see on social media. No two photographers’ situations or circumstances are the same. Their goals shouldn’t be either. They can’t be. Because when we start measuring every detail of our life against an online snapshot of someone else’s, we’ll never feel truly successful. Especially if a new photographer is comparing themselves to a seasoned veteran photographer. Use the people you admire to inspire you, and give you a glimpse and a glimmer of what’s possible in your life, but don’t wish for theirs.

“Start with the end in mind.” That’s what Dr. Steven Covery says in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and we took that advice to heart. We took an honest, realistic look at our life, and asked ourself this question, If social media didn’t exist. If we didn’t know what other people were doing, and if other people didn’t know what we were doing, what would we want to do? How would we want to spend our time? How would we want to live our life? What would success look like for us?

We still as ourselves those same questions all the time. It’s freeing. It’s liberating. It’s clarifying.

Because success looks different for everyone. At different times. In different seasons. For different reasons. And it can’t always be measured strictly by the numbers.

There are intangibles that can’t be accounted for in Quickbooks or on spreadsheets. Happiness being one of them. According to polls, about 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with their work. For a lot of photographers, both the new photographer and the seasoned photographer (and entrepreneurs in general), working more and making less is actually more appealing than keeping a day job they hate if it means they get to do something they love every day. If we’re going to spend most of our lives working, our quality of life is deeply impacted by what we do for the majority of our waking hours; and the happier and more fulfilled we are at work, the happier and more fulfilled we’ll be at home.

If you have a spouse or children, and your job gives you the ability to spend more time with them, you can’t put a price on that. Or the freedom and flexibility that comes from being your own boss and calling your own shots. The field trips you can attend when you work for yourself, from home. The time you save in traffic from not commuting back and forth every day. There are too many intangible benefits to list. Which, again, is why your decision to pursue your dream can’t be dictated by numbers alone, because, as Dave Ramsey says, “Money can buy fun, but it can’t buy happiness… for long.”

Side Note: Money does buy food, clothing and shelter, so please hear us loud and clear: We are not suggesting that you quit your day job tomorrow without a plan, because if you can’t feed your kids or pay your mortgage, it doesn’t matter how much you love your work. That’s why we have a recommended reading list with books like Quitter by Jon Acuff, that’ll help you know when the time is right (and responsible) to make the leap.

Now, it is true that the majority of small businesses fail. In fact, the overwhelming majority of them do. We won’t sugarcoat that for you. But that’s any industry, not just photography. But we know a lot of successful photographers of all shapes, sizes, ages, sexes, colors, backgrounds, styles, etc. who are making a full-time living (or the right amount of supplemental income) with photography. And they’re loving it. That doesn’t means it’s not hard. And it doesn’t mean it was that way as soon as they started out as a new photographer. It’s one of the hardest things they’ve ever done, and it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

But we believe the greater the challenge, the greater the reward. It’s like Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it good.”

We worked multiple jobs, days, nights and weekends, for years before we ever paid ourselves one penny from our photography business. But, now, standing on the other side of the hill, we can tell you that, at least for us, it was 100% worth it — and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. We’re making more money than we could’ve ever imagined doing a job that we love, and serving people in a way that brings us so much purpose and motivation to get out of bed every morning.

Like we mentioned before, that doesn’t mean quit your day job tomorrow. We kept ours for years, building slowly and strategically before we made the leap to full time. But it does mean don’t let anyone or anything deter or discourage you from the dreams and desires God’s placed on your heart. It’d be a slap in the face to Him to bury those dreams out of fear of the future.

We always say this, and we’ll say it again because it’s true: success is not for the chosen few; it’s for those who choose. So define success for yourself, and then go get it. There will always be naysayers and critics. Let them sit in the cheap seats and throw verbal grenades, but don’t let it keep you from getting to your dream job. It might take you proving to them and yourself that you can get there before they’ll have the courage to do it themselves.

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  1. Jerry Saenz

    October 13th, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Great words of wisdom! I also share the same concerns but I’m going to try anyway. It’s mine and my wife’s dream! Thank you for your words of encouragement.

  2. Claudia Wolff

    October 13th, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Cannot get over how amazing this post is! Not too long ago, I was in a period of deep depression. One of the things I thought about constantly was quitting my business because I was feeling overwhelmed due to everything involved in running a business. Recently, things have started to turn around, and I could not have read this post at a better time! I take it as a sign that I need to keep plugging away, as a few good opportunities and leads have come my way this week. Thank you so much for posting this! It will help propel me to keep going on my way to achieving success(as I define it) as a photographer! ❤️

  3. Stephanie

    October 13th, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Well that’s strange…. I was literally thinking about this today. Is all of this even worth it?! Sign maybe? I dunno. I’ve been back and forth for over a year contemplating if I should continue… for some reason I keep sticking it out.

  4. Lucy Crawley

    October 13th, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Love this! Such an encouraging post to someone stuck in a rut and with disbelief that they can run a successful photography business. Love how you kept it real and said that it IS hard work and that there may be struggles along the way but it will all be worth it to pursue something that you’re passionate about. Fantastic advice and great words of wisdom…

    Really enjoyed the read! 🙂

    http://www.lucylouphotography.com

  5. Morgan

    October 13th, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Wow thank you so much, I needed this today! You guys are such an inspiration and I love getting your emails and following your blog!

  6. Morgan

    October 13th, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Wow thank you so much, I needed this today! You guys are such an inspiration and I love getting your emails and following your blog!

  7. Annie Dash

    October 13th, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing such loving kindness and encouragement with us, Amy and Jordan! This post is full of wisdom. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and burned out in this (and many other) line(s) of work. Thank you for the heartfelt reminder that we have a choice in how we see things.

  8. Stephanie Wood

    October 13th, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Love this!! Thanks A&J! You guys rock!!!

  9. Peter Temple

    October 13th, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Sound & Encouraging advice, thank you both.

  10. Lisa Villella

    October 13th, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Thank you! I wonder this same thing often, but I refuse to linger on it. I refuse to let my mind run wild about failing – about giving up. It’s scary, but I can already look back and see all my growth in the few short months since I have made the decision to choose. <3

  11. Nilo Burke

    October 13th, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Amy and Jordan: these words are so true and so beautiful. I can totally sympathize with this photographer who is ready to throw the towel in. I’ve felt that way. But I know that giving up on my dear will be a travesty! I will keep fighting. Keep working had to make that dream come true! Love you both!
    ~Nilo

  12. Mary

    October 13th, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    So funny! Just today I was talking about this with a friend and in the afternoon, while I was trying to workout, I couldn’t finish because of this thoughts. I go to sleep now with a new hope on this, not on just having it as a hobbie but again considering it as a job. I don’t have my full time job any more but I’m sure that God’s plans are much more greater than mine and everything happens for a very good reason and always for bigger blessings, because His mercies are new every morning! Thanks so much! Blessings to all!!!

  13. Arlene

    October 13th, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing your love of photography. I too have the love of photography, but I have battled the fear of failure for decades. So I would hide behind my other day job, and venture out to do a few photography jobs intermittently. Your perspective and uplifting words are appreciated and another powerful nudge that I needed.

  14. RAYMOND MURPHEY

    October 14th, 2016 at 3:23 am

    Simply put, Thank You.

  15. SOMMER QUILLEN

    October 14th, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Oh my goodness how I needed this today!! As a newbie (3yrs) this is my daily struggle!!! Thank you for this boost! Its great to know I am not the only one who feels this way!!

  16. Gary Rawls

    October 14th, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Amy & Jordan,

    Thank you so much for your “realness” and willingness to share your humble beginnings. Thank you for the encouragement to your fellow photographers. What you offer in words of wisdom is priceless!

  17. Leti

    October 14th, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Wow, just what I needed to hear since I am in the process of setting up my business now. I thank God for you two. I can see God’s hand on your business, your marriage, your responses…. you guys are a breath of fresh air.

  18. Lisa

    October 14th, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Thank you! I will continue my dream.
    Appreciate hearing your positive encouragement.

  19. Sara Lynn

    October 15th, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I agree totally! It’s hard when we want it now and other photographers don’t tell you the back side of their journey. I work 3 jobs including photography not to mention being a mother to 3 kids. The hardest thing I find is the inability to learn new things. I’m overwhelmed with editing, there isn’t enough time in the day.

  20. Brittany Parrish

    October 16th, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    I have definitely been struggling to get my photography business up and running, trying not to get discourage is the hardest thing to do. I have been praying about it everyday and still have confidence that I can do it and trying to learn how to become better.

  21. Rebecca Nash Emerson

    October 18th, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you!
    Thank you…
    – for continuing to be positive and encouraging
    – for being open and honest
    – for valuing respect and integrity
    and for reminding me how much I love being a photographer. It isn’t always easy but it’s still the best job ever for me.

  22. Rachel Downey

    June 13th, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    This was so important for me to read today. I just got a masters degree in a field that I love–only tangentially related to photography–and I can make more money there than I would as a full-time photographer. But…as much as I love the lab, I can’t put down the camera! I’m going to keep doing what I LOVE. Thank you xx

  23. Amy & Jordan

    June 13th, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing that with us, Rachel! We wish you nothing but the best! Keep following your passion! Hugs!! <3

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connect with us

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The Amy & Jordan Store

Courses & Tools for Photographers   

We help people take better photos and build successful photography businesses. We’re high school sweethearts, former elementary school teachers and professional photographers. We're experts at making the complex feel simple and believe education is serious business, but learning should be fun.

hey, we're amy & jordan!

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