03. What is a sustainable business?

Episode cover how to have a sustainable business

My definition of a sustainable business is profitable and lasting. Instead of short-term wins that may give you something cool for your portfolio, for example, you want to make sure you’re doing things that matter. Both to yourself, and something that’s bigger than you. And at the same time, you want to make sure that the things you do aren’t hurting you and your business. Accepting low-paid work might feel ok at the moment, but down the line, you can’t keep it up. My goal for you is that you build and structure your business around your life, instead of the other way around.

How can you have a sustainable business

How good are you at taking time off? Time to yourself? Time to do things that you really want to do, just for you?

I know what a challenge that can be. But it’s SO important. To relax and recharge.  To do something you enjoy and can have fun with. Rest and time off actually make you MORE productive, so if you feel like you’ve got too much on your plate it might actually help you to step away for a while.

We think the key to success is to work more. That busyness is something to aspire to. Long hours, little sleep, no breaks. You can always push harder. Always do more.

But did you know that slowing down, working less, and taking time to rest can make you more productive and more creative? It’s also an important part of building that sustainable business I know you want.

What do you do to rest?

Make sure you set your business up in a way that lets you make enough money to have time off and enjoy amazing holidays.

You have to have enough profit and income to live the life you want and to build the business you want to have.

A lot of creatives live from paycheck to paycheck – or client to client. All without considering the bigger picture. Remember to take insurance, pension, and what you actually need to live the life you want into account when calculating your prices. At some point, you’ll need to upgrade your equipment or pay for education.

Get clear on how much money you need to make and want to make, and what you need to charge to make that happen.

Maybe you can cut some expenses, and maybe you need to set aside more money for important upgrades and investments. Some are scared to spend any money. Even on things that would make their life and business so much better. While others spend what they can as soon as the money hits their account. Check out the below episode about money confidence where you will find in deep how to manage your finance better around your business.

Listen to the episode Money confidence with Jillian Todd

Episode 2

You first

It’s important to make sure your business isn’t running your life. I know it’s important to you, but you won’t do any good if you’re not putting yourself first. There’s a reason why “you have to put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others” has become a bit of a cliche. It sounds selfish, but it’s not. Learning to put yourself first can take practice. Without meeting your most basic needs like sleeping, eating, exercising, you won’t be able to keep it up.

I think most of us can do with a hectic work schedule for a limited time. And stress has even been shown to increase productivity and be healthy in small amounts. But if you’re feeling stressed over a longer amount of time, can be very bad for you. So make sure you lower the expectations you have for yourself – those are usually the harshest ones.

Reaching your goals

Working towards goals can help you stay focused and get further than you would without goals. The purpose of the goal itself isn’t always to reach the goal, but to get closer to it. A great goal should motivate you and give you momentum.

Feeling productive and getting a lot done can feel freeing and rewarding.

Motivating goals can help you decide what you should focus on, and they can help you avoid the “busyness” that seems to be so popular these days.

To reach your goals, you will need to create a plan that actually works. That’s why I want to introduce you to The sustainable Photography mentor program, where we work on creating a business strategy to build a profitable and sustainable business.

Being fulfilled (creatively)

Photographing things that you’re actually excited about, having the freedom to set up your own creative shoots as well as doing client work that you love mean everything, doesn’t it? 

You might be surprised to learn how many shoots you need to do at your current prices to make decent pay. Or how much you actually need to charge to make it happen. If you learn to price yourself right, you’ll free up time to set up more shoots that you want to do. And you’ll have the freedom to say no to clients you don’t want to work with. Doing work you aren’t passionate about can be a killer for your business and creativity. 

I often hear that I’m crazy for turning down work. That all jobs have parts of it that aren’t perfect or fun or inspiring. But it’s not like I’m turning away work because it’s not fun enough, it’s because it isn’t aligning with what I want to do. And actually, it can end up hurting my business in the long run. Especially as a wedding photographer the dates that I actually get booked for are so limited. It doesn’t do me any good to get 10 inquiries for one date, because I can only take on one couple. If I take on a couple who are the wrong fit, not only do I have to turn down weddings that are a better match for me down the line, but I might not be the best fit for the wedding. That might give them a less than ideal experience and result. If they’re happy with me, maybe I’ll get referrals to do other similar shoots in the years to come. That will fill my portfolio up with images that don’t reflect my style. 

Working with clients you love

Getting to work with clients that you actually like is a big deal. Wedding photographers especially often work with the same couple for many months. And sometimes also a few years before their wedding day. If you don’t actually get along and see the world in the same way that will lead to frustration and exhaustion. A sustainable business means that you have to keep it going over time. That’s hard if you don’t genuinely like the people you work with. This of course also ties back to the previous point. You might ruin things for yourself because you’ll end up doing more work you don’t want to do.  

Marketing in a way you can maintain – and like doing

To keep your business going and growing you also need to get clients. Wedding photographers can rarely work with the same clients over and over, like most other photographers. We’re constantly needing to get our photos out there in front of new people. But keep in mind, there are so many ways of doing this. Finding a way to market your business that suits your personality is crucial because you need to keep it up. Keep in mind that there is no one right way to do things. Don’t let someone tell you that you have to do Instagram reels to make it. Or that wedding faires are the best way to book weddings. Only you know you and your business and your dream client and your brand. You have to figure it out. If you’re not having any luck with what you’re doing, it could be because you’re in the wrong place. Or it could be you’re not using that specific platform in the best way. But that’s a whole other conversation. 

Check out the below episode where you will find everything about the importance of personal branding and how to get it right!

Listen to the episode The importance of branding with Danielle Garber

Episode 4

Building confidence and having a healthy mindset

You have to believe in what you’re doing to be able to stick to it. There will be low seasons, changes in the industry and algorithms, and you will doubt yourself. But you still have to trust that it will work out and that you can keep going. Getting rid of imposter syndrome and believing that you’re good enough is key. Surround yourself with people who build you up and give yourself permission to say no to anything that makes you feel like you’re not good enough.

Preserving the environment

For me, a huge part of a sustainable business is to keep my environmental footprint small. I don’t buy new stuff unless I need it, I try to use local products and keep traveling to a minimum. It’s not always easy, but awareness and changes are necessary.

Summary

  • Allow yourself to rest and take time off
  • Put yourself first
  • Have enough profit and income to live the life you want and to build the business you want
  • Work towards your goals
  • Do your best to do things that fuel your creativity
  • Work with clients you love
  • Market in a way you can maintain – and like doing
  • Build your confidence and work on having a healthy mindset

Want more?

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Learn more about the Sustainable Photography Program

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03. What is a sustainable business?
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Ingvild-Portrett

hi, i'm ingvild

I spend as much of my time as I can being outside taking photos of happy couples in love. I live with my dog and boyfriend in Norway, and I love traveling the world in search of beautiful locations and love stories.

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