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The other day, I did something really scary. Or, at least really scary for me.
Six months ago…or heck, six WEEKS ago…I would have laughed in my ever-loving face if I had told myself that I would be doing this.
But, here I was. Doing it. Was I scared? Oh yeah. I was freaking out, on the inside.
But, on the outside…I was waiting for my Toastmaster to ask the question, with my head down, and my hands held in front of my body. I took deep, solid, controlled breaths. I was to speak on for two minutes in front of a crowd, looking as calm as a duck on water, on a question that was being thrown at me right then and there.
He asked the question. I let my brain scramble for a bit, and then settle down to formulate some kind of answer.
Here. Goes. Nothing. What was happening beneath the surface was my secret.
Everyone has fears
I have a confession: I am afraid of public speaking. Back in my previous life as a staffer on Capitol Hill, I used to write speeches, and prep my bosses for said speeches, all of the time. Coming up with quirky things to say wasn’t a problem, because I wasn’t the one actually saying them. I can look like I am brave when I am doing presentations for my photography business; but yeah. On the inside, I’m just as nervous as anyone else.
Four years ago, I faced that same feeling. It was a totally different scenario, but you may be able to relate.
I looked around in my dining room. My best products were laid out. My computer was running and was playing some soft music. A slideshow was playing at the same time, and seemed to strangely match the beat of the music.
My order form was printed out and seemed primed to be filled with all kinds of prints. I. Was. Ready. But was I?
Despite looking ready on the outside, I was quickly talking myself out of doing a sales session. I could feel my skin start to flush. What if I looked like I wasn’t confident in my work? What if my clients badmouthed my work? What if they didn’t think that my work was worth paying for?
I looked at the clock. It was five minutes till my clients were set to walk through my door. Crud. I couldn’t bail now. I almost prayed for one of my kids to projectile vomit so that I had a viable excuse to reschedule the session. Almost (really, almost. I’m not a mean parent.).
As a photography business owner, you may be able to relate to the story above. When you own your own businesses, you are faced with scary things all of the time. Things that push you outside of your comfort zone. Things that push your legal, financial, and professional knowledge. Life as a business owner, creative or not, is not always easy; but you either have to face that fear and grow, or hide from it and face failure.
Safety and bravery
Let me tell you a little bit about two emotions that play into your business and personal life on a daily basis: safety and bravery. Sometimes, these two emotions can live together in some form of peace; but most of the time, they are arch enemies. You feel their presence; but ultimately, you need to pick one over the other.
Safety is easy, but relatively short-term. Safety hates change. If he had a “look,” it would be kind of nerdy. He has a pocket protector and has a flat reaction to everything. It’s all about the right and wrong with Safety. Safety is good for keeping you out of jail, but terrible for innovation and growth. Safety keeps you hiding in your office, watching everyone else do amazing things. Safety tends to hide himself behind excuses like “Oh, well, I am just not that kind of person. That terrifies me.” or, “I just don’t think I can ever do that.” or, the ever-famous “I will learn that next year.” Sometimes, safety is sneaky and comes up behind you and whispers “You don’t want to do that. You might not like it. Plus, are you really good enough to do that?”
Safety is a friend, but a boring one. He will be the first one to comfort you if and when you fail, saying “It’s okay. We probably shouldn’t have done that, but I’m glad you came back to me. I will make sure you never fail again.”
Now, bravery… he’s different. Bravery is more like a rock star, with a confident swagger and a smooth answer to whatever questions are asked. Bravery is in it for the long haul. Bravery wants you to be successful. Bravery makes you realize your own strengths, and minimizes your weaknesses. Bravery wants you to learn more, work harder, and be better. Bravery makes you ask “Why not?” whenever you are faced with a tough call or the need for change.
Bravery doesn’t accept excuses. He would rather have you say that you tried, compared to never having done anything at all. Bravery has a lot of friends; namely, every single successful person and creative you know. Bravery loves questioning. He loves change and asking “why?”. He would give anything to see you do something that makes you better. Bravery wants you to do something that will help you to create a unique impact on this world.
From what I have learned, most photographers want to be best friends with bravery; but, they usually end up with that awful ex-boyfriend safety, who likes to tell you what to do on the daily.
One of the most common concerns I hear from photographers (and creatives in general) is that, even though they know that they need to change certain things in their business (whether it be switching to in-person selling, or something else), they don’t do it because they lack the confidence to actually follow through it. In other words, many creatives would rather face continual frustration and failure and stay with safety, than actually try to conquer their fears by going with bravery’s “Why not?” mentality. For so many, this fear is so debilitating that it can actually result in the eventual loss of their business.
Crazy, right? But, it happens all of the time.
How to be brave
Here are some tips that I have for you to learn how to make Bravery your BFF as you head into any change in your business:
1. Force yourself to think of the worst-case scenario. Will doing whatever you want to do potentially result in you, or someone else dying? Will you go out of business if you try a new technique?
Chances are, the answer is “probably not.”
If you are trying something dangerous; then of course! Think about that potential (and make sure your insurance policies are up-to-date). If you didn’t, I would call you crazy, and not brave.
If you are making a HUGE investment into something, then think about how that will affect your business and/or family in both the short- and long-term. Be methodical; but don’t let Safety scare you.
But, if it’s a matter of trying something like in-person selling for the first time, then trust me: you won’t die, and your business will not suffer (even though Safety will probably try to make you think that at least once). In fact, by being brave, you may see huge growth! Isn’t that worth giving your buddy Bravery a try?!
If you are afraid of the potential of hearing negative feedback, look at it this way: on the rare chance you will hear anything less than glowing feedback from your clients, think about what you can learn from actually listening to the feedback. If you want to hide under a rock and never hear what clients think about your work, and yet you get frustrated when you never have return clients, maybe this will be the turning point in your business! Boom. I just turned a negative potential into a positive thing. Bravery is in me today, friend!
If you are afraid of not being a raving success with the change you are living, don’t worry. It takes time to really learn something. Stick to it, learn from it, and grow. Don’t just walk away when the times get tough.
2. Learn more about your weaker points as a person and business owner. Are you scared about learning off-camera flash, but you know that you will need it at some point as a wedding photographer? Well. Learn it!! Make the time to do so, and really be passionate about turning this weakness into a strength.
What about speaking in front of people? Then, do it! There are many groups, such as Toastmasters International, that offers chapters throughout the country that forces you to speak publicly in a safe and educational environment. I go to Toastmasters every week and speak, because I am not going to let Safety limit me in my abilities. Weaknesses are like muscles. The more you flex them, the more they can actually help you and the less they will drag you down.
If you are weak on being a good business owner in general, consider investing in an amazing business coach, or really taking the time to learn how to run a business. Or, really focus your personal efforts on the art of business. A good mentor will help you work through your business weaknesses and will help you maximize your natural strengths.
Another option is to consider outsourcing your weaker points. If you are terrible about responding to e-mails, then look for a virtual assistant. If you don’t know how to keep your books, then hire a bookkeeper or a CPA. Do contracts scare you? Then, consult and attorney. Sometimes, the investment you make in paying someone else who loves doing something that you hate will pay itself off in dividends. After all, if you can do more of what you love and less of what you hate, then you and Bravery can hang out even more!
3. Take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back, and JUST DO IT! Spending your day hemming and hawing does no one any good. Except safety. Safety loves those two sounds.
Bravery wants you to get up and just do it. If you have an idea that can help make your business better, then do something to start that change. Get that ball rolling. If you need to calendar a test shoot to try out that new off-camera flash setup, then do it. If you need to take some tutorials to make sure that you don’t fumble through the shoot through Creative Live or through other local workshops. Don’t let that new gear get banished to your closet, along with the other “well-wished” gear that you have ordered over the years but have chickened out before using.
If you want to learn more about how to do in-person selling, then hey! I can help you on that, right now! My e-book, Show and Tell Selling: Making In-Person Sales Kindergarten-Easy (affiliate), is perfect for you! I walk you through every single step you will need to make in-person selling a success for your business. Pretty awesome, right? But, be sure to follow through and read it. Stare safety down and let bravery do a happy dance.
Life is too short to wonder about what could have been in your business and life. Be brave. There is nothing wrong with trying, and failing at first. At least you tried! My daughter’s teacher said something that was so deep the other day: she said that FAIL means “First Attempt In Learning.” How liberating is that?! If you at first you fail, try and try again. Don’t let Safety win.
Was my first attempt with in-person selling that I stressed about earlier in the article a total success? Eh. It was okay. I fumbled a bit. But, the order was still much better than my typical online sale, and I learned a lot regarding the procedure that I needed to follow (and later became Show and Tell Selling). I got better with every single in-person selling session I did. If I had given up after that first attempt (or even before that first attempt), I would have missed out on the most profitable aspect of my business. I would not have been able to put a down payment on our new home, and I would not have been able to help my family save for a vacation to Disney World. My taking Bravery by the hand has paid off over and over again.
Let me ask you now, who are you going to stay closer to now? Bravery or safety? Your choice. But I choose bravery every time (except when it comes to contracts or taxes. Then, I am all about safety!).