What does that even mean for an artist, especially an artist in business? As a wedding photographer of over twenty years, my business has gone from a small Florida operation to a large New York studio. I’ve leveled up many times, and I’ve compiled a practical list of ways to do just that.
As you become a more well-rounded person, you become a better artist. When I first tried to elevate my work I dug in hard to the technical side of things. I studied and composition, took workshops and practiced for hours. My technical skills improved, but my artistry didn’t. It wasn’t until I turned to other art forms that I began to grow as a creative. Books, movies, museums, they all fed my artist heart. Beyond that, traveling, experimenting with other art forms, forming deeper friendships – they all strengthened the human being behind the business. Every time I invested in myself as a person, my art and business took a huge leap.
It’s easy to get complacent and not notice areas where you are falling short. Whenever things feel stagnant I start at the bottom and work up : what can I improve on? I search for ways to tighten my client correspondence and customer service, look over all of my price lists for weak spots, run financial reports to see where I’m most profitable and make adjustments in my offerings, scan the budget for places I’m spending too much or too little money, and re-evaluate my workflows. Every time I do this I find ways to tighten up, improve the client experience, make more money, and communicate better with both clients and leads.
Every year I sit down with my work from the previous twelve months and choose favorites for competitions, blog posts, social media, etc. This forces me to really spend some time with the body of work I made over that time. I look for emerging technical flaws, places where I might have been a bit lazy, and identify areas that I need to work on. From there I actively work on strengthening those specific technical skills. Rather than just fling myself into education, I go into it with precise goals. This helps me stay focused!
I used to scoff at personal projects, thinking “Why would I want to work when I’m not at work?” I realize now how shortsighted that was. When I’m creating just for myself there are no expectations. It’s playtime, pure and simple. Once the pandemic began affecting my business I looked for other outlets to stay creative, and it’s pushed my client work into a new place as well. If you’re not sure what you want to shoot, that’s okay also! Just shoot…anything. I started with the park nearby, moved to the cemetery, and now documenting the seasons there gives me great joy. These personal projects are sometimes awful, sometimes the work never gets seen because I don’t like the results, but it’s a great way to bring your work back to what it started as : something you loved for yourself.
I hope these tips help you the next time you’re wondering how to kickstart your business to that mysterious next level. They have worked for me for years, and I hope something here inspires you!