After 10 years of running my own food photography business, I wanted to share some of the setbacks and failures I’ve experienced.
Creating a business from scratch that pays your bills is hard. It wasn’t easy for me despite what it looked like from the outside peeking in.
I love the food photography community, who have supported me endlessly and I feel a responsibility to talk about my true journey.
It pains me that somebody might quit because their journey feels hard, it’s not happening the way you thought it should. Or we compare our journey to others and what it looks like on social media.
This journey is unique and can be a lonely one. I want you to know that you’re not alone. In sharing my setbacks, I hope to show you, we all have them.
Make sure to hit play on the video above or watch on YouTube: 15 Mins of Failure (& Setbacks).
Failures and Setbacks: Trying To Start a Business
The first time I left my full-time job to start photography, two weeks later, my husband lost his working visa. We were both out of work and it was a terrible time to start a business.
For the next six months, I worked a retail job 7 days a week to support us and wasn’t able to work on my business at all. It sucked but I knew that was something out of my control. I could try to start my business again later.
Once we sorted my husband’s visa out, I was working part-time as a photographer and working part-time in retail. I gave in to family and social pressure to pursue a management position with a salary. I temporarily gave up on my business.
This job was so toxic and took me down the wrong path for a few months before I decided I need to listen to what I wanted.
Life Thew Further Setbacks with a Death in the Family
Coming back to try running my business again, (but this time full-time), my mother-in-law passed away. We had to fly back and forth between Canada and Australia for six months to be with family.
Again, this was not a good time to work on a new business. Everything was very stop-start and we were also dealing with the loss of a family member that we loved.
It was a really hard mental battle to manage the loss of a loved one, trying to be creative, and working on a business. The process felt disheartening that here I was three years later and I still couldn’t make it work.
The silver lining, was these events taught me there is so much in life I couldn’t control, the one thing I could control was the ability to try again.
Hustle Leads to Burnout: Business Setbacks
Once I had the opportunity to work on my business full-time, that’s what I did. I hustled my butt off. Taking every job possible, networking, learning skills, asking for feedback, and connecting with other like-minded people.
But what ended up happening is I burnt myself out. I’d worked so hard for next to nothing, that I had gotten myself into this space where I had no energy. I was fatigued and my mental health was suffering.
I ended up having to take three months off my business, again.
So here I was, I’d just spent three years trying to make this work full-time. I’d had all these setbacks and I finally got to this place of being able to work on my business full time and I couldn’t cut it
I wasn’t sure how I was going to move forward.
How Can You Charge That Much?
My first couple of client experiences were really challenging (but I learned a lot from them). My first ever paid gig was an event client, where I had to shoot people with food and the client wasn’t happy with the photos I sent them.
At the first food photography gig I took, they wanted a lot of things. So I charged a lot of money. I was astounded that I was paid that much, however, this client turned out to be a bit of a challenge.
The creative director took me out for a coffee. She sat me down and said, “You can’t charge this much”.
The whole conversation had a tone. Who are you to charge this much? We won’t work with you if you charge this much. I was so new, this didn’t feel like a conversation to me. It felt like a takedown and it really rattled my confidence.
Discovering How to be Kinder on Myself
I really wanted to make the educational part of my business work. My first digital product and coaching didn’t go so well. I sold around five eBooks, which was really disheartening for me. More proof that again, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.
It led me to a place where my mental health was really challenged.
I actually ended up having a panic attack and I realised this wasn’t the way I wanted to live. I was putting so much pressure on myself and working too hard. Taking any jobs. I wasn’t feeling like I was in control and I had to step back again.
So I went back to sewing pants for two days a week to make ends meet, to also give myself a break. It was a really good job. I worked with some great people and it ended up being really therapeutic which was exactly what I needed.
At the same time, I also felt like a complete failure. When people would ask how photography was going, I had to tell them I’m back working two days a week, sewing pants in order to survive.
What stood out for me the most in that situation was that I really wanted to make this work. I wanted to give it my best. I changed how I thought about myself and the pressure and expectations I put on myself.
My Perspective Changed Everything
After all the failures and setbacks, I realised that I needed to start working on the things I wanted to work on.
The best part is that people took notice when I worked on things that I was passionate about. Like creating editing courses and writing about my Nikon gear.
Just when I started to make a name for myself, we moved to the other side of the world. I had mixed feelings about this new chapter. I’d worked so hard to get to this point and now I was facing having to start all over again.
This time I wasn’t so scared of the change, because it felt more like a metamorphosis. That I could choose to leave the parts of my business that weren’t working and move forward with the things that I really wanted to do.
I had done this once and I knew I could do it again. I also started to really trust myself.
This is when my business really started to take off.
10 Years of Business Setbacks Taught Me
These last 10 years of business have really taught me that there is no success without setbacks or failures.
There is so much that we cannot control within creativity and within life. The only thing that we can control is getting up every day and trying again.
If you feel like things are hard, you’re probably on the right path.
Building a creative business is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, but know you’re not alone. I hope you keep trying.
It’s taken me 10 years to be comfortable enough to share some of the setbacks and failures that I’ve experienced. My hope in doing so is that you won’t give up because maybe you thought my journey was easier or different.
Remember it’s all about the long-term game. Do anything you can to survive. To be less stressed. To be kind to yourself, to trust and believe in yourself.
If you want to improve your mindset, head to my post on My Journey Into Food Photography.
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