56: Unpopular Opinions – More Sessions Doesn’t Mean More Success

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Does being booked and busy truly mean success? Today’s episode is the first in a four-part series on my unpopular opinions about commonly-held beliefs in the wedding photography business. I’m starting off by disputing the claim that a full calendar has anything to do with your success. 

The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur while balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in, yet willing to talk about the hard stuff too, Shoot It Straight Podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight

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This episode is brought to you by The Round Table, a community built for female photographers who want to continue growing their business while forging industry friendships along the way! Every month, you get access to three new pieces of content covering a vast variety of topics from myself and guest speakers. Come join us and get access to the content and private Facebook community!

Review the Show Notes:

The first unpopular opinion (0:56) 

Your season of life (2:09)

Your goals (3:22)

Finances and your money mindset (4:57)

Your mental health (7:00) 

What success looks like (8:21)

Episode Links:

Round Table Membership

Root to Rise Waitlist

Business Blueprint Freebie

Sustainability Freebie

The Aligned Photographer

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Review the Transcript:

Welcome to the shoot it straight podcast. I’m your host, Sabrina Gephardt. Here I will share an honest take on what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur. while balancing business motherhood and life myself along with my guests will get vulnerable through honest conversations and relatable stories because we’re willing to go there. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in yet willing to talk about the hard stuff to to shoot it straight podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight. Welcome back to the shoot it straight podcast my friend. This episode is the first in a four part series of unpopular opinions. And man oh man, I’m so excited to dive into this series because it is going to be such a fun chat. Okay, let’s jump straight in and get the series kicked off. The first unpopular opinion that I want to unpack is this thinking that photographers have that is how many sessions you have on the calendar defines how successful you are. This is something that I see so often in newer photographers. And honestly, I see this in some super experienced photographers who could even be considered industry leaders in some eyes. And friend, this drives me absolutely crazy. Your success is not tied to how many sessions you have on the calendar, you’re worth is not tied to how many sessions you have on your calendar.

Your expertise is not tied to how many sessions you have on your calendar, being able to say that you’re fully booked months in advance is not a flex, being able to say that you were slammed with 20 3040 sessions a month is not a flex, having to turn down personal and professional experiences because you are photographing sessions so much that you don’t have time for anything else is not a flex. I think this opinion is so wrong. And I’m going to explain why. First of all, this opinion doesn’t take into account your season of life. What do I mean by that? Well, the amount of sessions that you have room for on your calendar is going to be vastly different. Depending on what season of life you’re in. The single woman who’s working a full time job, versus the single woman running a full time photography business has very different availability. The same goes for the mama who has toddlers at home, versus the mom who has all school aged children. And what about the single mom with multiple businesses versus a mom who’s homeschooling multiple children, your physical capacity to take on sessions is going to be super different in each season of life and you cannot compare your season and availability to someone else’s.

You have to stay in your own lane and make sure that you are doing your best in your season, not someone else’s season. If that means that you only have time for four sessions a month, then perfect. Serve those four clients to the best of your ability and ignore your competitor who has 30 sessions a month, their business is their business, and it’s not a concern of yours. The second reason that this opinion of more sessions equals more success. It doesn’t take into account your goals. We all have different goals and things that are important to us. Unless your goal is actually to book as many photo sessions as possible. And side note, please don’t ever let that be your goal. But unless that is your actual goal, then you shouldn’t be focused on it at all. This is why you have to have goals and definitions of success for you. This is why you need to know what your dreams are so that you’re chasing the right thing. When we make the mistake of thinking that more sessions equals more success, we are completely ignoring what really matters to us.

Because I really doubt that what matters to you is how much you get to leave your house and your family to photograph other people. I bet what actually matters to you is hitting a certain financial goal, or getting published in a prestigious magazine, or using your business to fund something like a big vacation or a car payment or paying off debt. Or maybe your goal is to develop a body of work that is super consistent, or to pivot into a new genre. Or maybe it’s to be seen as an expert so that you can step into the education space. Whatever your goals are, whether I mentioned to them or not, is most likely not related to how many sessions you photograph. Yes, even if your goal is a financial goal. Hitting financial goals is so important that there are plenty of ways to do that without trying to photograph as many sessions as possible. Let me take a brief pause and mention that if this is Something that you are struggling with the financial piece of your business, the working on your numbers, your profitability, your expenses, your rates, and potentially most important of all your money mindset.

If this is hard for you, there are a ton of free resources out there and I would encourage you to take some time to dive into them and do some research. And I will also mention that these things are covered in both my online course the aligned photographer, and in my route to rise mastermind, I’m going to have both of those linked in the show notes if you want to explore them. Today’s episode is brought to you by route to rise a four month mastermind and retreat for female photographers. That is where personal development meets business growth. During the four month experience, students have weekly calls focusing on a variety of topics that both better their lives and their businesses. Think topics like goals, boundaries, money and marketing, and many many others. The program also includes incredible guest teachers, a private Facebook community and weekly Voxer hours, where you get individualized guidance and mentoring from me on topics that matter to you and your business. One of the best parts of the experience is definitely the three day in person retreat. Consider this the most fun girls weekend ever. We eat well do yoga, photograph three sessions, work through portfolio reviews, take headshots and build deep friendships, I can tell you that the women who have gone through this program have had some absolutely incredible transformations reached massive goals and changed the trajectory of their businesses. If you want to get on the waitlist to be notified when enrollment opens again soon, you can head over to the link in the show notes and get on that list. And now back to the episode.

Okay, so the third reason that I think this fake opinion this false thought that business success equals how many sessions you have is wrong, is because it doesn’t account for your mental health. If you are newer in business, you probably haven’t experienced this yet. But burnout is what happens when you work too much on a regular basis. And if you’re still in that honeymoon phase of your business where you can’t get enough, and you just want to photograph anything and everything, then you just have to trust me on this burnout will come for you.

The main thing you need to avoid burnout or to recover from burnout is time and space away from work. And if you’re constantly chasing this thought that the more sessions I have, the more successful I am, then you’re not allowing for that time and space, you are quite literally prioritizing clients and strangers over your own physical and mental health. And this is a very dangerous mistake. And it could cost you health problems, relationship problems, and even your business. Burnout is one of the main reasons that most photography businesses don’t make it past the three year mark. They go hard and fast and they chase completely the wrong things. And then they literally crash and burn. I don’t want that for you. So if I don’t believe that more sessions equals more success, you might be thinking, what do I actually think success looks like? What if you looked at success through a different lens?

Like taking less sessions and making more money? Or being able to take as much time off as you want? Or what about being mentally and physically healthy and thriving? What about being successful, if it could mean having the time and space to squeeze in last minute opportunities, whether personal or professional, or having the mental and physical capacity for personal and business development and growth. And above all, success is running a sustainable business for years, and actually bringing in a good paycheck. It’s so simple. Those are things that I think define success. But as I mentioned earlier, those might not align with your definition of success. And that’s okay. You have to do you. But just remember that despite what you’re seeing around the internet, more sessions does not mean more success, hard paths, calling the shots, charging top dollar, creating space in your days and weeks. Knowing when to say no knowing when to say yes, running a profitable business year, over year over a year.

These are all markers of real success. And none of them have to do with having a zillion sessions on your calendar. So ignore your competitors out there who are chasing high volume just to look successful. You can be so much more successful without having to do this Same thing. All right. That’s it for today my friend join me here next week for the second series episode in this series unpopular opinion number two. Thanks so much for listening to the shoot it straight podcast. You can find all the full show notes and details from today’s episode at Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash podcast comm find me and connect over on the gram at Sabrina Gebhart photography. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be honored if you hit that subscribe button and leave me a review. Until next time, my friends shoot it straight.


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