It's Not About the Money, Money {But it kinda is...} | With Teri Hofford Photography

When I first started boudoir photography I found myself looking at what other people were doing and becoming so consumed with their successes, talents, and experiences that I found myself slipping more and more down a slope of depression and sadness. The internet, of course, fueled this fire because I "liked" every photographer within a 100 mile radius of me who was shooting the same genre as I. About 3 weeks into this pit of sadness, I realized that I had been focusing so much on everyone else's businesses that mine was slipping away and that is when I had my first experience with finding out the "why". One week later, I had unliked all the pages that made me feel like shit, I didn't even know (and still don't) who my "competition" is or what they are doing and why, and I focused on the heart of my business....I wasn't just in this to create pretty pictures....I had a message, I had a soul and I had a purpose. My unique gift was that of understanding and educating my clients on body image, being authentic, and providing them with therapy (dubbed Teri-py or Tough Love Teri, in my studio).

Fast forward 2 years later and you would find me working alongside those that I had thought of as my mentors and from afar you would think "this babe has her shit together and is 'living the dream'" and while yes, I was living the dream....but I had fallen back into old habits. I was now involved in more active Facebook groups with people earning super high figures and maintaining a "work-life" balance where they did less shoots and worked more and I thought that I needed to do that.

Photo Credit: Kristina Hoksbergen

At the beginning of this year, I changed my pricing to a more boutique model...charging more, to shoot less. Because this is what "everyone" dreams about....or at least that's what it seemed in the forums where people were talking about their $8,000+ sale days. I looked at my work and felt it was extremely comparable, so there is no reason why I shouldn't be able to rake in the same amount of cash as these photogs.....well, yes, there is a reason.

You see, my whole mission summed up is to impact as many women as I possibly can. How can I impact as many women as possible if I am pricing myself out of their reach? And yes, I get pricing yourself for your value, but the thing was my value doesn't necessarily just lie in the $$ figures that I am bringing in. For me....I need to work and I need to work a lot. I don't know what days off are because I simply hate them. My soul is fed by empowering women and suddenly I was down to 4-6 shoots a month when previously I would do 12-15!! One month in, I could feel that sadness start creeping up again...why wasn't I happy? I was doing what all of these other successful photographers were doing!! I should be excited that my ONE client was willing to drop $5000+ the first time around....but I wasn't because I had lost site of my WHY. Here I was, the same situation I was in when I first started, but this time I wasn't comparing myself to the people in my city, I was comparing myself to people that lived in bigger cities, that had different priorities than me, that wanted to balance their work with their families, or wanted to support their babies. They had their own game to play and once again I was trying to play theirs when I wasn't meant to.

I realized that money doesn't drive me or feed my soul and yes, I know I need to make it in order to live the life that I want, but even when doing my business plan, I started with how many women I wanted to affect in a year, as opposed to a $ amount. So, I wrote an extremely humbling blog post apologizing to my clients and letting them know why the new price structure wasn't sitting well with me. I was transparent and honest and I think that it not only let my soul sigh with relief, but it did help a few other photographers and business owners that get caught up in chasing the almighty dollar when their heart wasn't feeling it. Now, let me be clear, I am not saying one way is better than the other...the whole point of this tale is show you that every business is different because people are different and the differences are what's going to make you happy, which is going to make your clients happy...whatever that looks like to you!

o, for me, it's not about the money, money (to quote Jessie J), but I will now speak to the "it kinda is" part of the title. At the end of the day, I personally have a lifestyle that I want to support and that includes things like travel, new equipment, the odd sick day, or just splurge on some clothes (I fucking love clothes...), so because I have to keep my business afloat and prosperous in order to affect as many women as I can in the way that I want, I still have an end monetary goal that I need to meet. I did my cost of goods (HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS TO THOSE STARTING OUT) and what I wanted to earn and then divided by the number of women I could feasibly shoot in a year. Suddenly, I had a number that I was comfortable at that stil put me as the highest paid boudoir photographer in my city, but didn't restrict me from my babes. Now, I am more driven, motivated, and excited than when I was trying to be someone else. I shoot about 3-4 times a week (sometimes more if I feel like it), I shoot when I travel, I do workshops when I travel, I do whatever I can to speak to my WHY with every interaction and every business decision and still make the $$ amount that makes me happy. I don't need to be super rich (to be honest, I would just spend the money on my business anyway...) And I am sure that some day in the future, I will lose my way a bit again, because we all tend to get the same challenges, just with a different look (first time I was trying to be someone else's business, this time I was trying to be someone else's success)...but if I keep that WHY echoed in my mind, I am certain I will always find my way back to what makes my soul sing.

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