Do you have that “stuck” feeling in your photography business? You know the one – the awful feeling that you’re making very little progress, despite working long hours and putting in what feels like 150% of the effort. The good news is this is completely normal, and you’re really feeling the effects of what’s known as “the plateau effect“.
The even better news is there are ways to get off the plateau and start moving again, and we’ll get into that shortly.
But how did you manage to get stuck in the first place?
I’m very sure it wasn’t through a lack of enthusiasm, or for the want of trying. Like most readers of this blog, you’re a dedicated photographer who truly cares about being running a successful photography business, right?
Chances are, you just ran into something that most businesses hit at some point or another, but you just didn’t recognize it for what it was…
In The Beginning…
You started out on the road to creating your own photography business full of enthusiasm, optimism, and with that sparkle in your eye that said, “the future looks brighter than an over-exposed snowfield…”
In the beginning, your enthusiasm was almost contagious!
People responded to your photography, you booked assignments, your clients raved over your photographs, and even referred other people to you.
Yes! Being a professional photographer promised to be a great ride!
But it didn’t quite turn out that way, did it? At least not yet…
At some point (and it’s hard to know exactly when it happened), you suddenly realized that you’re putting in a lot more effort, spending more time at your computer editing when you’d rather be enjoying time with your family, feeling more tired than usual, finding it harder to book new clients, feeling cranky or getting into arguments with family members, and generally growing more and more frustrated with both yourself and your business.
For example, if you’re reading this blog post late at night because that’s the only time you can spare to catch up with this kind of thing, then you know what I’m talking about here, don’t you?
Life suddenly feels like you’re trying to swim against a current that keeps getting stronger with every painful stroke – before you know it, you’re going nowhere fast and in real danger of actually going backwards!
In short, you’ve reached a plateau.
The Plateau Effect
This is not a fun place to be in.
Life on the plateau can really stink, especially if you’ve been stuck there for an extended period of time. Symptoms of being subject to the plateau effect manifest themselves for my photography mentoring students in many ways, for example:
- “No matter what I try, I just can’t seem to attract new clients…”
- “Help! Editing photographs until 2am, and then having to get up at 6am to get the kids ready for school is wearing me out!”
- “What happened to my good clients? The only people I see these days seem to complain about everything, including my prices…”
- “I’m exhausted, and don’t have the energy left to do the sessions I am managing to book…”
- “Why do I feel like I’m beginning to despise being a photographer? I used to love it so much, and now I feel like a fraud when I tell my clients that I’m passionate about what I do!”
- “I never realized life as a pro photographer would be this hard! My spouse wants me to quit and get a ‘real’ job, and I honestly don’t know how to avoid having to do that!”
- And so on…
- “I feel like my photography business is failing, and I don’t know what to do! Please help!”
First off, the people who feel this way are NOT bad photographers, or even particularly bad at being in business.
They’ve simply encountered a natural plateau in their business, and aren’t aware of how to get off it and move to the next level.
But it CAN be done!
Here’s a short video explaining the plateau effect better than I can:
“The Plateau Effect” – A Great Book To Get You Unstuck
Better still, check out this great new book from Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson, called (oddly enough) “The Plateau Effect“. Here’s what they have to say about the book on Amazon:
“The Plateau Effect shows how athletes, scientists, therapists, companies, and musicians around the world are learning to break through their plateaus – to turn off the forces that cause people to ‘get used to’ things – and turn on human potential and happiness in ways that seemed impossible.
The book identifies three key flattening forces that generate plateaus, two principles to guide readers in engineering a plateau’s destruction, and three actions to take to achieve peak behavior.
It helps us to stop wasting time on things that are no longer of value and to focus on the things that leverage our time and energy in spectacular ways.Anything you want to do better – play guitar, make friends, communicate with your children, run a business – you can accomplish faster by understanding the plateau effect.”
This book is a prime example of looking outside the photography business to find the answers we need to common problems, and I urge you to grab a copy for yourself to see how you can make your stay on the plateau a short one.
You’ll be glad you did – and so will your family!