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Amateur vs Pro: Breaking Barriers

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We’ve all been there. At some networking event, a meetup for creative entrepreneurs or just some Facebook group, and we find ourselves feeling out of place. The room is full of amazingly talented people. They’ve been in the industry for years. They are the professionals that teach the other professionals. We look up to them. And we find ourselves feeling intimidated and a little lost. Why? Maybe we’re new to this. Maybe we are just testing out this whole entrepreneur thing. Maybe we feel like total amateurs.

Trying to achieve the elusive professional status may make you feel really important, but if it doesn’t help you live your life the way you want to live it or help your business grow, it’s only getting in the way. Let’s chuck this idea altogether. It’s not a tryout. It’s not like there is some switch the professional police flips and BAM, you get a certificate in the mail saying, “Congratulations! You’ve made it! You’re a Pro!”

In the wedding and portrait photography world, words like faux-tographer and mom-ographer are thrown around about those considered to be amateurs. These amateurs might have less experience or be self-taught. Some aspects of their business may be underdeveloped. Maybe they aren’t even getting paid! Who cares? Everyone has to start somewhere.

All that really matters is how you conduct yourself and your business. Being a pro means you pour your heart and soul into your business. It means you’re always learning. It means you’re always trying something new. If you fail, you try again. You keep what works and improve what doesn’t, both on the business side of things AND the creative.

So let’s all stop wondering if we are this or that. You get to make that choice. ACT like a professional, or don’t. Here’s the perfect place to start.

Be confident.
This could singlehandedly change your business. I can be pretty shy, so this hasn’t been something that comes naturally to me. Meeting with prospective clients can be intimidating! I’m a total woo (Don’t know what that is? Read Strengths Finders!), so in the first year of business, I was always worried about whether or not potential clients would like me or if I was going to say the things they wanted to hear. I found myself stumbling over my words, trying to guess what they wanted and sometimes even changing a service we offered right on the spot! I’m sure that looked desperate. Fear, the unknown and inexperience are the biggest roadblocks to being confident. The good news? It gets easier. Learn all you can. Go into every meeting, job, event or conference insanely prepared. Practice having conversations about what you do, how you do it and what makes you the best person for your clients. Sounds cheesy. But it works. Do these things often and you’ll find yourself looking and feeling confident.

Never be good enough.
If you are the best at something right now, but you aren’t working to get better, you won’t be the best for long. There is ALWAYS room for improvement. Things are always changing. Take social media, for example. Not only are new platforms always coming out, but the ones you already use are constantly changing. This concept can be a little daunting at times, but it’s something that I have come to love about being an entrepreneur. We also can get so caught up in the business side of things that we forget to continue growing as artists or in our creative field. Schedule time to practice and make sure to make time for the things that keep you inspired!

Do what you love.
No matter what kind of business you are building, it takes serious work. I couldn’t imagine trying to build something if I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing. It can be exhausting and draining, so without the passion to motivate you to push through, you could potentially find yourself in a pretty bad place. If there’s an aspect about running your business that you just can’t stand, or feel your time is better spent doing something else, then find someone else to do it! Outsource. Hire employees. Bring on an intern. Chances are they will do it better and more efficiently than you. You’d be amazed at how much brain power you’ll free up. It’s liberating.

Be consistent all the time.
What you do in your personal life and say on your personal social media platforms will affect your professional life. As an entrepreneur, people will not view you as “business you” and “personal you.” In my experience, I’ve come to believe people do the exact opposite. They will connect almost anything they’ve seen, experienced or heard about you to your business. (Side note: Use this to your advantage! This is SUCH an opportunity to make a connection to your audience and ideal clients.) YOU get to decide what kind of light people view your business in. Do this with consistency in your interactions with clients, others in your industry, on social media, when you are out for drinks with friends, on vacation or working at a coffee shop. You get the idea. The bottom line: there is nothing more unprofessional than seeing someone’s business life and personal life not match up. Chances are, people will remember what you don’t want them to. So, only give them the good stuff.

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