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How to Fail…Successfully

I think it’s safe to say that none of us strive to fail. But the bigger question is, when we do fail, how do we react?  Not every project or new business endeavor is going to be a runaway success — this is one (of the many) harsh realities of being an entrepreneur among the creative class (and if you read this blog, you fall within this demographic).  Failure has often proven to be the bitter pill that a business owner occasionally swallows in order to ensure increased productivity and future success.  Not meeting various stretch goals, or watching initiatives fall flat, are (ironically) attributes of a healthy growing business. And, as professional photographers and business owners, I encourage you to acknowledge failure as a positive force in the growth of your business, and your learning process.

Successfully failing involves learning from mistakes and trying new plans and strategies; it’s about abolishing fear (no doubt one of the hardest things to do) and engaging in calculated risk-taking endeavours; it’s about allowing failure to wake you up from a complacent stupor and become an inspired business leader.

While the concept of failing can seem extremely intimidating, it can actually represent an incredibly positive force in the development of your business. It teaches us where we go wrong, and because of the consequences, ensures that we aim to never make the same mistake twice.  I regard my many failures as fundamental lessons that could never be taught through any college course or graduate program.  The key is to reflect on these failures, grow from them….and MOVE ON quickly (wallowing in the failure is a productivity drain).

Complacency Killer
Failure is a veritable slap in the face, without which we risk slipping into complacency. A successful photography business requires a constant influx of creative energy in order to deal with the array of problems and challenges that arise on a daily basis. Falling into complacency will see a business change from a setting of dynamic action to a stagnant and uninspired one. Failure is the slap in the face we need to remind us to wake up, learn from our mistakes and do better in the future. There’s nothing quite like the sting of failure to jump-start you into action.

Never Plan to Fail, However, be Prepared for Failure
All your business’ goals, strategies and plans should be geared for uncompromising success.  But (the inevitable “but”) it’s fundamental to be prepared in the event that you fall short of these goals. Consider taking a step back and evaluating where it is your business went wrong and learn from these mistakes. Failure offers indispensable life lessons that are worthless if you don’t pay attention.

One of the biggest challenges to overcome in our line of business is fear (fear of raising our prices, fear of not meeting client expectations, fear of making the leap to full time, etc). The difference between a competent business and one that’s successful is often the absence of fear and the presence of risk-taking. Taking measured risks in business can fuel immense success.  Even if you fail, you can take away a valuable lesson and try a different strategy next time. Some of the biggest success stories in business began with a failure that led to a different path (i.e., Coca Cola, Virgin, IBM,…)

I encourage you to take some time and consider your past failures.  Learn from the highly valuable, relevant lessons and spin them into future success and growth of your photography business.

We encourage you to share your experiences in the comments.  What was one of your recent failures and what did you learn?

Written by Scott Anderson

As Senior Community Manager at Pictage, Scott Anderson proclaims to have the best job ever.  In addition to helping build a nationwide community of professional photographers, he photographs weddings and portrait sessions for clients throughout Southern California.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!