Community over competition is something you hear a lot in this industry. And I think it is quite unique to this industry. You never hear neighbouring pizza stores clamouring to share trade secrets with the local competition.
So why is that? What is so different about this industry that makes it so important to build that community around you?
Is it because we are small businesses, and often sole traders with no employees? This industry can certainly be lonely. No co-workers to chat to in the morning, no one to sit with at lunch breaks. No one to tell about that really tough shoot, and no one to share the triumph and sheer disbelief of your first really.big.sale.
It's isolating and sometimes scary making every decision by yourself. The buck really does stop with you. You're customer relations, you're marketing, you're the bookkeeper and the budget department and the CEO. Not to mention being a gun photographer and actually doing your job.
Having a photographer BFF (or several of them), replaces for us the 'work wife' you would have in an office job. Someone who just 'gets it'. You can text a quick 'TOUGH session' and they instantly know what it's like to sweat bullets in a 30 degree room with a refluxy baby that you're trying to get to sleep while a 2 year old runs circles around your feet bashing things with their toy car.
You can also, if you're lucky enough to have a community of local togs, share location secrets, cover for each other when you're sick, refer clients to each other in busy months and share props and backdrops.
Personally, I'm not even sure I would have made it in this industry if it wasn't for my network.
Let's rewind 7 years to when my son was a baby and I had a newborn photography business but was living in a new area and didn't know anyone. I joined a little Facebook Group based around people who had completed Kelly Brown's newborn posing course. I met lots of wonderful people in that group, many of whom I'm still in touch with to this day, but I also happened upon my future 'work wife'.
Our sons were born just 6 weeks apart and Kelly photographed them, both. We bonded over parenting, running a business and our weirdly parallel lives (that's a whole blog post in itself).
Since then I feel like we have grown up in this industry together. Honestly, I don't think either of us could quantify the effect we've had on each other's businesses. Endless advice, CC, stern-talking-tos about pricing too cheaply and joint shoots have occurred over the years. She's my sounding board before I launch any new idea, and that's more valuable than I could ever articulate.
Other than her, owning Eden Elizabeth has brought me into contact with ever widening circles of our photographer colleagues, and it gives me great joy watching the community we have built grow and flourish. I now have a troupe of photographers cheering on our business and I value them so much.
Recently I found myself in a tough situation and needed help quick. And three wonderful local ladies put their hands up and went to great lengths to help me, with less than 24 hours notice. One even SEWED ME A BONNET OVERNIGHT. That, my friends, is community.
So, blown away, I turned to our little Facebook VIP group to get their thoughts on community, and I've popped some of them below for you all to have a look through.
Belinda Stolzenberg of Saibelle Photography said "I have become close friends with a group of local photographers. We refer work to each other and recommend each other and share props. We often get together and discuss the business side of things and know that we are always there for each other to help whenever needed. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for this group of ladies."
Katie Toland of Katie Toland Photography said it beautifully 'Most of us work alone, in an industry where, our presence can be seen as competition. It’s quite an isolating career, so it’s really valuable to have friends who understand and support each other."
What do you all think? Come join the discussion in our VIP group
Written by Jennifer Horner of Jennifer Horner Photography