Earlier this year, I considered entering a large art competition. I had an idea, support behind me in terms of executing it, and thought I could deliver it without a hitch. It was going to be a large-scale photography piece that would be installed on the side of a building.

The problem? I underestimated what it would take, and after taking a step back, decided to pass on the opportunity.

It’s challenges like these that make us better as creatives and as entrepreneurs because we ultimately have to decide what’s best for our business. And that’s not always saying “yes” at every given opportunity.

Why I said no

I knew the art piece would be a major time investment on my part. I loved the idea. I thought it was creative. So I talked to a few local artists about it. They loved the idea, too.

What ultimately made me walk away was the fact that I didn’t see a clear path as to how it would benefit my business. If I was going to put in the time to set up the photoshoot and install the piece, I needed a clear path as to how it would help me grow in the community as a business person — not just a creative.

Knowing my late summer and early fall schedule would be busy, I knew that my time was going to be lacking due to the client commitments I had. I also know that I’d have to turn down some future work in order to make the idea a reality. It’s something I just wasn’t willing to do, as a mine is still a very young business.

The importance of choice and a focus

Saying no to this opportunity ultimately led me to reflect on my career. Was I taking the right jobs? Was I marketing to the right people? I make a majority of my income from corporate events, which is something I enjoy doing. Community leaders know me as an event photographer. It was a path I stumbled upon very early into my career, and it’s one I’m glad I took. And thinking on the large art piece — that had absolutely nothing to do with the path I was walking on.

So instead of putting my efforts into the large art piece, I decided to drill down and continue to narrow my business focus. That meant doing things like networking with community leaders and business owners. It meant making some edits to my website and social media to reflect this decision. I went all-in on marketing myself as an event photographer, which is what I am good at, known for and enjoy doing the most.

How do you know your focus?

Earlier this year I talked about developing an elevator pitch. This should include your focus point, which for me, was photographing corporate events. As I mentioned above, it’s what I’ve become known for. What you photograph has to be something you enjoy, and something that you’re good at. Think of how you can grow what you love doing for the future. If you’re struggling to figure out how to grow your business focus, you might want to expand that by looking at what you love to do.

In my case, I shoot corporate events. They lead me to shoot some architecture and portraits for those same clients. So, I become a broader “corporate” photographer by not just focusing on events. But I’m still known to my client as “the guy who photographs our events,” while helping them with their other needs as well.


For more on Photography Marketing, see our weekly column.