Define your own success - by HIYA MARIANNE.

Success is a loaded word. It encompasses everything we want from our business journey. We can definitely feel the absence of it, and yet we don’t always pay enough attention to what flavour of success we’re actually chasing. When you really break it down, success can be defined in many ways, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Success may mean financial freedom for some, while for others, it may mean creative fulfilment, a balanced lifestyle, or even personal growth. The key is to define success on your own terms, and not based on what society or others expect of you.

Over the years, I’ve been guilty of mistaking something that looks shiny from the outside for the kind of success that would make me happy only to find out that I was chasing entirely the wrong kind of things once I achieved it. Back in the days when I was still a wedding photographer, I achieved a level of external success pretty rapidly due to offering something different in a market that back then was still quite old-fashioned. I won awards, was featured in magazines weekly, did so many interviews and had more work and enquiries that I knew what to do with. Sounds amazing, right? Well, I quickly found out it was not a sustainable way of being for me. I felt stretched way too thin, I spent so much of my life just triaging enquiries and doing admin work, and a lot of the people who contacted me did so because I was perceived to be in demand, not because they necessarily resonated with my style or values.

Now, for someone this kind of success might be just the thing that makes them feel content in life. For me, compounded with health scares, it led to burnout and depression. After moving to the seaside and making a move into commercial photography, I was so much more aware of the type of business I wanted to have – and what would actually feel like success for me. It really came down to being able to have a slower life, to work with people who genuinely vibe with what I want to create, and to be able to set my own schedule without feeling the constant pressure of keeping up. At this point in my life, I am at my most content when I have enough work to live comfortably and have a better work-life balance. I don’t have a need to keep growing and conquering more and more. I’m not sure if that’s always going to be the case, but right now, success to me looks like something cosy.

That’s my view of success, so what should yours be? Let’s delve into how you might shape the way you build your own business while resisting that unmistakable urge to emulate someone else’s journey.

Personalised metrics of achievement

Defining success begins with an introspective exploration of your core values and objectives. It’s crucial to identify what truly matters to you – whether it’s artistic growth, work-life balance, financial stability, or community impact. By establishing your own metrics of achievement, you shift the focus from external validation to personal fulfilment.

There’s an obvious temptation to mirror the practices of successful peers. However, success stories differ due to unique circumstances, strengths, and aspirations. It’s also good to bear in mind that you can’t judge a book by its cover. You might feel envious of how someone else’s success appears from the outside, but you’ll never know what goes on behind closed doors. You don’t know how someone else’s business is structured or even if they are actually profitable or fulfilled in what they do. Instead of looking to others, embrace your individuality as an artist and entrepreneur and let your distinct perspective guide your approach and define your creative niche.

Crafting a purposeful business model

Your business model should reflect your personal vision of success. Tailor your services, pricing, and target audience so that they fully resonate with your strengths and passions. Whether you aim to serve niche markets or offer diverse services, ensure that every business decision aligns with your values and long-term goals.

Success is not necessarily measured by the volume of clients or the number of projects you’re taking on. Prioritise delivering exceptional quality that aligns with your artistic integrity. Focusing on projects that ignite your passion and showcase your skills can lead to more significant satisfaction and a well-earned reputation for excellence.

Work-Life integration

Creative businesses thrive on inspiration and being able to pour from your imagination. Establish boundaries that protect your creative energy and while fostering a healthy work-life balance, because success should also be about cherishing meaningful moments outside your business pursuits.

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of constantly chasing targets: more clients, more bookings, more followers, and more money. While it’s natural to want to grow and improve your business, it’s important to ask yourself how much is enough. At what point do you feel content and fulfilled with your work and life, without feeling overwhelmed or burnt out?

Happiness and fulfilment should be integral components of your success equation. Take regular stock of how your work aligns with your personal joy and satisfaction. If your business journey is bringing you long-term happiness, then you’re already on the right path.

Success isn’t static

Take on board the fact that success isn’t a one-time destination, rather it’s an ongoing journey. As you grow and evolve as a person and photographer, your definition of success may change, and that’s perfectly okay. The most important thing is to stay true to yourself and strive to build a business that reflects your unique personality, values, and strengths.

Embrace ongoing change and learn to adapt your strategies as you gain more experience. If your photography business is constantly evolving to accommodate your changing aspirations and market trends, you’re successfully managing to align your journey with your life’s narrative.

Defining success requires discarding the notion of a predetermined mould and embracing the unique dimensions of your particular journey. By forging a path that’s tailored to your values, aspirations, and creative inclinations, you’re poised to achieve your own fulfilling and resonant version of success.

Different ways success can be defined:

1. Financial success – making a comfortable living doing what you love
2. Work/life balance – having the freedom to set your own schedule and work from wherever you feel like
3. Creative fulfilment – being able to pursue your passion and create work that is meaningful to you
4. Personal growth – continually learning and improving your craft, and feeling a sense of accomplishment
5. Impact – making a positive impact on your clients or community through your work
6. Autonomy – being your own boss and having control over your own business decisions
7. Flexibility – having the ability to pivot and adapt to changing market conditions or personal circumstances
8. Community – building a supportive network of fellow photographers or clients who share your values and vision
9. Innovation – pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in your field and bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to the table
10. Nomadic lifestyle – having the ability to travel and explore different parts of the world while still running your business.


Define your own success - by HIYA MARIANNE.



A version of this column was originally published in Professional Photo magazine issue 212.