Oh, the excitement I felt when my husband, Jeff, and I began to imagine starting a photography business.

I was a new mom and we were living in our tiny mobile home. Those days spent holding our crying, teething child were long and exhausting.

We were two years into marriage and had decided to stay at home with our children. I remember thinking how different my life had become than when I was working at the fancy bank downtown as a business banker.

It was hard to feel important when nursing, mopping spit-up, and changing diapers felt like my unending duty. Starting a photography business seemed like the knight in shining armor that would help me feel valuable again.

Oh, the excitement I felt when my husband, Jeff, and began to imagine starting a photography business. I was a new mom and we were living in our tiny...

Fast forward: That baby is now 22 years old and married, and I’ve learned a lot over those intervening years. I want to share three valuable lessons I’ve learned in my desire to live life fully alive.

family portrait at a wedding by Parker J Pfister

First, whatever I seek first will organize every other thing in my life.

My heart’s desire has always been to be present in each moment of my life and to have deep, meaningful relationships with my family members. The opposite occurred when I made my business my No. 1 focus.

Unhappy with the life I created, I decided to listen to my heart again, to focus on my personal life and build my business life around it. I wanted time to take care of the physical needs of my family and my home, time to invest in my marriage and my kids, and time to enjoy life.

Once I understood what really mattered to me and how much time it required, I realized I had about 25 hours a week available to invest in my business. When I turned my focus to the things in life that matter to me, my business became a fun place for me to help provide for my family.

Second, I’ve learned that my business can be an expression of me, but not a source of my self-worth.

In those challenging days of being a young mom, I looked to my business to help me feel valuable. Instead, though, I felt less self-worth as I exhausted myself trying to earn it. I realized that my value comes from showing up as the person I truly am.

As I listen to my heart, it leads me to my heart’s desires — intimate relationships, sunsets, hikes, reading, farmers markets and so much more. As I choose to be still and present with my heart, more true love overflows from me to those around me. My creativity flows and my business is full of opportunities to grow in character with each new possibility.

picture of man and woman hugging and laughing in a field by Julia Woods

Last but not least, I have learned my clients will rarely give me more than I ask.

I have to believe in myself so they will believe in me. In that dangerous place of wanting my clients to tell me my worth, I was unwilling to ask for high prices. I judged my photographs against my competitors’ photos, pulled a number out of the sky that was higher than those of competitors I felt “better than” and lower than competitors I felt “less than.” I realized asking clients to tell me my worth was not working, and that I needed to shift my appraisal to what is it worth to me? I learned how to properly price, but then was scared by how much I needed to raise my prices to be profitable. Yet I knew that being happy and having time with my family was more important than my business, so I chose to face my fears and started charging what I needed to charge. And I learned how to attract the kind of clients who would pay my prices. These days I experience so much joy through working less for higher compensation and having the time to build real relationships with my clients.

As I’ve learned to seek first what matters most to me, to express myself through my business, and to believe I am worthy of the compensation I need, my heart’s deepest desires become a reality. My photography business is a creative outlet that enriches my soul and so it is worth the hard work I invest it. I respect my own time and energy and I recognize its value to me and to those I love. I can’t change my past, but I love that I get to choose my future. As I reflect on the effects of these lessons, I imagine the impact they could have had on me as a young mom and business owner in our tiny mobile home. I would have held my beautiful baby longer. I would have chosen to believe in myself by being present and loving despite my fears as a first-time mom. I would have reassured myself that all would be well and that she would grow into a beautiful woman, faster than I could imagine. And I would have always had the faith to trust my heart.

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