We had the good fortune of connecting with Allison Bolin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Allison, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
I firmly disagree with the thought that you must hustle hard in your first few years of business to be worthy of success. Of course you can and should work hard to build your business the best you can, but I don’t believe pushing yourself over and over and over again without any rest will bloom any kind of sustainability for you in the long term. Constantly working at 200% all day every day for weeks and months and years leads to immense burnout that is incredibly hard to recover from. “Hustle culture” has created a mindset that you must overexert yourself constantly or your business won’t “make it”- which doesn’t leave room for taking care of yourself and your needs. As small business owners, we cannot have a successful, long-term business without first taking care of ourselves!
Part of the reason I decided to start a wedding photography business was due to the burn out I experienced at my first job out of college. While I loved my previous job so much, the constant go-go-go and major crises happening daily wore me out so quickly that I couldn’t catch my breath. On days where I finally had some time to rest and catch up on smaller tasks, I was barely able to function. My mental health declined, I was exhausted every day, and I truly didn’t think I would ever feel like “me” again. It took all of my energy to just show up towards the end of my previous job, without leaving any space for me to thrive and grow, let alone do my job well.
Once my business started getting busier, and things got hectic following COVID postponements and reschedules, I felt the burn out coming on strong again. After barely 1.5 years of feeling refreshed and excited to do a job I love so much, I could tell that I was losing steam as I was trying to put too much on my plate within such a small time frame. Once I realized old patterns starting up again, I decided that 2021 would be different. I knew that if I didn’t begin to pace myself and give myself time to pause, take care of my mental and physical health, and take time to do things I enjoy outside of my business, that my business would shutter within a few years time. I decided to put limits and boundaries on how many weddings and clients I would take each month, allowing myself to finally say “no” sometimes. As someone who loves to people-please this was incredibly hard for me, but so vitally important to my health and my ability to serve and love on my clients well.
I’m now in a season of life that I can recognize I am 1000% better off giving myself grace to rest so that I am my best not only for my clients and my business, but myself. I’m still learning my boundaries and teaching myself how to create a good balance between working well and resting well. However, I know that my business will continue to grow and will be around for years to come. I may not be hitting goals as rapidly as the next photographer, but I know I will be able to enjoy growing my business at my own pace without risking my well-being. I am a firm believer that if you give yourself space to be kind to yourself and allow yourself rest, you’ll have more motivation to do your best for your business, and success will follow.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I always have loved photography- even since I was little. I used to have a small Barbie Poloarid camera that I’d use to take photos of anything and everything- my parents, shrubs outside my window, my dogs, my toys. When I got a digital camera in 5th grade I would take my camera with me everywhere and document every moment I could. Through middle and high school I became that person who allllways had their camera with them. I even began experimenting with film in high school with old cameras given to me by friends and family. I quickly realized that I enjoyed being behind the camera much more than in front of it, but never thought of it as something I could do as a job. Photography was always just a hobby for me, something that brought me a lot of joy and peace.
When I was in college I decided to get myself a “nice camera” just because I finally could. I began taking photos of my friends in my organization, which lead to senior portraits for friends graduating, and eventually to new people who just wanted to hire me for their senior portraits!
A couple years into my first job out of college, I realized that I was getting burnt out and that I didn’t think I could do that type of job long term. I knew that I wanted to help people in some capacity, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to accomplish that. I decided to try something that always made me anxious- wedding photography. I had told myself for years that I’d never do wedding photography. I was convinced that it was too important of a day, and I was so worried and anxious that I didn’t have the guts to photograph such a monumental time in someone’s life, on the off-chance something happened and I missed a major moment. However, with some encouragement from friends and family, I began seeking out opportunities to shoot at weddings to see if I’d like it, even attending some conferences and workshops geared towards weddings to see if it was a good “fit”.
Almost instantly I knew that I LOVED shooting weddings. I mostly began by second shooting/assisting more established photographers and I am so, SO thankful for their patience and willingness to work with me when I was just finding my footing in the professional photography world. I learned so much from so many people and was able to find the confidence to support my adoration for wedding days and I jumped into weddings without a second thought.
It’s been difficult being a business owner, especially as someone who never thought they’d be the “type” of person to own a business. I thought I was too much of a people-pleaser and pushover, that I didn’t have the type of authority needed to be called a business owner, that I wasn’t good enough. I struggled with calling myself a professional photographer for a while because I didn’t feel that I was worthy of such a title. Luckily, in taking care of my mental health (thank you, counseling!), listening to my loved ones, and *deciding* that I’m good enough, I dumped that limiting mindset and am choosing to tell myself: “You are a damn good photographer, you work really well with people, and you deserve success.”
Daily I am choosing that I am enough and worthy, and so I aim to create that same atmosphere for my clients. I want everyone I work with to know that they are worthy of love, they are beautiful, and their memories are precious and deserve to be preserved for years and years to come.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For eats, one of my favorite Dallas staples is Cafe Brazil. Good coffee, awesome food, open 24/7, and not too pricey. I also love Street’s Fine Chicken for brunch, Noodle Wave for amazing Thai, Jeng Chi for their impeccable soup dumplings (their entire menu is *chef’s kiss*), and Serious Pizza in Deep Ellum after a night of bar-hopping or a concert!
I would also highly recommend riding the DART train around Dallas! You can plan a whole day (or days!) worth of fun just minutes walking distance from DART train stops. It gets you around downtown just about anywhere you can think of and it’s nice to not have to pay for parking! You can explore Deep Ellum, the State Fair grounds, walk to Klyde Warren Park, go to one of Dallas’s awesome museums (highly recommend the JFK Sixth Floor Museum and the Perot), and so much more!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband, parents, and Gran for being my biggest encouragers and unwavering pillars of support, listening to my many many ideas, and pushing me to always keep learning and growing. My amazing friends and clients for supporting me, referring their loved ones to me, and trusting me to photograph such monumental moments. My incredible fellow photographer friends who help me with business hardships, allowing me to second shoot with/for them, offering support and guidance, and sharing dreams and ideas.
Allison Bolin Photography