Stewart Cohen is quoted in the most recent edition of ASMP Bulletin (the Best of issue) saying something I think every creative should internalize. When asked what he considers his most important business decision, he replied:
[...] my career shouldn’t be left in the hands of my clients. If I was going to be a great photographer, it couldn’t depend on the jobs I had or did not have. My fate would be totally up to me.
I think that is fantastic. Cohen recognized early on that he had the power to control only himself (not his potential clients) and, as an artist, it was incumbent on him to make his art. If he didn’t make his art, it wouldn’t be the fault of any client or lack of client.
In fact, throughout his mini-interview Cohen talks about control. Control is an issue I see often in our industry and it is usually misunderstood and/or misapplied. Photographers seek to control their market, buyers, the media, and even each other. However, they can do none of those things. No one can.
You can only control yourself–your own actions.
But that is all you need. When you shift the locus of control to yourself, you stop being a victim of the world around you. It’s no longer “people underbid me so I don’t get jobs” or “I can’t afford to shoot the places I want” and the like; instead it’s “I’ve done all I can–I will get this project or I won’t” and “I can find new ways to reach out to potential clients” and “I will find a way to make those images in Nepal that I have always dreamed of making.”
You stop wasting time being frustrated you don’t get a project or can’t do X or Y. You might follow up to learn from a “no” from outside, but it’s no longer “Why not me?”–at most it’s “What can I do next time to improve my chances of getting a project with you?” You find ways to make things happen instead of waiting on someone else to make it happen for you. You figure out that by saving $20 a week you can make that Nepal trip in two years so you drop the Starbucks from your ritual.
More importantly, focusing on yourself and what you can control encourages you to be more confident, more accepting, and more likely to make your own art anyway–all of which will help you get projects down the pike.