my personality gets in my way: the struggle with running a photography business as an infj

I’m constantly reading books … listening to podcasts … reading other entrepreneurs’ blogs and looking for ways I can streamline and grow my photography business. I find it challenging, though, to sort through all the information and figure out ways to best apply it to my own way of doing things.

This year I’m trying something a little different. The information I’ve been reading is geared towards my specific Myer’s Briggs personality type. I’m typically an INFJ, though eeeeeeevery now and again when I take the test, I’m an ENFJ.

Now, here’s what Psychology Junkie has to say about INFJ entrepreneurs:

INFJs are particularly drawn to entrepreneurship because it allows them to use their creativity, long-range thinking, and independent working style. INFJ entrepreneurs have a knack for connecting with people, seeing their needs, and forecasting an idea or product that will be relevant not just now, but in the future. They want to do something that will benefit people in a big way. Their entrepreneurial dreams often have a human element and are tied in some way to making the world a better place.

I read that and screamed out YES, YES, YEEEEES! It’s all so true. I need to be creative. And I NEED to connect with people. Portrait and wedding photography is all about people … and the deeper I can connect with them, the more honestly I can capture them with my camera. And in all honesty, money doesn’t make me happy. Though I’m always happy to pay my rent, I get satisfaction out of making my clients happy … not in earning income.

However …

Running a business is HARD for me.

I mean … haaaaaaard. So hard that I often think I should throw in the towel, if I’m being honest. And that has nothing to do with the art of photography … but everything to do with the art of business.

I see other serial entrepreneurs out there who start and sell businesses over and over again … often several a year. (You know, the same YEAR that I’m still trying to process information from the business books I’ve read for my ONE, 11-year-old business.) They work hard. But so do I. And yet … the results are different. Why? No doubt because the people behind the businesses are different. It’s why not all business suggestions work for all businesses.

With this realization in mind, I’m seeing how important it is for me to change my strategy this year. We are all different. And we all have different strengths and weaknesses. I don’t want to start and sell businesses. But if I want my little photography business to grow, I need to focus on how someone with MY personality and my own unique strengths and weaknesses needs to go about doing this.

If you’re reading this and you’re a fellow INFJ photographer … than my guess is you’ll agree with me on the following three points:

Photography is not hard. Photography is a joy.

But being a professional photographer means running a photography BUSINESS … and that is REALLY hard.

The less you succeed with the business aspect of the photography business, the harder it is to find joy in your photography.

So then I found myself digging a little deeper. What makes it so hard for me?

I pulled the following excerpt from the INFJ blog:

As introverts, we may struggle to promote our businesses. We find networking and self-promotion incredibly draining, so it’s important to develop our Extraverted Feeling and recognize when we’re pushing our social limits.

As mentioned above, our tendency to place high expectations on ourselves and overthink can cause “perfection paralysis”. This can happen in the beginning stages of starting a business. Many INFJ personality types feel like getting started is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur.

INFJs often find it difficult to explain our Ni visions to others. We will have a groundbreaking idea that seems to fall flat when we try to explain it to someone else. This can cause the INFJ to decide not to share any ideas with others and refuse to pursue entrepreneurship. Having a supportive and understanding circle to share ideas with is crucial for INFJ entrepreneurs.

INFJs may suffer from self-doubt caused by our idealism, need for authenticity, perfectionism, and sometimes simply laziness caused from over-stimulation and lack of self-care.

The struggle with business promotion

Oh, marketing. This is absolutely my greatest struggle. But the reality is … no clients means no photography business. So struggle or not … it has to be done.

Most clients that find me say something like, “Oh my word! I have been looking for someone like you for so, so long! I LOVE your work. Where have you been?” Weeeeeell … I’ve been here. Creating my art. Trying to cautiously get the word out (after all, I DO want clients!). But apparently, I’m doing it so gently that no one knows I’m here!

The interesting thing is that before I worked for myself, I was a graphic artist who worked in the marketing department of a company. My promotional pieces had HUGE success rates. I was SUUUUUPER good at marketing someone else. But it turns out, I’m TERRIBLE at marketing myself.

So, I was relieved to see this point brought up as a “classic” struggle for INFJ entrepreneurs. It immediately made me feel less frustrated with myself. In typical INFJ fashion, I push myself and I WANT growth. But I’m a gentle soul, and I can very easily hurt myself with all the pushing. So, this year, I’m going to take a deep breathe … and I’m going to accept that being uncomfortable is part of “the job” for me. Because no self promotion means … no clients. I’ve set a goal to market myself in an uncomfortable way (i.e., NOT via instagram, eletter, or facebook … my comfort zone) at least three times a week. And I’m giving myself permission to do it sloppily (if that’s what happens), awkwardly (bound to happen!), and not perfectly (definitely going to happen). My INFJ personality wants me to do everything PERFECTLY … and I frequently wait until I can execute something in a perfect way. But this year is all about celebrating NOT perfect … because that means I’m growing.

Psychology Junkie’s article encouraged me, though, when it stated:  “with practice [infjs] are usually extremely capable at marketing themselves, their idea, and establishing strong connections.”

There’s no doubt that my greatest strength lies in my ability to read people and connect with them. So yes … my natural fear of self promotion works against me … but that’s ok, because I’m going to work on using my greatest strength as my asset this year.

Still with me, fellow INFJ photographer? If so … then here’s the action point I think we both need to take away: CONNECTIONS HAPPEN IN PERSON. While I find it CRAZY hard to physically walk into businesses and other public areas and promote myself … that’s where it HAS TO HAPPEN. If not, I mine as well stop my business now. That’s literally the challenge I’ve set before myself. But rather than focusing on the hard part … the self-promotion … let’s focus on our gift. Let’s walk in to places … and connect with people. Make them feel special. And if we start there, the promotion part might not be so hard after all.

“Perfection Paralysis”

I mean … yes. Just yes. I’m frozen in place more often than I’d like to admit. There are really, really great ideas swirling around in my head at all times. But if I don’t feel like they’re going to come out perfectly … they stay put.

The honest truth here for me is that this will never get better through pushing. This will never improve through gaining awards or putting up the most stunning body of work on my web site. I’ll only see what needs to be better. I’ve come to realize that as an INFJ (and I’m sure this applies to so many other types as well), the only way to fix perfection paralysis is through self work.

I’m personally a fan of EFT (aka, tapping). If you’re unfamiliar with it, I can promise that you’ll feel like it’s a really weird thing to do at first. But upon trying it, you’ll quickly see that it works … in a similar way to daily affirmations. There’s just something that happens when we voice things … especially positive things … to ourselves. And as a perfectionist, we’re very used to negative self talk. So adding in regular positive self talk is a game changer. I’ve been enjoying this particular tapping routine.

The thing about self work, though, is that it has to be done over and over again. This is where I’ve fallen short in the past. I’ve gotten started with affirmations (and really noticed a difference), but then life gets busy and I stop doing them. But the real growth happens with time … so for an INFJ (aka, a very, very gentle soul), kind words absolutely HAVE to become part of my daily life … permanently. And those kind words HAVE to come from me. No one else’s words matter as much.

To sum it all up …

I don’t think it’s necessarily the easiest choice for an INFJ to run her own business. For me, it’s a choice I’ve made for a very specific reason … and that reason is dear to me. So I’m going to keep on trucking along … trying to get better each year. To grow my business this year, I’m going to focus on three very specific things:

  1. Marketing IN PERSON with my greatest strength: personal connections. I can only “market” in ways that feel genuine and true to me. So that will include finding ways to collaborate with other businesses and local individuals in an authentic and hopefully fun way. As one article puts it: “INFJs are usually pretty good at inspiring others when they try. They just have to get over their natural quietness and dislike of the spotlight in order to do it.”
  2. Showing my genuine care and love for my clients through videos. I’ve got two under my belt. They’re not perfect AT ALL (see … I’m working on that perfectionism thing!) … but I hope they are helpful for current and prospective clients and convey my genuine love for my clients.
  3. Work on my perfectionism through daily affirmations and tapping.

So there we have it … the longest post ever on how I arrived at my three goals for the year. If you read through this whole post, thank you : ) I’m dying to hear from other INFJs out there … what are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and please share some of your struggles and how you’re working to overcome them.

A few useful resources

Marketing isn’t for you

16 Reasons INFJs are Very Likely to Be Highly Successful (good to remember our strengths!)

Here’s What INFJ’s Absolutely Must Have In Order to be Happy



Kate Callahan is an on-location photographer who LOVES to capture authentic memories for families. She’s available for weddings, senior photos, child photo sessions, and family photography. Kate works with clients throughout the Hudson Valley, NYC,  Delaware (and the tri-state area), and beyond. 

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