Working For Your Life: How to Define Your Success

whitney scott children laughing on a bed

T his is the second post in a 4-part series by pro photographer, Whitney Scott, to help you succeed as a business owner and lead a balanced life.


“More money.”

Several years ago my husband David and I were teaching a class at After Dark

(a fantastic hands-on learning workshop for photographers that sadly, is no more). This

particular class was on “Work/Life Balance” and we posed the question: “What is

your main business goal for next year?” Overwhelmingly, an ambiguous statement

involving money was the answer.


This is a problem.


Every new photographer will tell you they got into the business because they

have a “passion” for photography (if you don’t believe me, check the “about me” page of

every photographer on the planet… apparently we all love coffee, children’s giggles and

have a passion for our craft – or some variation on that theme). None of us jumped into

this business because it is financially lucrative; if you don’t believe me, see my last blog post.


Why then, do we measure progress in our photography business based on money? Could it be because

it’s the only way we know to measure success?


Let’s change that.


collage of whitney scott photographer photos


What’s your definition of “success”?

Andre Agassi is widely considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all

time. He’s an 8-time Grand Slam Champion, won both the Australian Open, the French

Open and is the proud owner of an Olympic Gold medal, yet here is what he has to say

about success:


When you see success as a goal, you’ll never be successful. Because it

becomes an addiction. You can never have enough.


As photographers and business owners, it’s easy to want that elusive “more”

year after year. After all, if I made $50,000 this year, it’s only natural to want $60k next

year, and $70k the following year, and $80k the year after that. At some point though,

the question has to become “When is it enough?”, When can I say “I’ve succeeded”?, or 

When can I say “I’m content”?

collage of whitney scott images


The challenge: get specific

Here’s my challenge for you: give yourself specific “markers” for success. Write it down. Make it real.


Specifically, what amount of gross income would you have to earn to consider

yourself a successful small business owner?


This is an end-point goal. Where do you want to be when it’s all said and done?

Use this final number to set a specific goal for this year and the years following. It’s

okay to have financial goals – as a matter of fact I recommend it! Just be sure it’s not

simply “more”.


What job could you get that would signify to you that you’ve reached the level to

which you’ve been aspiring?


Think big on this! And when you think you’re thinking big… go even bigger! My

goal used to be to shoot a magazine cover, and now we’ve shot dozens. So I’m going

bigger and bolder! A couple of my goals now are to be flown on a private/corporate jet

to a location for a job, to spend a couple of months traveling in an RV with my family

and for someone to pay for me to work overseas (Italy? Absolutely!).


What event could happen that would signal to you that you had succeeded in

parenting? In marriage? In your personal life?


Have goals outside of business! I’m learning to sew this year with my daughter;

that’s been a personal goal of mine for awhile, so we just recently took a class together

and it was so fun and rewarding! I can now make pillows. Big deal? Nope. But to me

it’s a marker of personal success. Next on my personal agenda? Learn how to make



If you don’t have these markers for yourself, you begin chasing success as the

goal, which really means nothing. You’re going to identify success as “more than I have

now”, then next year no matter what level you’ve reached, you’re going to continue

looking for “more than now”, and there is no end to that. You cannot feel successful

when you are aiming at a constantly moving target.

collage of whitney scott images


My definition of “success”

My definition of success is being able to choose how I spend my time.


It doesn’t get much simpler than this. And here’s the thing: it’s really not about

money! When I think about the things that bring me the most joy, they have very little to

do with income. They have to do with wanting what I already have. Appreciating the

daily gifts life hands to me. Being content.

collage of whitney scott images


Six questions to guide you

Use the following questions to lead you down the path of what makes your life

worthwhile. Make them part of your business plan – your life plan.


  1. If money were not an issue, what would you do?
  2. When was the last time you remember feeling completely carefree and full of joy?
  3. What memories do you want your children to have of their childhood?
  4. At bedtime, think back and ask yourself, “What was the best 10 minutes of my day?”
  5. Whose life do you most admire, and why?
  6. In 20 years, what I will regret not doing?


The last question gets to me every time, and I use it often to help make life

decisions. Gaining the perspective of 20 years makes the little things fade away and

focuses me back on the big picture. It’s what helped us make the leap to move two

years ago to the beautiful Ozark region of Northwest Arkansas. It’s why we’ve begun

shopping for that RV for the trip that’s on my list of dream goals. After all, what’s the

purpose of working hard if we’re not enjoying the life we’re creating?


Coming next! Making your visions a reality.