25 April 2018

Ten Things That I Wish I Had Known.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been successfully in business for 8 years now. It’s such a cliche but I really do feel like i’ve got the best job in the world. I work with some incredible people and have them trust me to make a record of the best day of their lives.

SELF CARE: When I started my photography business, everything was new and exciting. I was so motivated that I would tirelessly work for hours and hours on end to perfect the art that I wanted to put out into the world. In the beginning, I was incredibly fortunate to find that I wasn’t short of bookings and I would excitedly take them all because it felt incredible to be making such a success from something that was entirely mine. Sleep became unimportant, routine went out of the window and eating was something that I did at my computer 90% of the time. I was wholeheartedly focused on getting better, achieving more and if I wasn’t doing something photography related then I was thinking about something photography related. Initially that was ok. I was pretty energised by the whole thing. Work was my drug of choice and it felt like a great place for me to be. Of course, over time the inevitable happened and I burned out. It wasn’t pretty. I guess looking back, I wish that I had listened to my body. Almost falling asleep in the car, eating a lot of sugar to keep myself going, pushing through headaches and exhaustion because I had to get a huge list of tasks done. The fall out of this was losing precious time with friends and family, enjoying pressure free, fun time, enjoying taking some time to get some head space. My husband and I were battling through infertility (which is a whole other story) and so things got pretty dark for a while. When I started my business, I hadn’t considered what I needed to do to take care of myself. At that point, self care didn’t seem to be talked about much in the creative community – or maybe I missed it whilst eating cereal out of the box at 3am. I know that now, certainly in the online communities that I’m in, self care is considered to be a priority and something that is an essential part of running a business. Only you can run your business the way that you want it to run. If you are broken, who takes over the reigns? If you don’t look after and cherish yourself then who is going to manage the list of to do’s. So what does self care look like? I guess that depends on what you do to replenish your soul. For me, it doesn’t have to be expensive but it does have to be soul enriching. I love a good bubble bath with some nice music in the dark. I know its a cliche but it really works. I love spending time with my family. I love listening to jazz records. These things generally don’t put pressure on my finances (well unless you count all the cute things I buy for my nieces) but it does give my life more balance and more meaning. I try and do something once a day that I would class as self care and now I feel like I have a much better work/life balance and am back to my centred self.

TAXES: This is not a glamorous topic but its the key to taking a huge weight off life as a freelancer. DO. YOUR. TAXES. I used to be the sort of freelancer who submitted her tax return the day before the deadline, having no idea what I owed. The affect of this level of stress caused me to experience some pretty intense worry. It’s not the most pleasant job but to run a business successfully, you need to have a good handle on your finances. My current system works really well for me and means that I know 9 months in advance what the bill will be. I submit the return as soon as I can in April and then set up a monthly direct debit to clear the bill before the January deadline. The stress that it has relieved has been unbelievable. To manage my finances on a daily basis, I use a website called Money Dashboard. If like me, you receive income in an unpredictable pattern, it allows you to accurately predict your income and outgoings for as far into the future as you require. I also allows you to identify how much money you’ve spent on cat related purchases that month (not that that’s a problem for me!) Its free to use and comes high recommended.

COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY: When I was a newbie in the wedding photography world, I followed hundreds of photographers on various social media platforms. This was great because I got to see all of the incredible work that people were shooting and it was really inspirational. As I began to shoot more weddings I felt a definitely shift in me from ‘wow these people are incredible’ to ‘wow, these are people are incredible and i’m rubbish’. I found myself feeling really frustrated because I couldn’t achieve what they seemed to achieve so easily and it really impacted on my confidence as a shooter. I also was living and breathing weddings, which I loved, but sometimes its nice to have a clear space to see normal day to day things online. So I decided to unfollow everything on facebook but continued to follow my favourites on instagram. This gave me a much healthier balance of being able to view other peoples work when I wanted to, but not be bombarded with it 24/7.

COMMUNITY NOT COMPETITION: In the photography industry (and i’m guessing in most creative industries) there can be a lot of competition. When I set up my business, I had very little clue about what it meant to shoot weddings and so I reached out to several photographers locally to ask for help and advice on where to start. I sadly received no response. I know that we work in a very crowded industry but i’m a firm believer in there being enough for everyone. I am so lucky to be part of a couple of very supportive and like minded photography groups, who actively encourage a kind, supportive, generous and at times inappropriate (you know who you are) atmosphere. Life as a freelancer can sometimes be lonely so if you are not a part of something like this then i’d definitely recommend that you seek it out. Even if its just for days when as you spill a cup of tea down yourself or you realise that you’re out in public wearing odd shoes. Everybody is human. Everybody has bad days and sometimes you just need a few chin up messages to keep you going.

ROUTINE: The biggest challenge for me as a freelancer is having some sort of order in my life. As an employed person, I had to get up at a certain time, leave the house by a certain time and sit down at my desk by a certain time. As a freelancer, there is no one waiting for you to come in. My desk is in the same house as my bed. It can make motivation a tough thing to muster, especially in the winter months when there is ice on the inside of my windows. I certainly don’t achieve this daily but i’ve found that having a set routine, similar to that of a normal working day really helps to keep my ducks in a row and keep me focused. I get up at the same time that I would if I was going out to a job because I want to be able to do a full day of work before my husband comes home so that the evening can be spent doing things that we want to do together. I try and leave the computer once an hour for a few minutes and I try to eat my lunch at the dining table, away from my desk. Physically changing your scene will help you to maintain focus for longer during periods of working.

YOU ARE ENOUGH: What you have to offer is unique and that is wonderful. There are always trends in the creative industry and there is many a bandwagon to jump on but rather than looking around at what everyone else is doing, focus on yourself. There will be a period of time where it feels like no one is paying much attention to what you are doing, but with hard work and time, you will grow your audience and the hard work will pay off. The lack of attention in the beginning is not a reflection on you or your work. Use the time to stream line your customer service procedures/website/skills because its good to have a strong footing with these things once your business takes off.

INSPIRATION: For me, my biggest source of inspiration has always been emotion and connection. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like special moments between people. I crave those moments because being able to see joy, love, intimacy in a photo is the ultimate high for me. Other sources of inspiration for me in the beginning were other photographers, but that has definitely changed the longer that I have been shooting. I know prefer to look for creativity in music, art and films. I know that Wes Anderson is mentioned so much in the photography world as a source of inspiration but his work is extremely pleasing to watch because of the beautiful symmetry and colour use. He has inspired countless wedding photographers despite shooting a different subject matter. If you are struggling with inspiration, look outside of the usual box.

I KNOW NOTHING: When I started my business, I had no experience of what it meant to run a business and I had no qualifications that particular area. I spent some time flying by the seat of my pants and learned a heck of a lot quite quickly. The most valuable lesson that I learned was that I know nothing and if I needed help with something, I needed to seek out someone who had the knowledge and expertise to be able to help me. That came in many different forms depending on what the need was. I invested a lot of time and money in photography workshops that helped me to find my voice, to learn who I wanted to be as a photographer, to find the couples that I most wanted to work with and how to create a service that did them proud. In addition to training, I am part of several supportive communities online that are full of likeminded people with various levels of experience, who can offer support and advice on anything that I need. If you have questions, or need support then reach out to those around you who have been doing it a little bit longer. We are all in the same boat.

STARVE YOUR DISTRACTION, FEED YOUR FOCUS: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Email, Netflix, Candy Crush….a few of the potential distractions that lure us away from the task in hand. There are a few things that you can do to reduce the risk of suddenly looking at the time and realising that you’ve been watching cat videos for 4 hours. There is an app called moments which records the amount of time you spend on your phone per day and will help you be mindful about the number of times you pick it up. There is an app (not sure if its just an apple users option) called self control that allows you to add certain websites to a black list and also to determine how long you want the computer to prevent you from accessing them. It really works, even if you close down the app! Believe me, i’ve tried! I also find it helpful to break down my day into hourly chunks and assign a task to each chunk. I try to keep my to do list manageable because over facing myself can make me feel overwhelmed and then I struggle to focus. Being able to tick things off my list is really rewarding and helps me to stay on track.

YOU CAN DO IT: Work hard, keep pushing forward and you will a wonderfully successful business.


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