I didn't come this far, to only come this far
This blog post is going to be a bit different for me.
I don’t generally get too personal on here or my business social media. It’s out of my comfort zone to blend personal and business if I am being completely honest. I am also one to usually stay out of debates or voice my opinion on hot topics, It's just not my style. However this is something that I am trying to change somewhat in the new year. I feel like I am always the real me but am I being as authentic as I can possibly be for my business self as I am in my real life?
It was a truly eye opening question I asked myself.
With that being said… let’s get real for a minute. I will try to not make this too lengthy because I know people tend to skip over long drawn out blogs and I honestly don’t blame them. I am also one of those people. But I do hope you stick around and read this because I know I can’t be alone in this thought process or struggle whether you are a business owner or not I am sure there is something here everyone can relate to.
April 6th 2019 will mark nine years in this business for me. NINE! This blows my mind and I am very proud of everything I have accomplished in these nine years. I built this business from the ground up. It was a dream for a very long time until it became a reality. It didn't come without years of hard work and it wasn't easy. I will forever be grateful that I did everything I did to make this a reality and I truly regret nothing about the process because it brought me here today.
No matter what any photographer, wedding vendor or really any business owner tells you (or portrays on social media) owning a small business is hard. But owning a small business that comes from an artistic side of yourself is BEYOND HARD. It is a constant machine that needs the oil to keep running, the management to maintain order and passion to thrive. I absolutely adore what I do but I am just being real. We all have life struggles and it’s sometimes really hard to find a balance with your personal life and your work life. This is especially tough when you work from home… alone most of the time. Not to mention a piece of yourself artistically literally goes into every session, wedding or project.
Things were so different back in 2010 when I started this venture. A lot has changed for the better but unfortunately some things have changed in a negative way. The industry is over saturated with photographers. Everyone who owns a camera is a photographer now. “Your camera takes really nice pictures” I can’t count how many times I have heard this or something to that effect.
A camera doesn’t take those nice pictures. it’s the person with the talent and knowledge behind it taking those pretty pictures. I am not just clicking a button for the record.
Don’t get me a wrong, if you want to start a business and have a passion and talent for this industry, I encourage it! Follow your dream 110% and don't give up until you are where you want to be. BUT it has to be done the right way. It is expensive, exhausting, hard work and complicated to run a business. A legitimate business. So be ready to work your ass off just like everyone else did who has worked their way up in this field. People are shocked when they learn how much I pay out of pocket to run West House Photography LLC. Taxes, sales tax, paying my CPA, LLC renewal, equipment Insurance, business insurance, website fees, gallery fees and that’s not even all of it. Let’s not get into equipment costs and the editing programs I use like Photoshop and Lightroom. The list goes on and on. People just don’t realize what it really costs to run a photography business and that is understandable because why would they?. When you are investing in someone’s time and talent, let it be known that it is not just taking pretty pictures and profit. It’s all of those overhead costs, paying out of pocket for health insurance and putting away money for retirement so I am not a broke old lady as well as the hours of work. So when someone isn’t taking the correct measures to go about running a business the right (and legal) way it causes a bigger problem not only for them but for everyone else who is actually doing it right. I know I am not alone in noticing this problem within the industry, everyone has been talking about how 2018 was “different”. It’s not just photographers in the wedding industry either, it’s all different vendors. Undercutting sucks. Period. People hire not insured or legitimate businesses to save money and in turn it’s affecting everyone who is doing things the correct and legal way. What people don’t realize is, by hiring someone who isn’t an actual business and someone who doesn’t have the knowledge of this industry...they are at massive risk too as the client. Especially when it comes to weddings, one of the biggest and most important days of your life that you invest a lot of money and time in. Not to mention, they are taking money out of the pockets of small businesses that should be thriving. So if you are the person searching for your photographer who will take your beautiful pictures that you will cherish forever, I urge you to do your research on who you hire because it has a bigger ripple effect than you may think.
Just remember the saying “You get what you pay for”
Because of this industry shift along with really making a point of focusing on myself and my own happiness in my personal life last year it made me fall into a rut in the summer of 2018. I felt less inspired and motivated to hustle like I normally do. I was honestly burned out and constantly just felt artistically lost. I felt very stuck and I didn't know how to dig my way out of this feeling. I fell into the thinking of “What is the point of continuing this business”? And “Maybe I should pursue other things I am passionate about instead?” “I’ve had a long run doing this, maybe it’s time” And these thoughts made me incredibly sad especially since I still loved what I did and adored my clients. It was a really weird head space to be in and still is very hard for me to describe. Anyone who knows me, knows I adore what I do, the people I work with along with how hard working I am and how I literally never stop. This wasn’t like me at all.
I have worked SO hard to get here and it’s a scary thought to consider not doing something you have done for so long. Photography has been my passion since I was little. It’s the only thing I truly ever pictured myself doing.
The real irony of it was that 2016 and 2017 were insanely busy and successful years for me but personally I was going through a lot of hardship behind the scenes. People who knew me, knew what I was going through during that time but I refused to let it affect my work or any of my clients and their happiest times. I was thriving on the outside but inside it was really rough. Yet 2018 took an amazing turn in my personal life and I can say without a doubt it was the best and happiest year so far for me, but the business side of me was stuck. So yet again...I was thriving, this time personally but the business side of me wasn’t.
Go figure right?
At the start of December as I geared up for my first international wedding in Cancun with Olivia Morgan Photography ...it’s like I woke up from a long drowsy sleep. What was I thinking? What was I NOT doing? I remember feeling like someone finally lit a fire under my ass and I remember thinking that fire was a similar feeling to when I first started this business. Olivia helped a lot with this and I am forever thankful for her constant uplifting words to me and support of my business even when she has her own.
A close friend shared the quote with me “I didn’t come this far, to only come this far” and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
It’s easy to get comfortable or discouraged in anything you do, especially after doing it a long time. It makes it ten times harder when you have a ton of other people doing what you do and in the race with you. But I remind myself constantly that it is not a race or a competition and it is definitely not about anyone else or what they are doing. I am focused on me, my business and what I need to be doing for the amazing people who hire me.
What I realize is I have so much more in me. I was born to do this. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Even with times in the industry changing and all that is going on, I am ME. My talent is mine. My hard work and business ethics are my own. I have had thousands of clients who have chosen ME, trusted ME, loved ME for myself and my work. That says something and means everything. I may have doubted myself for a hot minute but you know what? They never did. I just have to remember that, when things aren’t always as pretty as the pictures I take.
For my clients, new and old who have hired me throughout the years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am eternally grateful for you choosing me to be the person to photograph your memories. I don’t take it for granted.
We all have struggles, nobody is perfect and that is ok.
So...this is me going into 2019 being authentic, raw and real for myself and my business. I have never felt more motivated and inspired.
So, if you made it until the end of this...I applaud you and THANK YOU for taking the time to read my thoughts.
I will now end what did sort of turn out to be a lengthy blog post (I swear I promised myself I wouldn’t do it and yet here we are...)
It was the year I found the happiest version of myself, surrounded by the ones I love, doing what I love. I know because of this happiness, it is going to translate into some magical images for the people I work with in 2019.
I can't wait.