Scaling Back On Bookings + Why That's Okay
Since becoming a wedding photographer I've learned a LOT about myself and the business. When I first got started I was completely immersed in this whole idea of what a successful photographer looked like. They were on planes heading to epic locations and had portfolios that I drooled over... they were on magazine covers and just doing really cool shit, all the time. Then I experienced a season of pure BUSY. And actually, it wasn't a season... it was basically an entire year. Each time I got on a plane without my daughter or husband by my side I asked myself if it was really all worth it. And this past year, it was. It was for sure because I got to go to some pretty amazing places, photograph amazing couples, and see parts of the world I've never seen before. I love that!
However, I've realized very quickly that while all that is fun and awesome, it doesn't necessarily mean it's meant for me.
And trust me, I literally JUST got started as a wedding photographer. In 2016 I was primarily second shooting and in 2017 I went from that to having 14 weddings of my own. It was incredible and I'm so grateful to each and every client of mine for choosing me as their wedding photographer.
I absolutely love being a wedding photographer and don't see myself stopping any time soon!
I honestly hope that I'm a wedding photographer for the rest of my life, hah! Or at least for a very long time and at some point maybe my child will take over for me... who knows. I want to throw it out there right from the get go that I LOVE MY JOB. This has nothing to do with how I feel about photographing weddings, it's more about how I plan on taking care of myself and my family along the way. Since becoming a Ranch Wife, I've had to learn the art of patience and flexibility. It's hard and I really suck at it sometimes. When I look at a lot of these photographers on the go and seeing the world, majority of them have their spouse and/or family along for the ride. I don't have that option. Shaun can't leave and it makes it hard. I find myself on the road or on an airplane solo wishing my man and my little girl were with me. I always bring Riley to Eastern Washington when I have weddings and I love that, but there were many stretches in 2017 where Riley and I were in Wenatchee for several weeks and Daddy was home, working on the ranch.
I think that marriage is beautiful. I've been married since 2013 and my marriage is the greatest relationship that I'll have in my entire life.
I want my marriage to succeed. Shaun supports me 150% and all my adventures with photography but I can't help but feel like that could change someday if it gets away from me, or the busy just becomes a burden on our relationship. That's my fear. So I've decided that in 2018, I'm only going to accept 10 weddings, MAX. I'd even be happy with 8. I currently have 6 weddings on the calendar and I'm beyond excited about each and every one of my #emmarosebrides!
When I get down to the heart of it, the truth is that I am totally a homebody. Who's with me?! I LOVE BEING HOME. If given the choice to be in my car for hours on end vs. home or working in my studio - I'd choose the home/studio any day. My choice to limit the amount of weddings I take to this "low-ish" number is my way of ensuring that I always remain fulfilled and NOT burnt out. Last year I hit some serious burnout and difficulties trying to manage it all. At one point when I had a breakdown I made a choice to not only change my lifestyle but to also change how I operate my business so that I wouldn't set myself up to fail.
When I look back on my life someday, I want to be able to say that I was there for the people who matter most. I feel like if I continue down the rabbit hole of what WAS last year, I won't be able to say that. Of course I have to pay the bills and make a living doing this thing we call entrepreneurship, but I also know that I have to be willing to make some choices along the way that will keep me inspired with a full heart with each passing year.
I'll admit that I have a tendency to just say yes to everything because of what we call FOMO in our family... you know, fear of missing out? Yeah, that's me. I've gotten a LOT better and said no to several invites up to Seattle for various events, collaborations, etc. Sometimes you just have to say no and not feel bad about it. It's okay, the world will go on!
With cutting back I've been able to establish stronger boundaries this year to set me up for longer term success. Some of those boundaries are:
I no longer travel for engagement sessions (without a fee). I used to go above and beyond with different locations, etc. and never charged for it because it was... part of the experience. Which I still believe in wholeheartedly! Engagement sessions are so special and I LOVE photographing them so much. However, I found myself in my car driving 1-4 hours for these (one way)... I knew going into 2018 I just couldn't do that again this year. So now I have a few location options for my couples LOCAL to me (the ranch, the studio, or the ocean). If they have a special location in mind I will definitely accommodate, but with a travel fee that covers my mileage AND time. The response is already fabulous from this change and some of my couples are headed to my neck of the woods for their pictures and I cannot wait! I also stopped including engagement sessions in my lowest package price. This has helped a lot with time AND getting clients to book me at my best package (more time and 2 photographers).
I'm separating myself from people and things that bring negativity to my life. This one is tough and it sounds harsh but as I venture into almost turning 30, I'm realizing how important it truly is to surround yourself with positivity. I don't need to go crazy in depth here but if you have something or someone (like a friend) in your life that doesn't make you feel good, it's okay to let it go. I'm not perfect and I haven't always been the greatest friend and I've learned that sometimes trying to mix friendships with business backfires. As I venture into this next phase of my life as a happier and healthier version of myself, I'm removing the things that bring me down. Sometimes it's hard to see it on the surface but if you dig a little deeper and ask yourself what this or that actually brings to your life in a positive way, you may find that it just doesn't, and that's okay. Surround yourself with people who love you and cheer you on, through all the good and the bad stuff along the way. Surround yourself with people who make you a better YOU. And in turn, I'm also on a mission to BE a better friend to the people in my life that I love. Something I started doing about six months ago is actually reaching out to someone (a friend or family member) when they pop in my head. I'll be walking down the street and see something that reminds me of my best friend. Instead of thinking about that thought and letting it disappear, I'll pull out my phone and text her with something like, "Hey! I was doing XX today and thought of you! You don't have to write back I just wanted to say hi, I love you, and I'm thinking about you!" It's become a new practice of mine and feels really good. I love receiving those kinds of messages so I'm working hard to GIVE more of them, too.
I'm only working on website projects I connect with. It's no secret that in business we all have ideal clients. It's the foundation of what you do and who you choose to work with. I've become much pickier (in a good way!) with who I work with. Like with brides and grooms, I'm interviewing THEM just as much as they are interviewing ME during a consultation. I want whomever I work with to not only love the work I've already put out there, but to really feel connected to me as a human being, too. It's important for me to give my clients a positive experience and sometimes that just can't be done if you completely clash with a certain personality type or other issues. I've learned to trust my gut and instincts about people over the years. Not only do I want a great experience with the project, my client deserves the very best too and it's okay if we aren't the perfect fit and it's okay to turn it down if it just doesn't feel right. As creative entrepreneurs we have the ability to do that and not feel bad about it. The times I've gone against my gut instinct or ignored a "red flag", it's always backfired.
I'm designating specific days for specific tasks. This is something I've always TRIED to be really good at, but fall short with most of the time. With this new year, I'm mapping out my days in a more organized manner for various tasks like Pinterest, Instagram, and blogging. Another example is in my private Dream Chasers Facebook group, I'm scheduling out posts WAY in advance so that I don't have to constantly be in there posting on the spot.
I'm making more time for my health and wellness. If you haven't read it yet, I recently wrote a post about my first 42 days on #myfighttofeelbetter. End of November/early December I hit a wall, emotionally and physically. I made a commitment at that time to reach some goals that weren't directly related to my business, but to my own health and wellness. I'll let that post do the talking but as I type out this post I'm down 16 lbs and feeling better than I've felt in years. I still have a long way to go but since starting all of this I feel so much more clear headed and ready to tackle the year ahead. My business is running better than ever as well because of the time I'm giving to myself and my exercise. I'm more focused when I do sit down to work and my days feel much longer now. I can't even remember the last time I sat on the couch to binge watch something on Netflix. I haven't turned a show on once on my computer either! It's all these little things that are trickling through to my every day life simply from exercising daily and eating well. I can't wait to see what happens in the next 40+ days!
I did a boudior session in November with Samantha McFarlen and it was so amazing, but I was also the heaviest I've ever been in my entire life. While I love these pictures because they show who I am at this time in my life, I am looking forward to how I look and feel about myself in front of the camera as I continue to reach my health and weight loss goals.
So more than anything, I want to encourage you to be okay with doing things differently. What seemed so GLAM to me when I first got into the wedding industry just doesn't seem as sparkly to me anymore. A lot of it has to do with the lifestyle we've chosen here on the ranch and the fact that I'm a mother but whatever your life situation, do what is best for YOU and your family. If I didn't have Riley things would be so different but I wouldn't change her or what we have now for anything. If photographing 30 weddings a year is your goal, then hell yeah girlfriend, get it! I just know it's not my reality and since I'm still so new in my career as a photographer, I have the mindset that slow and steady will win the race for me personally. Taking it easier with weddings this year will also allow me to focus on a side of my business I LOVE but never have enough time for after about April, which is website design. By scaling back the weddings and travel, I can open up more spots to keep at it all year long and that makes me happy because I LOVE that side of my business. I can also focus on my upcoming WORKSHOP and developing some amazing resources for photographers.
If you are a photographer, I would LOVE to hear how you approach how many weddings you book each year and WHY! Do you have a cut off or do you just book as many as you possibly can? Are you single, married, have children? I'd love to hear! Thanks for being here with me!