It's been a Year...
Who else feels like 2019 has gone by in the blink of an eye? Or who here feels like its dragged on and feels like a couple years happened within this one? Either way, it's been year and a lot has happened.
For the last couple of weeks I have been feeling like I am a ship without a lighthouse to guide me in the safe and right direction. I have come to understand this feeling well since starting my journey as a small business. And by small, I mean by myself.
I don't think I truly knew how lonesome it would be, at times, to go down this path as a photographer running my own business. To be honest, it seemed like the perfect escape when I was feeling rundown in a full time job I hated. So at the end of 2017 I jumped into the entrepreneur life without a parachute and found myself falling fast into something that was really not for me and I knew I had to find a makeshift parachute or I would crash into the ever approaching ground. A tad morbid, but honestly the most realistic way to describe it.
So at the start of 2018 I started my full time business as a wedding photographer. There were some bumps and shakes but overall 2018 ran smoothly and I was excited to begin another year of this self employed experience.
And so began 2019. But wait, it started off with a huge change to my personal life. My boyfriend of almost 6 years got the chance to accelerate his business in a huge way. But it meant that he would have to move to San Fransisco for 3 months in order to get the full experience out of it. We hadn't lived apart in nearly 5 years and I personally had never lived on my own. Like, on my own. I lived with my parents and sister until college and then had roommates, including my sister for all 4 years and then Jérémy and I moved in together after I graduated. I have never lived on my own and I really wasn't looking forward to it.
However, that was going to happen. Two days after celebrating my 27th birthday and his 26th, off he drove with his business partner. I remember walking inside to the quiet and just crying and then I decided I was going to climb Camelback mountain. I was going to force myself to get outside and be active and shut off the negative parts of my brain because I knew all too well that I could have easily sat down on my couch, cried my eyes out until I felt numb and then watched Netflix while time and life moved on around me. I knew I didn't really want to be that person.
For the first week or so it was weird. Very weird. I didn't really speak out loud to anyone for the first 72 hours of living on my own. Not for any particular reason but for the sheer fact that Jérémy is the talkative one in the relationship and I suddenly didn't have someone to talk to me or with me in the house. So I sort of just had conversations in my head and then it got really dark and I felt like I was going crazy. I wrote this a few days after he left,
"This inner dialogue is getting annoying. It runs and runs to no end. How do you silence your thoughts without the aid of a substance? Do you tell it to leave? Do you speak with yourself? Man do I sound crazy. I’m not. I’m just lonely."
The fact that 2019 started out with such a disruption to my personal life, left me with a lot of time to think about my professional one. And so I did. I took a stand against an affiliate program that wasn't lucrative anymore and I started thinking of ways on how I could stand out or become more appealing to couples who were looking for their wedding photographer. I did a couple of small things here and there and then another huge change came in my personal life.
I got engaged!
For our sixth anniversary, I flew out to San Fransisco to celebrate and he popped the question on a hike through the Redwoods. Turns out he had realized, about 15 minutes after leaving for SF, that he didn't want to be without me and that he wanted to marry me. Sweet right?! He found the most perfect ring in the two weeks leading up to my trip and we had a wonderful weekend celebrating and exploring the city.
And so I flew back to Arizona as a fiancé. Fellow brides will know the feeling of getting engaged and wanting to start planning right away and even though I said I would wait, I didn't. Something about planning by myself just felt strange though, so I did stop shortly after starting but not before getting my wedding dress! Hello, a whole other story.
Anyways, with the end of Jérémy's time in SF quickly approaching, more things started happening. We planned to fly to France for a family reunion a couple days after he moved back to Arizona and with him coming back came a lot of emotions, some very unexpected. Not having lived alone really changed something in me and I suddenly felt like he was invading this new world that I felt somewhat forced to create in his absence. It was tough to navigate for a while once we came back from France.
When we came back, I jumped right back into work with two weddings close to one another and then the dreaded summer welcomed us with its 100+ degree weather and I noticed a serious decline in business. I guess I should say I sort of saw it coming because I had little to no inquiries the three months that Jérémy was in SF and I honestly did little to nothing to find recently engaged couples on my own. And so began the worst months, to date, in my business journey. With no inquires, came no paychecks. With no paychecks, came some serious financial stress. With serious financial stress, came depressive moods and with depressive moods came relationship problems. You see the cycle right?
Thankfully, I did finally get myself in order and found a mentor program in July and began a new journey in my business that gave me more control over the business growth that I wanted. Instead of standing on the sidelines and waiting for couples to come to me, I went out and found them and built relationships with them! A novel concept, and a pretty basic one at that. Also, I knew that I just had to make it to October because I had 4 weddings and several engagements which meant the financial stress would be alleviated. I kept telling myself that if I could just make it to October, I would be good.
And that's exactly what happened. I packed the rest of the summer months with engagements, meetings and get togethers and stayed busy as all hell. But man, looking back at it, the summer dragged on for what felt like months on end.
October came and nothing slowed down! Even in my personal life things were moving along. After several fights and conversations, we finally started wedding planning and even picked a date and venue. Once those were picked, everything else started falling into place and that felt really good.
Once I made it through October, things really didn't slow down and November was stacking up to be just as busy, if not more in all areas of my life. More meetings. More engagements. More weddings. More wedding planning. More wedding this. More wedding that. Just more.
While the personal things happening in my life were great, some new business things popped up that threw me for a loop. I learned a very good lesson that I will forever live by, which is to not format your SD or CF cards until you have sent the photos out to the client and to back up your files the moment you are finished with a shoot. That one I live by pretty strictly, but for whatever reason didn't for two shoots. And sure as shit, not doing that caused me some very easily avoided stress. Oh and formatting cards before the gallery was finished. My portable hard drive failed. Two clients photos where on that drive when it failed, and I hadn't followed my own rules. So I then had to tell them there was a chance they weren't getting their photos back and that we might have to re-do their engagements. Did I mention these were both out of town shoots? One as far as San Fransisco?!
So that happened.
Then, on the way to my last photoshoot of November, 5 days before Thanksgiving, and on the day my sister was coming into town for the holiday after 7 months of not seeing one another, I got in a car accident. Thankfully it wasn't a crazy bad accident, but it was very out of the blue and totally threw a wrench in plans. I have never been in an accident before and no one really tells you the amount of stress it causes in your life. I have never dealt with so many back and forth insurance calls in my life.
And just my luck, my car was old enough, with 200,000+ miles, that the insurance totaled it. So then I had to begin a search for a new car with very little savings and a tiny insurance check. Oh and I forgot to mention, December started out with me having surgery on my shoulder. So all of this craziness happened within a week and a half. I was dealing with insurance calls the day I got out of surgery and trying to find a car while my left arm was completely numb from a nerve block and my left eyelid chilled at half way open. Talk about stress. I kind of felt like it was just one turd after another hitting the fan and all I could do about it was sit and watch it all happen. Thankfully I do have amazing support from my family, which to be honest, has kept me sane more than once this year.
So now we are here. We are a week from Christmas and two weeks from the start of 2020. Like I said earlier, it feels like this year has gone by in the blink of an eye and at the same time feels like it's dragged on a couple years have happened within this one. It's been a year.
And what's very interesting about this year is all the I have learned, as cliche as that sounds. I spoke about being a ship without a lighthouse to guide me and what I am learning about being self employed is that you have to be all of the moving parts in a business. I think that is the hardest thing for me. When you are part of a team, you have many lights to guide you, but when you work alone, sometimes all you see is darkness because you just don't know what to do and there is no lighthouse shinning a path.
Especially around the holidays, social media is filled to the brim with people broadcasting about their holiday parties and work events. It is lonely to be a one person business and I feel that more than ever when I see everyone having such a ball at parties with co-workers. It's pretty hard to throw a one person Christmas party. I don't mean to be a party pooper!
Anyways, I guess I just had a lot of thoughts about this year, and so they came out. I hope to learn from this year, grow more next year and just overall enjoy what life tends to through at me. I am in control of how I want my business to run and I with that comes a lot of responsibility. Here's to taking on the control!