Changes Coming in 2013

Even though I’ve been planning this since July, I am really dreading writing this. Partly because I know that it’s going to be long and extremely difficult for me to portray my feelings accurately, and partly because I know these changes will bring about new changes that scare me. But they’re necessary. I never thought that I, the girl who couldn’t even balance a check book, would own my own business one day, especially at the age of 23. But I’ve learned so much over the past couple of years and I’ve slowly and sometimes, painfully, figured out what works, what doesn’t work, and what it takes to make this business successful.

So, I mentioned changes and I’m going to jump right in. I’m making just a few adjustments in the way I do business.

I don’t know if anyone’s caught on via social media, seeing me in person and witnessing it first hand, or through a telephone conversation with me, but…I’m in over my head. Two years ago, when I started building a client base, it was all about quantity. To book as many shoots as I could. To pack as many shoots into a week/weekend as I could. To be as busy as I possibly could be. Why? Because being busy meant that I was successful. And being successful meant I was actually making this business work and making this business work meant that I could make a career out of this. And I have made a career out of this and I couldn’t be more thankful and (to be completely honest) amazed.

 I have been going about it the wrong way.

Being busy does not mean being successful. Being busy equals delayed editing times, waking up in a sheer panic, feeling as if I can’t give each client the attention they deserve, forgetting things, delayed responses on e-mails or phone calls, missing out on family time, working every holiday and weekend…you get the point. I wanted to be busy just for the sake of saying I’m busy. I came home nearly every weekend from my last year of college to do shoots. I was commuting each weekend to and from Chattanooga and since August, I’ve worked 7 day weeks with the exception of one day. I could literally feel myself losing my mind, and I know a few people that have lost their mind, and I don’t want to be like them.

So in an attempt to save my mind, I’ve made the decision to quit photography.

JUST KIDDING. That’s not really even funny. I could never quit this, it’s in my blood, it’s what I know how to do and do it well, and unless something tragic happens, I’ll be behind the camera until I die or become bedridden, I promise.

But I really am going to make these changes, starting in January:

  • I will rarely be working on Sunday. The truth is, I miss going to church. I miss eating lunch with my family or Tom’s family. It’s an absolute necessity to work on weekends in this profession, but everyone needs a day of rest. Sunday will be a day to see MY family who I honestly see less than I did when I lived 250 miles north. Sunday will be a day to refresh, rest, and rejuvenate, as cheesy as that sounds. I’m going to take naps on Sunday and not feel any regret. I absolutely love what I do, but even still: I do need breaks. Of course, there will be the occasional Sunday afternoon shoot, but not every Sunday, like I’ve managed to do this year.
  • My prices are going to change. Actually taking the pictures is the best part of my job, and a lot of people think that’s where the work stops. And I wish it did and believe me, I used to think that taking pictures was the only thing a photographer did, but it’s simply not true. Behind the scenes, we spend hours answering e-mails and phone calls. Creating and mailing invoices. Designing and packaging photo disks. Ordering and pricing prints. Updating our Facebook page and responding to posts. Attending workshops to better know how to use our equipment and to further our creativity. Editing photos. Meeting with potential brides. Updating the website. Writing and creating blogposts. Researching and purchasing new equipment. Speaking of equipment, take a moment to look it up: it’s expensive. Thousands. And it has to be repaired and replaced and updated, constantly. I’m lucky enough to be part of a Middle Georgia Photographer’s Group, and this is one of the issues we constantly discuss: underpricing ourselves and not placing enough value on our work. This doesn’t mean my prices are going to elevate sky high and become unaffordable, by any means. But I have been at the lower end of the price range for two years, and if I’m going to make a career out of this and eventually {SOON} become full-time, this is necessary. Like I said: these changes do not take place until January of 2013, so if you’ve booked a shoot with me your price, of course, will remain the price I quoted you. I want the price you pay to reflect the quality of the work you receive, which brings me to my next, most difficult change…
  • I’m going to start booking less shoots. This one kills me because I know that it’s going to be very hard for me, but the truth is I can’t keep up with as many shoots as I have right now. Budgeting has never been my strong point, but I recently sat down and calculated how much I need to work to support myself. I have rent, car insurance, house insurance, power bill, vet bills, Target bills…okay..maybe that last one can be cut out or at least lowered…internet/cable bills, alarm system bills, equipment insurance, membership dues, taxes, property taxes, grocery store bills…you get the point, because most of you go through the same thing. I need to book a certain number of shoots per month, and once that monthly quota is met, I’m going to have to either start booking for the next month or not book at all. I love my clients and I’ve formed some amazing friendships through this profession. I want to be able to devote a fair amount of time to each client. I want their experience to be as wonderful as possible, and with the way I’ve booked myself now, I can’t give my full self and that’s what they deserve. You don’t deserve exhausted, creativity-lacking Ashlee. Quality, not quantity.
  • Your wait-time is going to go down. I said I want client’s experience to be as wonderful as possible, and part of that is getting the photos to the client sooner. My goal is to have your photos in your hands within two weeks, weddings excluded, of course. Although, editing time on those will go down as well. My packaging has been completely redesigned and I couldn’t be happier with it. Your CD is customized with a favorite image from the shoot on the cover and it comes in pretty packaging hand-made by me. My goal is to make it so pretty that you feel bad opening it.
and lastly,
  • A deposit to hold your spot is going to be required. This one’s simple. I can’t book a shoot two months in advance, decline numerous inquiries for that time slot, and then have a cancellation that could’ve been filled. I understand things happen. I will work with you as much as I can and we will reschedule. But when I have a cancellation, I lose money. I lose money, I lose my house.

That’s all, for now, and I hope you all understand why the changes are necessary. I want to do this full-time. I want to do this right. And these are steps in the right direction to running a successful business that makes the experience better for the customer and for me.