Grab a coffee, take a seat and settle in… this is likely to be long winded. My hope in writing this, is to gain your understanding. For those of you who have wondered why, or have maybe even just given up on me. I will be truthful and allow myself to be exposed, for the sake of your understanding. You don’t have to like what I say, or even believe my every word but I do hope that you leave from reading this knowing a little more than you thought you did.
I will begin this by saying one simple thing – I have grown.
Here is a photo of me, taken in September of 2011. A few short months before everything changed, both personal and professional – thus leading to my two year break from photography, years later. As you can see, besides being grossly thin, I am otherwise looking very healthy. Well, pictures can lie. Without knowing it, I was actually falling apart both mentally and physically. Between the overwhelming amount of stress and the crippling effects of anxiety, my body was shutting down. Just to help paint a picture here are only a few things that were going on at the time.
Dealing with a nasty divorce involving children, therefore custody issues.
Running a VERY busy photography business with hundreds of clients, wedding and family. Meeting, or at least trying to meet several overlapping deadlines.
Overcoming a deadly disease, which had taken hold of my life yet again.
Anxiety, to a point of hourly attacks.
Desperately trying to keep on top of bills, not having groceries or anything for Christmas…
– Just to name a few.
With everything, I crashed, completely just turned off; like a computer overloaded. I became lethargic at the best of times, my kids lost their mother to stress and anxiety. In relation to my photography business at the time, this took an immense toll on my professional career. Clients understandably, became annoyed with waiting, pissed with their service and a lot had demanded refunds. Which as you guessed, was nearly impossible, considering I was already broker than broke! Becoming financially, emotionally and mentally destroyed had resulted in my very long ICU hospital stay, where my kids had to go without their mother for months and months. Obviously while in the hospital, near death I was not doing photography, or anything remotely related. Leaving my clients, weddings and many others in the dark. – Where were their photos? Where did their money go? Is she going to honor this $130 gift card?? Of course I wanted to fix everything but couldn’t. Instead what happened was, procrastination caused by severe anxiety. I just put it off, I ignored people, even deleted my Facebook profile. Hiding in shame and fear, I chose to run!! I was terrified of people being angry with me and not understanding. I lost MANY clients over the next few years, understandably; even I can put myself in their shoes, I would be furious! Especially with absolutely no information as to what was going on.
From 2011 to 2014, I went from being one of the most well known photographers to one of the most KNOWN photographers. I gave up trying to fix everything in early fall 2014 – I sold every single piece of photography equipment to try and pay bills. I moved in with my dad, went on income assistance and began a life I never thought I would get out of.
*Did you know that income assistance, gives a single mother of two, less than $500 a month – this is to cover everything; rent+ utilities, food, clothes, medical, school costs and everything else.
Then something else happened in the winter of 2015, because of my failure as a business woman, I was also about to fail as a mother. During a long, very drawn out court battle my kids custody arrangements were changed. I no longer had them living with me 50% of the time; where were they going to go, on my dad’s sofa? So understandably they would go to their dads. Things have changed now, but still… It was a horrible thing to have to go through. Consequently 2014-15 was the beginning of a two year break. I was broken and needed to fix myself before I could even begin to fix anything else.
Taking a deep breath, I will finish this post with how things have changed. How I have grown. With everything said here, it’s clear who is at fault – Me. I do not, nor have I ever denied that. I may have hidden from the truth and shied away from any conversations regarding past photography clients, I may have even dodged them in public due to my overwhelming fear of what they might think of me; what would I say to them? Which BTW I miss so many of them, there are some I photographed their kids from babies to 5 years old. You grow attached to people, or at least I do.
I have learned not to take on so much, to not sell gift cards unless photographing is scheduled within a few weeks time of the purchase. To not spend client money until I have completed the service. Even if I need it for a bill – This actually helps motivate me to edit sessions faster. Of course limiting the amount of weddings I book to only 5 and no more! I used to take on almost 5 a month, I remember one month there were 7! I need to keep in mind that I have a family and they need me more then the world needs me to take photos. I love photography so much but I am no good to anyone if I am in the ICU or worse…
So yes, I have grown leaps and bounds! I am now starting over, slowly and trying my best to be more organized for myself and my clients. I plan to keep working towards making things right between myself and past clients. Even if all they will accept is my sincerest apologies for my unprofessional behaviors. I do still have a few clients whom I owe gift card monies too, I have not forgotten. It’s like anything else, it’s going to take time and I have learned communicating is key.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I enjoyed writing it. I hope all who do read this are left with a little more understanding – if nothing else a lesson for yourself. Don’t take on too much, don’t run yourself into the ground like I did. It will likely take me another 5 years before I get to where I dream of being. But, I’m ok with that because good things come to those is due time. I want to earn peoples trust and earn the respect of clients and fellow photographers. It’s not something I take lightly, I look up to many different photographers out there. Maybe someday, someone new to photography will look up to me.
To all of you wonderful people willing to read this, Thank you so much!
A few Reviews from clients since coming back to photography!