In 2023 I fell into the trap that many new photographers fall into. It was my "yes" year. I said yes to EVERYTHING. Every inquiry felt like my dream client, no matter what their budget or vision was..whether it aligned with my needs and vision or not. If they were willing to pay (even pennies) I was the photographer for them. Not only did our family grow with another baby, but my workload tripled, maybe even quadrupled. This is no joke. And YEP.. you guessed it... it led me to the very infamous spot of "burnout".
I never truly knew what that word meant.. industry leaders warned me! But, I just assumed it was a lack of motivation and maybe a little,, dare I say it... laziness thrown in there. (Yes I'm aware of how ignorant and naive that sounds)
I was BURNT.
To a crisp.
I had nothing left to give. I was editing and working all night, while taking care of my two babies (who refuse to sleep..ever) then 'momming' and wife-ing during the day. I was time pour... in the truest form. Time BANKRUPT if you will.
I took on way. too. much. and left myself in a tough position. Galleries were getting back to clients late. I started forgetting and missing appointments (only a couple times but anyone who knows me knows...that's WILD). My client experience was suffering. I was becoming resentful of my business as a whole, and most importantly.. my family and babies were getting the most depleted version of me. It left zero room for personal tragedies, which is an entire other layer to 2023. So.. towards the end of the year.. the pressure continued to build. Peak wedding season came and the workload kept building..Holiday season came and the workload kept building.. birthdays, deaths, Christmas, then..
Just like that,
Split in half.
The universe slammed me with a computer crash and it forced me to unplug. Turns out I wont slow myself down until I'm absolutely forced to and damn near restrained (metaphorically, of course).
I took a desperately needed 7 day unplugged break. No emails. No clients. No editing. My phone was on DND and I was very picky with who I responded to in my personal life. I needed to retreat and recharge.
It was glorious.
Creating space between myself and the chaos I created was exactly what I needed to regain clarity.
During my hibernation and quality time with my family, I realized my way of operating was not sustainable. My mental health was at the bottom of the bucket. The "fuck-it" bucket had filled and spilled. I told myself, we have some major changes to make going forward. Starting with streamlining, simplifying, and most importantly.. learning how to value my time and work.
Not everyone is going to be the client for me. And that's just something I had to admit and embrace.
Saying "no" is not missing out.
It's saying yes to balance and proficiency.
It's saying yes to things that fuel my soul and light my fire.
It's saying yes to more precious moments with my babies who are growing like the speed of light.
My clients deserve the enthusiasm and value I have to offer, not the watered down version of a try-hard grasping at straws trying to survive the chaos. Some people reading this might think I'm being a little tough on myself, and that may be the case, but more importantly I'm practicing self-awareness. I'm acknowledging that the way I've been operating is serving nobody, and the only way to improve is by doing less.
So going forward, you'll notice a lot of things changing. I'll be saying no to projects that do not feel aligned. I'll be packing LESS projects with way more value. I'll be nurturing the genuine relationships and community that shares empathy and support. I'll be saying no to anything that feels fabricated and forced.
There's a beautiful milestone after your second year in business. You've settled into your seasoned bones.. you've learned about the shadows of your soul.. The untamed and unhealed traumas that show up in your daily routines..
After your second year you see your patterns.
You can pick apart the pieces of your business that you've taken from others and replace them with your own authentic and genuine style.
This rings true to me.. I'm finally nestling into my branding and overall business experience.
And it is glorious.
So, if you're still with me..
To everyone who has allowed me the space to grow to publicly. Thank you. For everyone who has trusted me with your precious moments, (even if your gallery took longer than expected.) Thank you. For everyone who has provided me with the safe space to explore my passions. Thank you.
You're all the real ones, and I hope your 2024 is the year you need.