Some days just seem to move so fast, get up, get the kids off to school, run to my desk, answer the first set of e-mails (these would be the e-mails that were sent in the day/s prior that have not yet even been opened), edit like a crazy person, answer the second set of e-mails, do a little more editing, smell something, realize it’s you and you could really use a shower, look at the clock to see it’s already 3:02pm and the kids get out of school in 18 minutes, run like a crazy person to the bathroom, jump in the shower, wash your hair while you’re thinking about how much you DIDN’T get done, feel a little overwhelmed, have a strong urge to pour a steaming-hot pot of coffee directly into your mouth for more energy, run to the school get said children, come home, prepare snack, do homework, make dinner, eat quickly, promise your family just “one hour” more of work for the day, sit down and edit, look at the clock to realize it’s the kids bedtime, have overwhelming guilt that another day was spent at the desk, put the kids to bed, kiss the husband when he sweetly gives you the “go ahead, get your editing done” look, come back to the computer edit more, browse FB and notice 8 new client messages and feel compelled to answer even though it’s outside business hours because your OCD will not allow you to close FB without doing so, get back to editing, realize it’s 1am, go to bed only to get up and do it all again…. Yep, that’s the story of my life lately and this story is coming to a close!
I need to say, before I go further, that I am so, so, so enormously blessed to have the life that I do. I am blessed that the Lord has given me a talent that people have responded too. Please know that this post is not a rant, rave, or otherwise irritation/anger induced train of thought, but more just a redirection of my ever-growing business.
A big misconception that I think people have about full time working business owner is that they have expendable time and are able to take off any time they want or need, this is untrue, at least for most professional working photographers. During my “season,” which runs March-November (I do work late Jan & all of Feb but that is considered “off season” for me due to the rapid slowdown in sessions and weddings,) I work anywhere from 50-85 hours weekly, no exaggeration. Now, I could easily scale that down to a 40 hour work week, but that would mean that I would have to make some major changes ranging from no longer accepting new clients, to cutting down session times to a strict hour, to giving more generic edits in photos to save time and be able to move faster through my editing, to raising my prices quite a bit to be able to compensate for the work I would be turning away. I am not comfortable with just about any of these ideas, especially not slacking on my artistic editing because at the end of the day, I am an artist and there would no longer be a point to my work if I didn’t give 100%.That all being said, I do need to make some changes, and I need to make them now. Most of the new changes are actually not changes at all, nor are they new, but are already policy and now just need to be consistently enforced. I think the problem is that I put a lot of pressure on myself. I find it hard to sit and relax if I know that there are sessions or weddings sitting on my computer unfinished, it is VERY unsettling for me. Let me be clear, 90% of the time, I put the pressure on myself, but even still, it is a problem. I forget sometimes, that I am a human, not a machine, and I need to slow down and rest up if I want to be 100% productive. It is my desire to please my clients, turn around images before they are due, provide unique artistic images, and be the bestest place to bring your business, but to be able to do that, I MUST sleep, I MUST read with my kids at night, I MUST snuggle with my honey on the couch from time to time, I MUST make time for myself, because these are the moments that I find the most inspiration! The fact is this; I am wife and mother before all other. There are days where I feel like a walking fraud, a fraud because as someone who mentors other photographers, I consistently talk about priorities and time management. My purpose is to drill, drill, and DRILL these principals into other photographers who are just starting out so that they don’t make poor time management a regular part of their business like I had at one point. It is a struggle, no matter who you are or what your occupation, time management can be the tie that makes or breaks your happy home. So, the point here is that it’s time for me to start managing better, this season really kicked my butt big time and it’s almost as if I forgot everything I knew about balance. With this said, I will be cutting back my hours in a major way for the remainder of 2012 and will be implementing a new scheduling system for 2013 and beyond! ::Side Note:: I will only be taking on 3 sessions per week next year, please book your session in advance when you can.
Art, Style, and Expectations
Art is not something that is an exact science. My art, and I’m speaking for myself only, takes time, patience, love, and inspiration. I do not have a magic wand or special button I click in Photoshop to make everything just perfect. Some images can take me 7 minutes while others can take me an hour, that is just the truth! Would I love to speed it up? SURE! CAN I speed it up? Yep, sure can, and I plan to, but that means that when I hear that famous line, “You can just Photoshop that out, right?” I’ll have to reply with, “Absolutely! Let me direct you to my additional retouching fee chart.” I don’t say this with malice, and if you’ve ever said that line to me or anyone else, don’t worry, we hear it so often that it’s hard to remember who has requested a “little” extra thing for us to fix. Here are a few examples of things that would be really helpful to me in my post processing (Photoshop) that I get a lot of “You can just Photoshop that, right?” requests about:
- Makeup. If you don’t place importance on your makeup for your session, please do not expect me to do so either. This is not directed at any one person, this actually happens a lot, even though I feel like I make pretty clear communication about it prior to each session. Applying makeup in real life can take as little as just a few minutes, applying it to every proof in Photoshop however, can add hours and hours of unnecessary editing that could have been avoided with a simple, real life makeup application. If you don’t wear makeup and don’t want the appearance of makeup in your photos, then this point is not for you.
- Boogers and crusty noses. For real, I don’t think I should even have to explain this one, just do me a favor and bring some tissues to your session if your little one has a nose that need to be attended to, otherwise you’ll get beautiful images with crusty noses back.
- Hair. This one doesn’t happen as often as makeup, but it does happen. If you decided to push your salon appointment back to the week AFTER your session, please do not assume that I will just Photoshop you fabulous highlights or perfectly matching colored roots. While I do possess the skill to make your hair look fabulous, I also will be charging consistently for requests such as this in the future. Again, I mean no offense, but fixing hair in just one photo could potentially take an hour or more depending on the severity of the issue!
- Cuts, bruises, scars, and accidental skin issues are a different story altogether! If your little one gets a scrape, cut, or something of the like that would be obvious in their photos, then I will most certainly do my best to remove that little obstacle from your photos to the best of my ability as boo boos are not something you could have prevented!
Your effort before and during your session will allow me to better serve you and other clients in the most timely fashion. Thank you in advance!
E-Mails and Communications
The subject of e-mailing is one that sends tingles right down my spine some days! On an average day, I tend to have a minimum of 8 unique client contacts. 99% of my contact is done via e-mail or FB fan page private message. Now 8 unique contacts doesn’t sound like much, right? I mean what are 8 e-mails in a day? Well, it’s not that simple. If I am involved in 8 e-mail conversations per day (and remember, that is a minimum), then typically I am actually sending and receiving anywhere from 4-8 e-mails per client. I try my best to answer as quickly as possible in an effort to stay on top of the conversation, but when I’m talking to even just a handful of people, I tend to forget who needs a reply and who has been replied to! Sometimes, I forget about people all together, which I am not proud of, but new e-mails push older e-mails lower and lower into the depths of my inbox, so if you think I’ve forgotten about you, just forward me your last response in our conversation! Please know that I would never intentionally not reply back to someone, even if I was totally booked for the time period requested! I am doing my best at this very busy time to reply back in a timely manner to all forms of communication.
From this point forward, I will be checking my e-mail two times each day, 9am and 3pm, and will reply to all e-mails only at that time. If you have a pressing matter, please say so in the subject line or call me.
::Side note, I was curious, so I just went and counted up my FB messages from ONLY the last 6 days, between the message and my replies, there were 107, and that was ONLY fb, not e-mail, phone, or text!::
Office Hours and Facebook, a Deadly Combination
Effective immediately, I will not be logging into FB until at least noon each day. FB is a major distraction and slows down my editing process! If you message me on FB but need a faster reply, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, ok, almost always, I will only reply to e-mails and work related FB messages as well as phone calls and texts messages inside of regular business hours. Most of you who know me also know that I am a night owl. Some of you, a handful I would say, have been directed to call me later in the evening due to your own work schedules and availability. I’m a busy mom, I understand that it is impossible for me to have a schedule that meets everyone’s needs, so if we need to chat outside of business hours because your schedule does not allow you to do so during my regular hours, I understand! I only ask that my family time is respected.
I cannot express how much I love mentoring, it’s good for the soul and I always have the best time. Every photographer I have had the privilege of working with has fallen into my “friend” zone when it was all said and done. That said, I do ask that you do not take advantage of my kindness. It has taken many years, classes, research, much money and plenty of mistakes to be in the exact position I am in today, and I STILL have plenty to learn! I want to help those who would like my help, but there is fine line between sending someone in the right direction and giving away the farm. I don’t mind the occasional chat online or cup of coffee, but if you’re looking for hardcore direction, please know that this is a service I charge for, this is, after all, a competitive industry and photographers are a nickel a dozen. I believe that if just give another photographer every last ounce of my knowledge, they will know much but learn nothing and will eventually get stuck. I want to encourage others to research, learn, and grow on their own as well as with help from myself or others. If you are interested in mentoring, shoot me an e-mail or watch my other business page, la la land Designs, for info on Workshops. Now, don’t let this dissuade you from sending the occasional question or starting up “shop” talk with me, but please know that there will be some questions better for you to learn by trial and error for your long term benefit. ::Side Note:: Once I wrap up October’s editing, I will be reopening my la la land website which is currently under construction. Mentoring info will be available there again in the future.
And finally, a few more things that I’d like to address:
1. Print Orders: May be picked up or Mailed, unless you are in a 10 mile radius, then I will continue to hand deliver. All print and product orders MUST be paid in full BEFORE ordering, unless your order is over $400, then a payment arrangement can be made upon request.
2. Proof Galleries: WILL expire after 14 days, if you need more time then I will reupload your gallery and forward you the hosting fee of $25, no exceptions.
3. Album Credits, Print Credits, Gift Certificates expire when they expire, period.
4. I do not “Double Discount,” please select the best discount to fit your needs if you have more than one coupon available to use.
5. High End Retouching is NOT included in your session. H.E.R is anything outside of creative or corrective editing. H.E.R is billed at $75 per session, please inquire with questions.
6. Rush editing/retouching is not free. It is unfair to everyone else who spends their hard earned money to ask me to put you or your children at “the top of the pile” so that you can get your photos back faster.
7. For the rest of October and November, I will be working M-W-F 9-4 and closed on Tuesday & Thursday. I work all day Saturday’s out of the office and I have Sunday’s reserved for family time, thank you for understanding!!
If you’ve made it all the way to the end, I thank you for hearing the cries of my heart tonight. At the end of the day, I want to be there with my children as much as possible while maintain a successful, but balanced business.