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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Professional Photographer Column: December 2013


I sat down this evening to think about writing my column because the note in my diary with ‘deadline’ was nearly upon me.  Being the last one of the calendar year it got me thinking about the year ahead.  To be honest I rarely have time to think about the week ahead so it seemed almost indulgent to look into my future.  What did I see?  An equally tired Kate this time next year.

And the year after that and the year after that.  I am quite certain that I am not alone in not knowing what my future holds.  But this is business and not personal so that’s actually pretty appalling.  However I did once write a business plan and I’ve just unearthed it.  Under ‘Future’ it said ‘VAT registered’ (tick) and ‘fully booked with time for family particularly during school holidays’.  I clearly didn’t know then that fully booked in photography terms leaves no quality time for anything – my family, my health, my friends, my home etc.

What was missing in my ‘business plan’ was a section on the future – an outline of how long I will be doing this for and what I am planning ahead for.  Without this paragraph it looks like I am intending to shoot weddings until I die or until one of my children is stupid enough to want to take over the business (they are 8 and 6 so hardly relevant at the moment…).  What was missing was an exit strategy.

At least I can admit this lack of Business 101 in this forum – safe in the knowledge that most of us are fundamentally ‘creatives’ who have no desire to appear on The Apprentice.   My plan was clearly to work as hard as possible to build a successful business and earn enough money to support my family.    Thankfully I have achieved this but at some cost.

So – on the eve of another year I must aim to get my life back and maintain (if not increase) my income.  The latter is absolutely achievable and my new pricing structure is proving to be brilliant – I’m being paid well for my time, my clients are absolutely clear on what they will get for their investment and it’s now quite difficult for people to negotiate with me without feeling bad about it.   All good?   Yes – although I still seem to be working a long 7day week in 6 days.  I have managed to claw back Sundays but as a result I rarely get quality time on Friday nights or Saturdays and I work late most evenings.

At this point it is important to acknowledge that I have a choice. 

It turns out my greatest friend and my greatest enemy is ambition.   I subscribe to Glass magazine (which positions itself as a ‘a simple, honest, thought-provoking journal of curated modern culture’) and a recent issue explored the fascinating but ambiguous topic of ‘ambition’.   I was forcibly struck by the words of Michael Burt, a coach, when asked if it’s possible to have both a professional and personal life stated “I think it’s very difficult for the super-ambitious person.  I think you could have it all, in essence, but many successful people would tell you they have sacrificed a great many things.  There has to have been an enormous amount of collateral damage to be ultra-successful…ambitious people are never satisfied with who they are…they live in a gap, because there is a downside to ambition.  One of them is being overworked, overstressed…so many times the most ambitious people are the most frustrated people, because they live in the gap of where they are versus where they think they should be.  There will always be a gap no matter how successful you are”.

This article has helped me understand that I am partly to blame for the position I find myself in and accept that it will always be thus.

So – back to the question about the future.  Having accepted that I will strive for success in whatever I do and that there will inevitably be fall out it seems more important than ever that I have an exit strategy.  The reality is that I don’t see myself shooting weddings 10 years from now.   Hell no. 

It turns out that I’ve had an idea and it won’t go away.  It’s big and challenging and not for the faint-hearted.  I’m garnering opinions to see if it has legs.  Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t – what matters is that I’m thinking ahead.  So Merry Christmas PP lovelies.  Wrap up warm, enjoy the festivities and have a fabulously Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. Some really useful slides here. I've been looking for something like this to help with a research piece I've been working on..



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