Dreams Change - And Thats Ok!
When I was a child, my dream was to work at Disney and draw cartoons. When I was a teenager, I dreamed of living alone in the country with 5 big dogs and painting. When I first got married, my dream was to move to a different country with my husband and experience a different culture. Later we dreamed of building a house that was far bigger than we needed so we could entertain our friends. Then we dreamed of moving to the Okanagan to pursue our career dreams.
I had been taking wedding photos in my home town for about 5 years, but I was limited in variety of venues and scenery. I was also not making a lot of extra income for the amount of work I was putting into it. Working a full time job and doing weddings on weekends, editing on my days off and in the evenings took proved to be too much for me at that time. I didn’t want to give up doing what I loved, but I knew I would not be able to make a living going into full time photography. So when the decision was made to move, I focused on making my dreams of becoming a full time photographer a reality.
It’s been 5 years now since we took that leap of faith, packed up our bags and moved to Penticton and I am facing the same dilemma I did before we left. Back home, there were not too many options for wedding photographers. However, being a small town, where weddings are very different than many places in the world, I wasn’t able to charge enough to make this my career. Here, in the Okanagan, I have a similar problem but for the opposite reason. Because there are so many photographers in the valley, couples have the luxury of bargain hunting. Which honestly, is great for wedding couples. But it’s not great for us photographers who are trying to make this a career. I didn’t expect things to be easy, and I expected to have to work hard to achieve my goal. But I also didn’t expect to be here… in the same boat I was in back home. In the past few years, armed with the determination to have my dream job, I have taken courses, watched videos, and read articles to help me to break into the successful full time photographer market. All of them said the same thing. Market yourself, create a brand, stand out from the competition, up your prices, do things your way, post on social media all the time, add value. Hustle!!! So I did this. I hustled. I hustled my ass off! I changed things up, increased my prices, posted the way I was supposed to. I thought It’s was working when I booked weddings for more than a year in advanced and I thought I was close to going full time with this career. But then things came to a sudden halt and I wondered why. I started doubting myself and my skill. I was doing everything I was supposed to, so why was I here again, in this place I thought I had moved on from? I got frustrated and felt defeated. I came very close to giving up and quitting all together. Then I had an epiphany. Actually, had a few of them.
My first epiphany was that if I wanted to fully support myself doing photography, I have to market myself as a high end wedding photographer and price myself accordingly. I started down this path. However, I soon discovered that the majority of weddings that happen in the valley do not fit in that budget. And the ones that do fit that price range are not looking for high end wedding photographers in Penticton. Most high end wedding couples hired their photographers from Kelowna, Vancouver or even out of the country. If I wanted to pursue this avenue of marketing, I would have to move to Kelowna, or further away. But I love it here, so this is not an option for now.
Secondly, not all of the wedding photographers in the valley are meant to be full time. There are just simply not enough weddings to support all of us full time. Thats why many of us have second jobs, (often full time jobs). It’s why most of us photograph more than just one thing. (Weddings, Maternity, Product Shots, Business, Boudoir, Family, Babies…) Very few of us “specialize” in one specific area. If I wanted to do this full time, I would need to photograph a variety of things. Events, Families, Newborns…etc. But honestly, I don’t enjoy taking these kinds of photos as much. I want to focus solely on weddings.
The third epiphany was very similar to the old saying “be careful what you wish for”. When I finally did got a taste of living out my dream, it was not what I thought it would be. The business side of running a business is not fun for me. It was very clear from the start that I have no clue what I was doing when it comes to all the behind the scenes stuff. Thank goodness for a husband who has more experience in this area. I don’t like marketing myself and building my brand. I don’t enjoy posting everything I do on social media in hopes it will lead to a booking. If I was going to do this full time, I would have to do all this stuff and ….. I simply don’t want to. I'd rather spend my time enjoying my life.
My fourth epiphany was the most important and I will be forever grateful for it. In all the advice I had been gathering about how to run my business, all the things I tried to do, I overlooked the one that mattered most. “Do things your way.” What works for others doesn’t always work for everyone else. I took a good look at what other wedding photographers were doing to keep going and I didn’t want to do things that way. And I’m not saying that they have done anything wrong. They are kicking ass at their jobs! I’m just saying that….. it’s not me.
With these new pearls of wisdom, I have made some decisions.
Decision One: I have given up my dream of working as a full time Photographer, and I am genuinely ok with it. I have struggled to “make it” and I am simply just tired of the stress and worry it has caused me. I don’t want to hustle anymore…. I’m exhausted!! Some of us are just not cut out to do this. I do not have the business savvy skills to do this full time. And thats ok. Life is too short, so I want to enjoy it. And to be honest, I do not enjoy life outside of work anymore, (when there is life outside of work). I hate posting to “my stories” on instagram all the time. I want to be able to go out, or stay in or eat breakfast, or go to the beach, or binge watch netflix, without having to document it. Does anyone really care that I drank coffee this morning or that I went on a hike yesterday? If people are going to book me for their wedding day, I want them to book me because they like my work. Not because I post random things on social media. I get that social media builds a relationship with others which is super important. But hey, if you want to get to know me, lets hang out, go for coffee, or have a phone chat. I mean this is what consultations are for. I also don’t want to fill up every weekend in my summers with work. I want to be able to enjoy my summer too!
But the biggest and most important reason why I am giving up this dream of full time photography is because of my husband. Herman is my ultimate dream come true! I could not ask for a better husband and best friend. Over and over again, he has supported me as I tried to make this business thing happen. He has watched me struggle, has encouraged me to keep going and is there for me now that I have finally had enough of the grind. He is my number #1 priority. When I pour most of myself into my work and marketing and branding, he ends up getting whatever is left over of me. And often it’s a very tired and stressed out version of his wife. He deserves better. And I want to give him better. I love photography, but I love him more and I will not sacrifice our marriage to chase the dream of being a full time photographer.
Decision Two: I am still planning to run my business and take wedding photos, because I love doing it and I am damn good at it! But this will be a side business and I will be doing things my way. I will only be offering full day wedding photography services. I love shooting full day weddings, from getting ready to the first dances. This is my JAM! So thats what I’m going to do. This means my prices and packages are changing…..again….. (insert eye roll here). There will be four different full day wedding photography packages to choose from for 2020 and onwards. These new packages will be listed on my webpage ASAP. I will also be limiting the number of weddings I do to 10 between May - September. Yup just 10. (15 overall for the year) And if I book less, that just means I get to go to the beach more often. There is a lot of work that comes before and after shooting a full day wedding. Though I love every part of the process, I want to make sure I have enough time to do my job well so my clients get the highest quality of service I can provide. And I also want some free time for just myself and my husband to enjoy our life out here.
Decision Three: I will be focused only on Wedding and Engagement Photography. Though I have done many other types of photography, it is weddings I love to shoot and it is at weddings where I do my best work. Now that I am working more hours at my other job, I will be not have the time to photograph anything else. But don’t worry, there are many talented and amazing photographers out there who want to take family photos, school portraits, newborn photos and headshots.
These decisions were hard to make. And they were not made in haste. I have been mulling this over for a year or more, and now that I have made up my mind, I am at peace. At this point in my life, I know this this is the right choice for me. I have other dreams to chase. Other things I want to do with my life and these decisions will help me to do them.
And now for my big exciting news!!!! ….wait for it…. On a recent trip to Mexico, I had the opportunity to meet and chat with a resort rep. He asked us about our stay and wanted some feedback on certain aspects of the resort. In the course of our conversation, he found out I am a wedding photographer. Because they offer weddings and have many honeymooners staying with them at the resort, we started chatting about the wedding industry. We traded stories of wedding ups and downs, business in general and our ideas for future endeavours. Then things took an unexpected and exciting turn.
I had made a comment on how I was going to refer all my clients to come to the resort because I was having such a great time. Intrigued by this, he suggested a partnership that would allow me to offer a weeks stay at their resort to my clients. I admit, I was stunned….. it seemed a little too good to be true. But after some discussion, I am thrilled to announce that, starting in 2020, my largest wedding photography package will include a 1 week, all inclusive stay in Mexico at any of the amazing 5 star Pueblo Bonito Resorts!!!
This package includes just your stay at the resort and does not include airfare. However, your amazing room, meals, drinks and shuttle service to and from the airport is included with your stay. Pueblo Bonito has resorts in Cabo San Lucas, in Mazatlan and are in the process of building more resorts in Cancun, Mexico City and other parts of the world. You are able to choose your week at any of their resorts. We stayed at Sunset Beach Resort and I highly recommend it! To find out more about these amazing 5 star resorts visit their website at: https://www.pueblobonito.com/
In this crazy life, it is rare to feel complete peace about the direction you are going. I feel like I am there now and am confident that this is a good start to the next chapter of my business life. And I am so excited to be able to offer my clients the best I have to give! I hope to hear from you soon.