The incident that changed my course…

Back when the industry was amazing.

As you may know if you follow this, I went back to college.  As I started to see this photography industry slipping, I went back to what I started in 1994, accounting (and I may venture into testing for actuarial services – we will see… I love analytical risk management type of things – people complain that I’m always analyzing the photography industry – it comes natural to me, so why not do something that is natural?).  Don’t ask me why my brain likes art and math/analytical both… it seems kind of strange since they are from two totally different ends of the spectrum, but I never claimed to be normal, right?

 

LIFE CHANGES AND THAT’S OKAY:   I won’t lie to you or sweep what’s going on under the rug.  I’m not going to tell you that I decided to put aside a thriving business to start business coaching or I was missing my family so much, I’m giving up this amazing house and hugely successful business to move back in with my parents, and I’m not going to tell you that I decided to pack my family up and go on an adventure, and GoFundMe so that maybe, possibly, Oprah will pick it up…… (I’ve seen these and similar excuses photographers are giving for “closing” their businesses – and we are all expected to believe this…..).

Nope.  I don’t hand out that BS.  No one leaves a thriving business especially in this economy, unless they legitimately sell the business, and no one wants a washed up photography business anymore – because…. I’m just going to say it – there is no value in a photography brand as in, being able to sell it to another owner.  There is no guaranteed client base that one can sell.  Why so many photographers cannot be honest is beyond me.  If we are  honest, we can all commiserate.  If we lie and put up a bunch of lies to make ourselves feel better, everyone loses. (Disclaimer:  Not saying there aren’t still photographers doing well, I’m saying that no one wants to admit if things aren’t going well especially if they are selling a “dream” to other photographers).

I want to talk about what exactly happened in May that changed my course.  It’s no secret, I was frustrated with the backstabbing part among photographers, and I was struggling with less clients and clients that were not placing orders within the time frame in our contract.   I knew what it would take to keep going.  It would take marketing a lot.  It would take hustling and becoming “the bad guy” collector of outstanding orders.  The constant market market market, conflict conflict conflict.  Honestly, I started my photography business all those years ago because I was an artist, and I knew my work would speak for itself.  I knew that if someone wanted my work, they would see it, and know they wanted it, and purchase a session.  I did not get into this industry to hustle.  There is nothing wrong with marketing and hardcore sales, and if you have a passion for what you do and you like it, that’s great.  That is not me.   And you can forget in person sales – I did that before.  It’s not conducive to the Baltimore/DC/NoVa lifestyles – I would have to hire a bouncer to insure orders were placed and paid on the spot.

DID YOU GIVE UP?  Absolutely not.  I still have those that seek my work out.  That, my friends, is the highest compliment an artist can ever receive – the discerning individual that actually seeks art out and is not satisfied with anything but.   My work speaks for itself, and it won’t speak to everyone but those who it does speak to, value it, and I value them.

IT’S ABOUT FULFILLMENT:   I’ve always needed fulfillment.  If I was not fulfilled in a certain area of my life, I needed to make changes.  While working on this accounting degree, I thought I would put some resumes out to get a feel of the workforce.  Let’s face it, I hadn’t been in the “work force” since 1996.  I’ve owned my own businesses since then for the flexibility alone.  I worked hard.  It was never “Barbie got a camera” like many situations out there, but an actual honest-to-God profitable business run as a business, not a hobby.

I realized earlier this year, there was nothing holding me back from going back to the workforce.  My kids are now teens.  Why not put a few resumes out?  I got an almost immediate call back for an administrative position.  I went to the interview.  The company seemed nice, but I knew deep down inside that wasn’t the job for me, and the person who interviewed knew it too.  Fast forward to that moment at the end of THIS POST, that week, I received a phone call.  That company called me back as the accounting position opened up.   She said things happen for a reason, and absolutely, that has always been my motto – trust your gut, trust your intuition.  I dove right into the position, head first.

It’s very different being back in the workforce.  I’m enjoying it.  Weekends are for photography.  Monday through Friday, I get up, grab a coffee, head out the door with my husband, and we carpool to work.  Our places of employment are within 10  minutes of each other.

Some perks (I guess you can tell I love lists):

  • Romance haha 😉 – Carpooling allows Dean and I to have great conversation, morning and evening, although he may say it is me doing all the talking…..  We occasionally stop for an after work drink and just hang out as a couple, enjoying each other’s company.  There is nothing like having alone time with your spouse that is just so necessary to keep a relationship strong.  Our companies are from a similar industry, so we actually connect on a work level as well.
  • My hours aren’t bad – I get out of work a little after 4 p.m……We get family time in the evenings and weekends.  I’m still working on structuring the weekends and delegating a few things out (like editing, more on that later).
  • A feeling of being a contributing member of society.  This job gives me focus, gives me some challenges, and lets me feel like I have accomplished something every day.  Whether it be from processing a stack of invoices to creating a data spreadsheet with intricate formulas or just keeping my desk and workflow organized, I leave work feeling that I finished something.
  • I shower every day, get dressed, and look presentable.  I know that sounds absurd, but every photographer knows those days of just deciding not to shower because you have editing to do, and then feeling skanky come mid afternoon.  I hated every single time I talked myself into not getting “ready” for the day.    It’s the little things 😉
  • My back is thanking me.  I don’t have to spend my days bent over or carrying heavy equipment running around.  You may be aware that I have a terrible back injury that was a ticking time bomb for surgery.
  • A steady paycheck (something that just about no business owner can guarantee).
  • You can be paid and not be at work.  Imagine that!  When is the last time we photographers had paid vacations (and work vacations don’t count!)?
  • Benefits.  401K anyone?  It’s not too early to think about your retirement.  It will be here before you know it.  Those little toddlers running around your feet?  You will blink, and they will be graduating high school, and if you are middle class or higher, and your child does not get 5.0s (yes, it’s no longer 4.0s), you are going to be in for a rude awakening with college costs.
  • Structure…. Since starting this job, I have managed to lose 22 pounds.  Yes, you read that right.  There are a few other contributing factors, but having a daily structure has definitely been the foundation for this weight loss.  I will share more on that in a later post.
  • Socializing.  I genuinely like the people I work with.  They are a lot of fun.  The personalities are all different, but those moments of breaking out in laughter over something as simple as a Monty Python reference of “I’m not dead yet!”  You don’t realize what you are missing spending hours in front of a computer editing photos or typing medical records (as I did in my last career).
  • Leaving work at work.  It’s such a small thing, but it is so different for me not to bring work home with me and stress about it constantly.
  • Family coordination.  We have started to pay our teens to help us with extensive family chores such as dishes, laundry, and grass cutting ( you have to understand, we have a few acres, that is quite the task).  This has allowed our teens to also feel an accomplishment with a monetary reward and created some more independence and self reliance.  Our teens are actually communicating and helping each other more than they did when I was home and did everything or communicated between them (an introvert household understands this concept well, I am sure ;)).
  • Re-awakening of my soul.  Sounds corny, but now that I don’t have to rely on photography as my primary source of income, my creative side has re-emerged.  I LIKE photographing again.  I was so burnt out.  Now I enjoy my moments with the newborns, and I absolutely love shooting nature and everyday again….

I know working outside of the house is not for everyone.  I get that.  Personally, I thrive on structure, challenges, and subsequent accomplishment.  This is my life now.  I’m just as surprised as you probably are that I’m liking it quite a bit 😉

I don’t plan to ever quit photography completely.  I’m always going to have a foot in the door with it.  I do enjoy working with clients and photographing babies and such, but the industry is what it is.  It is no longer the thriving $400,000-in-yearly-revenue  businesses.  It’s just not, but I have learned in the past three months to find the blessings and happiness and strive for the fulfillment instead of sitting back and constantly complaining.  I do still like to poke fun at the industry (which those who do not understand my humor, want to shout it’s negativity *sigh*), and I always will be a little sarcastic when it comes to it, but I encourage everyone to find their happiness and fulfillment wherever that may be.

Yes, I will continue to teach photographers my skills that I have worked hard perfecting over the years – lighting, composition, you name it – in books (located HERE) and will be sharing more on this blog in the future.  I will teach what I know… I will not try to to tell you how to keep a thriving successful hundreds-of-thousands-in-revenue-pouring-in-business in this shaky industry because the odds of you getting there realistically, are nearly impossible.  That’s reality.

 

Edited to add.  Photographers never cease to amaze me.  It was just said that I sounded bitter because I wrote this post.  Amazing to me…. because I personally am very excited and happy about the future – but that’s being bitter?  Go figure.  That’s news to me.  I reread this post, and hmmm… romance, re-awakening of my soul, losing 22 pounds, liking the people I work with, etc…. aren’t those positives?  Haha…. oh well.  Damned if I do, and damned if I don’t – that’s just the internet anymore.  I guess it is better to say “oh, my business has been doing so amazing that I decided instead of taking clients anymore, I’m going to give back to photographers and teach you all how to make hundreds of thousands and follow your passion, for the simple and easy installments of $900 per month!”  That sounds MUCH better.

The purpose of this post was to help others.  There are so many that think their businesses are failing and it is all their fault and they keep pushing and pushing thinking it’s something they can change.  They are not failing, the industry is failing.  Why can’t we all get along and be honest about our feelings and experiences without facing nastiness – just because some of us do want to talk honestly, that makes us vulnerable, and there is always someone out there who sees someone being vulnerable, and wants to take a stab.

 

J. Otte Photography originals – back in the day.

 

 

About Jodie Otte

Maryland Newborn Photographer and Child Portrait Artist, Jodie Holstein-Otte, specializes in unique photography of newborn babies, kids, and families. She works on location in Harford, Howard, Cecil, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and other areas throughout Maryland. She uses both both natural lighting and soft studio lighting techniques.

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