I recently returned from a Photography business retreat by world renowned Newborn and Maternity photographer, Ana Brandt, and It. Was. Life changing. This past year the business grew faster than I could keep up with. I opened my first brick and mortar studio and did more sessions than I could have imagined. What started as a side business developed into a full time job. The problem was I started burning out. It was a rat race to the top and juggling work and family life was becoming very one sided. My children started to suffer and my husband was picking up more slack than he should (all while he was working a full time job and remodeling our master bathroom in his spare time.) I was beginning to become unhappy from all the pressures. We had a serious talk about closing the business so I could get back to what was important and reset. That’s when I found the retreat. It was everything I was looking for. I’m an artist and numbers and business are not something that excite me but the combination of getting to work with such an accomplished photographer and the man that journeyed alongside of her in the business world, caught my eye. As badly as I wanted to attend the retreat set in Newport Beach, I had a hard time committing to the price tag even with the support of my husband behind me. In my world I am constantly putting myself last and I didn’t think I deserved to spend the money on myself. By the end of a VERY busy season I realized something’s gotta give. So I signed up. I was so nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I hoped the other women attending would be nice and welcoming. I prayed that it would all be worth it. And it was. Talking with Ana and Geoff Brandt everyday and night along with 9 other amazing photographers, I learned the reason I felt like I was drowning was very simple. I didn’t value myself. I didn’t value myself as a photographer and I definitely didn’t value my time. They gave me the tools I need to move forward into this new year with real tangible goals that I can accomplish with the simple task of valuing my time. I learned how to fix my sick business and become profitable. By the way, did I mention that I never paid myself? After the year was over I would put a little aside. I was basically working for free. All the time withheld from my children and husband wasn’t even worth it. This retreat taught me that if I don’t value myself no one else will. I don’t want to build a business that doesn’t value me.
I made a decision on the drive home. I would put my all into turning things around in my business and with my family. The first thing I did when I got home was schedule a date with each of my kids individually. The excitement they felt spending one on one time with me brought me to tears. I found that my colleagues at the retreat also felt that they had been neglecting their children while trying to build their businesses as well. Ana and Geoff taught us to schedule this time and hold ourselves accountable for making it happen. It doesn't matter what business you are in or how long you've been doing it. Taking the time to show your family the appreciation they deserve is of the upmost importance. I decided to make concrete business hours for myself for opening a business only phone line that I can forward to voicemail when I am not open for business. Believe it or not I get a lot of phone calls and texts at bed time and I used to feel like if I didn't respond immediately I would lose a potential client. So many family dinners and school functions have been interrupted by business and it was hurting my family. Would you call your Dr. at home at 8pm and expect them to answer? I'm guessing not. This doesn't mean I don't want to give my clients the best customer service I can, it just means I value myself and if I don't value my time, than neither will they!
This year I promise to value myself before all things. I promise to put myself first along with my family, all while providing the best possible service to my wonderful clients. I urge you to make a promise to yourself too. Value yourself.