I’m “settled” in my personal life for the first time in… ever? There was that time in 2009 where I thought I was settled (ha ha ha… oh, Amber. You had no idea.) and I can sense chaos on the horizon because there’s ALWAYS FUCKING SOMETHING that rocks the boat, but now? Right now? I have a good solid home life, and it feels like we’ve been married way longer than we have, in the good way. It just works. And my career is… oooo. Ok. So, after being a wedding photographer for five years, I figured out that it’s ok to press in and harder than “Oh, we’ll see what happens.”
Do other people work this way? When you realise how hard to have to actually work? Or did everyone else already know? And not that I haven’t been trying hard in business, but I haven’t been trying that hard to GET business.
Why? Because my entire life was so tumultuous that I would just take what comes. Because I never knew when a barrier would fly up from my overbearing parents, and I learned to just not have cognitive problem solving processes, because it didn’t matter anyway. Someone was always there to tell me what to do, what to think, and trying to make sense of the world myself was wasted effort.
When I started having business success I tried not to question it, or keep too close of a grip on it. I mean, I’m still there sometimes to my detriment. Doing my taxes last week, I said to my accountant, “Ok, let’s see how much money I made this year!” and she blinked at me and was like, “You mean you haven’t been keeping track?” And I hemmed and hawed, and admitted that I was only gauging it based on how I felt like I was doing, not looking at the hard numbers, and she shook her head, and I was like, “Yes. I know.” We’re going to start doing quarterly taxes now. (BTW, it was almost exactly double of what I made in 2014, and I certainly didn’t feel that, so yeah. Using your gut as an accounting method is bullshit. I know you knew this. I didn’t.)
I’m friends with a lot of wedding professionals. A lot of them are also taking the more relaxed approach, letting their businesses float as they will, and I thought that was fine… but this week it all kind of clicked for me: it’s not. I want a business that will totally support my family. Of course Marley has an income, but my dream is to have the option to have him be a stay-at-home dad if he wants to be… and if not, I want an income that makes sense as a full-time business, not part-time supplemental family income.
I have to press a lot harder, and be better. Raise my prices to a level that demanded I deliver an enormous amount of customer service and talent, in a sea of wonderfully talented vendors who also deliver excellent customer service. I’m black, a woman, living in New York City and I don’t come from shit. I have to be “Twice as Good“.
This is all very exhausting.
I’ve lived in New York City way too long. I realized this ’cause I was on the subway the other day and I heard a meow meowwww, and I’m like, ‘Oh great, here comes some frickin’ guy pretending he’s a cat.’ And I turned around, and it was a cat. In a bag. That’s what New York City’s done to me. I’m like, ‘Cat noise? Can’t be the animal that makes that noise. It’s gotta be some weird cat guy.’ Like I was gonna turn around and there was going to be some guy with, like, cat ears and a unitard and felt whiskers.
–Dan St. Germain
So I’m sitting in the hot tub on vacation, and these two older guys are talking about stocks. I listen, and figure out that they’re talking about what stocks are GOING to do, with a bit of authority. They’re keeping their voices low, but I’m right there, so it appears that I don’t register to them as someone who causes any concern. They’re talking about a stock I already own a few shares of. I sink into the bubbles and listen while pretending to count the stars, flirt with my husband, and ignore them.
I hop out of the hot tub, dry off, and use the hotel wi-fi to buy a few extra shares.
Within 24 hours, a good chunk of my vacation had paid for itself.
Marley and I are currently taking a four-month delayed honeymoon to Maui. We got married at the end of September, but there was no way in hell we were leaving the wonder that is October in New York City. February, however, reaches a hurts-to-breathe bullshit-level of cold, and I’m not busy, so here we are. I owed myself another visit; the last time I was here my life was falling apart, and now it’s wrapped itself back together. The symmetry makes me happy. Plus, it’s baby whale season, so there are moms teaching their calves to swim outside our window before they trek to Alaska for the summer and it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
This is my Maui Honeymoon playlist.
I felt like a total badass this week.
I’ve recently been made the president of the coop in our building (it’s like being president of the home owners association). As such, it’s my job to write the checks on behalf of the building, which is technically a very small corporation.
We had a roof issue that needed to be resolved, and this involved our building being ensconced in scaffolding three stories up, which blocked all but the tiniest slivers of sun from getting through my windows. It was pretty miserable, but worse when, weeks after the roof repairs were done, the scaffolding remained.
“Send the check, the job is done,” I was told. But… the scaffolding was still up. There was also, I’m not kidding, a JUG OF PEE sitting on the ledge of my living room window outside that made me queasy to look at.
After a few weeks, I got stubborn: no check until EVERYTHING was done, including the scaffolding coming down. I figured, why would this company bother paying a group of workers to take literal tons of wood and steel beams apart and put them into storage when they could leave it up, then move it whenever they needed it again? Especially now, while it’s covered in snow. I just knew it: they were planning on leaving it here, possibly for months, holding my windows hostage. I made the call: no money ’til it’s done-y.
My stance caused a few eyebrows to raise in the building; the guy downstairs is buddies with the owner of the company that did the roof repairs so he was eager to get them paid (he also rents out his unit, so didn’t have the misery of the dark building to deal with daily) and another board member agreed with me, but was hesitant to rock the boat. Still I stood firm.
The next morning, the scaffolding was being pulled apart.
I am a New Yorker, and a businesswoman, and you cannot fuck with me.
“What are your rates?”
Someone asked me what my headshot rates were in 2009, and I had to scramble to come up with a number since no one had ever paid me to shoot before. I came up with sixty dollars, and after the shoot, I was paid in three crisp $20 bills, which had me euphoric. (It’s a little more expensive to get a headshot from me now.) A year later, someone paid me $200 for an engagement shoot. These were the first wobbly little blocks of the foundation of my current career, and I thought I ought to write them down before I forgot them.
I have a subscription to Vogue.
My entire closet of everyday clothing is worth about $100 max (what up, sweatpants!), my best shoes are sneakers, and I’ve been carrying the same purse for about four years, every single day. I really wanted to be, but I am not A Fashion Girl (it turns out I am, however, an Expensive Skin Care girl, because I just discovered Tata Harper and holy cow does my complexion look amazing.)
It’s the Vogue photography that’s inspiring. It basically functions as a crystal ball for wedding photography in the next two or three years, so if there’s a trend that speaks to me, I can jump on it and ride that wave all the way to the beach. I figured this out a year ago, looking at an old Vogue from 2008. A model was on a balcony holding a gigantic balloon, and I thought, “Huh? That’s a bit basic for Vogue.” Then I saw the year, and it clicked. Vogue published this photo, and then I saw a bunch of engagement photos with gigantic balloons, until it because a tiny bit of a cliche (and don’t get me wrong: I still love the gigantic balloon thing, but it’s been done.)
I am up to my eyeballs trying to get our New Years party put together, and rapidly reaching the “shove everything in a closet” stage of the game. I’m looking at my guest list, the square footage of my apartment, the guest list again, and shaking my head.
It’s going to be… cozy.
Where do I start recapping this year? I got married. My business grew so much. I clicked deeper into myself and became more… me. We moved into a new apartment, and I’m still getting used to it. It is challenging and awesome to live in a tiny space. This blog got a much-needed update after getting neglected.
I learned hard lessons this year in business. There were a few times I messed up, or there was a thing or two I had to learn the hard way. Next year will be better. I have a hard time thinking about my mistakes sometimes. I think a lot of people tend to beat themselves up over “medium failures” – that is, failures that aren’t super huge, but aren’t tiny mistakes either – and I am trying to find the balance of acknowledging what I did wrong without overdoing it. I don’t want to dwell on them, but I don’t want to not stop and take a good look at them, either. My parents always took my lack of getting visibly upset over my mistakes as a sign of not caring, so if I messed up and simply apologised without appropriate supplication, I got in even MORE trouble, but if I did make a big deal out of something, I found myself overwhelmed. Oh the scars we have to deal with, even still.
2016 is going to be a time of building new foundations on scorched earth. We want a baby. I want to dig into my new home and new life. I think it’s going to be a good year.