Changes: Busy Season Edition — Running a Business

Changes: Busy Season Edition — Running a Business

When you grow up in the high elevation desert (I mean…), you learn that there is truth is the saying, “when it rains, it pours”. I remember as a child, running between school and my mom’s office, feeling the wind whip my hair, and without warning, the skies just opening up. So much rain you couldn’t see five feet in front of you. And mere minutes later? The sun would be back. With all the rain that Seattle gets, in my years there, I never experienced a storm like that. I never really understood what a drizzle was, or how mist fell from the sky (and not a sprinkler), but I know about pouring down rain.

The same saying feels like it could be applied to wedding season. This rain is somewhat one of my own making, and one of circumstances. My younger brother and I both have summer birthdays, there are wonderful summer holidays, work to be done on the house, the patio at my favorite hangout to enjoy, a hammock to lounge in, and – thanks to our super-quick-middle-of-wedding-season move two years ago, a lot of little business details that need to be addressed every summer.

With the move, I had to update my business license. No big deal, right? Except, this changed my filing date to the middle of summer. It was a little annoying, until it became really annoying when I wanted to make some changes to the business this year. I started working on this process back in March. March! Last week, after weeks of research, paperwork, and time on hold, I officially filed that last pieces of paperwork to change my business from a sole proprietorship to an LLC. I’m official! Phew. Someone pass me a drink.

What does this mean? From the outside, not much. I’m still a one-woman show (for now). I’m still running this show as Emily Wenzel Photography. And it’s all still happening from the littlest bedroom in our house. However, it took me a few calls to different state organizations, lots of time on hold, and couple very nice ladies who walked me through some of the less clear processes. There were two reasons I put off making my business an LLC, and honestly, they weren’t very good reasons. I didn’t want to spend the money or the time to do this. So, if you’re starting a business or own a business that isn’t an LLC, get on that shit. And then we’ll grab drinks to celebrate your new official-ness.

Funny thing: I got into business to create beautiful pictures and run a business I believe in. Turns out that I do the second much more than the first. I would say I spend less than 25% of my time actually taking photos, and the rest is the administrative, the behind the scenes work: editing, blogging, taxes, email, going to the bank, etc. I wouldn’t trade my business for a job in a cubicle. This is what I’m meant to be doing right now, I know that.

And, because every post deserves a photo, here’s a behind the scenes shot of Kate & I from last summer at Joel & Dan’s wedding. I’m booking up for 2016, and I’d love to shoot a couple more Seattle weddings next year.

Behind the Scenes at Within Sodo Seattle // Emily Wenzel Photography

2014 In Review // Inland Northwest Wedding Photography

2014 In Review // Inland Northwest Wedding Photography

I’m back from my vacation (hello, inbox. Let’s get to work) and ready to tackle 2015. I spent a lot of time in the last week thinking about 2014. And what I was going to say in this post. I wanted to come back and tell you all how fabulous and wonderful 2014 was. Because, it was fabulous and wonderful. But it was also hard, and while it started out amazing, the last few months were really hard, and by the end, I was done with 2014.

Paris on Film // Emily Wenzel Photography

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Taking Chances — Running a Business

Taking Chances — Running a Business

A few months ago, I applied for a photography job. One that includes crazy amounts of travel and photography, one that was perfect for me because it combines the two things I love most — photographing life changing moments and travel it was my dream job. It took me months to even get the courage to apply. It got to the point where H would ask me every day if I’d applied. I finally did, in late May. In the minutes (and hours) after I applied, I wavered between feeling so excited I was over the moon, and wanting to puke I was so nervous. This job was amazing. This job would change our lives.

I put it out of my mind. It could be months before they made a decision. But it was perfection. This job was meant for me! I went to WDS, I heard Tess Vigeland speak. I almost cried because every word of what she said resonated with me. And then, in mid-July, I got an email. They wanted to do an interview. This, in itself, was amazing. These positions are so coveted that, on average, over 1,000 people apply to each one. And I got an interview.

I did the phone interview (the job was long distance). We’d just moved to Spokane. I literally sat on the floor, surrounded by packing boxes, talking to someone 3,000 miles away.

And then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Until I found out I didn’t get the job.

Bam.

Rejection. That sting never gets old.

But it was okay. Because I took a chance. If I hadn’t applied, then I never would have gotten the interview. And even though I didn’t get it, I did get the satisfaction of knowing they liked my work enough to call me. They thought I might be a good fit. The past year has been about taking chances. The next year will be about taking chances. And the year after that.

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I wrote this post LAST AUGUST. As in, 2013. And I was going to add something to it, because it’s been lost in my drafts folder for over a year, but then I realized, it’s good. So here’s a film photo. Because chances.

Downtown Spokane on Film // Emily Wenzel Photography

2013 In Review — Running a Business

2013 In Review — Running a Business

2013 flew past me in the blink of an eye. Back in high school, someone told me that the years go by faster as you get older. I’m not sure if that’s true overall, or if it was just true for 2013, but I felt like the year was gone in the blink of an eye. Starting the business was a big part of my year. It was the source of my most triumphant moments, as well as a player in the lowest moments too. I struggled with finding validation. With understanding that I can’t measure my worth — my personal worth — by whether people want to book me or not (but I can measure the success of my business by that metric), my outlook changed. I feel like, as a whole, my business did well in 2013. But, as always, there’s room for improvement. Late in the year, I confessed that I got a job in retail, only to leave that job a few short months later (which I hadn’t talked about yet), but I learned so much from those short months. However, I’m happy to be only self-employed again. Really. If anything, working for a retail giant confirmed the thought that this business is where I want to concentrate my attention.

Midway through the year, we picked up everything and moved to Spokane on very short notice. The big move could have been a big mistake. I was terrified that we would have moved, only to regret it a few months later. But it’s felt so right. Deep down, I know that this was the right move, not just for the business, but for us. We’ve been so much happier since the move. H loves his new job, I love all the sunshine. We both enjoy the better weather (there are so many seasons here!) and the lack of traffic. I wish there was more snow on the ground (come on, Spokane!), but I’m so thankful to be part of a great photographer and wedding community here. There is a sense of belonging that I never found in Seattle, as much as I loved it there. It just feels right. Although, I think there needs to be an IKEA in the area. I miss cheap meatballs! 😉

I only met about half my 2013 business goals. So last week, I really sat down and looked at them. Some of them were laughable. Totally unreachable. And then I made goals for 2014. This year, I’m not making crazy big goals (that was a problem last year). This year, it’s all about SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, & time-bound. For example, one of my goals? To visit a new Spokane area venue each month. Another is to shoot 5 rolls of film this year, because I miss shooting film. I’m still working on fleshing out the last of my goals, but I hope to have 10 of them for the year. Small goals that are going to be building blocks for a better business.

You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe. trust. let go. and see what happens. — Unknown

below the boat photography

I shot this image a couple months ago for a fantastic company, Below the Boat. One of my goals last year was to challenge myself as a photographer. So I’ve been doing some product photography. Below the Boat sells these fantastic charts, and some of my work is already up on their site. I’m more than a little in love with these beauties.

Moving On — Spokane Photography

Moving On — Spokane Photography

This post is long. If you’re the kind of person who reads the last chapter first, scroll to the bottom for a short version.

For almost a year, this post has sat in my draft folder. I’d open it up, read through it, rewrite parts (or all) of it, then click “save draft” again and again. Time and time again, we’ve come so close, only to have things fall through. But now, it’s real and it’s happening.

sunset

Sometimes, you know a life path is right from the start, but you don’t quite know how to say it. It has to rattle around in your head and your heart, collecting the words it needs to express itself. Sometimes you ignore it, because you’ve got other plans for yourself. But that path calls to you. And eventually, when your heart and mind find the clarity they need, you realize that path is meant for you. And you follow it.

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough” — Lowell Lundstrom

For me, that path was photography. It called to me. It was always there, in the back of my mind, whispering to my heart. The desire to be an artist was so strong, that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t deny that urge to create. To tell the stories. The decision to dedicate the bulk of my time to growing my business was the first step. And it was great. I started growing my business, then I quit my day job, and worked on it even more. It was liberating and terrifying and BIG. I knew I was embarking on the path I was meant to be on. But that wasn’t all. Even though starting my business was great, I still felt  the pull. Something was…off. And when we sat down last summer, after a whirlwind visit to Spokane for a wedding, and Portland for WDS, we realized what it was: our long terms goals didn’t have us in Seattle.

At first, I wasn’t sure. I knew I didn’t want to deal with the traffic or the rain. H didn’t want to commute an hour to work. But I love Seattle. And H does too. And so we talked. We discussed our long-term goals as well as short-term. Our business and personal goals. Our dreams and wishes and hopes. And H start looking for different work. Work in Spokane. Because as much as we love Seattle (and I swear, we really do. It’s one of the quirkiest, most wonderful places in the world), it wasn’t the place we needed to be. And even though we knew it was the right decision, we had doubts.

This has been a year in the making. A year of ups and downs, of getting SO CLOSE, followed by weeks of nothing, of waiting, and wondering if we were making a mistake. But, it all worked out. Last week, H accepted a new job in Spokane. A wonderful, fantastic, perfect-for-him job. A job that not only allows us to move, but will further his career. A job that would create the life we were looking to live. A job that would allow us to be near our favorite snowboarding spots. A job that would bring us, as a couple, full circle. To the city that shaped our lives and brought us together.

 “If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” — John Irving

What does this mean for my business? Not much is changing. I’ll be living in Spokane instead, but like I’ve always said have camera, will travel.

Long story short: H got a fabulous new job, we’re moving to Spokane, but I’m still going to shoot in Seattle, and we all have to follow our dreams.

6 Months In — Running a Business

6 Months In — Running a Business

Eastside Gallery - Berlin Wall

I’ve written this almost a dozen times. Erased it almost a dozen more. How do I describe what it’s been like being self employed for the past six months?

The initial elation of quitting my job and being self-employed was followed by the panic of no income. The fear that was, at times all-consuming. The strength of my friends and family, who picked me back up and pushed me forward, believed in me. Their support has been priceless. Truly. There are no words. There are a million words.

It hasn’t been an easy road – this one I’ve chosen – but I knew that. This is what happens when you take the road less traveled. Your life is thrown in turmoil, because it’s not an easy road to navigate. There is no GPS. You can and will sink to the lowest of lows. To the point where the fear of failure grips your heart in a vise, overwhelming all your ambition and dreams, and you’re searching for an office job because you’re scared. Scared you’re not good enough. Only to find that looking at office jobs, school jobs, grad school, is even less appealing that failing at photography. So you strengthen your resolve and turn away from the job applications. At other times, you’re tossed up to the mountaintops by an off-hand comment, a bit of praise, a moment of joy. The roller-coaster never stops. What I’ve found is that photography is a feast or famine industry, especially in the beginning. Wedding photography, they say, is not for the faint of heart. And it’s not just the actual photography that’s hard, it’s all the work surrounding it as well. It takes discipline to be self-employed.  And the road is different for everyone.

What I can tell you is this. Self-employment is not for everyone. It is a challenge and an adventure. It’s been almost six months since I walked away from my day job. Almost six months since I took a chance and decided to become self-employed. And six months in, I can say that this has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Right now, I can say it’s all been worth it. Deciding to go with wedding photography in October was scary at first. It felt like I wasn’t actually doing anything.

Yet, looking back, I’m glad I quit my school job when I did. I was able to really dig into what my business needed to be successful. I was able to try out new things, learn about how to run a business. All without worrying about getting my clients’ work to them on time. Now, I feel like I’ve found my system (and it’s different for everyone and every business!).

Three major things I’ve learned:

Do your own research. Asking advice from friends in the business (or from friends who own small businesses) is helpful, especially when you have no idea where to start looking. However, it’s important to  make your own decisions. What works for your friends might not work for you. Everyone has a different way of doing things, and you’ll learn more by doing research than by only asking your friends’ advice. Not only that, if you take advice from friends who took advice from friends, you may not be getting the best information.

Find a schedule that works for you. I thought that because I was now full-time, I should treat my photography as a 9-5 job. But that wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t get up and work out in the morning and then work for 8 hours. I needed to break it down into smaller sections. An hour of something, followed by 30 minutes of something else. I learned that it was okay to mix in my “home” tasks (laundry, dishes, groceries) with my “work” tasks. I also found out that I needed a structured schedule. I needed to block out my days and weeks so that I was accountable. For me, Google Calendar works best. I can access it on my phone, create different calendars (to color code) for different things. I can easily move things around in my calendar if they take too long or my day changes.

Be Flexible. Just because I have a schedule doesn’t mean I always have to stick to it. Sometimes, I sit down to blog and just can’t find the words I want to share. Instead of struggling to put words to the page, I work on something else. Or, if I’m supposed to be editing but the weather is beautiful, I take advantage of that. Sunshine is a rare thing in Seattle & I take advantage of it. Being flexible allows me to follow my artistic senses, which is the reason I went full time to begin with.

Later this week, I hope to share the first (of possibly too many) posts on Germany.