Learning to Say "No"

Many of you know the story of how I got where I am today, but in case you aren't familiar you can read all about it HERE

A lot has changed since the year that I opened my photography business. My toddler is now almost 9 years old, I have a beautiful daughter, my dad died, Will and I celebrated 11 years of marriage, we've moved 5 times (!!!) including out of state, bought 3 different homes, Will got his degree and changed careers, and so much more. Throughout all of that my photography and my business have remained a constant. Not a day has gone by that I wasn't thankful for what I've built and my ability to work for myself. I would not trade it for anything. For 7 years I have had the flexibility to attend field trips, travel with friends, volunteer, take a nap during the day, decide if I wanted to do some of the work myself or hire someone else to do it.  I am not a slave to a time clock or the whims of a boss. As amazing as that is, it doesn't mean it's always been easy. At times it's felt impossibly difficult.

There has been a lot of guilt. In the beginning it was me feeling guilty that I couldn't provide better financial support while Will was going back to school. Then there was guilt that I couldn't seem to create steady business when we moved to Washington, needing to fly back and forth to California which took it's toll on me and my family. The guilt of getting pregnant right in the middle of wedding season. The guilt of going back to work after 5 weeks. The guilt of leaving my freshly leased studio in Seattle when we moved back to CA. The guilt of losing out on a rental home because I didn't have the income of a tech worker (despite my husband actually being a tech worker). The guilt of wondering if it was time to pull back and slow down. The guilt of voicing those thoughts to my husband who has had his foot on the accelerator his professional career for the past 7 years.

Some days I felt like my brain was in a blender. No, not some days, most days. Work, clients, website, SEO, blog, email, social media, events, travel, weddings, portraits, editing, albums, taxes, bills, Reid, Sloane, Will, the dogs, groceries, school projects, is my house clean, time for friends....each and every. single. day. I felt like I was drowning in my obsession to be perfect. I wanted my business to boom while also wanting to be an amazing mother and wife. It's impossible. For me, because my brain is a blender that I can never turn off.

So, where am I going with all of this? Some of you may have noticed that I've pulled back on a few things. Will and I actually go to marriage counseling and even though we are totally in a great place, we keep at it. During one session I tearfully confessed to Will that I wanted to start working less. To a regular couple that might not be a huge deal. We no longer "need" my income. However, since the day I met Will I knew that he was unlike most people. He is flat out, hands down, the most driven person I have ever met. Work is fun for him and he considers it his primary hobby. I do not fault him for that. He's an amazing husband and father and I am thankful every day for how he's gotten to a position of being able to provide for all of our needs. That being said, I've always suspected that my own drive and ability to create and meet goals is what he finds most attractive in me. So, when I said I wanted to pull back on the reigns I would worry that he would see me as a failure, or that I was giving up. Confidence has always come easily for me in most areas, but here? I was a mess. I questioned myself to the point of breaking myself. Coming off of my most successful year ever, I wanted to start letting go. Saying no. What in the hell was wrong with me?

With Will's support (and our counselor's), I decided to put my plan in place. So what did that look like?

I quietly stepped down as a Mentor on Clickin Moms, and in fact haven't been on the forum in 6 months.
I pulled my online wedding workshop, Photographing Weddings
I nearly doubled my wedding rates
I drastically increased my portrait rates
I stopped blogging and worrying about SEO
I started saying no.

I've never had an issue saying no to most things. "Can I get all the RAWS from my session?" NO. "Can we shoot at 3pm instead of sunset?" NO. "Can we do this as a trade?" NO. "Can you edit the hair tie off of my wrist in every photo?" NO.

But this was a different type of no, a no that left me racked with guilt. I felt that I was disappointing people who counted on me. I felt like I was giving up. I felt like I was permanently damaging my brand and the career that I had worked for so long to create. This business has been my pride and joy, it still is. I could never, ever walk away. While burned out, I still love this crazy little thing called photography.

My new plan was to make SIMPLE goals and say no to the rest. I wanted to shoot 10 weddings, almost all of them local. Done. I did it! I didn't want to shoot more than 1-2 portrait sessions per month. DONE. In fact, half of the ones I have coming up are projects that I've taken on for free. Not out of obligation, but because they are the type of shoots that remind me why I love doing what I do. My final goal was to take on just a couple of intimate teaching experiences. I learned that I do not enjoy teaching through the computer, but in person and hands on. I am full steam ahead with mine and Elena's Blair + Thurston retreats. They bring me joy, not stress. They are not part of the blender in my head :) Finally, I have decided to outsource all of my wedding editing. I haven't edited a wedding in over a year and it feels GREAT.

If something isn't going to bring me joy but instead cause me stress or add an item to the blender, it's out. This is hard for me to share, but I can't tell you how happy these changes have made me.

One thing that I've learned through all of the lowest lows and highest highs is that saying no and doing what's best for YOU will never come back to bite you. You come first, before your kids, before your significant other, and before your business.