This is a blog post that is simultaneously exciting and terrifying to write.
You see, change is hard for a lot of people and a lot of reasons. For me, I usually LOVE change. My mother has called me 'fickle' for a number of years, but I maintain that I just like change...I like new things...I like to try different ways of doing things. I am no stick-in-the-mud! But when it comes to my business, I have been very resistant to change the way I've done things for the past 4 years. But not because I'm afraid of change. I just don't like to give up control.
There, I said it.
I have been in control of my business since the very start....but recently, I've noticed something. I have noticed that my business is kind of....well, controlling me. It's controlling my family. It's controlling my world.
Any small business owner will tell you that it usually takes 3-5 years to begin to turn a profit with a new business. You work long hours, you do what it takes, there is no one-way, right-answer to get on the path to success. If that means spending 50-60 hours a week on building your business, that's what you do. Am I in the studio for 50-60 hours a week? No, but I am on my computer or my phone or dealing with the myriad of business things most days and long into most nights. Figuring out how to build a website, how to keep a following on Facebook, how to market, where to (and not to!) advertise, how to be legal, pay taxes, figure out business expenses, not to mention where to buy all those adorable props and how to store them. I have learned Photoshop techniques to make my photos really 'pop' and make my clients happy. I have taken online courses and in-person workshops to enhance my skills. I have literally devoted 110% of my life to turning this start-up into a full fledged business.
I started this business when my son was 4 months old and my daughter was 3 years old. I actually ended up weaning my son before he turned one because I was having trouble juggling photo sessions around his nursing schedule. That's right, I totally sacrificed that relationship for the good of my business. And I was okay with that.
I didn't tell strangers that I was a photographer for probably 2 years. I didn't post on the internet in photography groups or anywhere other than my little space on the web and Facebook. I was worried that people wouldn't take me seriously - that I was a hack - that I was not a 'real' photographer. Then, I was one of the first photographers to offer birth photography coverage in Hampton Roads and it was s-l-o-w going. I felt like I had to literally tiptoe around labor & delivery wards for a few years and prove myself to the staff. Prove that I was a real professional, that I wouldn't get in their way, that I was providing a service that families wanted and valued and that the hospital staff could trust me.
In the past 4 years, I have gone from a few sessions a month in my back porch home studio to 3-4 sessions a week in a retail studio space. I have been blessed with a following of amazing, devoted fans of my work. I am blessed to have people who choose my work over the myriad of baby photographers (many of them that I think are awesome!) in our area. And I have been doing it all myself. Well, that's not entirely true. My husband has been an unbelievable support system for me. He's also my bookkeeper and tech support guy who is always willing to dive into HTML or wireless router issues or wade through the state sales tax website for me. But I have basically built this business on my own and I realize now that it has totally taken over my life.
My clients often comment that they get emails from me at 2am. That's because I'm up at 2am editing photos and responding to emails. My clients often comment that I seem to always be available for them to come to the studio at night or on the weekends. That's because I always want to do what's most convenient for them. My clients often comment that I am so accommodating to their schedules. That's because I change my plans and our family's schedule so that I can be there when they need me to.
I have put their families over mine. And honestly, that isn't fair. And I'm realizing that it isn't right.
My kids need their mommy. My husband needs his wife.
And as much as I hate to admit it, I might be getting to the end of my stay-up-all-night and deal-with-it-tomorrow lifestyle.
So, I had two choices. I could step away, re-focus on my family and close Kimberlin Gray Photography for a while.
Or I could learn to delegate. Give up some control. Set some boundaries.
That's scary, but I just cannot give up on this business. I love it. I love my clients, their babies, watching them grow and giving them beautiful images. Photography feeds my soul and allows me a creative outlet. I love it. Even when it's trying....so I'm going with option #2.
Today, I'm announcing that I have hired an Office Manager who will be working with me to take on some of the responsibilities of running this business so that I may be able to focus on the photography part and still have time for my family.
Her name is Abby
And she is my sister. So, I know I can trust her and I know you will love her!
She'll be taking on a lot of the initial emailing with clients as well as packaging and order pickups at the studio. She'll be doing a lot of 'behind the scenes' work, too, but you will hear from her via email when scheduling sessions and picking up your orders.
I am also instituting new policies with regard to Studio Hours and Office Hours that will be posted soon. There will be no sessions scheduled on Sundays starting this fall. Sunday is going to be a family day for the McGhees and I will be working very hard to put together a schedule of studio hours that will work for my family and my clients' families during the week. I am also developing a new, easy to follow pricing module that should allow for more straightforward ordering sessions. Hopefully these things will allow me to continue providing families who choose Kimberlin Gray Photography with exceptional customer service, beautiful images, and a great experience with custom photography. And it will hopefully allow me to spend more time with my children, my husband and have some time to recharge each week.
Thank you so much for reading if you've gotten this far. I don't typically write such personal things on my business blog, and probably won't do this again for....well, maybe ever. :) But I felt it was important to share a little of what has been brewing the past few months and why you'll be seeing some changes around here.
As always, I thank each and every family who entrusts me with their precious babies and hires me to capture the amazing journey of adding a new little one to their families. It is truly an honor and a blessing to use my creative gifts to bring joy to your family.