Self-Employment: Month 3 ~ Chicago Wedding Photographer

Three months?! Say what?! This is insanity! (By the way – I’m back to trying to remember to write this post on the 19th of every month, which is the actual start date of working for myself. So here I am – just a few weeks since my 2nd month post.)

So – I have a big confession to make and lots of things I want to talk to you guys about… mostly so that those of you who plan to come down this same path that I am on have some pointers for when you get here (in hopes that your transition is smoother than mine has been). This past month has definitely been a month of growing for me. It started out with some realizations of things I needed to work on (which I noted in my Month 2 post) and lots of growing pains. But after lots of discussions with James about how to make this new life work better for us – I feel like I finally hit my stride in the last week or two.

If you’ve been following my blog (and this series) for a while – you know that the first 2.5 months I spent running around like a chicken with my head cut off and working constantly. What you don’t know is that this sent me to the point of having a sobbing breakdown in our car where I confessed to James that felt like I no longer knew who I was… that I’d lost a big part of myself when I went full-time… and that I wasn’t sure how to get it back (or if I even could). Then I paused, as I thought hard about the next part. I debated whether or not to say it out loud – because saying it would mean it was true – out there for the world to hear. The words were stuck in my throat, but I swallowed hard… and then let them roll off my tongue:

I’m not happy.

I should note that this realization had absolutely nothing to do with James or our marriage (but of course that was his first, very wrong assumption when I said it), and instead had everything to do with choices I was making for myself and my business on a minute-to-minute, day-to-day basis. I went from being a fun, goofy, social, and chatty person – to being a workaholic, constantly zoned into serious work-mode – talking, eating, sleeping & breathing work 24/7. I felt like I was running out of personal things to blog, because I had no personal things – I was all business, all the time. And when I finally allowed myself to admit that I wasn’t happy (first to myself, and then to James) – I hit a turning point.

Obviously, I never thought I’d utter those words when I quit my day job back in September. At that time I was living on cloud 9 and oh-so-happy that I’d finally “Made It” and that I was living my dream. But as the days went on – I realized there was no “Made It”… there only was “Continuing to Make It”… every. day. And I think when I realized that a panic set in that had me working all the time because of a fear I had that if I didn’t – if I stopped for one minute – I would fail. So I kept at it – constantly – even though a tiny little voice in the back of my mind was telling me that this was not what was best for me or my business.

I eventually made rules for myself about stopping work at a certain time, and limiting computer time, etc. But as it turns out – it is really hard to make rules for yourself and stick to them… especially when you love what you do so much that you could easily do it all the time and (almost) never be fazed. The problem with that is when you get in work-work-work mode, you lose the part of you that is not related to work (which, not surprisingly, actually makes your work and you BETTER). Because as much as you may love what you do – you need a balance between your business and the other things that make you who you are in order for this to work on a long-term basis.

This all really hit home after writing my last post. I knew that if I continued to go along as I was – I would not be able to do this for long. I would burn out (truth be told, I was already in the process of burning out), and in the meantime I would not be a very good wife, friend, sister or daughter. So after the last post and my breakdown a few days later – I vowed to make serious and lasting changes to my life. (No more just talking about it, or posting blogs about it!) I vowed to run a business doing what I love – in a way that it would enhance my life, not take over my life.

And happily – I think I’m finally getting there.


Of course I have a lot of changes to continue to make in the future – especially regarding how many sessions and weddings I take on, and adjusting my pricing structure so that I can work a manageable amount and still afford to pay the bills. I plan to figure out and implement these changes when I sit down in January to map out my year ahead, so I’m sure you’ll hear all about those next month. 🙂

In the meantime – after talking about all this serious/difficult stuff – I wanted to point out some of the highlights of the last month!! I’ve already started implementing lots of changes and the positive impact they have had on my life and business in such a short amount of time is unbelievable!


1. Spending more time with friends.

My best friend from high school, Kimberly, came down for a night & a day last week and it was seriously so good for my soul. She got here late Monday night and we stayed up WAY too late drinking (too much) wine and catching up on each other’s lives (which we rarely get to do on just a one-on-one basis since we usually have family around, or she has her adorable little 7-month-old son Jackson in tow… who obviously takes some of the focus away). Then the next day we headed downtown to check out the Christmas decorations and do some shopping. It was amazing. James told me the next day that we were super loud when we stayed up late chatting – but that he didn’t want to come out & tell us to quiet down because he hasn’t heard me laugh like that in a long time. 🙂


2. Getting to the gym + Reading More + Me Time + Finding things to talk about other than Photography.

It turns out that going to the gym manages to kill 4 birds with ONE stone! AMAZING. I’ve started going 1-2 times per week (not a lot – but it makes a huuuuuge difference). For one, I feel amazing afterwards (those feel good hormones released during workouts are no joke), and it is top-notch ‘me time’. Secondly, I read my favorite magazine, Psychology Today, while I’m on the bike/treadmill. (James bought me this subscription as a surprise when I quit my day job because I used to get hand-me-down copies each month from a friend/co-worker.) And most obviously – reading an awesome magazine with super interesting articles gives me all sorts of other things to think about and discuss with James later! It’s a 4-way win! Yay Gym! 🙂


3. Getting out of the house.

This kind of matches up with #1, but is a little different – because it’s not so much about 1-on-1 friend time, and more about being social (which also helps you to find things to talk about other than photography)! This month I went out for drinks with a group of photographer ladies that I love (yes we talked about photography, but other things as well). It was so nice to get dressed up and enjoy good conversation and delicious cocktails with some girlfriends! (I didn’t bring my camera along – but proof it happened is over on Emilia’s blog.) I also attended the Chicago APW Holiday Party last Friday (more photos to come) – which also included getting dressed up, enjoying good conversations, and delicious food/drinks! All of which are sooo good for the soul! 🙂


4. Date Nights + Quality Time

James and I have yet to actually go out on a date together, but my new work-day schedule, coupled with my new found happiness (which also happens to make me more productive) have allowed me to finish work at a manageable hour which means that I have time to make dinner (which I love to do… lots of recipe posts coming soon!), while talking with James about all the new non-photography thoughts I have rolling around in my brain. Then we enjoy a night on the couch watching movies, or playing Wii, or decorating the house for Christmas, and often relaxing with our little Chlo-bear.


All in all – you can see it started out a bit of a rough month, but after lots of introspection, discussions, and conscious choices – I started to find the part of me I had lost for a while there. I began smiling, laughing, telling corny jokes, dancing through the house, cooking, socializing, reading, and most importantly – loving my life again. As a result – I’m once again so excited about what the future holds; I’m (as always) SO happy and blessed to be doing what I love; and I can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store! 🙂


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Christy & James are Chicago based but happily travel anywhere in the world that beautiful love stories take them!