Self-Employment Update: The Power of “No” ~ Chicago Wedding Photographer

After the insanity that was last fall/winter (my first holiday season as a full-time photographer) – I decided that I was going to make some big changes in 2012. I never really made an announcement about this – but I silently decided that I was going to try to focus my business mostly on couple-related shoots in 2012… weddings, elopements, engagements, proposals, and Beautiful sessions… and only shoot other sessions (families/kids/newborns) during off season or when I had big openings in my schedule. I wasn’t going to try to squeeze them in everywhere and anywhere like I had in the past – because at this time last year I was scrambling to wrap up editing on one million family sessions in time for my clients to order & print their holiday cards. (I looked back just now and counted – to find that I photographed almost 35 sessions last year from September thru November, and that did not include my wedding clients’ engagements & weddings.)

You see, I quit my day job to go full-time with photography in September last year, which meant that I went into panic mode about making it through off-season, and as a result – I booked EVERYTHING that came my way for the remainder of busy season… corporate shoots, events, families… even if I wasn’t super stoked about it. I was literally shooting anything and everything from September through December last year and it nearly drove me into the ground. I wasn’t able to enjoy the holidays, let alone enjoy what I was doing much at all. Because of that – I vowed to myself that I would learn the power of “No” this year.

And oh did I ever.

As much as I LOVE shooting families, babies, and kiddos – my heart really is with my wedding clients – so I made a conscious decision this year for that to be the priority in my business, and to only book other sessions that I was really excited about on off-days as fillers to my schedule if I didn’t already have weddings booked. As a result, I booked as many regular sessions TOTAL this year, as I did last year just from September through November. And it wasn’t that I couldn’t have booked more – it was that I learned to say No if it wasn’t in my best interest to book a session.

Because our wedding season goes straight through to (almost) New Year’s this year – with 4 weddings total this December – I knew I didn’t want to book a million family sessions this fall and be scrambling to get photos back to people, when my plate was already full with weddings. I also knew we were on track to meet our booking goals for 2013 and that we would be okay money-wise for this off-season – and so (as hard as it was) if people contacted me after September 1st about shoots they wanted to do this fall I was honest with them. I told them the few dates I had available and that I’d love to shoot the session but based on my current editing schedule, if the session date fell later than mid-November I wouldn’t be able to get the photos back to them in time for holiday card photos if that’s what they were looking for. As a result – almost everybody that contacted me for last minute sessions this fall ended up going elsewhere – and for the first time in my career – I was OK with that.

It’s not easy sending potential clients (and potential income) away – but I knew that it meant that I’d have a much more manageable year, and (hopefully) relaxed holiday season… and that I would be able to focus my time and energy on serving my wedding clients to the best of my ability without being pulled in 1 million other directions. And as I witness our business continuing to grow for our upcoming 2013 season, I have again decided to prioritize my wedding clients and only fill my schedule with family/lifestyle sessions on an as-needed/as-available basis.

I know this decision is best for all my clients. I want my wedding/proposal/Beautiful clients to feel taken care of and see the value in their investment, and I also don’t want any family/lifestyle clients to feel they are being put on the back burner. I want to only book those sessions when I know I can handle them on top of my wedding/couple schedule – so that I am also able to serve those clients to the best of my ability.

I have a feeling this may continue to evolve over the course of the next few years (and I’ll keep you posted as it does)… but for now I am thankful that this year I learned the power of saying “no” when I knew my plate was already filled to the brim, unlike in the past.

And because of that – this December I’m able to work a regular 40-hour a week schedule instead of 80+ hour weeks (like I did last year). Which means my nights can be filled with more cozy scenes like this…

… and I am so thankful for that!


. . . .

(*Clearly we need a tree skirt & I need to get on wrapping our gifts! Also… if you want to see an outtake of our attempts at being IN the photo – check this out… creepy Chloe strikes again! haha….)


I hope she’s this excited about the self-timer when we do our holiday card pics (if it ever snows)! 😉


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