This is Part 3 of my Pregnancy FAQ series. If you missed the previous posts you can find them here:
Another question I had quite a few people email me in one form or another was…
“How did you manage your clients expectations when pregnant? How did you tell your clients you were expecting?”
First of all, as you guys know if you’ve been around here a while – you can plan plan plan all you’d like when it comes to when you hope to have a baby (obviously during the start of off-season is ideal so your maternity leave pairs up with slow season for photography), but that doesn’t mean that is how it will happen! Even when you end up doing fertility treatments like we did – you only have so much say in the schedule and sometimes may end up with due dates much closer to dates you already have weddings booked than you would prefer.
In our case, since I was pregnant with twins – it was especially messy because there is much higher risk of pre-term labor and complications in pregnancies with multiples. That meant that our due date wasn’t entirely accurate, since twins usually show up 3-5 weeks early (on average), and we didn’t really know how the early stages of my pregnancy would go either!
To give you a little background – we did our embryo transfer on July 7, 2015 and had 16 more weddings to shoot through the remainder of our year during my pregnancy – with the final wedding being when I was 28 weeks pregnant (which for twins meant I was measuring at 40 weeks … i.e. FULL TERM… if I was pregnant with one baby).
Now that you have some background – here are some steps I took right away when I found out we were pregnant to make the process as smooth as possible:
- Stay active and healthy. I wasn’t a crazy workout person when I was pregnant – but I did try to take regular walks, continued to lift free weights as I had before, and did some yoga. I feel like this was really important in managing my endurance throughout our wedding season and helped me to have a healthy pregnancy in general. Wedding days are HARD WORK normally, and when you’re pregnant that multiplies by a million!! So going into the day feeling as strong as possible was sooo important.
- Line up back-up photographers for wedding dates throughout your pregnancy, regardless of how far along you will be AND hire an additional assistant for days you feel you may need more help. You never know what may happen or if you’ll need to be on bed rest or have any other complications. It is just best to have people lined up to put your worried mind at ease – not to mention to ease the minds of your clients. It is also super helpful to have someone there to haul your gear and run to get you water and whatever else you may need throughout your pregnancy if you can afford to have an extra hand at weddings as you get further along!
- Contact any couples whose weddings are immediately following your maternity leave. In our business, we handle many important tasks leading up to a wedding day. Naturally, we field more questions and emails from clients as their weddings get closer. We also send out a big email with final details, questions, and information for their big day a month or two before their wedding. So for those couples whose weddings were right after we came back from maternity leave – we wanted them to know that while we were on leave from shooting we would still be handling their wedding correspondence as usual and be 100% set and ready when their big day came.
- Contact any couples whose wedding your pregnancy may directly affect before announcing anything publicly. In our case, this was a little different since we shared our fertility journey openly on our blog and Instagram – this meant if they were following along that they were aware what was going on and new I was pregnant as early as when I took pregnancy tests at home, even before our official blood work at the doctor. Then once we got through the numerous initial tests & ultrasounds, and to the point where we were more comfortable actually saying the pregnancy was viable – we reached out individually to couples. (We were a little hesitant to do this the 2nd time around because the first time I reached out very early on to a couple to alert them of our pregnancy and found out the next day I would miscarry, and then needed to reach back out – heartbroken – and explain the situation. So I wanted to avoid that the second time around if at all possible.) Anyway, to give you an idea – below are two separate emails I sent to clients whose weddings were affected by our pregnancy.
This is a portion of the email I sent to our couple whose wedding was our final of the year when I would be 28 weeks pregnant…
Hello ______ & ______!
I hope you guys are doing well!! I wanted to reach out because as you may have seen, James and I recently found out that we are expecting twins! Our due date isn’t until March 24th, but given the increased risk of complications, bed rest, or pre-term labor with twins, we’re in the process of working out a plan for back-ups for our fall & winter season just in case. I wanted to let you know that as of now are planning to bring an assistant to your wedding. I’m not sure how I’ll be feeling by then, but your wedding falls smack dab on the last day of my 2nd trimester, so we plan to have someone to assist me throughout the day (carry gear, etc) and also have them scheduled so that if something were to happen and if I wouldn’t physically be able to – they would shoot in my place. That person is still being chosen/decided upon at the moment, and I’m happy to hear your thoughts/questions/concerns if you have any!
And here is the email I sent to our couple whose wedding date was the first of our 2016 season and fell just 1 week after our due date…
Hi ______ & _______!
I hope you’re doing well and enjoying the summer! I just wanted to check in with you because you guys have been on my mind so much the past month or so. As I’m sure you may have noticed if you follow me on Instagram or read the blog, James and I have been in the middle of going through IVF treatments this past spring and summer. I just wanted to reach out to you to clear the air and to let you know a few things!
A few weeks back at the end of our 2nd IVF attempt, we were humbled and elated to find out that the IVF worked – I am pregnant with twins and all appears to be progressing well so far, after trying to start our family for the past almost 6 years of our marriage. Obviously, we are unbelievably happy about it – but also my Type-A planner & business-minded self hates that we are not really sure what this means in terms of your wedding. Also, this is incredibly early in the process… where most people don’t announce they’re pregnant until they’re past the safe zone of 12 weeks – we’ve been sharing this process online – so I felt like I should reach out to you sooner rather than later. I wanted you to know I’m thinking of you guys (& have been this whole time) and have plans in place. (We are also nervous that it is still so early and anything could happen… although are trying to stay optimistic and hopeful this time around!!)
As things are right now – we are due on March 24th, but given that we are having twins, we could really have the babies anytime that month or possibly even earlier. (The average twin pregnancy lasts 35-37 weeks, which would put my more likely due date somewhere between February 18th & March 3rd.) That being said, obviously we hope they stay in there as long as possible to avoid complications and ensure healthy babies – so there is always the concern that if I go close to full term, then we may need someone to cover for us. I want you to know that I have talked to one of my closest & most trusted friends in the wedding photography industry, ____________, and she is ready to jump in if need be. She has agreed, if necessary, to take over the wedding at the same cost and package we agreed upon. If we were to need to do that – I would just pay her the deposit you gave me, and you would pay your final payment to her.
She has a similar style to us, and similar personality/way of working (hence why we are close friends!), so if I would need someone to help us out (or even just bring another hand along to help with gear in April), we have her to help. If something were to happen early enough that we would know very far in advance that we are unable to shoot your wedding, or if you two would prefer to choose your own photographer or want a bigger list of names to choose from – of course we’d be happy to refund the deposit, provide you with referrals, and let you do that if you’d prefer.
Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts. Obviously, first we are praying to make it through these first 12 weeks (we are almost to 7 weeks along now) and see where to go from there. I so appreciate your understanding during this crazy time, and again want to emphasize that we did not anticipate the process landing so closely to your wedding date, but as I’m quickly learning – I don’t always (ahem… rarely) have control over things like this in life.
Please let me know your thoughts and if you need anything at all from me.
I think in these emails it is important to have as much lined up and organized as possible so to alleviate any worry on your clients’ part. In the examples above, our first client (the one whose wedding fell at 28 weeks pregnant) ended up requesting that she choose who our assistant/back-up photographer was for the day rather than me lining one up for her. I found a group of talented full-time photographers that were available and interested in stepping in for us, and sent her their names and websites to review. Then she chose which she would prefer to have on hand. We included a new clause in our contract noting specifically who the back-up photographer would be and that all package details, editing, and final delivery of images would still be done through Christy Tyler Photography, and had our back-up/assistant sign the contract as well (per the request of our client). I arranged a fee with the back-up for what we would pay her if she had to step in to take over the wedding, and also agreed upon a second fee – which would be what we paid her to be a 3rd shooter/assistant/emergency on-hand back-up on the wedding day. (These are costs we shouldered since this obviously had nothing to do with our client nor was her doing, since we were the ones pregnant here! I wanted to make this as easy and stress free on our clients as possible and accepted that it would cost us some money to do so.) We ended up only needing our back-up to be an assistant for the wedding because, thank goodness, I had a very healthy twin pregnancy and was able to shoot the wedding myself. However, just knowing we had her lined up and with us throughout the day was SO WONDERFUL and put my mind at ease.
In the second example I shared, our client was happy with the replacement I had lined up and did not request another option. In this instance our back-up would have gotten the full fee from the wedding (as I noted in the email above), because I didn’t plan to attempt to edit and deliver the images to our clients as well if I was unable to shoot it – since I would be on maternity leave. As things turned out – we had the boys at exactly 38 weeks, which meant that on their wedding date the boys were 3 weeks old. Because I’m probably totally crazy and because it was a smaller wedding (a 4-hour vow renewal in just one location) – we decided we would shoot it ourselves. It was actually nice to have a moment out of the house with James at that point, though in all honesty – I was still super sore and moving a little slower from the c-section. However, none of it affected how we handled or shot their day, so I felt confident going into the wedding that we could deliver our best to our clients. (We did return to our maternity leave after that wedding though and didn’t officially go back to shooting again until 8 weeks postpartum.)
Overall, I think it is most important to be honest with your clients. We have always had close relationships with our clients and so it felt natural to openly share our pregnancy with them and keep them updated on everything. Some people don’t feel the need to let their clients know as much as we did because they don’t have that kind of relationship. However, I would at the very least tell clients you are pregnant, when you are due, and that you have back-ups lined up so you can ease their mind! Nobody wants to just show up on a wedding day with big old belly and totally shock them!
Also, I found it was nice to have our clients know so early on because the months in which I wasn’t showing were actually the most difficult on me physically when I was shooting the weddings themselves (nausea, dizziness, etc). So it was incredibly nice to have my clients understand why I was chugging water like crazy and munching on snacks pretty much all day non-stop whenever a window of time allowed me to do so. 🙂
Speaking of which – that will be our next post – on Tuesday: Tips for shooting While Pregnant – so I’ll leave this one where it is!
Please let me know if you have additional questions about this post or if anything didn’t make sense!!