Since we are in budding season of this new year, and with MKP turning 1 next month, I wanted to take a minute to share some background, behind the scenes, and updates with all of my clients, fans, and followers. As I said, the business will be ONE next month. People usually assume that I’ve been in business for years, which is a huge compliment…but in reality, we are just shy of the 1 year mark. Of course, my business is a bit younger than my experience as a photographer runs….but to be completely truthful, I’ve learned 90% of what I know today, in the last year. Needless to say, year 1 in business is a huge learning curve. I know for a fact, that my brain has never absorbed this amount of information, in this amount of time, Ever. Not even in college.
A little background… a year and a half ago, I had just given birth to twin boys. And, also had an 18 month old son at home. You heard that right, 3 under the age of 18 months! We knew twins would be a lot of work, we just had NO idea how much work. Sleep deprivation. It challenged us to the core, vigorously shook the ground in which we had previously felt our feet were firmly planted in. It made us question every aspect of our personalities. You thought you were a patient person, you thought nothing could rattle your marriage, make you question your entire parenting fundamentals. Make you question the sincerity of your morals and values… I realize this sounds dramatic, and I don’t expect a non-multiples parent to understand….but I know there are those select out there who would nod their heads, and say “Yes!” as they read this. Having my children was/is the most important, most challenging, and most rewarding thing I will ever do. And I LOVE being a Mom. I truly feel that we go through challenging times, to come out better for it on the other side. And it took a good year, but I slowly started feeling better for it. But, I had a hard time finding myself again. Outside of a Mom, Wife, Homemaker….Basically who I was, had been completely redefined and I had to rediscover myself again.
Anywho, I will skip the part about my early steps into the business side of photography, (it’s probably boring and not that pretty, really) just to tell you that it came into my life at the exact perfect time. I needed something to give me more incentive to get dressed before 3pm, and brush my teeth before noon. Again, I wasn’t suffering from postpartum, nor did I hate my children (completely the contrary actually!) I just wasn’t as vivacious as I had once been. I’m someone who needs to feel accomplished at the end of every day. I need to feel like I have done something to make a difference, ever small as it might be. And even though raising my children and being an exceptional parent is THEE greatest accomplishment of my every day (that goes for all of us)…I still needed to feel like I was checking things off my to-do list. Making an impact. Or something. You get my drift, right?
So I started taking on sessions, and slowly building the business. I was so incredibly shocked and humbled at how fast it all grew, and how many people spread positive words about me. Word of mouth still to this day remains the #1 way I obtain new clients. We don’t print and advertise, etc. Word of mouth, facebook, and a decent google ranking 🙂 That’s the way it should be. Your work and customer service should speak powerfully enough. (always a goal I continue to strive for). Anyway, back to the topic… The business was awesome, and thriving, and I was shooting around 15 sessions consistently each month. It might not sound like a staggering number, but when you factor in that my primary job is being a stay-at-home-mom-wife, and my kids are all 3 and under, and going out to shoot requires a babysitter, and scheduling around her schedule, and my husband’s schedule….. you get the point, it’s a big number. Here’s the thing….when you are a new business owner, with a clientele base, the most important thing to you is the “number”. How many sessions you are shooting in a month = how successful you are. Right? That’s right, isn’t it? Nope. Wrong. But it took me this entire last year to learn that this theory was incorrect. So, I continued to shoot sessions like crazy, and saw myself getting better and better, and knew how much I was learning all of the time, and thought I was doing pretty Ok. Maybe better then Ok on a good day.
When I have a mere 5 second break in the hustle and bustle of my daily life, and the business (ok, that doesn’t happen…so I mean when I get lazy and procrastinate and get sidetracked) I will read an article here and there from another photographer, talking about their business, etc. I kept hearing them talk about getting burnt out, and over-working themselves to the point that they were starting to feel uninspired, and losing their creative spark. I’d read it, but it didn’t really resonate. I couldn’t connect with it at the time, and didn’t find myself relating much. But I kept up my manic pace, and slowly those feelings started to come on. And then Fall, and the Holidays came on at Mach 5 speed. The Holidays also involve my birthday, and my oldest son’s birthday…so, it gets nuts around here. And, still shooting 15+ sessions a month. You’re starting to see where I am going with this aren’t you? So as you may expect, those overwhelming feelings started to come on. I started feeling uninspired, I felt like my visions weren’t unfolding like I wanted them to, and I slowly started to figure out that it was because I had no TIME to put into each session, what I really wanted to. What I knew I could, if I just had the TIME. I started feeling irritable, and frustrated. Like permanent PMS. Yeah, nothing wins against pms! But, aside from that…the stress started manifesting itself physically. I started having a lot of medical problems, which really all resulted from stress, not taking care of myself, and just flat out over-do’ing it. Like to the 100th degree. I really was feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job at any single thing in my life. Sidenote: there are people who are content at being decent at a lot of things (aka type B’s), and there are those that will skip most things, and instead focus intensely on being great a just a couple of things (aka Type A’s). I am the latter. So, what I was feeling was unacceptable to me. And at this point, I was finally letting myself down. Miserably. I wasn’t fully present with my kids and husband when I was home, because I was thinking of everything I had to do, and trying to “do” something every time the kids were playing, snacking, or whatever. And I wasn’t really “creating” during my photoshoots. Now, if you are a client who came to me in the Fall, and are sitting here wondering if I blew it at your session, the answer is No. I am still proud of what I gave you, and if I wasn’t happy with the product, I would have re-shot your session. The problem was, me settling for what I could already do, rather than stepping it up a level and pushing myself to be better. I was just in cruise control, and that is not me. I will always be climbing an unending ladder.
I had a pretty firm idea of what was going on, but it all came to a head with my last “session” of the year. I took something on, didn’t have the time to plan it out appropriately, was feeling totally uninspired anyway….and it crashed and burned. And I took it one step farther by posting it on Facebook. I wasn’t proud of it (the subjects were darling, of course)…and it wasn’t “me”. I look at those photos, and don’t see “Mandy Kay Photography” at all. It’s foreign to me. I agonized over it for days. Thankfully, this client is also a good friend, and fellow twin Mommy. She was my first client of 2011 and my last. She totally understood when I finally explained everything to her, and although I felt awful about it, I knew she “got it”. As heartbreaking as it was for me at the time, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. (I might try to confiscate any trace of the photos, and make sure they never resurfaced again! But…) It really taught me a valuable lesson, forced me to take a break and find my zen again, and helped me shape my new business structure for 2012.
I gave myself a much, MUCH needed 2 week break from my work and I can not tell you how refreshed it made me feel! My head really felt clear again, and I felt more creative than I ever have. I had a whole new vision for my business, my style, my specialties, etc…for this new year. I spent the first week of January working diligently on my new business structure, and deciding how I would be scheduling, and what session “number” would be acceptable to me each month. I really wanted to step it up this year with the customer service as well. I really want clients to walk away with a “portrait experience”. I want it to be custom, and unique, and reflect 100% of what MKP is. So I made the choice to shoot fewer sessions each month. I will take between 4-8, but no more. Because this is what I can do to make absolute sure I am delivering 110% to each and every session. To keep from getting backed up with editing, and having no time to plan the upcoming sessions I have because I am always doing catch up work. And most importantly, I can separate work from family, and be fully present in whatever place I am in at the time. The structuring goes even deeper, just on a daily basis at my house…and when I allow for “work” time, and what times are allotted specifically for being a Mommy and Wife. I’ve shot 4 sessions so far this month, and they are some of my favorites ever! I can see a night and day difference in my work, my physical state, my homelife, my personal reflections….it has been an amazing change! Instead of having 11-13 sessions backed up to edit (my average from last year), I have 2. I spend a lot of time planning, and creating, and getting inspired for each session now, and I can see it in my photos. It feels good! And as I said, I have a much clearer vision of where I am going and of my style. A few of you have even mentioned the subtle shift you’ve noticed, particularly in my newborn photography…and I have had amazing reviews on it. I’ve never really loved the vintage look, and it has never been “Me”…but what I am creating now, is what I would call modern organic portraiture. Feel free to name it what you want 😉 But, the name doesn’t matter…what matters is that the vision in my head is clearer than it has ever been, and I am able to carry my vision through into my work more seamlessly. I’m sure some of you have also noticed the pricing changes, and the investment options are different now…but this is all part of the new structure that is allowing me to commit more to each and every session. Believe me, you are getting more from me than ever before. To go into the investment costs from my end, is an entire different post, but the changes are much more comfortable for my family and I now. And once again, allow me to shoot less…which allows me to give more to each session. It’s really a win-win for all of us. 🙂
If you’ve made it through this whole thing, you are beyond awesome! I appreciate you taking the time to read a little bit about my story, and to consider what else is happening behind the scenes at MKP. This journey is so much more than I ever expected, and the strong support I have is unimaginable to me. My husband, my family and friends, my faithful clients who return over and over and tell their people about me….it’s incredibly humbling, to say the least. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, whether you are a follower/fan, an existing client, a potential client, my own family or friends….for being part of all of this. We have SO much planned for this new year, and it has started off with such a bang. I can’t wait to see what happens, and to see some of my goals come to life this year.
PS….everyone prefers a book with photos (you know you do!)….so what kind of person would I be if I left this novel of a post without a single photo?? Not an option. So, here is a recent photo of my oldest son, Kyle (who just turned 3) and his pup, Piper (9 weeks).