It has done mine.
I left a full-time teaching job in October 2018 to take a temporary post and push me out of the confines of a steady job to the pave the way to full commit to photography. Am I regretting it now? Perhaps just a little.
The attraction of becoming self-employed was always made more alluring because I knew if money started to get tight, I had other income streams - supply teaching and SQA marking. Of course, the pandemic completely wiped out both of these and has left me in the same position as many self-employed: I have only myself to count on to generate cash and the routes I depend on have been closed by lockdown.
To complicate matters further, I’m in the tiny percent who can’t claim any of the support on offer and with all of my payment holidays now coming to an end, I’ve found myself in what is a tricky situation financially.
What do I do?
There’s no clear answer, really. There’s very little I can do. Spendable money - tragically - doesn’t grow on trees and I can’t magic it from nowhere. It seems easier to throw my computer in a corner, bury my head in the sand binge watching TV but, like a dog with a bone, I just can’t bring myself to do that (although I am watching a few hours of Location, Location, Location a day and as much I like the show, it’s not like me to watch so much TV) and my head won’t switch off, as I continue to brainstorm ways to bring in income.
The reality is that I’m limited to outdoor shoots at the moment- small outdoor shoots - and as I’ve built my brand on weddings and headshots, it’s difficult to assert myself as an outdoor photographer all of a sudden - naturally, I’ve still tried. Headshots should be an option but many entrepreneurs, actors, musicians, artists are all in the same position I’m in - just about scaping by to pay the necessities and unable invest in their career (let’s face it - eating and a roof are much higher up the priority list.)
Weddings are still out.
So, I return to my question: what do I do?
The first few months of lockdown were fairly easy. I busied myself transforming my website and then transformed it again. I finally worked out who my ideal client was and rebranded according to this. I’ve learned a lot about funnelling and re-targeting. I’ve been posting to social media daily. And now, I’m bored. I’m not getting the results I really want - which is wedding bookings to help me survive the remainder of 2020 and have a fruitful 2021. Now I’m in a hamster wheel, sapped of all energy and just plodding on and on and on. Getting nowhere.
I can hear some of you telling me, eyes rolling, to get a job. Yup. I’ve tried that too. I’ve been rejected for everything I’ve applied for so far and I’ve applied for everything from delivery driving to stacking shelves - I’m not looking for the income I’ve been used to; just an income.
Perhaps the more sensible question is: where do I go from here? Where can I go? I’m still setting myself up for work every morning, toiling away at trying to make my business work but with bookings so few, there’s only so much I can do. For the coming days, the plan is to work on my copy and through that I’ll target my SEO… and then I’ll probably make more tweaks to my forever changing website, I’ll write more blog posts, write more social media posts, watch more TV. I might even take a walk, take some photographs, print in the darkroom. If only these things didn’t seem quite so frivolous, maybe I’d start enjoying then again?
That’s not fair on myself. I still enjoy them but every minute I feel I’m not pushing my company, I feel I’m letting myself down. With every day that progresses, I fear that I’ll have to walk away from it as full time and return to a job I fell out of love with, or one I do to make ends meet; and that’s not me.
I don’t want the impact of Covid-19 to pull me out of a dream I’ve wanted for so long. I want it to do the opposite: to push me forward, drive me to become a greater success than I ever hoped I could be. It’s simply that right now, with every day that passes, it looks less and less likely…