It’s no secret that midway through last year I made some rather large changes to my business. After running a wedding and portrait photography business for eight years, I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. And almost overnight, I took them off my website and out of my business. I’m not going to lie… it was a bloody scary thing to do. But if your business isn’t making you sparkle, it’s ok to make some changes! Here’s what I’ve learned by doing precisely that in my business.
It’s not about pivoting
For eight years, I’d run a wedding and portrait photography business as a side hustle while living in the UK. But when I moved to Canada, I knew I would make a go of being a full-time freelancer. But I wasn’t sure wedding and portrait photography was what I wanted to do on a full-time basis. I’d had an inkling to go back to writing for a while, so before I left the UK, I decided I would figure out copywriting and content writing.
Back then, the plan was to be a photographer and do a little writing on the side. But I quickly discovered that I loved writing again and writing for other businesses made my heart sing! So, I made a shift. Instead of photography with a little side of writing, it became a writing business with a little side of photography.
And then, of course, 2020 happened. Need I say more about that? I don’t think so. The point is, as the summer wore on with a lockdown and less chance of booking weddings or family shoots, I started to wonder why I wanted to continue doing them. Sure, I love photography. But I realised I didn’t have the same love for it as a business as I did for writing.
Yes, the pandemic helped clear things up for me. But I refuse to say it was a pivot. I have a feeling it was coming all along. I just needed time to think about it!
It’s ok to change your mind
Here’s the thing… I’d spent so long building up a brand and a base and clients and my word of mouth and a following. And by doing all those things you can kind of back yourself into a corner. It’s hard to admit you want to let go of it when you’ve spent so much time building it up to what it is. Why on earth would you want to give up anything you’ve spent so long working hard and trying to do well at?
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t stick at something because of how much work you’ve put into it. Because how you feel about something can change over time.
A perfect example of this would be the 20-year career I had in the ambulance service. I admit I joined the service at 20 because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. A job for emergency call handler popped up in the paper one day, and I applied on a bit of a whim because it sounded interesting. But two decades later, I’d moved from taking emergency calls to dispatching ambulances to leaping into training to be a paramedic. I worked hard to get my qualification. I sweated, sobbed and stressed my way through training and my first few years responding to emergency calls. And I clung on bitterly because I’d worked too hard to give up on it.
Until it dawned on me that I didn’t enjoy the job. Why was I doing something I didn’t enjoy? What purpose did that serve me? To go to work each day and be miserable? Well, that hardly seems like a good reason to do something.
Moving to Canada gave me the push I needed to say goodbye to a career that spanned half my life. Yes, it was a nudge in the small of my back as I balanced on the edge of the diving board. But fuck if it wasn’t a perfect 10.0 splash as I landed in the freelancing pool for the next exciting stage of my life. Oh ok, more like a 9.5.
It’s not failure
It took that less than gentle shove for me to realise that giving something up as big as a 20-year career for something completely different wasn’t a terrible choice. It wasn’t a failure on my part. Or anyone’s, for that matter. It was just that life had changed, I had changed, and that wasn’t the right path for me anymore.
And so I came to realise these things about my business. While I’d started as a wedding and portrait photographer, it wasn’t the thing that made me sparkle with joy. Sure I LOVE photography. I’ll never deny that. I’ll even admit to missing photographing couples and families at times. In fact, I’d got pretty good at it! But the stress I put myself under to do the job wasn’t healthy. And I also could never properly treat it like a business.
There’s something about writing that has helped me to realise a few things. I adore writing, for one thing. More than photography, as it turns out. But I also am ready to be business-like about it too. And my business has already leapt forward full force since I made that significant change last August.
All this to say…
If you’re finding there’s a part of your business that doesn’t light you up or make you feel full of joy anymore, it’s ok to cut it out. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s a big change. I won’t deny that there’ll probably be a grieving process afterwards. But when you come out the other side, I promise you, it’ll be the best thing you ever did for your business.
You wait and see.