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Episode #10 – What to do during a Pandemic as a Photographer?
What to do during a Pandemic as a Photographer? It’s hard to believe we are already at episode number 10 you guys. I wanted to give you a few stats so far. Now, this is just what the hosting site I use called Anchor tells me, but we are at over 500 listens and it says my audience size is over 40 people. To be honest I thought only my mom would listen. This means the world to me. Thank you so much for listening and supporting me. All your kind words of encouragement are really what’s keeping me going.
I haven’t really gotten personal on this podcast as much so this episode is all about what I’ve been up to during this pandemic. (other than starting a podcast of course). What does a photographer do during a pandemic or even a slower season? My hope is that you’ll get to know a bit more about my personal side, not only just hearing my voice, but how I have been dealing with the pandemic. My hope is that you’ll feel a bit closer to me and hopefully reach out if you need someone. I am not always the chattiest person who reaches out all the time, but I am here if and whenever you need me.
Moments you’ll never forget – When COVID-19 Started
Do you ever have moments you think you’ll never forget? Well, one of those moments happens to be when COVID-19 hit. We were all packed and planning to go to the Ottawa Wedding Show for what was seemingly going to be an epic one. Still riding the wave from the last show, giving tickets away to potential couples, and building a whole new look for our booth. Finally feeling like we’ve found our groove within our business. We had reached out to all the amazing vendors who we wanted to work with and ordered new albums for the show. It was going to be our best one yet, or so we thought.
We had already a pretty full 2020 season so we were excited to fill up the rest of 2021 since we were already half booked. Our couples for 2021 were ramping up and we had already booked all our engagement sessions in for the season. Talk about feeling organized and on top of the world. Our website was getting an overhaul, our social media was consistent, and we had built this epic workflow for our clients. On top of all this, we had just gotten back from vacation in Florida in January. We felt completely refreshed for the start of our season.
The next thing we hear about is this “bad-flu” that was going around and that there wasn’t really anything to worry about. We received calls from other vendors who were also attending the wedding show asking us what our plans were. Of course, we were going ahead? The show was still moving forward at this point, I didn’t think much of it. Going out the next day I got my hair done and a fresh blowout, new outfit, and a manicure. I was completely set. After speaking with our decorator and florist, we were all packed and ready. The virus wasn’t something that we thought would cancel the wedding show.
Schools close, Wedding Show Postpones, Now What?
The next thing we hear is the schools are closing. How can a virus close schools? After, we get an email saying that the show is postponed until further notice. That is when things really became real for us. We were scared of everything. I was getting emails from clients in a panic, phone calls from friends and family. Everyone was wondering what was happening. We didn’t know who was vulnerable, who had the virus, and what was worse is we had family traveling all over, even in Florida at the time.
The next two or three weeks feel like a blur. Between crying over every announcement on the tv from the prime minister and the premier of Ontario. The growing fear all over social media, it got to me. Every post was about this virus. Everything was about to change and it wasn’t something I had ever prepared for. How do you even prepare for this? It’s never something I have EVER heard about in business events, or online. We all know the saying “saving for a rainy day” well what about “saving for the world to shut down”.
Run a business, Figure out Finances, & Watch your Children
Imagine that on top of this we were still watching our kids who are 5 and a half and 18-month old twins. We are trying to balance our finances. We are trying to make sure that our loved ones are ok. One of my biggest fears is that someone close to us would get sick. After my mother finished her chemo and had her final surgery in January 2020, she was my number one concern. I was so scared for her. With family traveling in Florida and South America at the time of this starting, I was also scared for them.
It wasn’t till about 3 weeks in that the emails and calls started to come. You know the “we decided to cancel our wedding emails”. If you are in any kind of event industry or perhaps just clients in general, you’ve had more of these conversations than you would ever like to admit. The first few weeks of this before the emails started coming in, we felt ok until we didn’t. Literally having heartbreaking conversations with so many couples who just weren’t sure what to do.
Screen Time Usage went up During the first Weeks of the Pandemic
On top of all this, Luc had just extended his parental leave from the government (non-paid leave) and we were both full-time into the business. We had a full-time nanny who was set to come from Europe in April and our current one was meant to leave the middle of March. The world was crashing down around us and it was very overwhelming. The stats on my phone usage screen time was wayyyyy up, so much so that it scared me when it had gone up about 500% or something crazy like that.
After many conversations about our finances and what we needed to do to survive we figured out a plan. It wasn’t a plan I would have ever imagined making, but we did it. We knew that Luc needed to go back to work, we needed to look at possibly deferring as many payments as we could. We needed to hunker down and hopefully wait for this storm to pass.
Working from home wasn’t something new for us, so in that regard we were ok. Watching the kids and trying to maintain the business and Luc was working full-time, now that was hard. We have amazing kids who are fun and make us laugh, but after a few weeks, it was pretty clear that everyone was getting a little housebound.
We were wiping down all our groceries, wearing masks at the grocery store. Making lists of all the things we needed and buying enough to sustain us for 2-3 weeks at a time. To this day I don’t know how we ate so much. Luc once came home with a $900 grocery bill and I nearly flipped! Everything seemed so intense.
What to do as a Photographer during a pandemic?
Consuming the news constantly and all the doom and gloom in social media was completely terrifying. Luckily our little community of creatives in the wedding industry banned together and we chatted through what everyone was doing. I found this extremely helpful and insightful but of course, the hard reality of everything was still hitting us hard.
I knew that not only we were suffering, but everyone around us was as well. It almost felt hard to talk to people about how much we were suffering. Like was I suffering enough to even complain? I wasn’t about to lose my house and my business was still somewhat viable-ish. How can I even compare to some of our friends who are losing everything?
Something that we had set up about 2 years ago was for our wedding clients to pay us monthly. After working in the government with steady paychecks this seemed like the easiest transition for us. Honestly, this switch is what has saved us throughout this weird time because we always have had a “monthly” income sort of speak. Our clients love it as well and it’s always felt like a win-win. We have a few that don’t do this but overall it’s a sustainable amount.
Sometimes making small changes can make a big difference
This allows us flexibility when it comes to taking time off and planning better. With COVID however, we weren’t getting that influx of bookings in the spring that usually tides us over for the following year. With some of our weddings still paying in lump sums, would they still pay them this year? All these questions came up and it was probably the hardest thing having to ask clients to pay us now if they could. We made sure to ask each couple how they were and if they still were able to work throughout the pandemic, which I would say over 95% were lucky. Nothing is harder than asking for money when you know usually that would never be the case.
We honestly have the best clients as they have been wonderful throughout this whole ordeal. Some offered to pay in full already and have even gone ahead and added extra hours or video to a photography package when they postponed. Without all this generosity we wouldn’t be able to do all the things we did during this time.
COVID 20 Pounds we gained through Eating our Feelings
Some people may not have had many changes and that’s ok. Others may have started dieting or working out. Seeing people hoarding and baking like crazy felt really extreme to us. We kind of fell into eating everything and making delicious food category. Mostly carbs. Cheese, and more carbs. It didn’t take long to really add up those pounds after spending some days and evenings just binge-watching TV shows. I went through Netflix, Crave, Apple TV, HBO, and others. I watched all the latest and trendiest shows and ate ALL my feelings.
Now you know how I was feeling throughout all this, so what did I actually get done? For my own feelings of accomplishment, I feel like we got more than I would have imagined after hearing everything before. I decided that I would look back and appreciate how much I did learn and what I was able to do for myself and the business, regardless of COVID.
4 Things we are doing to push our Business forward during the Pandemic
There are 4 things that I have been actively doing and I will share them all with you. One is starting the podcast, which of course you are now listening too! Two was launching my online DSLR course and all the work that goes along with that. Three is updating my website for better SEO after getting an evaluation done with the girls from Something Blue. Four was learning all about Pinterest and starting to PIN the new content I was creating.
Crazy imagining that we actually started and finished all four of these things but what’s been really cool is taking control of that feeling of overwhelm. The feeling of fight or flight. That anxiety that was literally taking over me. Now sharing this isn’t easy, but I needed to see my doctor virtually for some help with sleeping when this all hit. I couldn’t handle everything and even though I felt like my situation wasn’t as bad as everyone else, I felt bad for even feeling that.
Knowing that I needed to bring some kind of control back into my life and normalcy, this sleeping medication helped me get back on my feet in just a few days. Happy to say that I don’t need it anymore, but I hope that if you are feeling like you need help, that you do get it. What was best for me was talking to my doctor and he agreed that sleepless nights were only heightening my anxiety and that a few good nights’ sleep would do a world of good. Doctors are always right, or at least mine is.
How bad do you want it?
As part of my development for 2020, I had planned to launch my online DSLR course and start a podcast. Two very big endeavors that I knew would take a lot of discipline, but in reality, I reallllllly. wanted to do. It’s not easy trying to push yourself, but it felt great in April to start something new. Something that could distract me from what was going on around me. Trust me, it was a lot more work than I had anticipated. I was told by a very REAL friend that if I didn’t want to do something bad enough, it wasn’t going to happen. So I had to WANNNNT it bad enough.
Launching a Podcast during a Pandemic
The podcast is a lot more work than I could have really imagined. Promise you that people make it look easy, but because of my type A personality, I needed to do it just right. Build a website, get the perfect name, interview people or not, come up with intro’s and outro’s. Embed codes, marketing, the works, it really is like a whole other business in itself. Sure I could not do all those things, but I know how to do them, so I am! Why do all this work without it? Seemed backwards to me.
Launching an Online Course during a Pandemic
Launching my online DSLR course was one that I tire kicked A LOT! Especially since it was mostly finished, I just wasn’t pushing it or actually launching it! Having a videography business I have an unfair advantage because my partner can record, edit, and get creative with it all really well. My job is just to do it. Show up, look pretty, and do it! It’s hard to be creative when you aren’t in the best mindset, I have learned this a lot throughout this pandemic.
Surrounding myself with some really amazing businesswomen has been my lifeline, especially during this time. You don’t know how much you need people until being around them makes you feel a million times better, even if it is virtually over zoom. These women push me and sometimes we all need to be pushed. Thankful that I have them in my life.
Learn SEO during the Pandemic for Small Business
What else does a Photographer do during a Pandemic?! Well, I started taking an interest in my website and Pinterest. Man oh man, am I addicted. More than I thought I could be. Between learning the difference between H1 tags, alt tags, and keywords, I have learned to love the challenge of updating and maintaining a functional website. We have built our website ourselves after countless attempts with big companies and we love it.
We spent a ridiculous amount of money on our site in 2018 & 2019 and I wasn’t about to repeat this ever again. All the promises of us moving into the first page of google were a complete sham. The sites looked like garbage. They didn’t represent who we were at all. If I could go back and tell my past self to just do it, I would have. I wish that I spent the time learning this stuff earlier and that I could have saved me a lot of money.
The expensive mistakes make you learn the most
Expensive lessons are often ones you learn from the most. The problem was that I didn’t feel like I knew enough to be able to do it myself. I wasn’t “techy” enough. Well, that has changed my friend. Luc is what I call my “workhorse”. Whatever I need he will masterfully create it for me, but the words, they come from me. In the past 4 months, we must have changed things about 100 times.
Keeping things up to date is no easy task and it can be a big expense if you are paying someone. I feel like I have invested so many hours into this, but at least this way I have a sense of what I am doing. I have also really benefited from working with a marketing team in my local area. They were able to point me in the direction I needed to go. It started with an overhaul evaluation and super easy tips to improve things.
It’s been a game-changer and the best part is, we could do it ourselves. Sure, it’s more work, but now whenever we build a new page or change things we know what we’re doing! They are also available for calls about any little details I don’t understand, so I will be sure to link to them on the show notes so you can get in touch if you want to! This, of course, isn’t sponsored, but I am just happy to support them in the way they have, Julia and Hannah from Something Blue are the best. If you don’t believe me, schedule a virtual coffee with them and see for yourself.
Take on Pinterest during the Pandemic to help your Business Grow
Last but not least is Pinterest. With social media, it can be hard when the numbers don’t move or people don’t respond to your posts. I get that. Especially when it’s been all doom and gloom and I am re-sharing things I have probably shared before. Without fresh content for about 6 months, it can be hard to feel motivated enough to share anything. With Pinterest, it’s different. People actually click, see, and check out your website all from a PIN. It’s been a total addiction and even with the ups and down’s it’s been interesting learning how it all works.
If you ever want to chat about any of these things in more detail let me know as I would love to help anyone who has questions. I am of course not an expert, yet, but I know a thing or two! Understanding Google analytics even at the basic level is telling me that I am doing something better than I was before, so I’m happy with that!
Learning all this stuff has been what I’ve decided to spend my time doing during this pandemic. Mostly out of distraction so that I can be better off long term, but also because I know that it’s something positive I could be doing. Delaying things until I have “time” to do them isn’t an excuse anymore. In this current climate, it’s extremely easy to just want to curl up in a ball and forget all the amazing growth that you have had. Trust me I know this. What is key for me is trying to move forward, trying to make sure that we are staying positive. Whenever the feelings of self-doubt come up, I try and think of the things that I can control. My hope is that you do too!
Find me on Instagram
So let me know on Instagram if you loved this episode and if you are going to try one of the 4 things that I have been doing. If you love this episode, please go and give me a review on iTunes, it would mean the world if you tapped those 5 stars! Helping me grow is easy, all you gotta do is listen and share!
Check out my last episode about “Feeling Guilt within your Business“
We are Grey Loft Studio
We are breaking the 9-5 golden handcuffs and diving right into the creative world, one creative session at a time.
We are a husband & wife team who specialize in wedding photography & videography services, based in Ottawa, ON, but we travel as often as our children allow us to!