How To Shield Your Business From Failure, Even During An Emergency
As Photographers, we have a ton of stuff that we do on a daily basis. Imagine if something happened to you and suddenly all of your clients are wondering why you aren’t responding. You have shoots scheduled, but you are unable to contact your clients. We all know that photographers don’t get sick days, right? Are you prepared if tragedy strikes? What’s your plan? Learn how to shield your business from failure.
Our Unexpected Emergency
Back in June, everything was going as planned. June 16th is our wedding anniversary, and we had sent our daughter to her grandparents for the day. The weather was perfect, and we were looking forward to sitting at home, watching movies, and ordering takeout all day. This business can get crazy busy so sitting at home together and just enjoying each other’s company seemed amazing. As we were enjoying our time, my wife started to have extreme stomach pain and within the hour we were at the ER. She needed emergency surgery.
To further complicate matters, my wife has a bleeding disorder that makes surgery a lot riskier. She was released within 2 hours of having surgery, and we were back at home by 8:30 am the next morning. Several hours later, the pain was back worse than before. We rushed back to the ER, and she had to have the same surgery again. This time, they kept her for several days afterward to make sure she was going to be ok.
The Impact on Our Business
My wife (Laura) and I are a husband and wife team. We mostly shoot weddings. Because of everything that happened, Laura was in the hospital for about a week. I do all of our editing but had to be with Laura for all of that time. Needless to say, we fell behind. In addition, we had a wedding that weekend that she wasn’t going to be able to shoot so I needed to find someone to shoot in her place. The fact that she was still going to be in the hospital while I had to shoot a wedding was tearing me apart. I just wanted to be there for her. My mind was constantly racing.
Every day, I would have a list of tasks piling up that I couldn’t get to. When I was with Laura, all I could think about was our clients and making sure I update all of them about what was going on. When I was not with her, all I could think about was being with her. How was I going to edit everything, email all of our clients, manage inquiries in a decent amount of time, be there for my wife, make sure my daughter was taken care of, etc.?
I remember being at the wedding and I was holding the bride’s shoes. I looked over at my assistant and said, “Please take these and shoot them. I have no idea what to do with them.” That is never something I would do, but I just couldn’t focus. I had moments of creativity and moments of just blank thoughts. I had to hold back tears all day and keep a smile on my face. After I said goodbye to the Bride and Groom, I walked to my car, got in, and then lost it. I was 1 1/2 hours from home, and I couldn’t have wanted to be home anymore at that moment. Shooting a wedding and acting happy was the last thing I wanted to be doing.
The Importance of Community
During this extremely challenging time, we would have been completely out of commission had it not been for the community we built around ourselves. We posted a brief summary of what we were dealing with in 2 smaller photography groups on Facebook. One that we lead for local photographers in South Jersey that has about 250 people, and another with photographers from all over the world. Between those two groups, people came together from all over the country and provided us with two weeks worth of pre-made meals that met my wife’s strict dietary needs. Someone found us a solid second shooter that could uphold the standards and style that we deliver to our clients. We ended up having so much support from everyone in this industry that we were overwhelmed. We couldn’t have made it without everyone’s help. We are eternally grateful for everyone that came to our aid.
I can’t stress this enough. If you work in this crazy industry, you MUST have a backup plan for when things go wrong. Make sure there is someone you trust that has all of your passwords for work-related things like email, website, blog, finances, etc. That way, they can at least notify your clients of what’s going on. Surround yourself with others in this industry that can cover your shoots if you can’t be there. If you have kids, make sure you have a plan for what to do with them if an emergency arises.
None of us can foresee when an emergency will happen. But we can be as prepared as possible if that time comes. In this industry, your network really is your net worth. Don’t fly solo. So many people keep to themselves because they don’t want to help their competition in this industry. To me, that is crazy talk. We all need each other! Do you have a plan? If not, get one.