The light is now visible at the end of the tunnel and change is in the air. Both are good things
For my photography business, the last week of August is always the busiest. For the past couple of years I’ve been learning that taking a break in the middle of it all is super important. In fact, two years ago I was approached by a young couple who wanted to hire me for their wedding. It was all very last-minute and there was no way I could back down from charging my full-rate. In the end they chose someone more affordable, but the good news is, that couple are now my friends and I play guitar on a regular basis with the groom. A friendship that came about through being honest and knowing the limits.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but having a week / month where everything is non-stop is probably the glue that holds the business together. I try and accept as many jobs as possible, because I know full well that come November and December I’ll be on my hands and knees begging for work. So this year I took a ten day trip back home to the UK to celebrate my mum’s 60th and attend a friend’s wedding. As usual it was hard avoiding phone calls and emails, and I lost a few clients I’m sure (because I didn’t always get back to them on time), but it was one of the first times in my professional life where I’ve not wanted to come back to Denmark.
Running to clear the mind is great therapy
The hills of Derbyshire have always made me miss home, and this trip was no exception. For ten days I couldn’t keep my eyes off the meadows and rivers that flow through my hometown and the thought of the dull, flat landscape of Copenhagen just made me shudder. Don’t get me wrong, Copenhagen is THE place to be, but when it comes to nature it just doesn’t cut it.
So I found myself out running on a few early occasions. I even persuaded my dad to join me on his bike (a first for the both of us) and my thighs were thankful for the challenge.
One morning, as I jogged through a disused railway tunnel from the 1800s, I found myself contemplating which direction I would head in next. Should I continue down the abandoned railway line-turned cycle route then head right, or should I tackle the steep hillside and admire the view. In the end I opted for a mixture of the two and within a few minutes I was out of breath and admiring the view. The sun was rising over the valley, and a light mist rose from the grass where I had just disturbed the earth. The shadows of the trees were long and the sounds of the birds and grazing sheep contributed poetically to the scene. This was Derbyshire at its best.
I’ve never been one to get homesick, but this was the closest feeling. Getting up early for a bit of me-time has been on my agenda for the last few weeks (ever since my second child was born) and this was exactly what I had in mind. As I stood there I could feel a second business-venture forming in my mind and suddenly a breath of fresh air filled my lungs. Photography had nothing to do with it, but the view before me was certainly a contributing factor. I’ll say no more at this stage, but change was most definitely in the air.
Alone in the office again
This theme continued later that day when my office buddy Pernille dropped me a line to say she was leaving the office. A heavy blow, considering that she was the second in a short space of time. Our other guy, Kristian, had left a month previously and his absence was being felt. The three of us had enjoyed a cozy 12 months together – eating lunch and shopping at IKEA for office furniture when it suited us.
But of course I saw it coming once Kristian had left. The vibe was never the same and Pernille’s career was going from strength to strength and she was on the up. But it’s times like these when you sit back and consider your own prospects. Where am I going? Who will be next to move in to the office? Who will hire me and for what purpose? All these things are racing through my mind as I remember the view from the hilltop.
So there’s the newborn, the empty office, the four-week trip to Oz and NZ just around the corner, and the thoughts of a new business. Plus there’s the travel book that’s being proof-read as we speak. And all of this comes at a time when I’m approaching my fourth year in Denmark. Four has long been the magic number when it comes to change (for me, at least) and now feels like a good time. A great time, in fact.
As soon as we landed at Kastrup Airport I was back at work. Having slept very little the night before and driving down to London, I was very aware that seven days of mayhem was about to begin, and the way I handled it was going to be vital. I was refreshed from my trip but suddenly back to business as usual, only this time it was slightly different. The daily battle to market and promote myself seemed to have faded slightly, as had the indescribable urge to please my clients’ deadline demands at all costs. This shouldn’t be translated as, “Matt doesn’t give a hoot about his clients,” but more, “Matt is aware that a balance of reality is required.” Matt is already working 12 hour days and has two young kids at home and a partner doing her best to look after them both. So Matt will not worry too much when people keep demanding things that are almost unachievable. Just like when Matt made friends with a groom who didn’t hire him.
Remember that you work for yourself
I hope I’m making a clear point here. I always try to write honestly from my own perspective, but I want other photographers and creatives to follow in my footsteps and learn from me. My message to you all, is don’t forget to smell the roses. Make the most of your busy season and look after your body and mind at the same time. But remember that you work for yourself. You’re your own boss, and we must make the most of that privilege. That’s the reason why I’m going to leave the office very early today and go for a swim, even though my inbox isn’t empty (it never is).
Interestingly, the book “Four Hour Work Week” is up next on my to-do list, so I’m looking forward to seeing what that has in store. I’ll keep you posted.
Before I forget, don’t forget to check out my Summer Newsletter. In this edition I discuss how I became commissioned by National Geographic Traveller magazine and share a bunch of other sources that I use to better myself as a professional photographer.