Episode 27- Why We Killed A Six Figure Business

The transcript for Ep. 27- Why We Killed A Six Figure Business

So for over 13 years, one of the main sources of income for Elizabeth and I was photographing weddings and if you read in the book, shooting weddings was not something that we were dying to do. It was something that was born out of desperation. It was something that was born out of financial need. After we had decided that the newspaper career that we’re in was not going to suffice for the life that we wanted as our son was getting ready to be born. So we started this career, that desperation of something just to make a couple of bucks and it turned into something that we actually really enjoyed doing. It was something that we could tell stories with, we could be creative with. We actually had carte blanche over the way that we did the work because we control the message. We weren’t working for somebody else, so we could design our website to reflect our personality in terms of the work that we do, in terms of the art that we create for our couples. 

So it turned out to be something that started out as like that we did not want to do because we had a preconceived notion of what it was about. But once we got over that and we got into it and we actually took the chance and we got our fingers in it, we realized, well we can tell better stories in this format that we were even able to do in the newspaper world, which we thought was the ultimate level of creativity for a journalist. It wasn’t because we started thinking about it, we’re like, well we have to do all these environmental portraits, pictures of buildings, different assignments. I had no journalistic feel to it at all. They were just kind of gripping grin pictures. But with a wedding we got to just tell emotional stories of one of the most important days of these people’s lives. And we really got into it. 

So we made it our thing for all these years and it turned out to be extremely successful, extremely profitable. I mean to the point where within a couple of years we had paid off all our debt. We paid off our house, we quit. Our jobs were financially free. So about two years ago we decided to stop. We decided just to stop shooting weddings. So people in our life that have been in our life the last couple of years, they know everything that’s going on, all the different changes that have gone on, the different businesses that have started, the different areas that we’re in. But people that I haven’t spoken to in a little while, they’re like, oh you still shooting weddings? And I’m like, and that feels like 40 years ago. Like, no, we’re not like we’ve, we’ve moved on from that. I haven’t had to answer the question very much, but I’ve had to answer it a lot lately. 

It’s kind of like, why did you stop shooting weddings and like well might as well make a podcast about it. Cause I get asked it a bunch now, especially when the book was published, when I wrote the book, our primary income was weddings, which was six figures. And we decided to kill that. We decided to just basically put it aside, put it away and do other stuff. And I think some people were really intrigued by that. So I’m like, I might as well tell a little bit of the story of that because you know, it’s more than just one small podcast. But what happened was a few years back I was going through a tremendously difficult health issue, which was adrenal fatigue. My thyroid was all messed up. I was going through adrenal fatigue. I was in a situation where I was, I was tired all day, but I couldn’t sleep at night and I’m not an anxious or depressed person, but I had severe anxiety, severe depression that came with, I mean crippling to the point where it was like days in bed, just doing nothing but just worrying and everything seemed heavy. 

That’s the best way I can describe it. Everything just seemed heavy. Every decision, every everything with the kids, everything with our career, you know, it all seemed just so important and it crippled me. It mentally crippled me for for a long period of time. And this went on for probably a good year and a half. So when it started, you know, we were fully entrenched in our wedding business and when it was over, we had already killed the wedding business and it moved on. That’s how, that’s how long it was. And that’s how bizarre it was. So the backstory to it is during this adrenal fatigue, while this was going on, we were still shooting weddings. So I was exhausted. I mean, I would show up at weddings and I would, and I would just do my best just to stay energized. At that point I was even drinking red bull, which is so bad for you. 

But I was drinking those just to get a jolt of energy just to get me going through the day. And I would say to myself like, Oh, six more hours, you know, til I’m done. But I would just try to give it everything that I had. And then Sundays and Mondays were brutal because it was just recovery time. And normally it wouldn’t be that bad. But going through this, it was tough. But what happened was there was one wedding, and I remember it clearly, and this was the day that I knew that the career was over. I show up at the House of the groom getting ready. Elizabeth was at the bride getting ready and as we normally did, what was the two photographers? She would be with the bride, I’d be with the groom, we’d meet at the ceremony and then I would shoot. Then we would meet at the reception and I would shoot the rest of the night until the, until the wedding was over. 

That’s, that was generally the way that we worked at. But I remember ringing the Doorbell or the groom and here’s what I thought. I said, I hope they don’t answer. That’s what I thought. I said, oh my goodness. Like I, if they didn’t answer and I could just go home and go to sleep, that’s how crazy it was. Cause this is somebody’s wedding. But I was so exhausted and mentally just shot that I just didn’t want to do anything. But they opened the door and you know, they start getting, so immediately the adrenaline kicks in and you and you start doing the work. So what happened was I shot that, went to the ceremony, shot the ceremony, I met Elizabeth there, we did the receptionist at the lights, did the portraits, did the whole thing. And when it’s going on, you don’t feel any of it. 

Cause the adrenaline is so high and you see the energy of this couple, so you feel it. So you feed off of them. But you know when it’s all over, I mean literally when you drop the cameras in the car and you get in the car, your body is gonna just shut down. You’re just going to feel it. So what happened was I shot the entire ceremony, shot the entire reception. And then as I got in the car, I started driving home. And normally when I drive home from weddings, I recall all the moments from the wedding. I recall the things that I shot. I think about the lighting, the moments that I get this, that I get that. Anything that I missed, you know, I just, I do an audit in my head of the entire wedding and I drove home from this wedding and for the first 10 minutes I didn’t even think. 

And then I started thinking about the wedding. I don’t remember anything that I shot. I don’t remember the ceremony. I mean I was there, but I don’t remember the pictures that I took. I don’t remember if the light was good at the reception. I don’t remember if I captured all the key moments, you know, first kids, all the things that matter the in between moments that getting hurt. I don’t remember any of it. And I’m driving home and I’m thinking, oh my goodness, like we’re dead. Like the, she’s going to come back to us and she is going to complain. You know, we had never gotten any like that in all those years and doing weddings. It’s always been fantastic response and we’re going to get like the first real complaint for our work. And I’m like, ah, you know, and, and it just broke my heart. 

Like I blew it for them. I blew it for their wedding. Like as it was all over with, I’m thinking, I’m not thinking about how I felt anymore. I’m thinking, holy crap, I screwed this up for this couple and this is their wedding day and that’s how important it is. So for two weeks as Elizabeth edited all the pictures, I didn’t even look at it. I didn’t even want to look at it. She did the work. She know it looks good, you know I’m like okay and I’m not really believing her. So she edits it and then we put together this slide show and we send it off to the couple. And I’m just bracing myself. I’m bracing myself for the response. I’m bracing myself for, you know, how, you know I’m already thinking are we going to make it up to them somehow? Is there something we could do for them? 

You know, we give money back with all these things because I’m still in the middle of this adrenal fatigue and then we send it off and we get an email back and I see all these capital letters and it’s just like we love it. Like this is, you got everything. You got all the moments that we wanted. I don’t know how you guys captured it all like this is better than we ever expected. And I was like, what? I was like, what are you talking about? I don’t even remember this. I don’t even remember how we did it and now you’re raving about it. And I was completely expecting just to be shot down and now like whatever repair has to be done afterwards. And once the dust settled on that, I said to myself, it’s over. I said, I can’t, I’m not gonna, I can’t do this anymore. 

And the reason why is because there was no longer a challenge. It was always such a challenge. I always loved the idea of like working without a net, you know, I need to earn it. I need to earn this, keep, I need to be on to do this, right. I need to be able to be at a certain level and mentally there. And when I realized that I can sleep, walk through something and still produce the work that we would have expected, I immediately realized I had to be done. I needed a new challenge. That’s exactly what it was. That’s exactly what my mindset was. And I said to Elizabeth, I said, I’m done. And I think she understood because she kind of felt the same thing too. It kind of felt like, well, we can keep riding this gravy train, we can keep doing, we can raise our prices, make more money, but we’ll still be doing something that we’re not feeling challenged by and now we can always choose a new way to challenge ourselves. 

Right? We can choose a different style to try to embrace or do things differently, but it just felt right to make a change. It felt like this is the time to try something new. And I had been doing coaching of photographers for a couple of years on the side, just doing one on one coaching. And to me that felt like weddings felt in the very beginning, like in the very beginning when you don’t even know what you’re doing. But you’re learning and you’re trying and you’re, and you’re growing in, you’re excited by it. Like it, that felt like the thing that I w I knew nothing about and I want to get better at and the weddings is like, yeah, we can keep getting better at it, but when do you cut the cord? And so we decided to cut the cord at that point forward. We booked maybe another half a year of weddings to go forward in terms of income wise. 

And then we ran out the ones that we had and we built this next business on the side and that’s how we made the transition. And there’s a lot of mistakes in that I’ll talk about in the next episode and what we learned from that and what we’re doing now to not make the same mistakes we made then. But essentially it happened that quickly. It was like it’s time for a change, it’s time for a new challenge and we’re going to go after it. We’re not going to do it just for the money. We’re not going to do something that we’re half into just for the money. It’s not the way that we want to work or live our life. So that’s essentially the story of how we decide to start getting out of actually killing a six figure business and go into something completely new. And I’ll be back with the lessons that we learned about what we did wrong in that process tomorrow.

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