I’ve been mulling it–should I write this post or not. Finally, I decided I should. It’s personal, sure, but I’m hoping it will help you…
…and yes, me.
See, I think being open and honest is the most important thing you can be today in business. I think targets want to work with real people who don’t blow smoke. And if I’m going to preach that to you all, I need to live it myself.
So, here goes: I’m starting over.
Choosing to go to law school meant that I had to put my business on hold entirely for the first academic year, and then mostly so for the rest of the time. In other words, I’ve made almost no money from my business since 2008. I’ve had a bit of passive income from my book sales, but not even close to enough to cover my “nut.” I’ve been living off my savings and running my business off them too.
In the last year of my studies, I fell in love with a man who works mostly in films and so he lived in Los Angeles. As I approached graduation and taking the Bar, we decided to get a place together in the big city as soon as I finished. This was an exciting time. It was amazing that we found each other and everyone who saw us mentioned how great we seemed together. I felt incredibly lucky and happier than I had ever been in my personal life. We made lots of plans to work together on a book and series of presentations for photographers as well as building our personal life together. I had big plans for my business, especially for if/when I passed the Bar. He was very supportive and had big plans of his own.
As I studied for the Bar, still in San Diego, I started getting rid of a lot of my stuff. It didn’t make sense to move my stuff when he had duplicate stuff. So I sold some stuff like my couch and dining room set, and gave away a lot of other stuff like my bed and cookware and TV. It was wonderful to help others by handing over the items. And, the day after finishing the Bar, smiling, I drove up to LA to our new place and our new life.
I arrived on a Friday and by the following Monday, I was already back at my desk, posting on this very blog and shilling for work. I hit the ground running and was excited for the future.
I bet you can guess the next part: it didn’t work. For whatever reason, the magic we had for the months before the move disappeared. Living together was a disaster. All the dreams and big plans fell apart as the “us” did. Although the work of building my own business went on, I lost some of my direction as I lost my partner.
I was heartbroken. I had dreamed big and, despite my best efforts, it all came crashing down. I kept plugging on, but it wasn’t anywhere near the same. Moreover, I couldn’t make any big decisions until I found out about the Bar, so I waited.
Happily, I passed the Bar. That was a big weight lifted, but it meant I needed to decide on my next steps.
Having passed, I now can offer legal services as well as my traditional consulting. Good thing, because there are a bunch more consultants out there than there were even in 2008. Lots of talented people, many of whom were Photo Editors and the like who have been hurt (downsized) by the downturn, hung out their consultant shingles in the years I was studying law. I have a lot more competition than I did. But, as I have always preached, I’m not so much worried about them as I am focused on differentiating myself and my business from theirs.
Anyway, so, for my business, I face the challenges of lots of competition from other consultants; the fact that other businesses are offering advice that used to be the exclusive realm of consultants like me (and mostly for free, like Photoshelter’s helpful business pdfs); and, the fact that I’ve been mostly off the radar since 2008. Those are some big business hurdles.
Add in a somewhat broken heart (we really wanted to be able to live together), difficult living arrangements (we’re really bad at living together), and, well, things have been tough on many levels.
But, you can’t run a business on hope alone (nor a life, btw). So, I took a look at things and made some choices. As I said earlier, I’m starting over (sort of).
First off, I am moving back to San Diego. I have more friends there and I like the city better for living in than I do LA. Besides the health reasons (the air up here is terrible!), I like the community more in San Diego and look forward to being active in legal groups as well the the photo world. Don’t get me wrong–there are lots of great photo-world people here in LA–I meant the community overall, not just photo.
I’m sure I’ll be coming back to LA lots to attend events and visit, but I want to make my home closer to the ocean and in a place where I feel more at home.
It’s going to be interesting… moving twice in one year is expensive and now, for bonus points, I have to re-purchase some of the basics I shed (like a bed). I will be living rather frugally as I develop my business and legal services. In some ways, I see this as good–it permits me the opportunity to build my own life, on my own terms, and to focus my efforts on providing better services for my clients… you.
Work is also a great distractor–it helps me to get my head out of the feeling sorry for myself place that is easy to go to when a relationship doesn’t work out.
Secondly, I will be starting up a photo/legal-oriented website soon. There are some ethical issues surrounding having a website and being a lawyer so, to be safe, I’m going to be separating out this stuff a bit more (this blog will be more general photo/creative-related, the other more IP/legal). Also, I want to find a method of being able to provide legal services to photographers and other creatives without sending them to the poorhouse. It’s a complex problem but I’m working on it. That info will be posted on the new site as soon as I can get it developed. Stay tuned.
Thirdly, I am and will continue to be offering marketing consulting services. Some people think I’m not doing this work any more but I am. I love it and don’t ever want to stop. I could use getting the word out about this–please feel free to let your colleagues know that I’m still doing consulting work and am looking for new clients (as always).
I edit books and websites and make lists and make marketing plans–all the usual consultant-y stuff. And I get strong results. Tony Blei got his book called in before it was even ready (printed) after working with me, for example.
I’m not as cheap as the services offered by the bigger companies as add-ons to their traditional services (like the list service companies). I provide value and individualized attention you just aren’t going to get from them. For example, if I build your list using your Adbase or AgencyAccess account, it’s not going to take me 10 minutes and have 9000+ names on it because 1) I know there aren’t 9000+ potential good targets for anyone’s work; and, 2) I’m picky–it takes hours to pick out the right targets and built-in lists aren’t right for anyone; you’ll never get a “recycled” list from me.
Point is, I do this work, do it well, and want the world to know I’m not only back, I have even more to offer than before.
So why should this matter for you? What’s the point in reading this long tale? Well, mostly I want to point out that I tried something new and risky and it did not work. I want you to use this as an object lesson that risks don’t always work, but you still have to take them.
Look, I could sit around and say I’m not going to take any risks again or feel sorry for myself, but I’m not. I’d still take the risk I did because I never would have had the chance to learn what I have without it. It’s not all bad–I got to see, do, and learn a lot about the entertainment industry and new technology creative groups and the business of magic, and, well, just all sorts of stuff I never would have been exposed to if I hadn’t taken the risk. And I learned more about myself. Plus, even in the bad, I’ve learned I have an amazing resilience and great friends who care about me.
So yeah, it’s scary as hell to take risks. Some don’t work out as you imagine. No matter how much planning and good intentions, shit happens. You can’t control everything and sometimes you will not achieve what you envision. Sometimes it will go to hell in the proverbial handbasket.
But if you don’t take the risk, if you don’t try, if you don’t go for it full-on and with everything you’ve got, you’ll never get what you really want. Success will not fall into your lap–you have to risk to get it.