You typically come to the internet to read about amazing success stories… because WHO, I tell you, WHO is out there writing about the mistakes they have made for the world to see. I know you’re not looking to post a status about your screw-ups for fear of backlash and people magnifying your mistakes, BUT, I truly believe that airing your (figuratively) dirty laundry lets people connect. Let’s think about memes… we love them because they’re “so true,” right!? Mistakes only connect you more with each other because 9 times out of 10… the person sitting next to you has done the same thing and they think they’re the only one. You’re not a failure… always remember that.
Too often, we idolize people and we forget that they actually have issues of their own that they’re not telling us. We’re all human and no one is walking around unscathed… (Definitely a word I never thought would be in a blog post…). I’m here to tell you that I’ve done a lot of stupid things, BUT, I’ve learned from them all. My hope is that you’ll read these and not make the same ones or laugh because you’ve also done them and are still alive to tell the tale.
- My card corrupted. Every photographers NIGHTMARE. Luckily, this error happened to me when I wasn’t professional yet BUT I had spent time taking photos around Georgetown one afternoon with my mom and I was so excited to upload them to Facebook. Turns out, I couldn’t even transport the images from the card to the computer because the card had corrupted. What I didn’t know was that before every use with the new card, I needed to reformat the card. I thought that deleting files was fine before each use, WRONG! I didn’t know that memory cards still held onto bits of data. Learned that mistake REAL QUICK. That’s one photographer mistake that you can avoid!!!
- I left my batteries at home. I keep my camera bag prepped in a very specific way. I know exactly which pocket contains which set of memory cards, batteries, etc. One Spring day, I reached into my bag to pull out some AA batteries for my flash, only to discover that I hadn’t taken the batteries out of the charger from home! (I have a whole bag of rechargeable that are incredible… you know, when I actually have them on my person.) Luckily, I could send my second shooter to the store before the ceremony so that I’d have the batteries in time for the reception. (Thanks a BUNCH, Ash!)
- I called the bride the wrong name. Like 5 times. Sure, I was embarrassed but we laughed about it. The bride was a twin… I know that’s no excuse but it happened, okay! (Fun Fact: I’ve had TWO twin brides … so this scenario has been repeated twice. Sorry Rachel (below with her sisters– find the twin… lol) & Lora! haha!)
- I mixed up the date. I had a meeting on Thursday but I wrote it down for Wednesday. Luckily, it was no harm, no foul… just a very confused couple when I asked what time we were meeting “tonight.” **Knock on wood, I’ve never mixed up wedding dates!**
- I didn’t collect sales tax. Here’s the thing. There’s no “guide to small business” when you decide to do it. You don’t know all the things you’ll have to pay for… the fees to VA State Govt, the Liability Insurance fees, the Canon service bills, the quarterly estimated payments, etc… but I can tell you what, you learn that crap real quick! One thing I didn’t know I really had to do was collect sales tax on my packages but thankfully when I had the chat with my accountant about it… he made me feel less stupid because he told me to give myself a break and be proud that I didn’t get to year 10 in business and THEN learn it. There have been people that haven’t done it for 10 years and owed a crap ton of money.
- I flushed $500 down the drain. No, not for reals. But let me tell you a fun fact about not reading between the lines. You know those Facebook ads? The ones you see that are “Sponsored” on Facebook? Three years ago, I decided to boost a Facebook post. I was SO proud of the wedding I had just photographed that I wanted to boost it in hopes of other brides finding me and booking me at that venue so I thought, cool, I’ll boost it for $25 and see what happens. I wasn’t new at this game, I’d done it before, I had boosted posts $5 here, $5 there, but $25, I said to myself, this will be a fun test for this wedding because I think it’ll be popular. WELL, my dear blog readers, I had ACCIDENTALLY chosen the $25/day feature. That’s right… I got my credit card statement at the end of the month for $500 from “Facebook.” ** THIS HAS GOT TO BE A MISTAKE WHAT THE F IS THIS…** I logged into Facebook to see my error and basically had a heart attack. There was nothing I could do but cry and immediately erase my credit card from the settings so that it would never happen again.
- I said YES, when I should have said NO. We all get that feeling of desperation. That feeling when you’re not booking and you will do ANYTHING to get one “yes!!!” Don’t compromise your business for that temporary fix of a “yes.” Your gut knows all. It really, really does. When you say YES to a NO client… you’re hurting yourself AND your client. You’re hurting yourself because most likely your client wants things that you can’t give them and there’s a better match out there for them. Saying NO isn’t a bad thing, my friends. You should want to say no to keep the YES available for a client that IS your perfect match.
- I didn’t charge travel. Why? because I really wanted that temporary “yes” fix. I didn’t charge travel because I wanted the out of state wedding. You know what happens when you do that? The time comes and you have a huge gas bill, miles added to your car, and a hotel bill that YOU have to cover and you’re mad at yourself. You have to charge with you’re worth AND your travel because you’re never going to make any money by eating the costs yourself all the time.
- I didn’t leave enough time. I was traveling to a wedding and I miscalculated the timing that it would take and left myself only enough time from door to door. MISTAKE. I forgot about the time it takes for getting gas, traffic, potty breaks, and that inevitable coffee stop. That particular trip, however, I accidentally made an illegal U-turn, and on top of being stuck in traffic… I then got pulled over. EMBARRASSING. Luckily, the cop was super nice and knew I wasn’t lying about being a wedding photographer because my trusty Canon was riding co-pilot. He let me off with a warning as I headed back into solid traffic. Needles to say… take a breath. slow down… and leave an extra hour early.
- I let them walk all over me. Something you’ll learn early on in business is that you can’t let other people call your shots. You know [ultimately] what feels good and what doesn’t feel right. There were times early on in my business that I would have a client that I would kowtow to. They’d suggest something like let’s do 4 portrait locations on wedding day, here there and everywhere, and I’d say yes – because I didn’t want to upset the client because it was their day. BUT I learned that I had to TRUST myself on what was actually possible because I’ve done this timeline thing a million times and I’m the professional. I need my clients to TRUST me because, now, I know what I’m doing far better than what they think they know based on some article they read online.
All in all – life is a learning experience and sometimes you’re going to fall flat on your face and think to yourself, “why did I just do something so stupid?!?!” Because, sometimes, at the time you don’t think you’re making stupid move. Dude, it’s normal. We all make mistakes. We grow, we fall, and we get back up. Don’t let your mistakes bury you. As my boy Zig Ziglar says, “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”
These are so spot on! I think so often people forget that we are one person running a business and even when we try really hard and have systems in place things happen. Small business ownership is hard, but it is so worth it! And you’re right, when we make mistakes like this we feel so disappointed and shameful but most of the time those things work themselves out and we come out stronger. Thanks for sharing friend!
BRETT!! OMG this is so refreshing to see especially coming from someone I consider such a highly esteemed photographer and colleague in this industry!! I can’t even count the ridiculous things I’ve done to mess up over the years but somehow reading what you posted makes me feel a little bit better about mine! I hear you all too clearly on the “Saying yes to a no client” I always, once a year do this and I don’t know why, it’s like the universe taunting me and giving me an opportunity to do the right thing and I still do it. Ah well, maybe I’ll learn my lesson for 2019????
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