There are hugely brilliant days in business, and there are hugely sad and awful and tough days in business.
There are days when you feel elated, on cloud nine, and there are days when you feel like you’re not quite sure if you can hold it all together for much longer and you’re a pin-cushion waiting to implode upon the next pin.
For many of us, that sense of terrific FAILURE- because there is no other word for it, those days when it feels like your business is about to truly and spectacularly fail- come out of the blue.
Because it comes with an email from a client that takes your breath away.
There you are, quite happy in your work – blissfully happy, even. Perhaps that’s why- I wonder often whether there is an unwritten law of balance in the Universe, where you are not allowed to be entirely happy for too long. Because you can be creative and in flow and running your business beautifully and everything is all going to plan
And then an email from a client – a client you cared about, felt you connected with, spend time emotionally investing into your session – knocks you over.
And your heart kind of feels like it’s being squeezed and you can feel it speeding up at the same time and your thoughts begin to swim as you try and regain some sense of understanding.
‘what? I just don’t understand!’ followed by tears – and there have been many tears.
Because that’s the thing with complaint clients, isn’t it? often they come without warning, or perhaps even if you know they are brewing they sometimes come at you with such force your body reacts physically. You can’t eat, sleep, and can’t think straight. Your head goes around in circles trying to figure out what on earth happened.
All you can think about is this, and it consumes you from the inside out.
And if you’ve never had a complaint? Congratulations. I salute you.
But this is reality for those of you reading this who do know what it’s like to stand in these shoes, to be here as your business sits in front of your eyes and you feel it falling away from you; this thing you love, the thing you work so hard for; as you watch someone take repeated blows at it.
And that’s just it – no matter how hard you work, no matter how much integrity or love or courage or dedication you give to your business – you just cannot make every single person happy.
Perhaps there was something that went wrong beyond your control. Perhaps there is something you did that others would have done differently. Perhaps your kit failed, perhaps your communication wasn’t flawless, perhaps you took on too much but struggled through it, perhaps your personalities just clashed, perhaps there were other emotions and circumstances that were involved but you became the unwitting target of emotion, perhaps there were any number of reasons + infinity why you received these words, these words that drown you from within, because the bottom line is we are all so very human-
and we screw up.
We screw up small time and we screw up big time and we screw up without even realising we have screwed up and we screw up and fail to meet the expectations of others and we screw up in any number of ways that we are often not even aware of until
out of nowhere comes the list of accusations, truths, mistruths, heightened emotions and passion.
And you’re left wondering – where the hell did I sign up for THIS??
And darling, you didn’t.
Nobody signs up for this.
Nobody would CHOOSE to have this happen to them, and no matter what we do to prevent them from happening sometimes SHIT HAPPENS.
And you can’t do a thing about it no matter how much you care or cry and want to change everything even though at the time there is nothing you could have done differently anyway, and even now you probably wouldn’t because the reality is
You can’t please everybody all of the time, and
Not everybody will love you.
In fact some people will downright hate you and go out of their way to make hurtful comments, share how crap you are on facebook and in their social circle and online, and basically do everything they can to make your life a misery.
Why? who knows why?
It doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that this hurts. It hurts beyond belief.
Yes you can remain calm. Professional. Provide the expected apologies, ask what you can do make this better but the real hard truth is sometimes
You just can’t make this better. Not on the inside- your inside.
And that is what really SUCKS in business.
You just can’t make this agony better, and you can’t fix it, and nobody seems to quite grasp that feeling that is haunting you all day long, that sticks with you day in day out, even if you did NOTHING WRONG –
You still feel desperately, desperately sad, because this is your business + your baby and you’ve worked so hard for this and then- THIS!
That feeling like everyone is talking about you behind your back.
The FEAR and of COURSE I was afraid!
Afraid I couldn’t fix something I didn’t even know I had broken.
Afraid of broken relationships in a life and world full of broken relationships. Afraid of the loss- the emotional loss because if you’re anything like me then you truly CARE about your clients, they’re NEVER just another pay cheque to you, but people you actually CONNECT with and like, even adore, and you fear the loss and the disapproval and another thing – aren’t we all raised to want to be loved? We fear that even if we don’t know it, even if it’s from complete strangers let alone people you care about which is why we all give a damn about online trolls and they still hurt us even if we know they are meaningless-
All our emotion bound up in fear that you’re not even sure what to do with anymore.
And the worst part is? You feel alone.
Like this is the worst thing that could happen (you know it isn’t) and like this will never rest (eventually- it will because everything does eventually) and like this will change your entire life (and worst case scenario – it might, but who is to say that change might not be for the better and was ordained BECAUSE the change is necessary)?
and that you can’t tell anyone and barely dare not even WHISPER it to other photographers because hey- they’ll think you’re a complete FAILURE right? Like you REALLY MESSED UP in a way that NO OTHER PHOTOGRAPHER WOULD DO (even if you didn’t you still FEEL like this is how they’ll think) and so you dare not say a word and you just sit and feel miserable, and wretched, and alone.
Well, I’m writing to tell you that you’re not alone.
This has happened to me.
It’s really crap and it really hurts. AND – shocker – it was one of the reasons I decided to quit shooting weddings.
Not because I am a quitter. Not because I don’t take criticism and use it to grow.
But because this experience showed me that there was another way for ME.
That I needed to bring more of what I LOVE into my photography business and use THAT. Writing, coaching, mentoring, blogging- I was doing all of those things anyway, I just decided to do more of them, and shoot less. Because that was what this taught me.
But still- the storm lingers and refuses to leave.
But that’s ok -because it just shows us what we have to do. What we are SUPPOSED to do.
Because? the even tougher truth is, this is business.
Every day in every single business across the world, items are being returned, complaints are being made, other business owners screw up and fail in a myriad of ways.
It’s part and parcel of being in business. That’s not me being blase and telling you not to care, but it should give you
-perspective on the reality – and that’s what you need first and foremost.
This NOT the end of your business, or your life, or your career, or your future, and the whole world isn’t going to hate you.
Although you KNOW all this really , don’t you? But the reality is – dealing with this stuff is SO HARD, and it’s the stuff they DON’T tell you about in workshops, or in class– about how you will FEEL when this happens.
And when this happens, when you feel like this – all you can do is follow one more cliche-
-Ride out the storm.
But it’s true. Ride out the rainy days in business, even if they are tough and hard and FEEL lonely
Because we know – that this happens to all of us. Even the best of us. I’m not the first photographer this has happened to – in fact almost every photographer I’ve ever worked with has had this happen in one way or another.
And it won’t break you. It will simply bend and shape and mould you and point you in the direction in which you are meant to go.
Perhaps you will change pathway all together, like I have done.
Or perhaps you will carry on down the same route, and it will be no less beautiful and no less shiny for you.
But whatever route you end up along, as the storm and winds lash you and you want to cry out – this is enough! I’ve had enough! Know this-
I will stand with you. Photographers all over the world, all who have been at the receiving end of bitching, of criticism, of unkindness, of untruthfulness, of hurt and lies and pain and confusion – they all stand with you too.
We have all been there.
You are not alone.
I understand. And I want to take your hurt and pain away, but distraction does a good job too- ten minutes downstairs with my beautiful daughters completely refreshed my perspective and made me get a grip on the world again, to know that as long as we are all ok- I AM OK-
But for those times when you feel alone-
These words are for you.
This is business. You are getting better at it every time you fail. So let the winds carry you where they may. Feel the emotion but do not fear it.
In the end, it doesn’t matter – and this is not the end.
It’s just a storm, storms pass,
and know you do not stand in this one alone.
Love + Light xox
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