We once had these friends. I started writing a blog and she wanted to write a book. Michael's cooking started to take off and they wanted to open a catering company. Friends of theirs researched a spot for a coffee shop and they went in to pursue buying it after their friends didn't want it. I started a photography business and so did they. See a pattern forming?
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but when does it really become annoying?
At first, they so kindly offered to lend me equipment; in fact they down right insisted that I needed to borrow their equipment to shoot my first destination wedding. Days before I left, they let me know that they in fact needed their equipment to shoot an office bicycle race. I was annoyed, but I got over it. I didn't have time to rent any lenses so I swallowed my pride and borrowed my step dad's equipment. I wasn't getting paid for the destination wedding, but I still wanted to use it to my best strategic advantage and take the most amazing shots I could. Paying for this trip while I was unemployed was a family decision we had to make and it turned out to be a smart investment.
The photos were amazing, the trip was life changing and I've had many requests to shoot destination weddings since. Sometimes you need to spend money to make money.
Later, they offered to sell me their lens as they were upgrading to top of the line equipment. The cheque was written and everything arranged. I had another wedding to shoot and was banking on that lens. Days before the wedding (again) they reneged on their end of the bargain and yet (again) I didn't have time to rent the lens of my choice. I put my tail between my legs and asked my step dad (again) and he kindly agreed.
I was warned during this friendship about insecurity, jealousy and spite on their part, but I just never wanted to see it. I have a hard time with people who hide behind other's ideas or don't have their own identity. I'm not saying that my ideas are right or perfect, but at least they are mine. Michael is my husband and my second shooter, but at the end of the day, he has his identity and I have mine.
I asked him if he wanted to change my company name to include his and his response was: "No. You are Wendy of Wendy Alana Photography. It's your company. You started it. You researched it. You quit your job and followed your dreams. You connect with the brides. You take the competition and turn them into your friends. You edit. I just show up."
He is way too humble. My husband is an angel. He cooks every single day. For as many meals as we need per day. For four years. He keeps me nourished. He keeps me safe. He knows when I'm having an off day. He steps up to the plate when he knows I'm nervous. Sometimes, just a simple hand squeeze under the table can make everything better. Or even a familiar look. I love him so.
When I feel people competing with me, I instantly walk away. I'm not interested in competing. I'm just trying to be myself. Who else would you want to be anyways? If you are busy being someone else, you will never attract like minded clients because eventually, the act will be up. The words won't properly flow in a blog post. The photos will be blah. Or blah blah blah. The same as everyone else's. Most people not only sense the difference between authenticity and a knock off, they can smell it a mile away.
In the New Year, I will have a few announcements to make regarding the direction of my business. I've learned what works and what doesn't. I have spent over a year taking on every single project I was asked to do. While this was an amazing experience, and I could walk away totally content with my existing portfolio, there needs to be some tailoring done. In a digital era where everyone is a photographer, it is difficult to stand out. To be different. To be different by being yourself. To think differently. To narrow down your specialty. To say no. To not compete. To avoid criticism. All you can do, is try your best. Or move onto an uncharted territory or industry that hasn't been saturated by millions of other people doing the exact same thing. I ain't no monkey and things are about to change.
I am looking forward to 2012. A year of forgiveness. A year of forgetting anything unlovely. A year of beginnings and continuations. A year of balance between work and rest. A year of change and challenge. A year of a new routine....and hopefully a few surprises along the way.