The Business Gap Year You Didn’t Know You Needed

Hey Friend, how are you holding up? 

Nothing is as it should be now. We know that weddings are just not happening and so all the industries surrounding them are now looking at a very different year including of course, wedding photography.

It’s been awful in so many ways for so many people. I’ve heard it described as a rollercoaster many times now. If it is, then it’s one that you get off with wobbly legs, feeling like you want to throw up and then someone forces you to get straight back on again. It’s almost impossible to make long term plans for now. Nobody could have predicted this situation, so now what do we do with it? 

I know several wedding photographers that have been working in supermarkets to survive. I know some that have thrown in the towel altogether and have sold their kit. At the start some folk were saying that ‘we are all in the same boat’. I don’t think that’s the case at all – I think we might all be in the same crazy river but we are all in very different boats. Some have yachts and some are clinging by their fingernails to a branch.

The fact is that before the C word, I was busy – like all the time busy, busy, busy. But also feeling like I wasn’t getting everything done, ever. I would roll over one To-Do list into another and another. It was like spinning a row of plates and constantly jumping from one to another to keep them all moving. When Lockdown started, like many, many other businesses, my plates all fell at once and smashed into pieces. I had to postpone the Photography Farm Thrive conference that I had been working on for six months and all my weddings postponed. My training business and my wedding photography business were both instantly obliterated. I’ve always felt quite secure that if one started to fail, I would have the other to fall back on. Like many people, I initially felt incredibly shocked and that I wouldn’t be able to pick up the pieces. 

The Japanese Art Of Kintsugi

There is a Japanese art form called Kintsugi. It is a technique for repairing ceramics with precious metals. It celebrates that the breakage is a part of the history of the piece and that it is even more beautiful because of it. So instead of using clear glues to adhere parts back together, they use resin coated with gold, silver or platinum. 

It is possible to repair your business plates but also this is the time to decide which ones that you even want to repair. Maybe there are elements to your business that you are not missing. Now that I’ve had the chance to stop all that crazy spinning, I’m in no rush to return to that level of busy. One of the positive elements of lockdown for me is that there is no FOMO. I’m not missing out in anything because nobody is doing anything. It’s the breathing space that I couldn’t afford to take before. Now I feel that I’m building back up my Kintsugi plates, I’m aware that I only want to fix the ones that really matter to me. 

When I had to postpone my conference, I moved to offering live online learning with Photography Farm. Something that I’d wanted to do for a long time but was too busy to learn how to do. It turns out that I absolutely love producing these and want to make this a big part of my business going forward. I’m proud of myself for being able to master the tech and still provide valuable education and keep up the morale of the community around Farm. I also have discovered that I am super passionate about mentoring other photographers and now offer this as a program for small groups.

The Business Gap Year

Let’s assume that by now you have accepted your individual situation. You might even have had some financial help from the government via the self-employment grant or the bounce back loan. What are you going to do with your time now? Yes, you could just kick back, work your way through Netflix and perfecting your banana bread recipe. But what if you saw this as a gap year for your business? 

According to the Gap Year Association (yes, that’s an actual thing), a gap year is “a year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to a career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness”.

Now that I’m over the shock of everything, that sounds pretty appealing to me right now. Experimental learning in order to deepen one’s practical, professional and personal awareness.

As well as producing my own, I’ve been taking other online courses, and attending other online conferences. I finally have time to learn and develop new business skills. I’m even doing yoga most days via YouTube. I am treating this as the gap year that I never had after school and I’m growing personally and professionally thanks to it. Looking back, I wonder if I was running pretty close to Burnout before all of this. According to research done around gap years, the pupils that take them are at less risk of Burnout, they develop new life skills and they discover hidden passions. Sounds amazing right? So tell me, are you in?