I'm going to share a very personal story of how my photography business was nearly ruined as a result of a devastating car accident.
I've always considered myself to be a safe driver. I thought car accidents were something that happened to other people until it happened to me. It was a hot Sunday in August. My daughter, her neighborhood friend and I went to church that morning. I originally told her not to invite her friend because we were running late, but she persisted and I finally gave in.
We were on our way back from church. I was driving. My daughter was in the front passenger seat and her friend Sierra, who was 6 years old at the time, was in the back. We were less than 5 miles from home when all of a sudden everything looked like it was happening in slow motion. When it stopped my daughter said, "Mom, were we just in a car accident?" I said, "I think so." Someone had ran a red light and hit us.
I quickly looked in the back seat to see if Sierra was okay. She had blood on her head dripping down her face. My daughter and I had internal injuries that we couldn't see at the time. Within moments cars stopped and people were running to help us, including a man who said he was a doctor. Soon ambulances, firetrucks and a helicopter came.
As I sat waiting for an ambulance to take me to the hospital I remember staring over the field that was in front of me. It was like time was standing still. It felt like nothing else mattered in life, I just wanted everyone to be okay.
Thankfully we all survived that day. We have injuries that we still deal with today, but I'm reminded every time I pass that intersection and see the three crosses that lie there from an accident that happened after ours, that things could have been even worse for us.
I couldn't walk for for months. I also couldn't sleep and had depression. Even though the accident wasn't my fault, I felt like I failed because I'm the mom... the girls were in my car and I wasn't able to protect them. I didn't drive for a long time afterwards, especially with someone else's kids in the car. And I had anxiety any time my daughter would ride in someone else's car.
Not only did the accident affect me physically and emotionally, but it also affected our photography business. We were a husband and wife photo and video team entering the busiest months of our wedding photography season. We had a fully booked schedule for both wedding photography & videography. I could barely walk at the time, let alone carry heavy camera equipment and shoot an 8 hour wedding. Sure, my husband could shoot either the video or the photo portion of the wedding, but of course he couldn't do both.
We had to figure things out fast so or our photography business would have been completely ruined. I've outlined three things that helped keep our business afloat during this time. I hope none of you experience what we did, but I also know it's important to be prepared for any type of an emergency. I'm hoping these tips will be helpful.
1) Have a List of Photographers That Can Help You In Times of Emergency
Having a network of photographers that we could rely on was a huge blessing for us while we were recovering from the accident. We had a couple of wedding photographers that we had been regularly referring weddings to when we were booked, so we sent some weddings to them. We had one photographer who shot one wedding for us for free. She said she wanted to "pay it forward" in case she ever had an emergency and needed someone to cover a wedding for her.
The network of photographers we had put together were photographers that had a similar shooting style to us and a similar price range. We knew we could trust them to show up and do a great job. Having a network of photographers was also a selling point when I met with potential wedding photography clients because the question always came up... "What happens if there's an emergency and you can't shoot our wedding?" I never thought I'd actually have to find out the answer to that question.
2) Make Sure You Are Properly Insured
Photographers are often told that they need photography equipment and liability insurance, but no one really talks about having insurance to cover you if you ever become physically unable to work and run your photography business. After we got married and moved back to the states (my husband and I met and got married in Japan) we had to get car insurance. I specifically remember the auto insurance agent I spoke with on the phone because I was on the phone with her at least an hour, if not more. The one thing she suggested I do if I didn't do anything else was to get insurance that would pay my salary if I was ever disabled in a car wreck. She told me about her experience and how she was a paraplegic due to being in an auto accident. I remember her saying, she never thought it would happen to her. So I took her advice and upgraded our insurance to what she recommended.
I am so thankful I did because when the accident came we were covered. Basically we submitted a copy of each wedding photography contract that we had to miss as a result of the accident to the insurance company along with a doctor's note saying that I couldn't work. Then our auto insurance sent us a check in the amount of money lost from not being able to shoot the event (up to the amount I had insured). This was great because we got reimbursed for the weddings we couldn't shoot. We had a lot of stress during that time and I can imagine how not having that in place would have added even more stress.
3) Have a Back Up Plan
Photography is a great freelance business, but it can also be very physically demanding, especially wedding photography. You never really think about what would happen if you can't shoot anymore, at least we didn't. While a lot of photographers have part-time jobs and have a photography business on the side, our photography business was our main and only business. We didn't have anything else and never planned for anything to fall back on.
Ironically Magazine Mama was born out of the tragic event of the accident. While I couldn't physically shoot I still wanted to work in the photography industry and that's when we decided to launch Magazine Mama and also teach photography classes.
Looking back I see how the accident (something tragic) was used to launch us into our online business (something good). We eventually got our photography business back up and running, but when Magazine Mama started growing we decided we wanted to spend more time on the online business and helping photographers.
While we still shoot occasionally, Magazine Mama is our primary focus. Having our online business has allowed us to connect with a lot of wonderful photographers around the world. Plus, we've been able to raise our prices in our photography business and be more picky about what clients we take on as a result.
Over the years I've had photographers tell me they'd love to learn how to run an online business, or transition out of their current photography business into something different. Photographers are creative people. Many times our creative talents many may not only be in photography but other areas also.
After running a successful online business for over 8 years now, I feel a desire to help others who want to learn how to have an online business. While I still love helping photographers with marketing and will continue to do that, I've decided to open up a mentorship program, for a small group of people who want to learn how to create passive income or sell digital products online. It doesn't have to be photography related, it can be related to something outside of the photography world as well. If this is something you've considered or are interested in, sign up here and I will send you the details as soon as they become available.
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