I did not begin taking pictures with the intention to make a business out of it. I was a stay at home Mom with little spare time but a strong need for a creative outlet. My first camera was a Pentax K1000 and after a few classes became comfortable enough with it to take decent photographs of my kids. Friends saw these photos and asked me to take pictures of their kids. Eventually friends of friends were requesting photos as well. At this point I began to charge for my services – more as a way to pay for my film, paper and chemistry, than anything else.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that taking portraits of children was not my passion. Besides, there were quite a few photographers out there doing a much better job than I was.
What I did love was making images of flowers, landscapes and architecture. I started to make greeting cards using these images and sold them through a local florist. A showing at a local gallery soon followed and then I began my venture into the world of art festivals.
I was in “business” and I was excited. As most of you know, photography is an expensive pursuit. As I developed my technique I discovered, (or so I thought) that I needed a better camera, new lenses, tripods, filters………………………Then, when I began doing art festivals I quickly found out that the appearance of your booth was very important - so of course I needed the top of the line panels, tables, rugs, print racks ……………..
For the first few years I used my minivan to cart my inventory and booth from show to show. This usually meant getting home late Sunday night, unloading everything, and then putting the seats back in so I could carpool kids the next day. What’s the solution to that? A dedicated show vehicle! A fellow photographer I met on the show circuit was upgrading his vehicle and offered to sell me his van. Of course this van needed insurance, new tires, new shocks…………….
When I first decided that I was going to turn my passion into a business, I did what every good former business major does – applied for a line of credit to obtain the much needed “capital”. The old “you need money to make money” line of thinking was front and center in my mind.
Soon a vicious cycle developed. Fees for art festivals are usually due in the winter - a time of year when I had little cash coming in. No problem - write a check out of the line of credit. The idea was I would surely make that money back when I did the show. But something was happening. My debt was growing larger every year. It felt out of control and it was.
This is embarrassing and there is no need to quote the exact amount of my debt – but let’s just say there are two numbers before the comma. It’s easy to look back and see where the mistakes were made. Many of the items on my “have to have list” were probably “wants” not “needs”. Sure it was nice to not have to unload my van after every show – but I could have. Could I have waited to purchase some of the new equipment I bought? Probably.
My debt was a huge factor in my decision to take a break from art festivals this year. I had to stop the cycle. I only had one goal this year - to make sure that the amount I owed at the end of 2009 was not more than it was at the beginning of the year. A small goal, but important. The good news is I have not used credit once this year! Next year I want to make a significant dent in the balance, but for now I want to enjoy what I have accomplished.
I know I am not the first person to share their story about the perils of using credit, but if one person reads this and thinks a little deeper about a possible purchase, than it was a story worth telling. My advice - stick to the basics and really listen to your heart to determine if a possible purchase is a “need” or a “want”.
I love what I do and would do it even if I didn’t make any money. Having this large debt has put some pressure on me though. Sharing this has made it real but I also feel like I have people out there that will cheer me on as I whittle away at what I owe. I believe this is the beauty of the blogosphere and the community it creates, and I love being part of it.