I've had several drafts of this exact blog post typed up but I could not find the right combination of words to portray what I wanted to. Regardless of how I WANTED to come across, I owe it to my future clients (and current ones) to explain where I am at in business and in life.
Last year, almost exactly a year ago today, I wrote a blog post about the decision to pursue both my photography business and a full time marketing career. I was so hell bent on being the be-all, do-all entrepreneur that I took on everything I could. I told myself I could handle it. Last year I shot 21 weddings, graduated college, starting a part time job (that turned into my full time job) and before I knew it, I was booking well into 2016. It seemed so exciting at first! I was doing it, I was getting published, booking weddings, doing shoots on the side, AND my career was flourishing! It was amazing... for awhile... So what about now? Now... I'm exhausted.
On the other hand, I've found a new part of my life that I never expected to be there. Digital Marketing. When I was in college, marketing was the one thing I hated the most because I was tested on it, assigned to read it, research it, blah. It was awful. However college marketing and real life application are two vastly different topics. I was fortunate enough to get a job right out of school and immediately became immersed in the real world marketing and I became enamoured with it. It sounds weird, I know, but bare with me. I absolutely love dissecting modern media to understand how and why consumers make the choices that they do. I love knowing the ins and outs of social media and how they attract traffic and conversions. I'm gearing up to take the GAIQ (Google Analytics Certification Exam) just for the pure fun of it. Not because my job required it, because I wanted to do it. There is so much more to marketing than pretty brands and clever ads. It's a whole world that I have become fascinated with. Very recently, I was presented with the opportunity to further my marketing career with a new job and I couldn't be more excited. However, with bigger opportunity and responsibility, comes more hard work and dedication. I cannot go into this job knowing that I won't be able to give them 110%.
So what does this mean for the future of Ashley Lester Photography? Well, nothing... and everything. I don't think I could ever let myself quit this endeavor. I worked way too hard to get where I am just let it slip away and my work effort won't change a bit. My current and future brides can expect the same level or detail and enthusiasm (if not more) than ever before! What IS going to change is my work load. I will no longer be able to say "YES!" to every session, every request, every wedding. I'm going to have to be selective for myself and for my business and only pursue what I think I can handle. My 2016 weddings will probably be extremely limited and I do not plan on scheduling any further weddings or portrait sessions for the remainder of 2015 (unless they are here in Virginia Beach.) I am just asking for patience for the foreseeable future. I am so excited for this new opportunity and this is a chance to prove myself not just as Ashley Lester Photography, but just Ashley Lester. I never wanted to be known for just photography, I knew that I had more potential than that.
You guys will never know how hard it is, as a business owner at 23, to write a letter to you all saying that I need to calm things down. It's a weird feeling... like I failed and succeeded all at the same time. I wouldn't need to write this if I didn't have so many requests and supporters, that my business is doing well. However, the more and more involved I become in the wedding industry, the more I realize that it's not a healthy place to be. Some photographers absolutely love it and breathe it, but not me. I love shooting weddings for my clients for that reason only: for my clients. I don't want to be a nationally known wedding photographer and I don't want to step on anyone's toes to make sure that my paychecks meet my expenses every month. I will never stop shooting because it's what my heart told me that I need to be doing, but I do need to take a step back for a little while.
In summary, if you don't see me posting as much, blogging every week (I never did that anyway, whoops) or just disappearing in general, now you know why. I'm not quitting, giving up, or hanging anyone out to dry, but I am taking a little more personal time these days... ya know, for my sanity.