News,  Photography

How Pregnancy Has (And Will) Affect My Small Business

Being a small business owner is a stressful thing, especially when you are in the first year of becoming a business. There is a lot to manage in the first year – your start-up expenses, taxes, licensing fees, clientele, and marketing plans to successfully grow your business. For me, becoming a full-time photographer was not an option. However, I knew that I wanted to attempt to do more, make more, and hopefully, transition to full-time eventually.

I got my business license in January of 2018 so that I could start the year off this way. For five months, I promoted my business as hard as I could outside of my day job. I went to networking events, conducted photoshoots, collaborated with other businesses, and printed promotional materials. When May came, my own circumstances changed when the pregnancy test no longer said “Not Pregnant,” but “PREGNANT”.

THE FIRST TRIMESTER

Vision Changes

The start of my pregnancy was a startling one (since at the time, I didn’t even know that there was a bundle of cells transforming inside me yet). In the first two weeks, I experienced frequent vision changes that were so scary, I went to the eye doctor as an emergency. In only my left eye, I saw jagged patterns that blocked my perception of people’s faces, the sky, and where I was going. It would last ten minutes, to maybe an hour. In the first occurrence of this, I was terrified and started to wonder whether I was experiencing a strange migraine, or even worse, a tumor in my brain. The doc said, “It sounds like it’s an ocular migraine which can happen without pain”.

I continued on as normal as I could while dealing with this odd circumstance. Lucky for me, I had a family vacation planned at the time and so, my vision was partially blocked only when capturing my personal memories rather than someone else’s.

Exhaustion

The next stretch of weeks was accompanied by drastic tiredness. Even with eight hours of sleep a night, I didn’t want to edit photos after working all day. I wanted to nap for two or three more hours (which I often did). When I had to work on my business, I was often lacking the artistic inspiration because of this fatigue. As a bigger blow, I started skipping the networking meetings (that I essentially paid for with my business membership) and had to plan projects around my daily energy quota. This all meant being delayed in my responses to emails, taking longer to edit photos, or reducing my social life to complete work. It was clear that my start-up small business was obviously taking a hit in terms of effort and time dedicated to it.

Nausea & Morning Sickness

Behind the scenes of Crystal & Travis’s wedding portraits. (Taken by Cody Bozanich and edited by me.)

In June, my husband and I traveled to Winthrop, Washington for us to attend and photograph a wedding. The car ride through the cascades made me uneasy, but it was all manageable. Come the morning of the wedding, my spirit was broken with a major wave of nausea.  Immediately upon waking, I felt sick – not the usual kind of “let’s just see if this passes” sick, but “GET TO THE BATHROOM” sick. I hovered over the toilet for a good hour that morning, while my husband went out to find something to help. My stomach sounded like soda pop – popping and turning as if I had just shaken the can. Dreadfully, I kept reminding myself that in less than three hours, I was to do the makeup for the bride.

After the worst of it subsided, I gathered myself together because I had an important job to do. This was someone’s wedding day, and this someone was also a friend! Fortunately for me, the bride and groom were understanding in letting me take things at my own pace. My husband, who accompanied me, assisted in capturing guests on the camcorder, helped change lenses during portraits, and carried much of the equipment up and down the windy hill.

THE SECOND TRIMESTER

Growing Hunger

Now that I had passed most of the morning sickness stage, my appetite had doubled in size. After eating breakfast in the morning, I would usually bring a granola bar, piece of fruit, and a small container of leftovers for my day job. While pregnant, my preparation schedule became drastically thrown off. By the time I ate breakfast in the morning and packed a lunch, I was already hungry again. Once I reached work, I’d have to eat a second breakfast and snack on my lunch throughout the late morning until actual lunchtime came. At lunch, I would eat more of a meal and have to leave something to snack on for the afternoon. Once I got home, I’d be STARVING for a pre-dinner, or what I’d later call Dinner #1 which may be followed by a Dinner #2 an hour or two later. Basically, I needed to plan enough time to prep two meals of everything.

As a result, I was NOT focusing on growing my business, but actually the contents of food in my fridge and cupboards.

Growing Bump

With the changes that my body began to undergo, the wardrobe options began to narrow. No longer could I rely on my favorite pair of jeans to take photos in – I lost the option to hold lens caps in pockets, to stretch my legs in awkward positions to get the shot, and rain resistant material for poor weather conditions.

Furthermore, it started to become unsafe to physically do things that I was used to doing. In my studio, I have a backdrop that weighs well-over 50 pounds. Its assembly requires lifting of panels to lock them into place and would always leave me a bit sweaty. Now, with this bump came limitations in lifting, moving, turning, pushing, and pulling. Ultimately, this job was nothing that I could do alone anymore; for any studio booking, I’d have to consider my husband’s schedule so that we could prep beforehand.

Back Pain

As a hip hop dancer in high school, I had applied some bold dance moves to athletic routines and yes, dance battles. One particular move, which required a twisted back, has left me with a permanent injury. I had gone to physical therapy and the chiropractor in the past to correct it, but nothing seemed to make a difference. This has left me to think that I have nerve damage based on the lack of recovery and type of pain. In everyday life, this back pain has been manageable, but with my pregnancy, it has become a frequent reminder. The days that it occurs at its worst are often unpredictable, and when it does, I am often glued to the couch for the rest of the night. Often, I feel unmotivated at this point to sit even longer in a computer chair (since I’ve done that all day already) to work on photo edits or social media posts.

Growing Fears (Which Were Becoming True)

As my clientele learned of my current condition, some of my fears became a reality. My clients told me, “We thought about booking you, but with the baby almost there then, we figured you wouldn’t want to do it”. Hearing this really saddened me for multiple reasons. First, for those to assume that I would not want to photograph them hurt me most. If they had asked, I would have felt better having to decline rather than hearing I was disregarded immediately. Second, as a business owner, I projected my business to be busy during the season (since it was a pattern in the previous year). I could no longer account for that expected income to pay for the next year’s licensing fees, subscription costs, or unused client print credits. Therefore, these losses are made up for by my own personal income. Third, there is the last part of me that realizes that maybe these people are right. Once I get to that part in my pregnancy, maybe I won’t want to do any of these potential bookings. But even if I did, I know already lost their business.

THE THIRD TRIMESTER

Future Setbacks

I have not entered the third trimester, but here are a few things that are predictable in terms of my pregnancy:

  • Becoming the size of a whale
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin problems
  • Greater exhaustion
  • Greater discomfort
  • Even smaller wardrobe options

(Among many others, I am sure.)

Future Impacts

For this future time, I expect my business to follow the same pattern as it has throughout the rest of the trimesters. This includes:

  • Lack of devotion & time needed to grow the business beyond current standing
  • Inability to complete studio setup alone
  • Inability to crouch, drop, or hover in positions for unique photographic angles (when needed)
  • Reduction in personal life in order to complete projects
  • Reduction in TFP’s (trade for photos) to compile portfolio work
  • Overall decrease in client bookings
  • Decrease in sales
  • Increase in personal costs to float expenses into the next business year

PEACE OF MIND

Now, this article may be completely negative in showing the affects of pregnancy on my business, but it is realistic. Speaking with my business advisor BEFORE pregnancy, we both acknowledged how the goals and progress of my business would change if it were to happen. Knowing full well the impact that pregnancy and a future family life would have, I knew that this was still a choice I wanted to make. Having a family has been a greater priority to me than running my own full-time business. In light of all of this, I am extremely grateful to have the security net of a day job that provides guaranteed income for me and my household. Therefore, I do not feel the desperation to take any job that comes my way – especially those that are not worth my time. I can be far choosier in what I put my effort into because I know the physical and mental toll that it may take on me.

Most importantly, all of these pitfalls in my business plan are balanced by the life inside of my belly. Everyday, I am reminded of how much stronger he is becoming! For any woman, it is never convenient to become pregnant in her career. However, this is the sacrifice of motherhood and I am willing to make it.