Let me preface this post: This post has been a long time coming. I’ve just never felt like I’ve put what needs to be put into words in a way that won’t come off like I’m whining and in a way that makes sense. I’m not the best writer in the world so hopefully you’ll be able to stay with me. :) Got questions about this post? Just shoot me an email, email@example.com.
Okay, now we can move on. I’m going to give it to you straight and be completely honest. I AM A SHITTY BUSINESS OWNER! Yep, I said it. :( It really sucks and I lose plenty of sleep at night because of it. I have a HUGE heart and have a really, REALLY hard time saying no. I love to be able to give back and make people happy and help out when I can. When I became financially stable enough to where I could volunteer, I did and continue to volunteer as much as I can. I’ve been the FRG leader for units my husband has been in multiple times, I’ve done free portrait sessions, I used to volunteer with Oplove and provide free photography coverage for military homecomings, and the list really does go on and on and on.
If you ask someone to volunteer for you, don’t forget to thank them! It’s common courtesy that I feel like a lot of people have forgotten. Buy them a gift card to Starbucks or maybe to the local spa for a massage. Can’t afford to buy them something? That’s completely, 100% okay! Instead, say thank you with a hand written thank you card. Do something. Don’t take their/my kindness and having a big heart and not being able to say no for granted. People like myself volunteer because we love the warm fuzzies we get from helping and seeing what we do make other people happy. I hear it often, “If you don’t do this, I/We/They can find someone else to do it too.” Yes, you/they sure can. And I would expect that you would thank them in the same manor too.
Please understand, everyone’s time is valuable. Need me to put a number on it? My hourly rate for photography event coverage is $150.00 per hour and I’m on the cheaper end of the market. I remember one homecoming that I covered, I was there for easily 5 hours due to delays and what not. Do the math, because I volunteered my time, I saved that client $750.00. They literally gave me a $750.00 hug at the end of their homecoming and I had no problem receiving that as payment. OR I just shot an event for a business and was with them for a total of 9 hours over 4 days. Do the math on that one. Their bill would have been $1,350.00+. Sit on that for a minute and give it time to sink it a bit. …………….. Take a walk in my shoes for a minute. Ask yourself, how valuable is your time? How much are you worth? If you work for someone else, how much are you paid per hour or per year? That’s how much you are worth. Are you willing to donate part or all of that money and work for free?
Every time you ask someone to volunteer and work for free, be sure to put yourself in their shoes and realize how much money you are asking them to take out of their monthly budget, off of their kitchen table, out of their kids mouth, and make sure you let them know just how much you appreciate them doing that for you.
I haven’t had a paying session/job since August. My business is flat broke. I don’t have much more I can give, and I can’t continue to work for “exposure.” And it’s sad and heartbreaking and I feel like a complete failure. I pour my heart into my photography and my virtual assistant businesses. I LOVE what I do. I’m not writing this post to get any kind of sympathy or a pat on the back. I just want to give everyone a friendly reminder that just because I work for myself and others like me work for themselves, that we are a business. Just because my company is not a chain and I don’t have a storefront that you can visit whenever you want too, doesn’t mean I’m any less of a business. I still have to pay taxes and am the same in the IRS’s eyes. This is how I make a living. I’m not just some girl with a camera who likes to take pictures in my free time.
I guess my whole point of this posts is treat me and anyone else that you ask to donate or volunteer their time and work for free, like you would any other business that has a brick and mortar store. Do what you say you are going to do and make sure you show your thanks. :) Volunteers like me depend on the warm fuzzies that we receive as payment to allow us to keep on volunteering and not get burnt out.