How do I Want to Spend my Time?

Wow, you retired young. 911 actually gave my business a boost. Art buyers saw smaller budgets for photo services and turned to stock photography as a cheaper alternative to commissioned work. That’s where I was positioned at the time. What killed my industry, or at least changed it, was the rise of digital. Suddenly everyone with a camera and a passing knowledge of photoshop was a photographer. My career was built on analog photography and largely black and white film. When I saw it going away, I knew I had to adapt, something I had done many times and was good at. Many of my peers didn’t make the digital transition. Either they felt they could tough it out with film or that going digital was just too difficult and expensive. And some were too old to learn a new way of working. I wasn’t, and embraced the change, as expensive and labor intensive as it was. What forever change my career was the recession. Most of my work went away. My assistants went away, my reps went away, my clients went away. What didn’t go away were my expenses. I had a rental studio at the time and the rent kept going up as I was locked into a very bad lease. It was a very rough time. But I survived. As my lease came to an end, I knew I needed to move on. But where? The darkroom was long gone, but I knew I needed a workspace, a studio. I didn’t want to rent again, and I didn’t want to share a studio. I investigated building my studio. The whole back yard cottage thing in Seattle was just getting started and that seemed the route to go. It made me nervous, given the expense. It was still the recession, and I didn’t know where things might end up. What if my remaining clients went away?  What if my income flat lined? How long could I hold out living here? But I took the plunge, and it has turned out to be the best investment I ever made. I thought of it as a new beginning. I thought I could reinvent myself one last time and build my business back. But within a year I was frustrated with how slowly things were moving. I wasn’t finding new clients and frankly I didn’t know how to find them anymore. Gone were all my contacts and former client types. No more picking up the phone and making cold calls and literally knocking on doors. Social media was becoming the norm, and I didn’t get how that worked. One afternoon, I just quit. I recall pushing my chair back from my desk and saying to myself, I’m done. I am done looking for new work and shut down the marketing department. I had 5 clients at the time, and I would just take whatever work came my way. No more pressure of trying to grow my business back. I immediately felt an enormous burden lifted from my shoulders. That evening, I announced to Carter I had semi-retired. I was 60m years old. 14 years later, I have one client that throws me sporadic work. I am good with that. I have other priorities now, other more important things to do. The clock is ticking and for me the question is, how do I want to spend my time?