2017 Review: End of An Era

posted on: January 9, 2018

I don't think any of us knew what was in store for us when 2017 started.  Our electoral college voted for a president that over half of the actual population didn't vote for, women marched and flooded social media in mass quantities to have their concerns seen and heard more publicly, outrage and violence reached a new level of public demonstration in the American culture, and here we all are in the middle of it, trying to pull together some kind of normal life and get by to see tomorrow.  Somehow, in the midst of all the cultural chaos, we've made it to the end of 2017 and have managed to see another year, and for that alone, I am grateful.

This year I fully embraced the fact that I've been splitting myself between three professions, so my annual report will be broken down into how each one of these things has played out this year:
- Commercial Architecture & Interior Photography 80%
- Business Consulting 15%
- Reiki Energy Healing 5%
- NYC Marriage Officiant* (this came as an unexpected last minute request, but I was ordained and licensed last year just in case such an occasion happened!)

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How do you schedule and manage a multi-passionate working life?
At the beginning of the year, it seemed that I could and would do all three of these things indefinitely, and so I simply planned my schedule and divided my time for all of these different things by appointments.  Photography clients were scheduled for a photoshoot date and post-production date, consulting clients were scheduled for our consulting time, and reiki clients were scheduled for reiki sessions.  To manage it all, I reserved Mondays and Wednesdays for pure office and administration work to keep up on communication and appointments, and offered clients opportunities to schedule in-person work on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  This kind of schedule allowed me to live a multi-passionate life to the fullest extent and make the most of every opportunity that came my way, no matter what direction it happened to be coming from.

Most clients scheduled one or two weeks in advance, so I never really knew what my schedule or income would look like from one week to the next.  This made me operate at the highest level of financial and schedule unknowns that I've ever dealt with, but it also provided the most freedom to travel as much as possible.  Not knowing what my schedule would be one or two weeks out also meant that I could easily say yes to an opportunity to travel with friends or family one or two weeks out as well, which allowed me to travel for a lot less as a last minute companion, than if I needed to preplan all of it on my own.  Ultimately this translated into me traveling 136 days this year, and only about 35 days of that was travel I planned more than one month in advance.

Convertible hair, don't care. When you can ride with the top down, you choose the bridges. . #carsharenyc #roadtrip #sponsored #newyork #nyc #manhattan #beachday #windyhair @enterprisecarshare

The freedom of not knowing what's next... 
In the past, the financial insecurity of not knowing how much would be in the pipeline for the month might have crippled me and kept me from traveling and taking advantage of great travel opportunities with family and friends, but the practice of reiki has helped me immensely with learning how to take every opportunity as it comes, even if it's one that is going to take me away from paying work in a month where it all feels too lean or insecure to leave.  Amazingly, the universe really does have a way of making it all work when you operate at a crazy level of trust in the flow of life, even when your human mind can't possibly conceive of how it's going to work out.

Just reading that last sentence would have made me roll my eyes in disbelief or feel terrified as an entrepreneur even two years ago, and now I truly get it and do my best to live in that level of trust and flow on a daily basis.  Make no mistake, it's not an easy thing to do when it goes against everything rational that has ever given you security in life, but when I'm successful at really taking life as it comes rather than trying to force it into a box of pre-conceived ideals, it always amazes me with what is possible when going with the flow that wouldn't be possible if I limited myself to my own ideals.  Developing this level of trust, this lack of fear, and the ability to recognize where the flow of life is going and supporting me even when it doesn't make sense is a form of self-development work onto itself- which is what the daily practice of reiki has given me.

There are several callings on my life, and when I'm not doing any one of them, they beg me to get back to doing them again... . - Photography (currently doing this with architects & designers) - Teaching (currently doing this as a consultant & writing blo

Commercial Architecture & Interior Photography


At a more practical and less esoteric level, the main base of what made it all possible this year was a fabulous set of recurring Commercial Architecture & Interior Photography clients who have been the absolute best to work with these last few years.  My dream clients may not look like yours- they aren't celebrities you'll recognize internationally (yet)- but they are awesome people who have been fabulous to work with and to continue working with.  We create images to market their designs and work accomplishments, which helps them grow their project scopes and client list, which grows the scope and number of projects I photograph for them as well.  It's so lovely to have a recurring working relationship with clients, and it is so rewarding to reach a point in business where things can grow with less effort, because you're just building and scaling on a system and team that already functions smoothly.  It is largely because of our recurring relationship that I could feel confident about paying the bills to keep my business running even if I didn't know what projects were coming around the corner.  Having 12-15 recurring commercial clients who needed an average of 5 projects photographed over the course of the year became an ideal level of flow and balance to make it all work.  This number is different for everyone, so I don't expect anyone else's numbers to look like mine, this is merely what worked well for me this year and the level of personal service I wanted to be able to provide.

So, how did all of that translate to actual photography clients and projects?  Let's take a look....

20 Photography Clients:
12 Returning Clients
5 New Clients
3 Licensing Clients

66 Photography Projects by Type:
15 Residential Renovation
15 Residential Rental/Real Estate
11 Residential Interior Design
10 Business Portraits
7 Image Licensing Only
2 Commercial Furniture Products
1 Performing Arts Centers
1 Commercial Office Spaces
1 Retail Location
1 Family Portrait
1 Wedding* (subcontracted)
1 Social Media Sponsorship

Photography Professional Giving:
1 Nonprofit Event - NYC Women's March - 16hrs
1 Family Portrait - 2hrs

Professional Photography Development:
6 Commercial portfolio reviews & interviews with major editors, agents, and art directors

What is the longevity of what we have created? How many hundreds of years should a staircase last? How many footsteps should it hold? How many hands should it’s railings support? These stone carvings outlive the stone carver, but continue to remind us of

Business Consulting 


As I mentioned at the beginning, photography clients were 80% of the work I was doing this year, and consulting clients represented about 15%.  I only offered private one-on-one consulting sessions this year and learned that while running a photography business full time, I really couldn't take any more than 5 one-on-one clients simultaneously, and I certainly didn't have time to plan workshops or teach classes with all the travel I was doing.  With consulting clients, I invest just as much brain power into the strategic growth of their businesses as I do with my own, which then means I'm strategizing for 6 different businesses, not just one.  Consulting client challenges and issues are always on my mind so that if I come across a resource that will help them with their next challenge, I can relay it immediately for their benefit.  I've also been very generous with my one-on-one clients, allowing them to schedule at will and extend their contracts with me over a long period of time, which means taking a longer business journey together than we would if I were strict about time.

This year it became more clear than ever that there are some basic structures and education that I can create to help a vast majority of freelancers get over the major hurdles of pricing products and services appropriately, but it also became clear that I'd need a good chunk of time in order to create that education and set of resources for people.  The deep financial work I've done with consulting clients has led me to develop a method that makes it blatantly clear what a creative's price needs to be.  I've learned that when people do their own math in very specific ways, they gain the knowledge and confidence to defend the value of their time and talent without hemming and hawing about what a client might be willing to pay.  When creatives know their numbers in a few simple but essential ways, they negotiate better agreements and contracts for themselves that help them weather more financial insecurities.

Even though I've written about this in many different ways through PhotoLovecat and other online resources, I have also come to realize that most people won't do the work unless they've committed a dedicated time and space for the work as well as having a support structure to help them do the work. I didn't have time to dedicate myself to creating those resources and structures in 2017, but I'm hoping that my retirement from photography will allow me to make it a priority for 2018 so that I can help more people live a creatively cultivated life that aligns with their talents, passions, and what they can uniquely offer the world while being appropriately compensated for it.

I continued to regularly engage in business consulting through professional giving as an informal consultant for other creatives through ASMP business discussions, Photoshelter get togethers, and B-School Entrepreneur discussions.  These discussions helped me realize that I've negotiated many more commercial accounts than most working creatives seeking business help, that there are still far too many creatives who are not compensated appropriately, and that I really need to make this information more accessible than just through individual conversations and one-on-one work.  It has been frustrating for me to meet other creatives who are so dedicated and talented, but not doing as well as they should be simply because they allow other people to define their worth rather than standing firm in the value of their own work.

This is something that has been brewing under the surface for a long time, but because my focus has always been primarily on serving my own photography clients, I've never really created the time or space to develop something more cohesive and supportive for creative entrepreneurs.  The few times I've dipped into teaching workshops in the past has let me know that teaching business to creatives is a very intensive effort that requires a lot of time and attention to answer questions and provide support more regularly, and I want to make sure I can create a structure for that to happen in a way that facilitates greater success for anyone who seeks that help.    

7 One-on-One Creative Business Consulting Clients
5 Recurring Business Consulting Clients
2 Single Session Business Consulting Clients

Business Consulting Professional Giving:
PhotoLovecat Articles Written - 26hrs
5 ASMP Business Discussion Meetups Hosted - 15hrs
4 B-School Entrepreneur Meetups Hosted - 16hrs

How is this a real place? This light, this lushness, this perfect little garden setting? Even standing here, photographing it, knowing it is a real place, I feel in awe and understand why the riverside towns of the Seine inspired so many artists, painters

Reiki Energy Healing


Reiki has first and foremost always been a daily energy healing practice for myself as an enhanced form of meditation- to help me better manage the flow of life and to embrace the ups and downs more fully in ways that allow me to ultimately come out on top.  Not only did my own daily practice of reiki really help me get through all of the tragedies, insecurities, and opportunities that came along this year, it also opened me up to more fully helping other people get through major life difficulties their personal healing journeys as well.

One of the things that happened this year, which I felt brewing last year but had not materialized yet, was finding a professional space to operate in as a Reiki Practioner, as well as finding a space to host monthly Reiki Circles as a way of giving back to the community and building a community of people who might be interested in studying Reiki more formally together in the future.  In January, I was approved to practice professionally at the New York Open Center, where I could rent space as needed for private reiki client sessions and I discovered that the Sheen Center in my neighborhood was now becoming a space rental resource that allowed me to start hosting a monthly Reiki Circle.  Both spaces have been welcoming and supportive of allowing this work to unfold and grow organically without needing to make a longer term financial commitment up front.

As I worked with more people professionally through reiki sessions, it became clear that I have some other unique gifts that can also be offered very clearly through reiki sessions.  I have always had a level of clairsentience accessible to me even before I started practicing reiki, but my daily practice of reiki has allowed me to more clearly sense energetic and physical issues in the body of others that need additional healing work and focus.  This year, those insights started coming in other forms that were more visual (clairvoyance) or auditory (clairaudient) above and beyond clairsentience, and the detail of these sensory insights has also been increasing as well.

One perk of living simply and cultivating a serene mind and body is getting to a state of finding pleasure in the simplicity of a walk in the forest, a fish in a pond, or a perfectly shaped cloud. If we need more drama or excitement than that, we will never know happiness.

In the first couple years of Reiki practice, the sensory information was more generalized, like a feeling of compression around a general area.  Lately, as my own sensory clarity increases, it becomes more clear what organ is being affected and what the specific issue may be with that organ.  However, because this is still only sensory energetic information, much like having an intuitive feeling about our own issues or illnesses, I will always refer a client to see a doctor for an official scientifically based diagnoses when it seems that treatment above and beyond energetic healing would benefit the client most.  Energy healing and medical intuition works best when it is used in tandem with scientifically based practice.

When I started to research other people who've had the same type of detailed medical insights and sensations about people that I've been having during reiki sessions, since not all of my fellow reiki practitioners were experiencing the same things, it led me to learn more about Medical Intuitives like Carolyn Myss and Tina Zion, who have now moved into teaching positions of helping other people better understand medical intuition for themselves and for others.  Reading about their experiences has confirmed that what I occasionally experience through various sensory experiences is medical intuition as they have experienced it as well.

At this time, I prefer to offer this information through a reiki session, since I often pick up on even more than purely medical information, some of which I can actually help move and do something about during a reiki session, which ultimately benefits a client even more than just offering them medical intuition.  I've had an increasing number of medical intuitive moments happening outside of reiki client sessions as well, which has presented a unique challenge that I've been learning how to deal with in an appropriate and delicate way when it seems important enough to mention.

Just for fun, I had an Aura Portrait taken at Grey Gallery while I was in Detroit, to see if my daily reiki practice in general does anything unique to my personal aura, and to my surprise and to the surprise of the person taking the photo, the portrait revealed a movement of energy in a rainbow-like pattern.  She said that she's only seen 5 auras like this over the hundreds that she's done, which made me feel special on one hand and somewhat like an alien on the other.  When I saw the portrait as a visual of colors, it helped me better understand how I take lower energies in and then process them through for higher energetic transformation.  At a practical level, I will warn you by saying this process isn't always a good feeling.  Just imagine how dirty and gross your air conditioner filter can get- sometimes that's how I feel after a very intensive energy healing treatment when I just need to clear my body of all the crap I picked up and filtered out of someone else's energetic system.

Anne Ruthmann Aura Portrait December 2017

I've energetically processed a lot of other people's pain over the last year, and while it ultimately may make other people feel lighter and perhaps it makes me stronger in some way, going through the process isn't exactly without some level of personal challenge.  Energy healing work is no joke, and it takes a lot of personal investment in our own balance, clearing, and strengthening in order to actually do it well without bringing our own shit to the table or being totally knocked out by other people's energetic baggage in the process.  With some client sessions, I may need an entire day to process and recover from one 60minute session, so I've learned that the first time I work with someone, I don't schedule anyone else for a Reiki session that same day.  Eventually I may not need this much recovery time, but I acknowledge where I am in this moment.  There's an energetic baggage that can sometimes stick around after the sessions, which is also why most people choose reiki as a personal practice or something only to be shared with immediately family or friends, rather than doing energy healing work professionally for others who bring much larger and deeper unknown issues to the table.

Right now, some reiki clients work with me intensively for a short period of time to get through a major healing moment or to boost their recovery time from a medical procedure, and some people work with me on an as needed basis over a longer period of time to make more gradual life shift upgrades and to reveal and heal hidden issues that get in the way of current abundance in life.  One of my goals this year is to better document various client case studies and what has been possible to accomplish through this work so that more people can better understand the potential benefits of energy healing work in their own lives.  Ultimately I would also like to participate in more energy healing research for better medical research understanding and documentation.

Professional Reiki Practice:
20 Reiki Sessions
12 Reiki Clients (4 Recurring Reiki Clients)

Professional Reiki Giving:
4 Reiki Circles Hosted (Began a Monthly Circle in September) - 16hrs
3 Reiki Articles Written - 11hrs

Professional Reiki Development:
Began Reiki 4 Teacher Training with Joanna Crespo

After receiving Reiki III Master Certification, it had been made clear that I didn't need to do teacher training in order to begin teaching our own reiki classes.  Yet, because I did Reiki I, II, and III with Joanna through the New York Open Center, I also witnessed the benefits her Reiki IV teachers in training received, like getting a chance to work with a larger class size and a larger variety of issues that more reiki students would present.  I also know how much I've been able to fast track other people's businesses by being hired as their professional mentor, and I'd seen that Joanna was offering a similar level of support to those who committed to participating in teacher training with her.

I approached entering reiki teacher training like I had done with all former reiki training and classes- by making an agreement with the universe that I'd only walk that road when a certain amount of money presented itself to me and made me more feel fully supported in giving the additional time to the training commitment that would be necessary.  As it had each time before, the money came in a very unusual way, and initially, Joanna didn't have the room to take on another teacher in training, but as the universe works in mysterious ways, one student left the program and created room for me to enter shortly after expressing my readiness.

So much of this reiki learning journey has been like walking into a black tunnel with a tiny light at the end.  The illumination of the journey itself and all of the learning comes from moving through the darkness of the tunnel of not knowing what's next by taking one small step in front of the other and shining my own light of curiosity and learning onto the dark walls to see what they reveal along the way.  My daily practice has created a framework of cleaning the light off regularly as well as providing a steady reminder to trust my footsteps, listen inward, and learn how to see into the darkness.

I've spent so much of my life learning how to see light and shadow with my eyes, that the experience of learning how to "see" beyond three dimensions into what cannot be physically seen with the human eye is an entirely different sensory process that requires a mental and physical clarity well beyond what an eyeglass prescription can correct.  I've also spent a good portion of my life learning how to hear and discern sound and music within the auditory spectrum, such that the experience of learning how to "hear" beyond what can be perceived with just our ears is a journey into a space of knowing and understanding well beyond my own mind, while also recognizing that these ways of knowing and sensing have been available to me all along and I just didn't know how to access them and how to use them to benefit myself and others.  One thing I can say for sure is that doing the work of reiki practice for myself and for others is never boring- just when I think I've learned everything I can- I feel like a new level of depth and understanding unfolds and requires more discovery.

Part of my own energy healing journey has taught me how actions from one lifetime can ripple forward into the future of another lifetime. This creates a need to be fully present to our journey, so that we can ask where our decisions and choices come from,

Travel


I feel like I spent more of this year away from home than any other year I can remember.  Most of my international travel this year has been as a companion to my mother's international adventures or my husband's international travels.  I'm so grateful that they are both so invested in seeking opportunities internationally and that they enjoy inviting me to join them if I'm able- it's the best of all worlds for me because I don't have to invest much time into planning in advance, many costs are shared to make it more affordable, and I get to enjoy a new place with people I love.  Some of this travel was done for business purposes or as part of a social media sponsorship, and of course I'm always looking for ways to connect with international entrepreneurs and set up meetings internationally to see what might be possible even when I travel as a companion.

8 New Territories/Countries Visited
33 New Cities Visited
(links go to instagram posts):
Labadie, Haiti
Willemstad, Curacao
Oranhestad, Aruba
Kralendijk, Bonaire
Danbury, CT
Redding, CT
Norwalk, CT
Kent, CT
Old Westbury, NY
Mill Neck, NY
Huntington, NY
Centerport, NY
Cold Spring, NY
Grace Farms, CT
Seaside Heights, NJ
Freehold, NJ
Berlin, Germany
Prague, Czech Republic
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
Marionbad, Czech Republic
Karlovavary, Czech Republic
Krakow, Poland
Lily Dale, NY
Shanghai, China
Hongzhou, China
Newtown Twp, PA
Saratoga Springs, NY
Le Pecq, France
Giverny, France
Rouen, France
Normandy, France
Les Andelys, France
Ironton, MO
Elk & Bison Prairie, KY

I have come to realize in my photography career that one of the most "lucrative" parts of being a photographer is the freedom and flexibility to go anywhere on a moment's notice with friends or family to share expenses, or to travel on a date with a hot travel deal.  You can make more money with your time, but you can't make more time with your money.  At this moment, I can't imagine going back to a 9 to 5 job after experiencing so much freedom as a photographer and freelancer.  Having someone else tell me when I can vacation or how long I can spend with family?  It now feels like giving someone else control over my life.

I'm not saying this is the right answer for everyone else- because self-employment has its own stresses and insecurities that cripple other people in ways that don't stress me out, but when I look at the sheer amount of travel I'm able to do with other people on a freelancing schedule, it's hard to imagine going back to a situation where that wouldn't be possible.  This year the amount of travel I've done almost makes work feel like a vacation from traveling and vacationing.  I never thought I'd be in a place in life where I'd say something like that, because it's a very far cry from where I was 10 years ago posting my year end review on this very same blog about how I was overworked and never spent any time with family or friends.  When you're honest about your struggles and willing to document them and review them later, you really get to see how far you've come in your life and your business.

I knew that it was time to leave photography this year when I felt like I'd solved all the problems I wanted to solve.  Nearly every question that was being asked on photographer message boards was one I was able to answer with a post I'd written on Photolovecat (unless it was too personal or too specific to be written about in a blog post.)  All of the growth and learning felt like it was coming from helping other people with their problems in business as well as figuring out how to manage and understand all of the learning happening through reiki work.  In order to more fully move in the direction of personal growth for myself, I needed to let go of the thing that felt like I'd done everything I had set out to do.  I'm not saying I did things perfectly- I don't even think there is such a thing as perfection- but I did everything the way I wanted to do it and found out how to make it work in a way that supported me and the life I want to live.  Now it's time to try and make that happen with a career focus that can allow me to help others have an easier path to fulfillment than I did.  Otherwise, what the heck was the point of going through all of those challenges if it doesn't end up helping someone else have an easier time?

Changes at Anne Ruthmann Photography

posted on: November 8, 2017

Yesterday, I made a big announcement about my photography business to my most frequent photography clients who rely on me as part of their regular business marketing strategy, as well as to my Facebook friends and family who follow me on all of my big life adventures and challenges.  Today I share it with you, and with the world at large...

I'm retiring from being a professional photographer.


Just writing that in black and white kind of scares the heck out of me, because right now I really have no idea where the future paychecks are going to come from since the vast majority now come from photography, but I also know I have to do this now and I have to make it more clear to everyone in my sphere because I can't keep splitting my energy between photography and the other things I'm building right now.

No, this isn't some kind of lottery-winning or heavily-invested-401K kind of retirement we're all told we should aim for in the perfectly scripted version of life.  Dear lord knows I've spent far too much of what I could have saved, taking multiple travels around the world for that to happen right now, but I have a long life ahead of me to figure out an investment strategy... either that or it's a very short life with no children heirs that requires no retirement savings, and I'm actually better off having spent it all on traveling the world while I was young and able- HA!  Living in the moment for the win!  (That's half sarcasm and half realism.)

429_NYC_Womens_March-9219

Either way, I'm at peace with the whole retirement from photography without a pension, and I'm also OK with a whole lot of not knowing what's next.  In fact, being OK with both of those things is how I know this move is exactly what needs to happen right now- as I outlined in a recent post on PhotoLovecat where I had a chance to reflect on whether my feelings to leave photography were coming from the right place or not.  Photography has been such an abundant and fulfilling career for me and the journey of creating a career out of photography has proven over and over that it is possible for dreams to come true in this lifetime and that the only barriers are the ones we create for ourselves.

I'm so grateful for how photography has been a part of enabling me to reach this entirely new and unexpected journey in my life, supporting me and nurturing me in ways that have allowed me to dip my toe in little by little to see what this next journey is all about and how I feel about it.  I still feel a little crazy to be leaving behind something that has been so good to me, but it's only because what has been calling me next is now so powerful and consuming of my energy and focus that it is refusing to play second fiddle in the orchestra of my life.

80_NYC_Womens_March-8357

For the last two years, I've been slowly growing a practice as a Reiki practitioner.  I actually had no idea that was what I was doing because I didn't have any intentions around Reiki other than just experiencing it.  I thought I was just on this super cool Reiki experience journey for my own benefit and insight into how to better manage my energy and the energy around me.  I was enjoying just hopping from lily pad to lily pad in the figurative pond of Reiki and enjoying all the cool insights I discovered along the way.  The process of discovery was fun and freeing for me, like a new hobby would be for anyone else, so I really didn't plan for it to become something more serious like a professional career change.  Which is almost exactly how photography started as a career as well.

Reiki training gave me a place that felt like a home I'd never known, full of people who understood the world of energy beyond what was visible, in the same ways I understood it and felt it.  To me, unseen energy is as real and palpable as the objects you can see, and thank goodness there are other people in the world who agree and have these sensitivities too, or I would have continued to be made crazy by people who don't have the same sensitivities and sensory experiences I have.  I now recognize that this is a unique gift that not everyone is open to having or willing to experience at the same level, and it is a gift that I had learned how to suppress for a while as a child when I needed to sort out what other people described as real from what I sensed as real, but that I actually wasn't doing the best job of suppressing it all those years, I was just doing a terrible job of understanding it and managing it until I learned more about it through Reiki practice.

Finding the people who understood energy in similar ways is how I felt when I first became a musician, a theatre nerd, and then a photographer.  I felt like I had found my people.  I was happy enough for Reiki just to be a family of people who shared some of my same sensitivities and ways of perceiving energy, but doing the work of Reiki every single day has made it very clear that I have been gifted with insights and sensory clarity in ways that can help others too.  Sometimes that scares me because I know how intense energy work can be and what it can demand of me, but I also know that if I just step out of the way and stop creating resistance by way of insecurity and being concerned what people will think about me at an ego level, the work will lead me on an amazing journey that I can't even fathom right now.  Just fully committing to photography taught me the power of how being fully present to the work could take me to all sorts of amazing places I never would have gone otherwise.

I've been sharing some of this Reiki journey and learning here on my blog, so for you, this isn't much of a surprise because you've seen it unfolding little by little along the way.  I thought I could just let this learning journey continue unfolding slowly and gradually for a few more years before making any kind of definitive leap into anything exclusive, but lately my body has been radiating with an intensive energy that wants me to be more exclusive and focused on the Reiki work, so I wanted to give my photography clients time to find new solutions as well by making the announcement about my intentions sooner rather than later.

544_NYC_Womens_March-2965

As for the business assets I've built- at first I thought I might train an assistant photographer to take over more gradually, but multiple attempts to find someone to train and take under my wing left me disappointed.  Next I had to decide if I was going to try and sell off the $100,000 of equipment I've acquired to do this work, but I want to keep my equipment a bit longer to continue serving my current clients as long as I can, until the working relationship naturally changes on its own, and I want to keep what I might need to use to work on some personal photography projects if I decide to do something more along the lines of fine art.

I debated whether or not to set up a paid referral system to send clients to a couple other businesses that might be able to help them, but that didn't quite feel right for me or my clients, because I want my clients to have the opportunity to take time to search for someone else that they resonate with, rather than making that decision for them.  Luckily, another experience in my life already taught me a lot about what can be involved in selling, transferring, or closing a service business so that I could fully consider all of my options carefully before deciding what to do and how to do it.  I feel confident that I'm making this transition as smooth and organic as possible for my clients, which is very important to me and the working relationships we've built together.  They really are the unsung heroes of my life who unknowingly helped me get to this place more gracefully.

Where does that leave me now?  Well, I now have a little more space to start figuring out how to make a living from something that, from the outside, seems quiet impossible to make a living from since very few people understand it or actually search for it.  Maybe I'll have more time for one-on-one consulting or creating a group coaching program so I can keep passing on all this great small business building wisdom to others who need my support.  Thankfully, I have a very supportive partner and family that have seen me make other big leaps and figure out how to make them successful, so I at least have their encouragement and confidence even while I'm freaking out a little on the inside.  Part of me looks at my decision and just shakes my head at myself, like really?!?  You can't just keep enjoying that super great thing you already spent over a decade building?!  You always have to attempt something more challenging and outrageous?  Yeah... I guess I'm still just trying to live the answers to the questions from my TEDx Talk and really figure out what I want to be when I grow up....

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?


Turning 30 Sucked - Gratitude Journal

posted on: August 25, 2017

Maybe for you it's by the age of 40 or 50... for me it was by the age of 30.
A lovely and very accomplished younger cousin of mine was confessing how much turning 30 sucked for her, and I totally agreed.  It sucked for me too.  I had so many expectations about how my life was supposed to turn out by that time, and so many regrets about why it hadn't turned out that way...

I was supposed to finish at least one of the two Bachelor Degrees I'd started...
- Because 9 years of college education means nothing if you don't have a degree to show
(but I learned I could still earn more than my colleagues who had advanced degrees)
- Because other people considered photography a nice hobby, not a bill-paying profession
(but I made a full time living off of photography in spite of other people who didn't)
- Because you're not a smart person if you don't finish college
(Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt- so many dumb multimillionaires)

I was supposed to own a house that would be a sensible investment... 
- Because houses only and always go up in value no matter where you live
(but thank goodness we could even sell our house and move before the market tanked)
- Because once you get married you settle down and stay in the same place
(unless the market shifts and suddenly jobs aren't available in your town anymore)
- Because I'd have it paid off by the time I retired
(unless you retire early because market investments can earn better than houses)

Lowell Night Scenes-02.jpg

I was supposed to have kids by the age of 29...
- Because doctors scared me by saying I may never be able to have a child after that
(but my grandmother had kids after 40 years old and that was two generations ago)
- Because college for kids is expensive and I'd need to pay for it while I was working
(but kids can get scholarships, or they can work for universities and get their tuition for free)
- Because I wanted kids to be living on their own before I would turn 65yrs old
(but I could always go live on a cruise ship and let them fend for themselves the hard way)

I was supposed to have retirement savings and financial predictability... 
- Because compound interest would save me in the long run
(unless the market pulls all of your investments out from under you)
- Because I'd save all of my worldly travels for my later years
(you mean the ones where climbing a mountain becomes a health risk?)
- Because a steady job is more predictable than self-employment
(unless someone decides to fire you or eliminate your department)

Urban Merrimack Valley-02.jpg

The period between our late 20s & early 30s is considered the "Saturn Returns" period.  It's the time when a misaligned life feels like sloughing through the mud.  It's a time when we see where our ego has taken us so far.  It's a time when we take stock in everything we've been working toward that makes us feel successful or accomplished and decide if that version of success is really the one we want.  It's a time when we reconsider what it is that really makes us happy, and if we actually have any of that in our lives.  However, we can experience these same feelings during every major milestone birthday or life event.

All those things I thought I was supposed to do by the time I was 30... they were all illusions and imaginary finish lines placed in my mind by social suggestions which led to my assumptions about what it meant to be a successful healthy adult.  Having all of those "sensible" expectations in my head made me feel bad about what I hadn't accomplished, rather than pretty freaking awesome about what I had accomplished.

I may not have had retirement savings, but it's because I already started traveling the world while I was young and healthy enough to really enjoy those adventures like cave tubing, cliff jumping, and rock climbing.  I may not have had kids, but that also meant I could enjoy life as an adult for a while without lacking serious sleep or worrying about the wellbeing of tiny humans.  I may not have had a house investment, but I also didn't have property taxes on a house I couldn't sell or maintenance on a home that lost its value.  I may not have had either one of the two degrees I started, but I had started my own business instead and gave myself more freedom than either of the two degrees would have given me.

Once I got over all of the things I "didn't" accomplish by the time I was 30, and looked at all the freedoms and accomplishments I'd chosen instead, I started to feel just a little bit better.  I still had some changes I wanted to make and goals I needed to shift in order to have more of what was making me really happy in life, but at least I had gained the wisdom that everything doesn't need to work out in a certain way by a certain time in order to live a good life- and sometimes, what we get instead, is actually way more awesome than what we thought we should have had.

I'm grateful that I got to have these realizations in my 30s because it made the years afterward way more awesome and freeing than life felt in my 20s.  Some people don't come to these realizations until the age of 55 or 67 and have a lot more remorse or resolve to work through around all of it.  It really doesn't matter where we are in life.  What matters is recognizing all of the choices we've made that have brought us joy and happiness along the way, and finding ways to do more of that in the future.

2017-2018 NYC Photography Business Internship

posted on: August 16, 2017

Deadline to Apply: Sunday September 3rd, 2017

When I was starting out, I really wanted to have a mentor to help me find all the short cuts I needed to be more successful.  As helpful as online forums were, I never felt comfortable sharing too much information or getting into the nitty gritty details online.  I just wanted that one person who had seen it all, and done it all, and could guide me through the challenges.  However, very few professional photographers actually offered any internship opportunities, so I never really found that person even though I applied to many opportunities and attended many workshops.  Luckily, I was strong enough to figure things out on my own, but of course it took twice as long and I could have saved a lot of time if I'd found a mentor to work with.

Photo by Brian Wright / Allred Studio

That's probably why I've had such a strong dedication to giving back through mentoring and writing articles on the PhotoLovecat.com blog- wanting to give someone else what I wish I'd had in the beginning.  Taking on an intern has often been one of the most challenging ways of mentoring- requiring a ton of dedication on the part of the intern to show up and make the most of our time together while I try to figure out what their level of dedication says about the amount of responsibility and experiences I can provide them.

The interns who treated our time together like it was even more valuable than a paid job were often rewarded with a very deep level of experience and insight into running a photography business.  The interns who weren't very reliable about showing up or doing basic photography business administration tasks often didn't get much experience simply because they weren't dedicated to learning about the actual business behind making a living as a full time photographer.  The more curiosity you have about running a photo business, the more you'll learn.

Mentoring with a professional photographer as an intern is much more about the hands-on experience of running a business than it is about photography.  You may gain some technical photographic tips or experiences along the way, but what you really learn is what the backend of being a professional photographer is about, and it's something you can only learn by working on the backend of a photography business.  For some people, this makes it much easier to run their own business later on.  For others, this experience lets them know they really don't want to run their own business.  Either way, it provides a fast track of experiences about what someone wants to do after their internship is over.

I am currently able to take on ONE photography business intern for SIX months.  

You Should Apply If:
You're an optimist who's excited about the idea of running a professional photography business and can commit at least 5 hours weekly to showing up at my office in NYC for at least 6 months with motivation and dedication to doing the work and trying new challenges.

Location:

You will be working from my office near Washington Square in New York City (zip code 10012); and occasionally meeting over Skype.

Weekly Office Hours:

- 12-5pm Wednesdays 
- September 13 - December 13, 2017  / January 17 - April 18, 2018
- Additional hours as agreed upon 

Software You Should Already Understand:

- Mac OSX
- Adobe Photoshop CS

Equipment You Should Already Have:

- Cell Phone
- Laptop w/ WiFi Access
- DSLR Camera

Tasks That You're Already Comfortable Doing:

- Basic Image Editing & Retouching in Photoshop
- Using a DSLR Camera in Manual Mode

What You'll Learn During Your Internship:
- Marketing with Imagery
- Professional Networking
- Business Management
- Client Workflow
- Image Management
- Vendor Relations
- Product Sales
- Photography Tips

How you will be compensated:
- Weekly One-on-One Business Mentoring during our 6 Months Together ($7200 value)
- Access to behind-the-scenes operations, workflows, and contracts in my business (priceless)
- Opportunities to receive paid assisting, retouching, and second shooting opportunities as available and depending on your creative and technical strengths. ($$$)
- Internship credit (if necessary for College/University study)

******Deadline To Apply********

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 3, 2017 11:59pm

You must EMAIL A VIDEO INTERVIEW OF YOURSELF.  Written applications alone will not be accepted.  You can upload something simple like a smartphone/webcam video to YouTube, Vimeo, or just embed it in your email to me, but it should be at least one minute long and provide the video content requirement listed below.  Caution: don't wait until the last minute to send your video, or you may run into technical glitches and not get your application in on time.


Include the following details in your message to info@anneruthmann. com:
  1. Email Subject: Internship Application 2017
  2. Email Content: Your Name, Phone Number, and where you'll be traveling from each week
  3. Video Content: Share why you're interested in working as an intern, what skills and experiences you already have, and what you hope to learn during your internship.
An emailed response to your video application will be sent by Sunday September 10, 2017.

Last, but not least, because I don't think it's fair that you have to send a video without also seeing a video of me, so here's a link to a variety of video interviews and talks I've done about my own journey into and through the life of being a professional photographer over the last 13 years:

TEDx Talk 2015


Fresh Rag Interview 2014 


Dane Sanders Interview 2012

Anne Ruthmann on Fast Track Coaching with Dane Sanders from Dane Sanders on Vimeo.








2016 Review: Living in the Flow

posted on: April 12, 2017

When I do year-end reviews, I often look back at my calendar to see what actually happened during the year.  Being a photographer for 12 years, through multiple moves between states has certainly given me a lot of experience to reflect on.  2016 was my third full year in New York City and the first year I committed my efforts exclusively to commercial work for small and large businesses rather than primarily for private individuals.  No weddings.  No engagements.  I still ended up with some portraits and some events, but my focus was entirely Architecture & Interior clients.  Rather than photographing tons of small jobs and having a full schedule all the time as I had in my first full year of being in NYC, I weighted my work toward medium and larger jobs so that I could have flexibility and availability for more boutique commercial clients who need some additional flexibility in scheduling and rescheduling.

NYC Architecture & Interior Photography by Anne Ruthmann Photography

When I put it into numbers based on projects, it was many fewer projects.  However, each one of those projects was much larger in scope both in shooting and editing than the many small jobs I was doing last year.  The ways I gave back and helped others in between those jobs definitely filled up more of my calendar than years passed and helped me get through the crazy ups and downs of the 2016 political election cycle when it felt like everyone was collectively holding their breath about what would come next.

Here's a business breakdown by client type:
13 Residential Interior Design
9 Residential Renovation
9 Residential Rental/Real Estate
8 Image Licensing Clients
5 Business Portraits
4 Commercial Architecture Events
4 Tradeshow Booths & Products
3 Performing Arts Centers
2 Medical Labs & Research Facilities
2 Commercial Office Spaces
2 Retail Locations
2 Family Portraits
1 Social Media Sponsorship
1 Art Installation Documentation
1 Construction Time Lapse

Awards / Publicity:
AIANY New Work New York Exhibit - NY Aquarium Shark Tank w/ Jim Czajka & Stephen Taylor
The Digest - Design & Real Estate w/ Houseplay Renovations


Clients:
10 Returning Clients
14 New Clients

Professional Development:
30 Networking Meetings & Events
6 Architecture & Design Talks
4 Business Development Workshops
1 Photographer Retreat

NYC Architecture & Interior Photography by Anne Ruthmann Photography

Professional Giving

Whenever possible, I prefer to give creative contribution that can help other people raise more money than I alone would be able to donate directly.  Professional giving has always been a part of my work and often bridges the gap between sharing my talents and knowledge to help others when I'm not teaching, and doing creative projects that are mutually beneficial for the people I work with.  Professional giving keeps me creating and giving in ways that regularly align with my goals and passions.

Professional Giving Stats:
24 Hours of Photography & Image Production Donated to Non-Profits
(Notable: Images Donated to New York Philharmonic Archives for Inside Mahler 6 Demo)
18 Business Articles & Interviews for PhotoLovecat.com (72 Hrs)
15 Hours Hosting Networking Events for Creative Entrepreneurs

NYC Architecture & Interior Photography by Anne Ruthmann Photography

Business Growth

This year I took a deep dive into the complications of commercial pricing and licensing.  I ran into quite a few situations where I really came to see the value and importance of licensing images individually for commercial work so that each party that has access to images understand the other stakeholders for those images.  It certainly makes pricing, negotiating, and delivery more complex, however, it offers much more protection and value for designers and craftsmen who are creating unique work.  Everyone always wants the best value for their money, and licensing allows me to provide very customized solutions that don't force small businesses to pay for things they don't need, and allows me to provide custom solutions for non-profits and other budget-driven institutions.

I originally had set an intention of bringing on 30 new clients, however, when my schedule got very busy with recurring clients, I was so grateful I didn't bring on more to serve at that time.  I have some outsourcing solutions that I trust and feel confident using, however, there were also times when I needed to redo work, which set me back.  It's such a delicate dance in this industry because you want to have a dedicated team that you work with, however, the fluctuating nature of the work makes it a challenge to maintain a dedicated team unless you're building a large business full of clients who don't need schedule flexibility, don't need personal service, and don't need high-quality or accountability.

Once my former professional photography lab and online delivery solution closed shop in 2015, I had to rush to find an easy solution for image storage online and image delivery, and the easiest/fastest solution I found at the time was Dropbox.  This worked for commercial clients for a while, but often color accuracy was terrible on PDF files, which was disturbing for design clients when they checked a PDF online and saw terrible color accuracy.  Then Dropbox became inconsistent in their service and support while I ran into too many situations where clients had a difficult time downloading imagery, so I vowed to test and trial a new solution in 2017 - and so far, PhotoShelter is working out much better for my clients.  Any time there is a pain point in the business process that creates a frustrating and negative experience for a client, the number one priority is to solve it and make it better.

NYC Architecture & Interior Photography by Anne Ruthmann Photography

Reiki Journey

In 2015, I had started studying Reiki at the New York Open Center - not really sure what I would be doing with it or how I wanted to use it beyond my own energetic self-care and self-healing.  If you've followed my blog for a while, you've seen me write about various experiences in Reiki.  In 2016 my journey through this work surprised me by continuing onto the Reiki Master level (surprising because it was entirely driven by unexpected gifts and circumstances) and during the times when my working schedule wasn't busy, I accepted more Distance Reiki & Hands-On Reiki clients.

I also became ordained as a spiritual practitioner in New York City, which was not something on my radar when the year started at all either - another surprise, even to myself.  Reiki is considered a type of spiritual practice (but not a religious practice and not in conflict with religious practices), and occasionally when I do Reiki, there is some form of energetic and spiritual counseling involved when certain energetic signals or sensations come up during a session.  The most beautiful part about my journey with Reiki is simply being and letting it unfold in whatever way it wants to.  I appreciate that I don't have to make it my main source of income, but I do create a space in which to be compensated for my time, training, and dedication to the practice and my own energetic clarity, and that all of the work I do is flexible enough to allow everything to happen in the flow of life as it needs to.

Since I did take on a few Reiki clients this year, I might as well document them as well so I can see how things change from year to year here as well, quite a few of these were exchanges with other Reiki practitioners, but they are all part of my master level certification and professionalization of practice...

16 Reiki Sessions
6 Reiki Clients
1 Reiki Circle @ Yoga/Business Retreat

I ended 2016 wondering if I should establish a Reiki Circle or Reiki Sharing community in my neighborhood, but the desire never rose to the level of making a commitment to something people could count on, so it still remains a possibility but not an actualization.  I was able to practice a different type of Reiki Circle that I had an idea about, but wasn't sure if it would work, and to my surprise, it still had a profound energetic affect to the level that other non-reiki practitioners could feel and experience for themselves.  I did apply to practice Reiki privately in other spaces that felt good, welcoming, and professionally prepared.  As of this writing in 2017, I am now approved to practice Reiki at the New York Open Center- which I'm delighted to share with new Reiki clients.

NYC Architecture & Interior Photography by Anne Ruthmann Photography

Business Consulting

I did many fewer photography conferences and photo-industry specific networking events this year, I hosted no workshops for creatives or photographers and I generally poured all of my professional attention into my Commercial Photography or Reiki.  Surprisingly, I still took on two consulting clients, but with ample flexibility to allow them to schedule on an extended time frame, rather than sticking to a strict schedule.  If Business Consulting were my primary business and source of income, there's no way I'd be this flexible with these long-term consulting contracts, but only having a couple or few consulting clients at a time makes it manageable to schedule in consulting days between days when I'm not working on larger commercial projects.  As a creative, I value being able to allow consulting clients to operate in creative ways as well, and creativity doesn't always happen on a strict deadline.

8 Business Consulting Sessions
2 Business Consulting Clients

NYC Architecture & Interior Photography by Anne Ruthmann Photography

Business Overall

My biggest fear moving fully into commercial photography was initially not knowing where the next paycheck is coming from, or who it's coming from.  The wedding cycle allowed me to know 9-12 months in advance what my income would look like and if I should hustle or market a little harder to make things happen.  Having a large client who provided many small jobs on retainer gave me a security blanket in 2015 that I completely let go of in 2016.  In commercial photography, I hardly know what my income is going to look like next week, let alone 6 months from now.  Operating at this level of flow and trust in the universe is a very different way of living in the world than the one I grew up in.

For most people, this level of unpredictability would be stressful and destabilizing.  The practice of really living the Reiki principal of "just for today, do not worry" has helped immensely.  It has motivated me to save more and project regular expenses more, but I'm still always operating under the assumption that nothing is guaranteed and every client is important.  It puts the emphasis on developing mutually beneficial recurring client relationships and always providing great customer service and quality of imagery- which have always been the cornerstone of my business- but are even more important now.

In the end, it hasn't been as scary or inconsistent as I thought it would be.  The scariest thing is banking too much on one large client and putting all eggs in that client basket at the rejection of other clients.  Much like financial markets, diversity of clients is key to sustainability and continued success. When a business becomes too dependent on a major client, one small change in employment can throw years of relationship building out the window.  That actually did happen in 2016, but because I had plenty of other clients I was serving, it was only a small blip on the radar rather than a devastating blow to my ability to keep doing this creative work professionally that so many other people consider a hobby.

Untitled

Travel

Every time business gets really difficult or messy, I consider whether I need to give it up and work for someone else, and every time I make that consideration, I renew my motivation to digging into the challenges at hand because they are worth the freedom and flexibility to do this work and have the freedom to travel and be with out of state family when possible.

I traveled more during the year than I had expected would be possible and was able to combine work, personal time with family, and adventuring around new cities in ways that brought a greater balance and purpose to all of the travels.  Most of the trips I took this year had costs that could be shared with family and business clients, and that made it possible to travel more than I would have alone.

21 New Cities/Sites:
Denver, Colorado
Paris, France
Versailles, France
Glen Spey, New York
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland
Glasgow, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland
Luss, Loch Lomond, Scotland
Falkirk, Scotland
Stirling, Scotland
Sands Point, New York
New Hyde Park, New York
Montgomery, New York
Dover, New York
Litchfield, Connecticut
Doylestown, PA
Virginia Beach, VA
Voss, Norway
Flam, Norway
Borgund, Norway
Sogndal, Norway

Returned to:
Dublin, Ireland
Bergen, Norway
Kansas City, Missouri
Detroit, Michigan

Some of this travel was funded by another Enterprise CarShare Sponsorship in 2016 for paid trips and CarShare Rentals in exchange for social media imagery and mentions.  There are a lot of businesses that like to partner with active and influential social media accounts, but not all are good fits for the accounts they're pitching to.  Enterprise Car Share happens to line up with my love of road adventures and occasional need to get out of NYC, so it's a great fit for both of us.  I wouldn't able to live off sponsorships like this, but being able to travel more with them makes it worth doing occasionally.

Selfie in Versailles Garden

Personal Growth

I always debate whether to include the personal stuff, but my business is a very personal business, and it's often hard for the business and personal stuff not to have an affect on the other.  To deny the mutual connection is to fail to see the opportunities for growth and improvement on both ends.

Going through the Reiki Master Training was part personal development and part professional development as a spiritual practitioner, but since all spiritual development is personal development whether you're practicing professionally or not, I consider it part of a larger healing journey and never assume the personal study and development is done or fully mastered.

There are the things I can learn from my own healing, and there are things I can learn from working with others who are in a healing process, and they are often very different since each person has a different set of life experiences.  Friends who go through Yoga Teacher Training say the same thing and don't always come out of it wanting to build a Yoga practice or studio, but are always grateful for the experience.

2016 seemed like a larger healing journey for many people, especially as they came into awareness of how divisive views among friends and family hurt us all during the election cycle.  It was hard to rise above the divisive nature of what was happening during the election, but because of that, we all became more aware of how far we still need to go as a world in being more accepting, compassionate, and welcoming of the world around us.

Singing with Choral Chameleon has been one of the regularly healing and connecting activities outside of reiki practice and meditation, no matter what is happening politically.  When people come to our concerts, they often experience an emotional or energetic release themselves by simply being there in the presence of music being sung and shared, which speaks to the power and spiritual connection we can all have through music even if it has absolutely no religious affiliation or connection.  Most of our concerts offer us opportunities to commission and premier new choral works, and in 2016 we did a new work featuring a traditional yiddish story about gossip (video of the work below)


It took a lot more time to reflect on last year because I started 2017 with a lot more travel than usual, and it seems like it may become a trend for this year depending on how various projects pan out.  One thing is sure about this job and how it impacts my life - I rarely know what's around the corner - but I'm finally in a place where I'm totally cool with just living in the flow of life and not having or creating too many expectations about what's next down the road.  It makes it easier to be flexible for  my clients, myself, and my family.

Goals?  I used to have goals to aim for and measure, now those goals are more around ways of being.  To appreciate each day as it comes, each client as they come, each job as it comes, each moment for peace as it comes, each opportunity as it comes, and to be ready for the unexpected at all times with open arms and clarity of purpose and contribution.  To continue living as fully as possible in all aspects of my life without too many expectations or limitations around what that should look like.  Unpredictable.  Radical.  Vibrant.  Unrestrained.  Living.  Being.  Flow.

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