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.)

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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.

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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.

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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?


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