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!)

Untitled

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 my 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?

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