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

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.



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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