SHOW NOTES: 011 Burnout, Mental Health & Giving 110% with Cindy Caughey
Welcome to Keeping it Candid – Wedding Photography Unfiltered for photographers who want to keep it real. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, international wedding and family photographer and educator with a Marie Kondo-style approach to running a business – you know, keeping things simple and getting rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy!
More importantly, I’m a strong enneagram 3w2 who is obsessed with tacos, and my love for travelling plus navigating chronic illness life are just two of the many things that drive my passion for all things systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner.
Join me twice a month for a candid, behind-the-scenes look at what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer – where I’ll give you actionable steps to take your business to the next level. Absolutely no fluff here, friends! So grab your favourite notebook and pen, and let’s dive into this week’s episode.
You know that saying, “give 110%”? Throughout my whole childhood – and I know all of my fellow millennials listening can relate to this – we were always told, give 110%. It was supposed to be a catchy way to motivate you to go above and beyond what was expected of you. It’s a mindset that’s really integrated into our thought processes as business owners, too. But if you ask me, I wholeheartedly believe it shouldn’t be. Like, let’s just cancel that saying right here and now.
In order to give 110% you can’t really have boundaries, you have to make everyone else a priority before yourself, and more often than not you’re left feeling depleted in the end. For today’s episode, I dove into this idea more in-depth with my friend Cindy from Harborview Studios.
Cindy is a luxury wedding videographer and half of the husband-and-wife team behind Harborview Studios. They’ve have been in the wedding industry serving couples since 2006, and are known for creating timeless, colourful, vibrant wedding films for couples getting married on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the New England area.
With so much experience in the wedding industry, Cindy has seen it all – not just at weddings, but also behind the scenes as a business owner. She’s experienced burnout herself and has had to learn how to set boundaries and reframe her mentality around her goals and what success looks like for her. It’s what’s contributed to making her so passionate about small business owners, especially those in the wedding industry, making their mental health a priority.
So let’s dive into this interview, shall we?!
Sandra: Welcome, and thank you so much, Cindy, for joining me on the podcast today! I’m so, so excited for this interview and this topic. We’ve had a chance to talk offline a little bit about why we’re so passionate about this. So I’m so excited to dive in, but before we do that, I would love if you could just introduce yourself real quick and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Cindy: Thank you so much for having me, Sandra. It’s so great to be here and we have! We’ve talked about this, I don’t wanna say at length, but a decent amount. Um, but to introduce myself really fast, um, I’m Cindy I’m co-owner with my husband of a videography company, a wedding videography company, um, on Cape Cod. Um, we film, uh, premium and luxury weddings, uh, on the Northeast and we are big, big advocates of mental health and awareness! So, um, and that’s for us and our couples. So we work really hard to, um, make a balance for everybody in our entire experience.
Sandra: I love that, that’s so important. And I love that you said that you do this for not just yourselves, but also for your clients as well, because there’s really like two such huge parts of how those come together so I think it’s so important to have a balance between the two.
Cindy: It is. And planning a wedding is like a, a part-time job for a good year, year and a half. And I know, um, a lot of our couples are – I don’t wanna say overachievers, but they’re certainly achieving a lot. You know, they’re getting their graduate degrees, they’re buying their first house. They’re changing their entire marital status planning, the world’s biggest party. Um, and usually one other gigantic thing at the same time and sometimes competing in, in athletics, it’s it astounds me how much they’re accomplishing and it’s really important to help them keep a level head as well. And I know how stressful it can be. And then it’s stressful for us to help balance all that at the same time.
Sandra: Ya, absolutely. And the more relaxed our clients are, the easier it becomes for us, so I think it’s so important to put a little bit of emphasis there, too.
Cindy: Exactly, exactly.
Sandra: Remind me, how long have you been in business for now?
Cindy: We’ve been in business for 16 years.
Sandra: Oh, that’s amazing!
Cindy: My husband has been filming, uh, far longer than that. And I mean, honestly, I don’t even know if 16 years is accurate, but we’ve lived on Cape Cod for 16 years. We’ve been filming since we’ve gotten here. Um, whether or not Harborview, like it’s just, my brain is so foggy. It’s this is August brain for weddings right now.
Sandra: I can totally relate!
Cindy: Um, but uh, Sean’s been filming since, I dunno, at least 20 years, so we’ve been at this for a good, good long time.
Sandra: Yeah, absolutely. And in all that time, you guys must have gone through so many seasons in your business where it’s been busier and a little slower… Hopefully never, again, as slow as it was over the last couple of years! Um, but what has your experience with that been like when it comes to trying to navigate things like burnout.
Cindy: Oh, it is it’s, it’s really, it’s, it’s gone, it’s run the gamut. Um, a lot of the burnout has to do with, um… Well, I think for the wedding for wedding professionals, a lot of it is got to do with, uh, predictions and control. We, we have a very varied income and when that income isn’t coming in, we can freak out. And once we’re freaking out that can lead to bad choices, uh, for our businesses like panic bookings, and then some, you know, and then we, we panic on one end of the year. And then when we have to fulfill those panic bookings, we’re panicking, ’em on the other, and then we have to do the deliverables and then this, we just have this, um, you know, this neverending cycle until we can just really just stop and fix the problem. So, um, There’s been, uh, plenty of opportunity for Sean and I just to go through that and, uh, and, and try to make some fail-safes and, and adjust and correct. And it’s always a, it’s a never ending… You can never… It’s never truly fixed. I don’t wanna say fixed. It’s not the right word, but it’s never truly calm, I guess, is where you’re always – there’s always something you’re doing to continue to, uh, improve, uh, for your own sake. And, uh, because you’re always going through your own season of life, your business go through seasons, your, um, your life goes through seasons. Sometimes they intersect and sometimes they create a perfect storm. There’s all sorts of parts of life. And sometimes you think that you’re the only one that this is happening to. So it’s really helpful to know that this has happened to other people. And hearing that as often as possible, I feel is really important.
Sandra: Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree. In the beginning of what you were saying, I feel like you were describing like 2017/2018 Sandra, because that’s totally what my business was all about. Taking in all of the bookings, a lot of panic bookings, trying to make up for times when I was not as busy and things like that, and it ended in just misery and a lot of tears on the couch and a lot of unhappy clients. And since I did exactly what you said, like just push pause, and kind of stop and gain some perspectives, slow down and figure out what aspects of the business really are as important as I think they are and what aspects are not, and you know, that I’m investing too much of my emotions into… When you start giving yourself some perspective on all of that, it becomes a lot easier to focus on yourself, but also on your clients and make sure that you are not having as much of a fluctuation between those highs and lows, because like you said, so many things can come our way. It’s hard to really predict, and when you focus on making those predictions and thinking like, “oh, well, you know, the last two years, it was really, like really busy this time for bookings and now it’s really quiet, what am I doing wrong?” Like, you get, it’s so easy to get lost in those things, and so taking that step to just like gain perspective so that you are better prepared to navigate around that I think is so important.
Cindy: Right. And I think one of the things that’s really important too, is to actually keep accurate records of when the busy times are because, you know, minds aren’t the best at accurately keeping memories intact.
Cindy: Uh, without keeping it actually written down somewhere that you can refer back to because your, your brain can think, oh, Q2 is always when we have all our bookings, but it might have actually been quarter three. Um, and that’s certainly something that I have gone through. Um, I think it was actually before 2020, before the pandemic, when I started to say, I’m like, “you know what, I’m writing down every month, you know, how many inquiries?” So if you don’t have a CRM that keeps it track of this for you, or you find that your CRM isn’t entirely accurate – (cough) Honeybook, but, um…
Sandra: Yes, I am a huge Honeybook fan too so I will second that!
Cindy: But it’s not always as accurate as you might need it to be.
Sandra: Yes. So true.
Cindy: It can be a little, um, overarching. But, so for accurate reporting, uh, like out for the inquiries that come in and the sales that you’re doing, whether it’s a full job or if it’s just like a one-off invoice for extra hours, like if you can just separate that out somewhere in a spreadsheet or Word or wherever you like to go back to for information, that’s really helpful to know why your sales were higher in a particular month because you might have had a coup lot of couples who upgraded or maybe, um, I know that for us, you know, miraculously, it looked like a quarter two was really great in sales because we had a lot of clients who just didn’t book enough time a year before, and they had to add two extra hours because their, you know, their timelines got screwy. And so we made a lot more money in, you know, June and July. Yeah. And, um, no, it doesn’t matter anyways. Ya.
Sandra: Ya, I was just gonna do the math on my fingers to fig- finger… Wow. Fingers to figure it out! But I know what you’re trying to say for sure.
Cindy: And, um, and, and so it’s just. You just wanna be able to look back and accurately be able to say, oh, this was my busy time. It also really helps for when you might want to raise your rates, uh, to find out like, “oh, I tried raising my rates in quarter two. Oh. It just turns out people don’t really book in quarter two.” So and so, you know, it helps with the whole panic of when I should and shouldn’t do things.
Sandra: Yeah, absolutely.
Cindy: It’s a totally different topic for a totally different time, but, you know, I know it’s part of that whole mental health thing. Um, and that’s one of the biggest things that we used to, I used to, cause I took it over from Sean so Sean doesn’t really stress over anything anymore! But, um, mostly, uh, you know, it’s like, there’s a few key things that well stress about, and one of them is, is like, if you want to raise your rates, you know, why, why isn’t it successful? So then you fall back on it and, uh, and then you get into this whole despair cycle of why isn’t it happening? Why is it happening for everyone else? Why isn’t it happening for me? And that you could just turn out to be trying to raise it in the wrong time of year. Um, and so if you just keep records and things like that… I’m going on about this way too long!
Sandra: No, I, I love it! I think it’s so important. I also love spreadsheets. I, I nerd out a lot about a lot of things behind the scenes, Cindy and I were joking before I started recording about how I’m a huge weather nerd, and we could talk about this forever. Um, but, when it comes to spreadsheets and just like keeping track of all of the data that it goes along with running your business. I think it really does contribute to the headspace of things that are successful and not successful, and how you feel about your business overall. Um, I used to do bridal shows a couple times every year, and I thought that there was no way I could ever, ever not do a bridal show. Like it just seemed like the craziest thing. That’s easy access to thousands of brides or thousands of couples. How could I ever not do this? And then one day I decided to look at my spreadsheets and actually figure out – because I keep track of all the inquiries that are coming in, um, and where they’re coming from. I realized when I took a look at the numbers that I wasn’t generating any income from these bridal shows, I was actually losing money because it was costing me hundreds to thousands of dollars every time I wanted to participate in one, and I wasn’t getting any bookings, all the bookings that I was getting were coming from other places. And so I went from stressing about like, why am I not booking? And all these other people seem to be booking. When I then realize looking at my numbers, I am booking. I’m just not booking from the bridal show. So that means that I will be completely successful to just stop doing the bridal shows and keep that money in my pocket instead.
Cindy: Right. Exactly. And instantly you have an income boost because you just, it’s just not hemorrhaging from going to bridal shows.
Sandra: Ya, exactly. I was walking by a trade booth over the weekend at, just at like a totally different event, and somebody started talking to us and they were super friendly, but as we walked away, I was just like, I don’t miss doing this at all. I’m so glad that that’s not on my plate anymore!
Cindy: I know. And it’s tough for a lot of us, because a lot of us are introverts and we don’t like selling and that’s not only selling, but it’s cold selling and it’s selling face to face. So it can be really, really hard. So I don’t miss it either. (Laughs) I don’t miss it at all.
Sandra: Yeah. It’s so, so true. Um, so speaking of being in the midst of wedding season that we touched on a little bit, what do you think are some of the best ways to set boundaries in order to just maintain your mental health and your energy as you’re going forward throughout the year?
Cindy: That’s a really, really, really good question. I think it’s gonna be different for everybody because everybody has different energy and everybody has different. Things that they’re gonna need to protect. So for example, um, for me and Sean, we’re, we’re both introverts, I’m slightly more extroverted than he is. Um, but we both recharge our energy by being home and not scheduling a lot of events. So we discovered that, um, we had to, we can’t do, uh, three weddings a weekend anymore. We can’t do Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We just can’t. It is… It’s absolutely killer. Um, so we made sure never to block any, uh, or to, to block out a third day, every single time. And it just so happened that this year, most of our weekends were single weddings, and now we don’t wanna do double bookings anymore. So in order to do that, we had to look at how much money we wanna make a year and we had to raise our rates. And then now we have to, like, I don’t mind working multiple days per weekend, I just would prefer to work multiple days with the same couple versus a brand new couple every day. So that’s where a lot of that extra energy comes from. So it’s just like, if you’re doing a rehearsal dinner on Friday and then a wedding, and then, you know, a brunch, it’s totally different energy versus a wedding on Friday, a wedding on Saturday, a wedding on Sunday. And you might not make the same amount of money, but you might make enough to make that switch worth it. So there’s that. So that’s a really big one.
Um, another one is to realize that you do need time off during the wedding season. Um, so make sure that you, your weekends, aren’t going to be your weekend anymore, and it might be completely impractical to take two days off a week, so make sure, but make sure you make you take one day off. Where you do no work, no calls, no emails, put up a vacation responder and say, I will return all your calls on Tuesday or whatever. And another thing that will do is, um… And I was terrified to do it! Um, we often so a lot. A lot of vendors will do final consultations. So photographer, videographer, um, planners, uh, will do final consult- final consultations. One of our weaknesses was doing them too early or too far away from the wedding because we know our clients are stressed out before the wedding, and everybody’s saying like, you gotta do it 14 days, three weeks before the wedding. I can’t remember that many people that far in advance! (laughs) So I, I really hesitated to do it. We now do it the week of the wedding and, um, everybody, I, we were just, we were just absolutely petrified to do it because we know there’s a lot of stress for our couples that week. And on top of it for video, we are that vendor that often doesn’t get booked because people perceive that we’re going to stress them out. Um, so it was a, it was a big decision. And what we had to do is we had to explain why we’re doing it the week of the wedding. You know, we made it a benefit for our couple as much as it was a benefit for them. And I will not let a future couple, any other couple that isn’t getting married that weekend, I will not have a call with. I’m not having a final consultation, we, anytime before the week before your wedding, I can’t remember your wedding. It is my limitation. I know it. And I can’t fix it. There’s nothing I can do about that. And it is not, it’s just how I’m built, so instead of beating myself up, I just have to work around it. So, um, no, one’s complained, not a single person has complained. And if they’ve complained that they haven’t complained to me, it hasn’t affected reviews, it hasn’t affected anything. So, um, whatever it is that you, that you’re stressing out about changing, because you think a couple might freak out about – you are not going to know unless you try it!
And one of the things that, um, I’ve learned in the past, because we’ve had some really precarious years outside of the pandemic, um, just due to not really knowing who our couples were or what our goals were, and, um, is just, is letting go of this idea of what you want, ‘cause it might be like an old goal, and just being okay with what might come because it actually might be, and chances are, will probably be better than what you were holding onto, um, because when you’re holding on so tight, you’re holding on with a death grip, you’re not giving that room for growth and that room for like… You can’t relax when you’re desperately white-knuckling it through, um, and, and just being like, I’ll relax in like December and January and, and February. And that is terrible strategy because if you have a year like 2021, we couldn’t relax because we bottlenecked so often. We had so many clients, we bottlenecked in so many places. We didn’t have any time off. Like we didn’t have any months. We edited through 2022 into the start of the 2022 season. So we didn’t have any of that nice, juicy, nothing time. We didn’t have that. So don’t rely on that. So make sure you schedule that out.
Um, and also another thing that we’ve done is, we’ve taken a week in our, in our summer and just protected it. Be like, nope, nobody gets it, but nobody is booking this week and it hurts to turn it away. I’m not gonna lie. It hurts! And there’s so many times you’re tempted to just take the money, ‘cause it is… I don’t, there isn’t a single vendor I know who doesn’t need the money for one reason or another. You might have plenty of, you know, money in the bank and you could have plenty of cushion, but there isn’t anybody I know that doesn’t see a booking and think “I can do something with the money that would be coming in with that.” You know, it’s really tempting to just go ahead and be like, I, I can just, I’ll just do it. It’ll be fine. But if you don’t protect the things that are important to you, compromising that time is… It’s always gonna eat away. Time is the only thing that you can’t replace. You can always make more money. You can always buy a different house, get a different car. That stuff you can always, you can always get that, but you cannot make more time. There is nothing you can do to make more time. So that time, time is the most valuable resource you can possibly have for yourself. So you have to prioritize it. Um, and I think one of the things that we have talked about is, uh, is giving clients 110%…
Cindy: That mentality of, and it’s, it’s one of those “super service” mentalitie. “I’m gonna give 110%!” And I’m… I’m I almost guarantee you that somebody kind of came up with that as kind of like, just kinda like a concept. Like nobody meant it literally! But I feel like our industry has taken it literally! And we push and push and push and give more. Um, so, you know, think of your energy as being divided in half. In two halves. You know, you have your work self and your personal self. And each of those halves have 100. You know, you, you can fill each of those halves to 100%. Um, so there’s, I mean, they’re divided out more specifically, but for ease of, of figuring this out, we’re gonna just go with personal and business. Um, if you’re giving 110% of your energy from your business side, you’re taking that energy from your, your personal side. There’s, I mean, it has to come from somewhere. It’s kind of like time, like you don’t have more than you can give.
Sandra: Yeah. When you’re saying yes to one thing, you’re automatically saying no to something else. There’s no way around that.
Cindy: Right. So if you’re like, I’m gonna give 110% to this client and you’ve got 20 clients that adds up a lot to what’s taking out of your personal energy so it is okay to not to give 110% and you shouldn’t give 110%. Like, it’s just such a weird mentality. And it’s just words. I’s just a concept. There’s nobody I know who doesn’t give it their all. Like, just change the language. Don’t say 110%, because it’s just, it-it’s like, it’s just a dangerous concept to just be like, I’m just gonna give and give and give and give, and then.. and then you’ve got nothing. And I’ll tell when you have nothing, the kind of burnout you get when you have nothing is a dangerous kind of burnout. It’s not like a, I need a couple of Margarita’s burnout. It’s, I’m staring at this blank wall for six months, burnout. Like you physically cannot do it. And I know it because I’ve gone through it. And it wasn’t during, um, my, my wedding years, I also had a graphic design business before this and graphic design is very similar to wedding industry where you are a service job. And when you have multiple clients, um, you know, you are you’re the hero. So not only was I graphic design, but I was graphic design for presentations. And when you work with presentations, very similar to weddings, is it’s all very high stress and high pressure and very fast deadlines, and one thing I love more than anything. So it’s, it’s, it’s kind of, it’s kind of an addictive quality is, I love being the hero. I love saving the day for people. And, um, and I did that for a very long time. I did that for 20 years. I’m really making myself sound like I’m 80 years old!
Cindy: But, um, in any case, I, I got to a point, and this is where I, I mentioned that sometimes the seasons of your life intersect. Um, I was in the season of my life where my parents are, are getting older. My mom had cancer, and she had terminal cancer, and she was dying that year. We knew she was gonna die that year, which is a really weird thing to go through. Um, and also that year, like I, I had this job where I knew that there was this huge end of the year conference and she was going to die at the – during that conference. Also a really weird thing to go through. This was at the kind of the tail end of, of when I was doing my graphic design because I was just, I, I knew at that point I didn’t wanna do it anymore. I was exhausted. I was creatively tapped out and I was trying to leave it anyway. And, um, it was one of those things that kept stealing from my personal time. And I knew it. Um, you know, that conference, that end-of-the-year conference was during the holiday season, Thanksgiving through new years, and it stole a lot of time for my family, right during the holidays. Um, but man was that good money! You know, and you think about what you can do with that money and you don’t think about what’s gonna happen 10 years from now. You think about, I can use it now, and the next year I can use it now. And the next year you can use it now, and then the years start going really fast.
But in any case, um, when you don’t put those personal boundaries up, um, it’s not your client’s job to say I’ve probably taxed them enough.
Sandra: Oh yes! That’s so, so true!
Cindy: It’s not their job to go, you know, they’re probably tired. It’s – and we can get really, really resentful at the wrong people when we are feeling like we’re overtaxed. It’s our job to do that. It’s our, this is only our job. It is the only person’s job it is to protect is ours. And that when you’re, when you’re burnt out and you’re tired and you’re exhausted, that is a hard concept to be okay with.
Sandra: Yes, that’s so true. Um, I remember just speaking to that, like, I, I worked as a second photographer for a lot of years with other companies in my area, and I remember several times being at a wedding and the photographer that I’m working with is spiraling into a panic because they got an email from a couple and they’re like, “don’t they know where I am?! I it’s a Saturday!! Obviously I’m at a wedding! This is what I do!” And they’re spiraling and spiraling… as they’re replying. From their phone. During the wedding. On a Saturday. And so you’re, by doing things like that, you’re teaching your clients how to communicate with you. When you’re accessible, when you’re available. So if you’re not putting priority on making sure that you have time off and that you’re setting boundaries for your rest, they don’t know. They are just going by what you have educated them is okay.
Cindy: Exactly. They don’t have 25 other clients. I mean, they do. They have 25 other vendors they’re doing, but they’re doing their job. They are planning their wedding. They’re stressed and burned out themselves, but they’re, they’re stressed and burned. Like – neither, none of us are considering the other ones. We’re not really considering how stressed our clients are. They’re not considering how stressed we are. Or if we are, it’s fairly minimal, minimal. Um, you know, or any – at best, in an empathetic way, but we still need to get it done so we still have to push.
You know, but in any case, we are the ones that are responsible for it. And in this perfect storm of storms that happened, we had, also at this time, I think this, we were, it was during the course of a recession. The giant presentation thing was going on. My mom is dying. My mom died. She died a week before Christmas, so I didn’t even get to see her for Christmas. Um, the presentation was going on. The recession was going on. My client ended up dumping me right after the presentation and just ghosted me. Didn’t talk to me for months. I couldn’t get my money from them. And, um, and I just spiraled because several other clients just immediately ghosted too. And I don’t know if it had it to do with the recession or what I never got answers!
And, um, and so not taking care of myself and not seeing, not protecting that future and really planning to protect myself and kind of… Look out for myself the way I should, instead of constantly giving for my clients. And I mean, constantly-
Sandra: Mm-hmm. Treating yourself the way that you were treating your clients.
Cindy: Right? Exactly. And when all of a sudden they, they left ‘cause they had to go, I was left with next to nothing except being alone with my burnout. My 140% burnout, uh, where I really could not do anything for about six months. And I mean, like I – poor Sean. He was just like trying so hard not to be like, “we need a second income!”
Cindy: I was trying so hard and we were just in such a precarious financial situation because I didn’t take care of my mental health.
Cindy: So, that is how bad burnout can get. So it is really, really important to keep up on it. It’s really important to protect yourself. It’s really important. Like we all want to service our clients to the best of our ability, but we also have to realize that the best of our ability does not necessarily mean “here! Take all of my energy!”
Cindy: It’s like putting your mask on before helping somebody else with their mask.
Sandra: Mm-hmm. I think that’s such a great analogy!
Cindy: It is! Because it’s not selfish and a lot of people it’s, it’s bizarre how we all think that that’s selfish. It’s just like, right. But if we’re passed out, we can’t help people.
Sandra: Yeah, exactly. It’s so important. And it’s, I think has a lot to do with, you know, the generation that we were brought up in and things like that. But the mentality of take care of everybody, especially as women – take care of everybody, but yourself. And if you’re looking after yourself, putting yourself as number one priority, you’re selfish, you don’t care about other people. There are all these negative things. When in reality, like, a lot of the things that we’re trying to unlearn as we’ve come into this period of our lives is because of the mentality that our parents and grandparents had around things like that, that if they had maybe put themselves first every now and then that things would’ve proceeded, maybe easier, maybe not. We can’t say because it’s in hindsight, but at the same time, like, making those changes for me anyway has made a huge difference.
Cindy: Yes, exactly. Same here. And, uh, but yeah, you had mentioned before, especially as women. Um, you know, men have their own challenges. Typically it’s around emotional availability um, or being able to be vulnerable. Um, and ours is about, um, you know, taking care of ourself first. Um, and yeah, I think, oh gosh. Oh, I always think – I’m at the age where I think everything happened two years ago, but it was probably not.
Cindy: Um, Elizabeth Banks did almost like a PSA, which was really funny where she was going through a heart attack, and as a mom, she was just still taking care of everybody first before she collapses. She was just like having the chest pain, her left arm is going numb and you know, she’s sweating and like starting to collapse on the floor and she’s still like making the kids lunch. Um, she’s like, I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. And you know, she’s like the, the whole PSA was actually about women having like a higher mortality rate of have, you know, especially younger women having a higher mortality rate going through heart attacks because we tend not to prioritize ourselves.
And, um, it was both comical and sad at the same time, because that’s what we do. We give, give to, to, you know, spouses we give to our kids, we give to our friends, we give to our parents, we give to our clients – somewhere in there we are there. Somewhere. I don’t know if we’d recognize us, but, um, but it’s really important that we start to, to know who we are. And that’s, I think at the beginning, this of, um, this particular segment I, I mentioned, it’s gonna be really important to know what your priorities are and, and where your boundaries are, need to be placed. But that also requires you knowing who you are. So it’s gonna, it, it’s kind of like a… Uh, what’s what am I trying to say? Like kind of a, a two prong attempt. So many people, um, when they are going through their wedding business, especially wedding professionals, when we first start out, we are all into the point where we kind of disappear ourselves. And if we do this for too long, like, we really don’t recognize who we are. We don’t remember what we do. Um, and especially at the, when, you know, August, especially in the Northeast is tends to be a time where a lot of us are, are at just peak wedding exhaustion and you know, us. Yeah. Both of us peak wedding exhaustion! And, um, like we can’t remember things. Um, we, like, we get to a point where we’re just kind of like, staring and not really sure what to say. I, I know I am super guilty with it about this, you know, part of Sean’s job is to remember what I like. You know, he’ll be like let’s go to, go out to dinner. What do you want? I’m like, I don’t know, honey, remind me of what I like. I’m like, because I’m tired. I’m like, I have to edit, I have to sell, I have to have all this client facing interaction and I have to be happy during all of it.
Sandra: It can be so depleting to just be on for hours and hours. Like that’s, there’s a whole other mental side of working a wedding that I think a lot of people don’t realize until they’re in it, that like there’s doing your job, and then there’s the mental part that goes along with it as well, to be happy and be on and be talking to people and be thinking 10 steps ahead. And all this other things… Like, on Sundays, I don’t like to speak. It’s just kind of like, leave me be, I’m gonna float around the house and everything will be totally fine, but like, I just don’t wanna use my voice today.
Cindy: Like, um, like for example, this past weekend we had, um, pretty much, I don’t know, the world had a, a heat wave for the past two weeks. And this I think was probably like just topping out and, you know, we were all exhausted and I, as the videographer, got the option to just “fly-on-the-wall”-it. I’m just like, you know what? I’m checking out. I’m just gonna film. I get the option. I’m, I’m supposed to just be the one that melts into the background. The photographer, I get to feel bad for because she has to wrangle everybody. She has to tell everybody how to be happy in a 120 degree heat, in direct sun on the beach, um, where everybody’s miserable, ‘cause they’re wearing wool suits and thick dresses and you know, it’s humid and we’re all just – none of us are happy.
Sandra: So true!
Cindy: Yeah. None of us, um, you know, none of us wanted to be there at all.
Sandra: I’m not gonna lie. I, uh, I actually took a week off, um, at the end of July while it was super hot and I haven’t had a wedding during this heat wave and I went into every Saturday saying, “I’m so glad I don’t have a wedding today,” because it is a whole other level when it is that hot outside.
Cindy: Ya. We missed the first heat wave, uh, of the season. And it was one of those things where we were like, oh, so glad we didn’t have it, and, but boy did we not – we were not lucky that next one! We had lots of weddings. But we made it through and we didn’t have heat stroke and we didn’t pass out. We didn’t come close to it, which made me very happy.
Sandra: Good! Um, you mentioned a little bit earlier about, um, the hustle of getting started and that’s something that I wanted to talk to you about as well, because it’s something that I’ve thought a lot about. Um, about whether or not that hustle culture mentality is necessary when you’re first starting out, because when you’re first starting a business, it does take longer hours, a little bit of footwork because you don’t have the word of mouth referrals and you need people to know that you exist and things like that. So I’d love to talk a little bit about if you think that it’s important to be a little looser on your boundaries in the beginning, or if you think that there is benefit to setting those boundaries right from the get go, and then building up from there.
Cindy: That’s a really, really good question. I think it’s really important. And I’m glad that you asked it. Um, having gone through two different companies, uh, and two different startups, I would say it’s really important to, to set those boundaries right away. Really, really important. Um, I am, I’m not going to say that I am a perfect boundary setter. I am not in the least a perfect boundary setter. Um, but what I would say is – I would say, identify what you’re willing to break your boundaries for. Um, if… So, on Cape Cod, everybody here on Cape Cod knows what a Cape Cod wedding looks like. Um, everybody’s dressed in like a dusty blue. There’s some pink highlights. There’s blue, hydrangeas everywhere. There’s lots of, uh, green, uh… oh gosh… Oh, eucalyptus, is really big. Um, sometimes there’s a bunch of baby’s breath. Um, but generally you can just stamp that wedding all around and that’s a Cape Cod wedding. It’s everywhere all the time. Sometimes it’s just a matter of how many more hydrangeas are gonna be there. Um, and, uh, we’ll all laugh or we’ll all just be, you know, cheering when we have flowers that are something other than a blue hydrangea. And you know, and so do not get me wrong. Blue hydrangeas are great. I mean, I, wasn’t always living on Cape Cod, so I, I have blue hydrangeas. You just, you get tired of it when you see it all the time, but, you know, it’s so special to your couples. So that is your everyday wedding on Cape Cod, even a, a higher end wedding on Cape Cod is probably going to be just flush with hydrangeas. Uh, one of our most famous weddings on Cape Cod that everybody knows about from September 28th, 2019, no, 2021. Um, the one with Bruno Mars, had a ceiling full of blue hydrangeas. They, I think an entire farm in Holland was just planted with blue hydrangeas for that wedding in particular.
Cindy: So, um, so one of our highest and most expensive weddings here was just blue hydrangeas. So what I would say is even for… So like, if you were just like, you know what, September 28th, I’m not working a wedding, uh, but then some super ultra luxury wedding is, uh, you know, contacts you, and you’re just like, uh, should I book it? And you can just be like, all right, listen. You can have your pros and cons list. And it can be like (sigh) freaking blue hydrangeas. Well… But it’s an entire farm of blue hydrangeas. That’s different than some bud vases of blue hydrangeas, you know? So you just go back and forth and be like, you know… Because I mean, somebody like me, uh, we love all of our clients. Like all of our clients are almost 98% of them are ideal clients. They love us. We love them. We’re good friends with all of them. They’re a joy to work with. There’s no one who isn’t a joy to work with. So even just liking the person isn’t, I don’t wanna say isn’t good enough, but it’s kind of not good enough. So like at this point, it’s just like, where do you wanna be next year or two years from now or five years now, is this wedding going to help it? Or, do you really badly need the money right now? Because we’ve all been there. And we’ve all taken the job just to, you know, because we need the money and we get it.
So, I mean, I would just have perspective on what you need right now and what will get you, uh, relief from X, Y, and Z. And I would say that – use that as your, your help to decide whether or not to break those boundaries. Um, as for hustling… Um, I hate hustling. Hustling’s exhausting. I mean, I totally understand you’re gonna have to hustle. Um, but I would say just when you’re hustling, um, know that you are not going to have the hustle energy forever, even if you were just like “I’m 20 and amazing, snd I have all the energy in the world! I have the energy of this supernova star!” You will not have it forever!
Sandra: Unfortunately, yes, it’s so true!
Cindy: It goes away when you’re 45 and doing this, you will hate everyone if you don’t protect yourself. Um, you know, so it’s gonna be really important. You’re gonna do so much better, go so much farther and, you know, love your job for the, every reason why you got into it to begin with, if you don’t just absolutely hustle your way through it. Um, just slow and steady always runs, uh, wins the race. You know, it might not be sexy and it might not be glamorous and it might not be that overnight success story, but who cares? Just get there the way that’s important to you.
Sandra: Yes. I love that. That’s so important. I am all about finding ways to run your business, regardless of its wedding photography, videography, fitness, like whatever industry you’re in, finding a way that works for you instead of finding ways for you to work like everybody else, because we all have so much going on with our lives, and so what works for one person is not always gonna work for another person. And I know when the first few years of my business, I was trying to do things like the photographers that I had worked for and learned from, and the, you know, watching workshops and things like that and trying to do everything the way that everybody else was doing it. And the only place that, that landed me was burnt out by the end of every year.
Cindy: Oh yeah, exactly. Or all the templates that you buy, um, they might not work for you because they don’t sound like you. I, I just bought templates from uh, uxury wedding videographers for upselling. And ah, they couldn’t sound farther from me at all. Oh my God! Boy they do not sound like me. If, if I just took that and plugged in people’s names, they would be like, “Ew! Who are you?!” Like you just, you can’t… There’s no… I don’t wanna say there’s no shortcuts. Of course there are shortcuts, but shortcuts aren’t going to be as fast and as easy as you think they’re going to be. There’s no… there’s no silver bullet. There’s no, um, there’s just no easy, super, super easy, fast way. And if there is for you then that, then you found something that was going to work for you regardless. So any of those, like how to make, you know, $150,000 in the first three months. That worked for that person. Might not work for you. Chances are it won’t work for you.
Cindy: But that’s also, if they’re selling it to you, that’s probably how they made $150,000 in that first three months. They figured out how to sell the people who really wanna make $150,000 in that first three months.
Sandra: Yeah, absolutely. Just find little takeaways. Like I think it’s so important to invest in your education and things like that, but you definitely wanna go into it with the perspective of this worked for them so find the takeaways that resonate with you and find ways to implement that into your own business, and you’re gonna be so much more successful that way than just taking everything that they said for the black and white value and then, you know, a few months down the road, you’re wondering why do I still feel like I’m in the exact same place I was three months ago?
Cindy: Exactly. I would say find ways to work smarter. Um, you know, so going back to the templates thing, um, I-I’m, I’m shocked at how many people don’t use templates. Use templates that are from you!
Sandra: Yes, exactly!
Cindy: You-use anything that you have to use multiple times. Make that into a template. Um, you know, find, find, discover what your process is. Write it down. Um, and this might seem simple and obvious, but I mean it, number one, importance. Number two, um, there might be steps in your process that you’re missing. Um, there could be times like right now, Sean and I are we’re at that cusp where we’re growing. We’re not growing so fast where all of a sudden we can throw a whole bunch of money at the problem and they’ll go away, we’re like, at that point where we’re like, boy throwing a lot of money in it would be great and it would probably solve it, but we don’t have that money to throw it at. So, we have to like do that uncomfortable, like twisting of things. Yeah. A lot of people find themselves in that situation. Um, so you kind of have to figure out what’s gonna get you there faster.
Um, when you identify what’s going to work in your education, I, I mean, I, I will always sing the praises of finding the right coach. Make sure that right coach is right for you. Do a – do not be impulsive about it. Do your homework. Interview your coach. If they don’t wanna be interviewed, do not hire them! They should want to be. It’s kind of like when, um, when you’re selling to couples, um, you should wanna work with them as much as they wanna work with you. Same thing with a business coach. You know, they’re not, everyone’s gonna be a good fit. You know, we say that to our couples or our prospective couples, and you’re not gonna be a good fit for everyone. Everyone’s not gonna be a good fit for you. And that is going to be true for everything that happens in life! You know, pretty much everything. Anything that happens that deals with people that’s going to be true for all of it. So, you know, a, a good coach is gonna lead you to places, um, faster than you probably would’ve stumbled through on your own. If you especially are in a place where you are stumbling and you can’t figure it out and you’re just so super frustrated and you’re just like, “Ugh, but spending the money on the coach is gonna be so much!” and you’re, but you’re just so stuck – hire the coach. I always look at it like this. Because I, I think we all, all of us have those things that we’ll immediately spend money on. Um, and we all have those things, and it’s usually got something to do with like investing in ourselves that isn’t like fun. Um, I only always look at it this way. I look at it in retrospect. If in the future, whether that’s three months, five months, five years, ten years… Looking back, if it could, if you could solve the problem by paying $5,000 in ten years. Ten years from now, if you could look back and say, “oh, if I could just pay, you know, past Cindy, if I could just pay $5,000 and she wouldn’t have had that problem.” If you could just pay that and it would just go away, would you pay it? And if the answer is yes, then invest in it because that’s the answer. (Laughs)
Sandra: I love that.
Cindy: Invest in the thing. Um, and then if the answer is no, then don’t.
Sandra: I love that. That’s such a good way to look at it.
Cindy: Ya, that that’s usually like one of the best ways of figuring out whether or not you should spend money on something, is if you can use this money to solve it, like, um, you know, sometimes it’s, uh, something as dumb and little as cold medicine. Like, I know that the brand name, I always know that the brand name is, is going to get rid of my cold, you know, in three days. But I oh, but like the generic is $5 cheaper and you’re like, yeah, but if it takes.. If it doesn’t work or if it takes longer to work, you know, on day three, would you have paid an extra $5 to get better sooner? Would you do it? Yes. Okay. Then buy it now.
Cindy: That kind of a thing. So it works on all the levels.
Sandra: That’s so, so true. I love that. Um, so talking a little bit more about burnout before we wrap things up. A lot of times we do feel ourselves getting into that point. We’re getting drained. We’re starting to dread the things that we have booked a little bit more, we’re feeling like our to-do lists are ever-growing and never-ending, but sometimes it happens a lot faster than that, where it’s kind of just like we went one step too far or something unexpected avenue in our personal lives, and it all kind of comes crumbling down into a mess of burnout too. When you get into those spaces, what, whatever reason it is that led you to that point, do you think that there are steps that will help you get through it and come out the other side?
Cindy: You’re asking all the good questions.
Sandra: Ya, we’re getting really deep into it in this interview!
Cindy: Well, let’s see. Um. Absolutely, for sure. Um, it also, again, with everything else I’ve said, it also has to deal with being aware. So noticing that you’re, that you’ve, you’ve gone too far. Already noticing, it’s like the whole awareness thing is, is so key. So always being able to check in with yourself is so important and so big.
So, uh, so for steps to, to kind of get out of that before it gets too far, um, even if you’re somebody who’s not all that comfortable with facing, uh, those types of situations and not everybody is. And even the people who are, it can still be difficult. Um, the only way, and I do mean the only way, the only way out is through. You have to be okay with not being okay. You have to. you have to, ‘cause you have to go through it in order to be able to fix what’s going on. And it can either be something super simple and very quick, or it can be something really deep and really dark, and it’s gonna take a while. Either way, if you ignore it, it’s just going to compound. Um, and you can’t, you could try to ignore it. But then when you do ignore it, that’s when things, you know, when something happens and you can’t figure out why, or if you’ve, if you had a friend, maybe it’s easier to, to look at it from another, you know, somebody else’s perspective. Um, when you have a friend who something’s going wrong with, or maybe it’s like, they’re in the wrong job or they’re in the wrong relationship and they don’t want, like, all they do is they, they just come to you, the complaint about it over and over.
Sandra: Mm-hmm. They find comfort in the chaos of it all.
Sandra: Because that’s what they’re familiar with and trying to do anything to get out of that is scary and it’s unknown. And so it becomes easier to just stay in all of that chaos.
Cindy. Right. Exactly. And you can see, you can see how easy it would be if they just realized, oh, this is just bad.
Cindy: I should just deal with it. Um, but they either don’t notice it or, um, don’t recognize it. I mean, I-I’ve been around plenty of people that this happened to. And they may not even mention that it’s a problem with the job. They can just be like, “my life sucks. This keeps happening. Y keeps happening.” And if, if that kind of situation starts coming up – “why does this keep happening to me? Why do my clients hate me? Why do I keep getting the worst clients? Uh, why don’t I, why can’t I ever raise my rates?” You know, you gotta look for like little things like that. So it’s not gonna look the way it’s gonna look when you see some happening to somebody else. So it’s always gonna look as if it’s being caused by an external thing. That’s when you need to, to stop and be like, it’s not happening because of something else it’s it’s happening because of some- I’m missing a step and you have to step back and you have to, and you have to reflect, you have to look and you have to be okay with knowing that there’s something wrong and, and just trying, trying to uncover it. Because, I mean, if you don’t and I’ve had plenty of this happen to me, life is just gonna change for you. Life is forward momentum. Nothing is stagnant in life. Even if it feels like your life isn’t changing, life is changing around you and life will change whether you want it to or not. So it is best to be able to go along for the ride. And it can be scary. It can be, and that is okay. It’s, it’s often scary. And, but usually the best things that happen are on the other side of that thing you don’t wanna look at. Um, and that is almost always the best things. So one of the things that I do when something particularly scary or, um, unpleasant is going on, um, I’ll often remind myself like, oh hey, anytime that something like this has happened to me, I’ll look back… Or if it’s just unpleasant, you know, you go through those times and you’re just like, why me? It’s not something that you can identify. And you’ve tried, you know, even if you’re just super self-reflective, you’re just like, “Nope. It’s not me. I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s, it’s just terrible, terrible luck.” Still just be okay with it not being okay because eventually it will become okay. It will get there. And on the other side – if this has ever happened to you before – many times it’s after all that awfulness, it’s oftentimes the best things that’s happened. Whether you’ve lost a client you didn’t wanna lose and then a better client came along or, um, somebody who’s in like a really bad booking season. Um, even they haven’t booked for months, uh, and they just, you know, all these mediocre, like the, they, the “okay” projects came in. Projects that they would’ve been like, okay, booking came in, they lost and they don’t know why. Um, but then two months later they get all of those amazing bookings that actually give them forward momentum and then they’re like, “oh, well, thank God. I didn’t book all the other buttons because I would’ve been, I wouldn’t have been available these and I would’ve had to give ’em to somebody else.” So trying to just work through it because, um, because if you don’t, it’s just gonna be so much more painful.
Sandra: That’s so, so true. And when it comes to burnout, in terms of running a small business, if you don’t deal with it this year and you do find a way to just, you know, compartmentalize and push it deep down and not deal with it – which is what I did a few times over! It still came back year after year after year to the point that like early 2019 I was crying on the phone to my husband saying, “I’m gonna shut down my business, ‘cause I can’t do this anymore.” It will always, always come back to you. So I think it’s so important to just like you were saying, like press pause, do some internal reflection, find out what your needs are, what your non-negotiables are and give yourself the confidence of just knowing that you’ve gone through hard times before and you’ve always come out the other side and this is going to be one of those times too.
Cindy: Yep, exactly, exactly.
Sandra: Awesome. Well, before we wrap things up, is there anything else, any final thoughts you would like to add in or anything like that?
Cindy: Uh, you know, normally I probably would, but I’ve got August peak wedding brain, so, um-
Sandra: I can totally relate!
Cindy: But if I think of anything, I will email you and, you know, I would ask for you to add on in my honour.
Sandra: That sounds perfect. I love that. Well, thank you so much again! Um, and before I hop off, I would love if you could share, um, where everybody can find you online on social media and things like that, so they can follow along.
Cindy: Well, you can find us on Instagram, it’s where we are most of the time. Um, and that’s @HarborviewStudios, and we are on TikTok, with the same name Harborview studios, or you can check out our website at harborviewstudios.com.
Sandra: Perfect! I will definitely make sure to link all of those in the show notes as well to make it super easy for everybody to find you.
Cindy: That’s awesome. Thank you so much.
Sandra: Ok – how great was that interview?!
I recorded this with Cindy back in August and honestly, I feel like it’s even more timely now towards the end of September than it was when we first connected. Most of us are gearing up for the craziness that is October and it’s when that feeling of burnout really starts to take hold for so many people. A little saying in the photography industry is that October is to photographers what April is to accountants. It could NOT be more true, ya’ll!
So I hope today’s episode has given you some tools and inspiration to take even just a small step towards implementing boundaries so that you can head into your next busy season on a path that isn’t leading you directly to burnout.
Thanks so much for listening to Keeping It Candid: Wedding Photography Unfiltered with Sandra Henderson! You can find full show notes from today’s episode at simplysandrayvonne.ca/keepingitcandid. In the meantime – let’s connect! You can find me on Instagram @simplysandrayvonne, and on Facebook in the Wedding Photography Unfiltered community! If you’re loving this podcast, I’d be so honoured if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave me a review!
Until next time!
Since 2006, Harborview Studios has created timeless, colorful, vibrant wedding films of couples getting married for couples getting married on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, or all of New England.