Hello and welcome to podcast number 32! Well guys, if you asked me a month ago whether I thought the whole financial world would come to standstill in four weeks, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. Today I’m chatting about the ongoing madness with Dan O’Day. Dan is an award-winning wedding photographer (and self-proclaimed ‘best photographer in the universe’) who’s here for a relaxed conversation about how to manage stress during a crisis. Our goal is to make these tough times a little lighter.
But first I want to talk to all my listeners who dream of becoming creative entrepreneurs but feel like they’re stuck in a job they can’t leave. It can be hard to predict the perfect time to break free and go it alone. Well, chances are that right now, due to current circumstances, your job may be on the line. You may have even lost it already. There’s no better time to cut free, start your own hustle and make your own break. It’s more risky trying to be safe right now than it is to take a risk. If you’ve already lost everything, then there’s nothing left to lose – don’t let these losses define you. Don’t leave your livelihood in the hands of someone else. The perfect time is right now. Step outside your comfort zone and take that risk. Life is lived in that place.
Dan’s an interesting guy to talk to at this point in time because he started his business in 2009, right after the last big global crash. At the moment, Dan’s feeling relieved about the lockdown, and glad the world is finally taking the crisis seriously. On the personal front, the last year and half has been intense for Dan, so he’s enjoying the opportunity to slow the cogs and catch his breath. I think the same way; I’ve been so busy recently that I’m enjoying the chance to relax at home a little bit. Even though there’s a serious side to the virus, Dan reckons that we shouldn’t pass up the chance to reflect and be grateful for everything we’ve got going on.
Like myself, Dan is a wedding photographer. When it comes to shooting weddings, he currently has the next 28 weeks off. While only one of these has actually cancelled and the rest have postponed, this is the longest break Dan has ever had in his life. He’s looking at it as a chance to reset and spend some time with his family (although he acknowledges he might feel a little differently in four weeks time!).
Dan started his business in 2009, so I was interested to hear how it evolved from that point all the way up to where it was just before the virus hit. He admits he was a little reckless in the beginning and had an overly optimistic attitude compared to now. However, he thinks that attitude helped him out in the early stages. This pandemic is going to test everyone because it’s not the same as the Wall Street-induced crash. You can go hyper-creative or you can choose to give the creative part of your brain a break instead. I agree – when I first started, I had that same reckless attitude because it’s easy to be bold when you have nothing to lose. I think the people that have just started their business should be the least afraid, compared to people who have built something up that could topple very easily. Dan feels like the slate has been cleaned.
Dan thinks we could see the busiest year ever in 2021, as everyone who has postponed will all be looking to get married. There are going to be more weddings than high-profile photographers can manage, creating space for more work. People aren’t going to stop getting married. You should adopt a long-term view, and while he acknowledges that cash flow in the short-term is important, Dan thinks you should spend this time preparing for the big comeback in 2021. I think a lot of creative entrepreneurs struggle with projecting into the future. It’s easy to understand when you’re living in the moment, but a crisis can put that into perspective. When something like this happens, of course there’s a very serious side, but on the business front all I see is opportunity. It’s important to be aware and optimistic, although getting the right balance between these is a delicate process.
Dan thinks this could be a good opportunity for taking the creative side out of it to focus on the business side of things. Opening spreadsheets and working out some numbers can help you feel like you’re not getting left behind.
I’m good at business, but I don’t thrive looking at spreadsheets and stuff. I’m using this time to reflect on myself and take comfort in the fact that I have knowledge and capabilities that I can fall back on. Dan likened this to location scouting for a wedding shoot. He found that going into a wedding with a plan gave him the confidence and freedom to explore new creative options, knowing that he had a fallback if things fell apart. I don’t location scout anymore because I feel it hinders creativity, but I do take the time to check out the car park of a new venue. As long as I know where to park the car and that I won’t be late, the creativity comes easy. Dan uses second shooters for this same reason. The practicalities are just as important as the creative elements.
Dan thinks we can achieve this by focusing on something other than ourselves. There’s a lot of anxiety-inducing stuff that he could carry around in his head, but he’ll be much more productive if he can acknowledge that without focusing on it. Finding someone or something else to focus on helps to declutter and empty our brains. Dan also advised me to take a little break from my constant work schedule. It can be hard to ask yourself for a holiday. Dan always defaults to painting when he thinks of something he wants to do for himself. However, he always has to remind himself to switch off the part of his brain that wants to ‘monetise’ something. Dan thinks that business is a creative venture in itself, which I also believe. It can be hard to separate the creativity from the strategising.
People associate business with transactions, and ‘business’ itself is something of a dirty word in some creative circles. I think many creative entrepreneurs haven’t put the link together to see how creative business can be. It becomes limitless. You have to have so much creativity to bring it to life. Dan agrees and thinks that we use blanket terminology and that’s where a lot of the good stuff gets lost.
That’s going to do it for this one, guys. Thank you very much for listening as always – we’ll be back next time with more insights and conversations!