Being Self Employed

When you are self-employed / an entrepreneur / run your business, there are often moments, when you want to toss your hands up in the hair and succumb back to that lure of a ‘full time job’ and easy pay. You begin thinking of the comforts of that regular pay check at the end of the month, of colleagues around you, bitching about the boss etc. 

You begin thinking that you do not have to deal with finicky clients, answer calls at all odd hours, and most importantly, the constant strain of not knowing where you next pay cheque comes from. 

Running your own business makes you wonder if you are seeing the ‘real’ side of people, or the other side of people. It makes me wonder if I’ve ever really been a people’s person. Oh I know I am not. There are very few people on my wavelength, and my capacity to accept people with all their faults and shortcomings gets lesser as I grow older. You get impatient with people’s stupidity, and you saturate with your friends, who you have already accepted.

I often hear stories about how clients became friends. And though I spend time with my clients at their closest moments, I’ve never made friends with any of them. Oh yes, we are friends on Facebook and we comment on each other’s posts and discuss things online, but do we ever get beyond that state to hang out together? Nope. And strangely, I’m not inclined either. I’ve met some really nice people through my job. But perhaps it is the tension and the rush, I’ve stopped to pause and consider the person. Or maybe, once you seen them through your camera, you create that barrier of your camera.

It makes me wonder sometimes if that is a shortcoming in me. If it is, it is one that I can live with perhaps. Photographers are often the fly on the wall. Most clients get used to your presence, and they are actually mentally prepared for the idea of your presence. So they let their guard down, have fights in front of you, vent all their tensions and concerns about marrying a stranger, strip down to their barest, often literally. You notice things that you probably would not notice as a visitor at a wedding. So perhaps once that moment is past, they do not want to associate with the person to whom they’ve confessed their darkest fears. 

A client I shot one of the initial weddings at was nervous about marrying the guy she did. She spoke to me about her fears, as she got ready for the event. Frankly. Brazenly. I’ve never heard from her since, though she has referred several people to me since then. 

Perhaps it is necessary for the photographer to be a distance to really see the subject and get close to the subject. My favorite shot at any wedding is the moment when the mangalsutra is tied around her neck. There is a varied range of emotions in the span of a minute it takes to complete that task. Nervousness, happiness, elation, fear, smug, an overwhelmed happiness and a tinge of worry. And you know what you can expect at the moment from the bride, when you’ve spent much time with her behind the scenes. You know if the groom will look happy, smug, satisfied or nervous when you’ve seen him interact with the others that day. 

That is my job, after all. To get a read on people. To anticipate. 

When you are on the job, you block every thing else out. It is only later, when you pack your camera away, that the business angle creeps in. You start thinking invoices, processing, vendors to pay, equipment to maintain. It surely does diminish the glow of the shoot.

It isn’t the same in public relations. You are stressed. You are worried about how many reporters turned up at the event. You are worried about the kind of stories they are going to write about your client. But there is a rush. When you are at the event, when you are ideating. When you think of the brilliant possibilities when you have a new client. You think of all the brilliant stories that could be written. You think of all those activities your client could do. You are committed to making it a ‘brand’ and not just a company. You know that you are the driving force behind it. And then there is the reality check when the client perhaps isn’t as imaginative as you are. When they go traditional and straight. 

You sigh deeply, tuck away your notes with glorious ideas scribbled on them and come back to the rote. And when you come back to the rote, you begin thinking of those invoices, dossiers, monthly plans and bills to pay.

It makes you cringe. It makes you wish for clients who were as open and imaginative as you are, because you know that you can build it into something great. You just need time and cooperation.

But then… you sit and think, and you realise at least here you have the chance to leave your mark. Whatever changes you bring about, it was you and your company who did it. That you made the difference. If you were working for someone else for that regular paycheck, you would be taking the same amount of tension, putting in almost the same effort, only to have someone else’s name on the door. All you would really get, apart from a tinge of satisfaction, is a steady paycheck at the end of the month. Plus, other than the client, you would also have to convince the boss that this was the right way to do things. You would have to shoot things that you hate. 

Your creativity suffers. You go into depression anyway. And you would not have the freedom to ask some one to FO because you don’t want to do it. Sure, I might be able to buy only cheap beer instead of a nice whiskey if I do that. But least I get to do it.

And someday, maybe you get recognized for your efforts. For just you.

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