Saying ‘No’ to Something Good & Saying ‘Yes’ to Something Great: Why I’m Closing My Photography Business

In 2020, I’ve focused a lot of my efforts on growing my photography business. It’s been a nice distraction from the events in the outside world—a way to express myself and help others do the same.

Based on some of my achievements, things have been going well: I developed an online photography course and completed two live runs of it. I created new types of session offerings, and grew my family session clientele to 76 sessions, this year alone. I started a blog and a monthly email newsletter. I even expanded my business to offer branding photo and video services (in fact, I landed a dream client from it—check out Peaceful Dinners!). To top it all off, I’ve worked as a photographer for my town’s local newspaper.

Not only have I poured time and energy into my business, I’ve also invested a lot, too: I outsourced the design of my new website (and worked with the best of the best), as well as my blog, newsletter, and other small tasks. Plus, I invested in a branding videography class and a lot of new gear (lenses, backdrop, sound equipment and more).

Everything looked great on paper, but behind the scenes, a lot of things were not going well…

For starters, the video class I invested in was happening in the midst of my family moving to a new home, but I was convinced I had to take it.

Then, my personal email hit max capacity (over 20k emails!), so I stopped receiving them altogether, and couldn’t find the time to clean out my inbox.

In addition, I kept having to buy more SD cards. I don’t delete images off of my memory cards until I deliver a final client gallery or I’ve printed personal images. I had so many back-to-back sessions in the fall and fell behind on editing, so I kept buying more SD cards (I probably have over 30 at this point). Oh, and I have yet to print a family photo album of my own.

Plus, my computer hard drive storage system was a wreck. I wouldn’t have space to import new sessions, and because I had no storage space, everything would run incredibly slow. It made editing galleries take so much longer than it should’ve.

Want me to keep going?

I was paying for monthly photography education communities that I had zero time to learn from. I lost any motivation to photograph my own family. I dreaded picking up my camera at home (and then felt guilty not documenting my kids). I have a personal video from this summer that I started editing five months ago and can’t find the time to finish. I was delivering client galleries late…

Needless to say, things have definitely gotten out of hand.

I started my own business to have freedom and manage my own schedule. I wanted to be able to be home with my kids. In fact, I left Corporate America so I could have flexibility and control, but I was trapped in my business and had, in fact, lost all control. I worked every night. I can distinctly remember an afternoon this past fall thinking to myself, “I wish I had time right now to go play in the leaves with my kids.”

I kept convincing myself that things would get better—that I could make it all work. I just had to keep at it. My excuse for doing unpaid and underpaid work to grow my portfolio was that I was investing in the future of my business. But in reality, I was undervaluing myself. 

Fun fact: Did you know I run another business called Cozy Escapes? My husband and I rent out an Airbnb getaway cabin in the mountains in Virginia and plan to grow it into a lifestyle brand one day. Even though I love this business, I was doing the bare minimum to keep things running. Oh, and remember how I mentioned we just moved into a new house? We bought it because of its potential (read: lots of home improvement projects)—yet, I’ve been stressed about not having any time for projects, instead of enjoying the process. 

Sadly, I feel as though I’ve been doing a poor job at a lot of things, rather than a great job at a few things.

How did things get so out of control? I’m not great at personal reflections, but I think I wanted to really “make it” in the saturated world of photography. I had so many ideas for the business that I hoped to see through. Not to mention, my husband is in a two-year full-time MBA program, and I wanted to help support my family financially.

Looking back, I realize these were self-imposed goals. More importantly, I was trying to avoid where I knew my focus should be…

While I’ve been busy with my photography business, I’ve been dreaming about what I want for Cozy Escapes, but I’ve had no time to take it to the next level. I firmly believe that my ideas for this business can make a positive impact on people’s lives, but deep down, it scares me. My photography business feels safe—a clear path for how to grow the business. Cozy Escapes, on the other hand, has more risk and no clear road map. So, I’ve avoided it altogether.

About two years ago, I worked with a mentor of mine to discuss Cozy Escapes. She asked me if I absolutely had to do my photography business. I was defensive and said yes, convinced I could do both. But she was right.

It’s time to say no to my photography business so I can say yes to Cozy Escapes.

So, what does this mean? It’s hard. 2020 was a year of investing so much time and money into my photography business. It seems crazy to be “throwing that all away.” What was the point? Well, for one, I learned a lot. And ultimately, this path led me to Cozy Escapes. I’m so grateful for the past four years I’ve spent growing my photography business—I’ve met so many amazing people, like my clients and other creatives. Plus, I’ve learned more than I think I even realize.

I love the art of photography, and I really loved that it was a way to start a business (I’ll always be an entrepreneur first and foremost!). But truth be told, there’s more opportunity for growth with Cozy Escapes—more ways to grow the business and more ways for me to grow personally and professionally. So, I’m going all in.

What will happen to Rachael Laurin Photography & Films? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. I plan to photograph family, friends, and past clients on a limited scale (I would miss it too much if I didn’t). In addition, I’m switching my introductory photography course to be self-guided instead of “live.”

This isn’t the end of me being a photographer—just a new direction.

The best part? I’m so excited to be able to photograph my own kids more and stretch myself creatively. Plus, I’m hoping to mentor other entrepreneurs and small business owners. I’ve learned so much over the years and am passionate about helping others pursue their passions. Who knows what things will look like in the future. All I know is that I’m ready for this new season of my life.

This isn’t goodbye. In fact, I would love to have you follow along and see where my Cozy Escapes journey goes! I promise there are a lot of exciting things to come. Follow us on Instagram and join our newsletter to stay in the loop.

In the meantime, I hope this post helps you find the courage to do what you love. If there’s a risk in your life that you’ve been afraid to take, I’m here to make that leap with you. I may be saying no to my photography business, but I’m shouting yes to Cozy Escapes—and most importantly, my family. Saying no can be hard, but I encourage you to say no to good things so that you have the time and energy to say yes to great things. Won’t you join me?