Have you ever wondered what would happen to your business if you were unable to work? I talked to one such photographer about his experience with a near catastrophic injury, and the fallout surrounding it in regards to his business.
It took me over a year to apply for a Licentiateship with the Irish Professional Photographers and Videographers Association (IPPVA). Because I was so green in the business, I was hesitant to dive in at first, but an excellent article by Fstoppers’ Tommy Feisel back in June gave me the little nudge that I needed. I was awarded my Licentiateship in late July of this year, and the experience so far has been nothing but positive, and, at times, heart-warming. When I started my business I didn’t really know any photographers. I knew one or two at the same level as I, but if I needed advice on more complex matters I felt a little bit lost. My, at times, extreme introversion made it difficult for me to make initial steps to get to know other pros in my area. This all changed when I joined the IPPVA. It opened me up a little and the camaraderie within is amazing, even though, at this stage, I had not yet met any of them in the flesh.
Before the start of this college year, I had a sudden panic come over me with regard to up-skilling. I figured that in order to be where I wanted, I should take some formal education. After wracking my brain for a while, I tentatively put the question to the organization’s Facebook group. I was a little overwhelmed by the response. Everyone was very kind and generous in their advice. Also, it was a resounding “No”. I went with the advice of my peers, and I’m delighted that I did. If it were not for that, I wouldn’t be writing this from the South African bush. Not only that, but one of the senior members, Neil Warner; a Master Qualified European Photographer and a gentleman to boot, offered himself as a mentor to me.
Then, in October last, I had the opportunity to see some of my peers in the flesh at a meet-up. It was a short affair with some general discussions and a few photo critiques. What really grabbed my attention, though, was the story of the member who was giving his advice and critiques to the crowd.
A Cautionary Tale
Corin Bishop runs a successful commercial, portrait, and wedding photography business from the west of Ireland. He’s involved in the running of the IPPVA and his expertise and advice is highly regarded among the organization’s members. However, Bishop’s attendance at this meet-up was not a foregone conclusion because, as he explained to us, several weeks beforehand, while playing with his kids in the local skate park — and being a big kid, himself — he decided to make a maneuver that maybe wasn’t in his wheelhouse. He fell flat on his back. In his own words: he felt, and left, a crack. Thankfully, he could feel all his limbs, and after a visit to the emergency department, he was diagnosed with a fractured shoulder. But, despite his best efforts to get the doctors to examine his spine more closely, he was sent home in a sling. A week and a half later he went back to the A & E, this time walking out of there in a back brace; he had, in fact, fractured his spine.
He was told not to work and to come back again for a consultation in seven days. But even though this happened just after peak wedding season, what followed was an anxiety ridden week because what lay ahead for him was covered in a shroud uncertainty. Many worrisome questions entered his head. What if he couldn’t work again? Will his business go under? Will he get any assistance from the government? How will his family cope? I can’t imagine the torment that this brought, and my heart goes out to anyone in this situation.
After he notified his photographer friends — including members of the IPPVA — he was swamped with messages of support and offers to help out with any upcoming weddings. On the advice of some of his peers, he notified his insurance company of his situation. They explained to him that if his doctor said that he couldn’t work, then they could not cover him. He was shocked. After a brief but significant panic about his weddings at the end of the month, he remember his other insurance policies. Surely something would cover him. Then came another shock to the system: none of his policies could cover him; not life insurance, critical illness, house insurance, or professional insurance. He thought that this couldn’t be right. There must be a policy that covers income if one is unable to work through injury. As he found out, there is one, but at roughly $280 dollars per month, at the cheapest — bear in mind that this is on top of all his other policies — it just would not be option for him — or most people, for that matter.
Finally, after a weeks wait, his consultant informed him that his fracture would heal and that there would be no long term issues. The feeling of relief must have been overwhelming. In just 6-12 weeks he would be out of the brace. And, after 6 weeks, if he felt strong enough, he could return to driving and, more importantly, he could get back to work.
A few weeks after his diagnosis he was able to do a wedding with help from a colleague. Everything eventually got back on track, and, due to all his downtime, he decided start mentoring other photographers on a more formal basis than he he had previously been doing. Not only can he help other professionals improve their images and their businesses, but offering formal services like this gives him something to fall back on if something like this ever happens again.
As of now, Bishop is out of his back brace for over a week and his recovery is going well. His advice to other photographers is simple: save some money for an emergency fund, join a professional organization, and take advantage of any mentoring.
How has being part of a professional organization helped you?