COVID & 2020 - The year that never was

COVID & 2020 – The year that never was

COVID & 2020 – The year that never was

I was so excited about this year, lots of incredible weddings to shoot at some amazing venues that I hadn’t worked at before, with some fantastic couples. Our first big holiday for years and lots of things to look forward to!

But obviously that all changed.

Both me and my wife are self-employed, my wife in beauty and myself obviously not just photography, but specifically weddings. So the restrictions placed on both businesses and socialising hit both of our businesses hard. While agreeing that something needed to be done to try and stem the rise in infections (and we had Covid in early March, wouldn’t wish it on anybody), I didn’t know just how hard it was going to hit the wedding industry.

After my first few weddings postponed, who were in the initial lockdown period, it started to become clearer that these restrictions weren’t going to go away in a hurry. Several of my couples managed to move to dates later in the year, some moved to next year, and some made the heart-breaking decision to just cancel their weddings.

Obviously I helped as much as I could, refunding those who had fully paid because their wedding was cancelled with a week to go. Moving dates for free and not taking additional payments, spending hours on the phone to some couples trying to come up with a plan and a date that everyone could do. As much as it was upsetting for me from a business point of view, it’s far worse for those who are having to move or cancel their weddings!

Government help so far

When the Government help was first announced it sounded great, 80% of your average self employed earnings.

But sadly there were some catches.

Because I had a day job until mid-2018, I didn’t actually qualify for the self employed scheme. Doesn’t matter that I’ve been running the business for 7 years and quit the day job completely in 2018. Because of the way they chose to judge whether you need help or not, I fell through every gap. So I’ve so far received £0 help from the Government.

I don’t have commercial property, so was excluded from that help. I have taken a Bounce Back Loan, but that is a loan and so actually costs me more in the long run unless I can pay it back in full.

The new restrictions

With the wedding numbers now reduced to 15, this leaves all but the most intimate ceremonies unable to take place. If it’s the same rule as 30, and I’m hoping to find out today, that 15 also includes the Vicar, or Registrars and myself as photographer. So that means for a civil ceremony, with 2 registrars, 1 photographer and the couple: you can have 10 guests.

Which of course is perfect if you only wanted a small intimate ceremony, but if the wedding of your dreams is a massive party with 150 people, then obviously that’s not doable right now.

With the announcement, and the statement that it’s likely to be in place for 6 months – taking us up to March 2021. That is effectively 12 months of wedding work wiped out, and still no help for my business. And more heartbreak for more couples,

Some of my couples have now changed their plans 4 times to try and meet the ever-changing rules.

The financial impact

It probably goes without saying that there’s been a considerable financial impact on my business. My fixed costs haven’t changed, I still need insurance, people still want their wedding galleries online, I still need to advertise for future clients. The only things I don’t need to pay for, are costs directly linked to bookings – albums etc.

Thankfully, I do have other work which I’ve still been able to do, family photography, some commercial photography and video, and I run a small Web Design business. So while massively out of pocket, things aren’t desperate, we’re not struggling to pay bills or the mortgage or anything.

But many are. There are millions of people who’ve missed out on Govt support due to one reason or another, and I’m very aware that myself and my family are in a much better position than many others. My business will survive and I can’t wait to get back to shooting, but others won’t and the impact on them and their family will be huge.

The emotional impact

For me, this has been the worst part of it. It’s been heart-breaking to have so many couples, excited about their wedding, have it pulled out from under them at the last minute. Even worse for those who’ve also lost jobs, meaning their wedding has had to be cancelled completely.

I’ve been happy to help all of my couples, I genuinely love all of them, with some of them I’ve watched their excited wedding planning journey develop over 2 years, to then have to be postponed! And it’s been genuinely upsetting to see all these amazing people have to change their plans due to this crisis.

On top of that, seeing friends in the industry struggle, from florists to venues to other photographers. Knowing how much work they’ve put into their business and then seeing them struggle to make ends meet as some of them also fall through the gaps in the funding. It’s been hard, and trying to stay motivated throughout the summer to do my other work, has been a struggle.

I’ve found everything has been taking that little bit longer and unsurprisingly, this year has been quite stressful, not just for myself, but for couples and other businesses too!

What can we do?

Well if you’re a business like me, who hasn’t received any help and you think that’s wrong, you can write to your MP. Whether it will do any good or not, is another question. You can check to see if your local council is running any discretionary grant schemes and hope you qualify for one of those, but some councils are excluding those who don’t have commercial premises, so if you work from home, you may be out of luck there too.

When dealing with clients moving their dates, or cancelling weddings, remember that they’re not doing this because they want to. They’re upset about the situation too, they’re also possibly suffering the financial impact of the situation. We’re all in this together.

If you’re a couple that are impacted by this, then just keep your suppliers updated as early as possible to any change in plans. Speak to them all before deciding on new dates if you do need to postpone and try to find a date that mutually works for everyone. Be understanding if they need to refund you, but can’t do it straight away, they might not have had any income for the last 6 months (but know your rights).

If you’re a business, then pull together with other suppliers if you can. Big each other up, be there to support each other, provide emergency cover if it’s needed due to self-isolation or worse. Now is not the time for competition, now is the time to support your community.

What does it mean for Andy Dane Photography

Well, it means that I won’t be making many updates to my Wedding Portfolio page this year! But other than that, I’ll still be here working, doing more family photography and still sharing past weddings and looking forward to finally photographing some of the awesome couples who’ve had to change their plans!

The one upside of lockdown for me, was that I spent some of it upskilling, so I’m now a qualified drone pilot, so expect to see some more of that too!

And hoping that something happens that means we can safely get weddings back to how they should be!

For now, I’ll be doing my best to support my existing clients, friends and family in the industry. If anyone is struggling and just wants to chat, or thinks I can offer any advice, then just get in touch. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with it all, then just taking a step back and chatting things over with someone else can be a big help.

I hope you’re all as well as can be given the challenges this year has brought. I can’t wait to properly catch up with you all and get back to shooting weddings!

Much love,

Andy

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