est. 2008

does it keep you busy?

Mary Dougherty

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ABOUT mary

I'm a fine art film photographer living in the mountains and traveling to tell beautiful stories





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I go to the post office once a week…. maybe even once every two weeks depending on how much there is to mail. I don’t have a set schedule where I arrive like clockwork at 9 am on Mondays, I’m not that kind of person. I saunter in at different hours each time and gently place a few custom printed mailers on the counter ready for postage and a few do not bend stamps. The mailers give away the fact that I have a business and I live in a small enough town that the postmaster has taken an interest in what I’m up to. She often asks “so, how’s business? Is it keeping you busy?”

It’s probably the most commonly asked question once I let people know I’m a photographer and small business owner. People want to know – my family wants to know – if I actually have enough work and am making any profit doing what I do… without coming out directly and saying it. I used to hear the question and become a little defensive, thinking that those asking assumed I wouldn’t be successful or capable of making it work. Of course, what they were asking had little to do with my talent and ability, and everything to do with the challenges of running a small business. Many fail within the first five years (fail is probably too strong of a word, perhaps people realize it’s not for them and move on) and working completely on your own often means diving in to uncharted territory. You are forced out of your comfort zone in many areas in order to charge enough to pay taxes and make a profit, connect with new people and find clients, and work late nights and early mornings all while not knowing what next year will hold.

I quietly tell the postmaster that yes, things are going well, she jokes that there are a lot of people getting married around here and I agree. I’ve never taken for granted the opportunity to run my own business but I’m reminded each time I’m asked that I’m lucky to be doing so. Each year I look ahead and wonder how busy I will be, if I’ll answer that question with a tentative “things are slow” or end up switching careers at some point. For now, I’m so grateful to be busy doing what I love. Thanks to everyone who has hired me, referred me, and encouraged me along the way and I hope I can give back to a few of you what you’ve allowed me to do.

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