I woke up on the second day of a holiday in Belgium when my partner he told me that Belgium had just gone into lockdown. I couldn’t believe it. Surely this whole ‘covid’ thing wasn’t that big of a deal?! And then it was.
Prior to this moment, I had spent six months travelling to find myself after a heart wrenching break up (an Eat Pray Love journey – if you will!). I had found myself in the heart of Edinburgh and swiftly fell in love with both the city and the man who just told me we had to high tail it out of Belgium! I was weeks away from heading home to Australia to honour my bookings as a wedding and boudoir photographer, before planning to spend the year of 2020 flying between Sydney and Scotland, figuring out what to do next.
When the news dropped that the world was locking down, I left Edinburgh with every intention of returning back to Scotland in six weeks (clearly, I still hadn’t grasped that this was a big deal).
Upon my return to Sydney I had to refund my first (of many) wedding clients as I was in mandatory quarantine for two weeks and unable to shoot my first wedding of the year. I was devastated, penniless, and had no idea what the future would hold for me, my relationship and my business.
In 2020 I had 13 weddings booked and in April alone, I had over 50 women booked for empowering boudoir sessions. As the days went on and the rules changed what felt like hourly, I was faced with cancellations and refund requests left right and centre. I had to put holds on all of my planned boudoir weekends, and all of a sudden, I left sitting idle.
After spending years building my business and having my weekly calendar rammed with appointments, I had nothing to do. It was really daunting and extremely uncomfortable to have no idea what to do next and with no source of income in sight.
Being the type of person who always needs something to do, I decided to focus my energy in a new direction. “What do people NEED right now?” I kept asking myself. During one lovely afternoon stroll, inspiration struck me via …a bush. Yes. A bush. The way the sunlight hit it caught my eye and a little voice in my head said, “why don’t you run a free photography challenge?”
After weeks of feeling rudderless and frustrated, I had purpose and drive again! I wanted to help as many people as possible get creative in lockdown, so within two weeks I launched a five-day free photography challenge with daily emails and tips on how to take and edit amazing snaps on your phone. I soon had hundreds of entrants daily. It was so incredible to witness the birth of a creative community and to support so many people who were struggling during the lockdown.
This seemingly small challenge prompted me to create a smartphone photography e-book with editing presets to help people continue their creative journeys. I was able to make over $5,000 in sales from this e-book which is something I never could have anticipated, and it provided so much relief after having refunded over $5,000 of wedding bookings that month alone.
From the e-book came my confidence and passion to develop Ambedo Academy, a course for beginner photographers to learn how to use their DSLR cameras (something I had wanted to do for years but never had the time). It was a raging success and I sold out 15 spots within a week. The course was an incredible starting point for this new direction in my business, and I was so honoured to teach 15 women how to take photos and use their equipment. I even had three women start their own photography businesses! These women were making money from their business within six months of learning from me, and this is one of my greatest achievements to date – seeing other women thrive in the creative industry.
I was lucky enough to relocate back to Scotland with my partner in October 2020. After a year of heartache having to cancel so many wedding and boudoir bookings, I shifted my energy to focus on the Academy and working 1-1 with people help them build their own businesses and transform their lives.
Since making the choice to pivot the direction of my business, I have had the privilege of teaching close to 100 students, making more money than ever before (2020 was my highest income year to date), living in my soul home with my partner, and expanding the business further than I ever dreamed possible. I kicked off a podcast this year, dove into coaching and teaching people how to manifest and continue to see my business thrive every month.
Many of us have taken away lessons from the pandemic. I’m so grateful for the space and time to really reassess what’s important to me, what I’m passionate about, and where I want to take the business. There were a lot of difficult conversations and decisions made across this period of time but it’s because of that discomfort that my business (and life) is in the incredible place that it is today.
Gabby Secomb-Flegg s a Business Chicks member and founder of Ambedo Academy, providing courses and content for badass beginner photographers. For more, follow Gabby on Instagram here and Ambedo Academy on Instagram here.