Saturday, September 22, 2012

Anniversary weekend

Paul and I are celebrating our three-year anniversary this weekend and we're getting married!

Not really.

His parents brought up the subject when they asked when we'd be tying the knot. I told them all I want to do is elope at city hall and then take close friends and family to a fancy dinner. "But," I added, "we don't have money for dinner so we can't get married."

We updated the website with an engagement gallery today after meeting with a potential client who was interested in the full nine yards. It was interesting to see that she was unfazed by our rates. I felt it was necessary to change our pricing structure after determining that we'd like to cater to a more up-market clientele. 

As much as I adore our first couple (the bride and I are now friends), I want to limit our exposure to bargain hunters. Incidentally, those were exactly the sort of customers who contacted us when our prices were low. Our friends and family all suggested we offer rock bottom prices so we can gain experience and raise the prices over time. We chose to follow their advice, but it felt like we were compromising too much and it was a lose-lose situation all around. After speaking to more people, we realized that by nearly giving away our services for free (after overhead), we were helping to raise red flags in the minds of more discriminating brides. In essence, we were implying that we had something to hide or were too insecure to let the work speak for itself.

So we've concluded that there is little to no relationship between the quality of pictures and pricing. It really comes down to marketing, style, and customer service. Although Paul doesn't have many weddings under his belt, our "branding" materials are consistent across the board. We have a professional-looking website with matching business cards on quality card stock and we're also partnered up with a luxury album maker from across the pond.

Rather than selling ourselves short and trying to have universal appeal, Paul and I agreed to just let him be himself and focus on his strengths so we can stand out in our niche and target people who aren't making decisions based solely on price. Frankly, I don't want to start a trend of being recommended because we're the type to give deep discounts to secure short-term business. I know we'd both be disappointed if we delivered a bang-up job and someone said, "Yeah, our photographer was great and the best part? You can always haggle down the price." Although a viable strategy for people who want to make a quick buck and never look back, we'd like to build something larger from this.

Granted, our parents have told us to do anything and adapt to everyone's needs because we're missing out on a "goldmine". I tried to explain to them that if a bride wanted a photo booth service with kooky props as well as paparazzi-style photos on her very own red carpet (we've been asked to do both), it will dilute Paul's portfolio. Moreover, if he did hire a second shooter, he will not be able to guarantee consistency and quality, which will hurt his reputation in the long-run. And really, since that kind of stuff isn't Paul's expertise, who'd want to hire him anyway? It's simply unrealistic to scramble around, renting unfamiliar equipment and paying strangers off Craigslist, just to fulfill the odd request from brides who stumbled upon our site by accident.

Anyway, my mom thinks I'm talking crazy (she only cares about making money and how I'm missing out on all that money) and maybe I am. But it's important to me that our business has integrity because the lack of it helped underscore precisely why I hated my previous jobs.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sisters! Why u so suck?!

An unedited email I sent to a friend, reproduced here:
My sister just came by and told me she wanted an iPad. "For what?" I asked. She says it's for school. She says her e-books [textbooks] are only available online and, to read it offline, she'll need to download an app for the iPad. 
I said, why don't you just read it on your laptop at home? She says it's hard to read and type up notes at the same time. I told her she was bullshitting me and that many people survive school without an iPad. 
She says she already asked mom and mom agreed. I told her not to exploit mom's ignorance about technology. She says her eyes get tired reading off a laptop. I told her, an iPad is a laptop with a smaller screen and no keyboard. 
Then I said, "You flunked out of school. You need to fix your study habits first before you reward yourself with a novelty gadget." 
She says an iPad will help her study better. I told her she can stop feeding me shit. 
Then she stormed out of my apartment and told me to fuck off loud enough for the neighbours to hear. I replied, "Get a job. Improve your study habits. Stop lying to mom. And learn to save money!" 
She retorts that she'll pay for it with her OSAP [student loans] money. C'mon! And she's studying business? Learn some budgeting skills. She has too many screws loose. I can't believe we share the same DNA. 
Oh! And she also tells me I'm out of touch because iPads weren't invented in my time so I don't know how necessary it is. Wow ... I'm old, stupid, and senile, apparently.

Now I confess, I own an iPad 2, but I told her it's not meant for long stretches of reading. I let her compare it to my Kobo e-book reader and the latter was considerably lighter and more comfortable to view and hold.

Backstory: My sister got kicked out of university after spending her sophomore year on probation because her marks were too low. She was accepted into a bachelor's program at a well-regarded college two towns over and started school last week. During our long-winded argument, I kept reminding her that it was her poor study habits that resulted in where she is now. (My sister's also the type to binge drink, wait in line at clubs, has no interest in current events other than celebrity gossip, etc. She's basically an airhead is what I'm saying.)

Paul says when we have children, I will be Tiger Mom material. (He'll be Panda Dad.) He's told friends that I don't take crap from anyone, including him. He respects this about me. But he also criticizes me for being too insistent for an admission of guilt. Paul says it's hard for some people to admit to mistakes even if they make a mental note to never do it again.

Granted, I would've had more respect for my sister if she admitted that she wanted an iPad because everyone else has one and she bought into the hype.  I also would've had more sympathy if she hadn't blatantly lied to our mom about needing one for school, knowing our family is experiencing some major financial difficulties. In fact, she told me only days ago the rent she collects from her roommates is barely helping her break even every month, and yet she wants to use her student loans to buy a stupid toy for herself? What has she done to deserve a pat on the back? Are people handing out trophies for stumbling home safely?

As you can see, our sibling rivalry runs deep. Even with six years between us and two decades to get used to her existence, we cannot be in the same room for more than an hour without fighting. She thinks I'm the biggest hardass and I think she's the biggest dumbass. If there is a god, he must be laughing because he gave me the hardest karmic hurdle to climb and I'm still at base camp.