“Well, that was a pretty good year.” The Boss tells me in the second week of December. “We should be starting up again in March.”
“March?” I asked. “As in three months from now, March?”
“Yeah, this is the slow time of the year. No one wants to book now, so we just wait a couple of months and then it will be back not normal again.”
“So what am I supposed to do while I’m waiting for you to Start Up again?”
“File for Unemployment. That’s what everyone else does.”
There are a lot of Assembly Line Portrait companies that just shut down for several months a year. This comes as a bit of a shock to people who have been working in the Real World. Directory work dries up in the middle of December, School work dries up anytime the Schools are closed, High School Senior work is really intense for a few months and then it dries up till the next batch of Seniors are ready to go.
The only Assembly Line Portrait companies that seem to have pretty full schedules pretty much all the time are the ones that employee Pre-Sellers. The Pre-Seller, The Booker, The Advance Sales Person, The Marketing Rep, are where all the weasels who make WKRP’s Herb Tarlek look like an angel end up. Pre-Sellers get paid by getting people to fill out a form and forcing them to fork over $10 bucks. They do this By Any Means Necessary. I hate them, but at least you always have work.
I have always had moral qualms about filing for Unemployment Benefits when I have a job that doesn’t have work for me. One of my co-workers liked to brag that she made more from Unemployment than she made from the job. I don’t see anything there to be proud of.
But being out of work for two or three months at a time, or having four or five days of work in a month, means that you have to apply for Unemployment to get by. It’s just enough to pay the rent and the car payment and let you fall a few month behind on your credit cards. On the plus side, the internet has made Filing for Unemployment a snap.
This is a good time to look for other jobs, but you soon enough find out that the other Assembly Line Portrait Companies are also slow at some point in the calendar and you might as well try to hang on where your at. Besides, after a while you’ve worked at all The Usual Suspects and have nowhere left to go. So most Assembly Line Photographers that leave end up doing something besides photography-which is too bad, as some of them are damned good photographers.
The Slow Period is where I should be working on That Novel or Starting My Own Business or shooting Day Cares or Fundraisers or Apartment Complexes. I should be doing some of the things mentioned in How To Make $25,000 a year with Your Camera and The Kathleen Hawkins Guide to Sales and Marketing for Professional Photographers. I should be looking for a Gallery to show my Fine Art Prints or setting up at Arts and Craft Fairs and selling the canvases myself. I should be learning how to shoot weddings.
But somehow I end up drifting through my days without work reading novels and watching TV. And waiting for that phone call that tells me I’ve got an account to go and work.