Autistic Wedding Vendors: Managing Meetings in the Industry
Early in my career, before I realized I was an Autistic wedding photographer, I thought I had to meet with potential clients in-person to get to know each other and showcase albums. This evolved into letting folks know that as a parent of two young children, I preferred virtual meetings.
Avoiding Autistic Burnout as a Wedding Vendor
I scheduled video calls around the marriers’ availability, which often meant having weekend consults or rushing to put the kids to bed so I could make an evening call. I found myself having what I now know is Autistic burnout if I scheduled more than one of these per week.
In order to sustain my energy, I’ve been approaching calls with less urgency–scheduling out to the following weeks. I let folks know of my weekday availability (8:45am-3pm) and share that I’m happy to answer questions via email outside of those hours. I try to offer as much information as possible prior to meetings, so we can focus on figuring out if we’re a fit for each other during our time together.
Do I lose bookings by having hours that likely don’t work with many of their schedules? Absolutely. Do I also gain the respect of others for setting work/life boundaries? For sure. While my tendency was to apologize for putting myself first in a business that feels like it should always be client-centered, potential clients have gone out of their way to tell me they respect my transparency.
I typically share something like, “While I’m happy to schedule a Zoom call, emailing or collaborating in a shared Google doc tends to be more accessible for me, if that would be of interest.” For some, that can be more accessible, while others may find virtual time more accommodating.
Navigating and Deconstructing Industry Norms
There are so many industry norms we may feel we have to follow as wedding professionals, especially when comparing what our peers may be offering. At the end of the day, we have to do what is most sustainable for our businesses and bodies–especially if we’re Disabled, chronically ill, and/or neurodivergent. Privileges definitely afford me the ability to make my own rules and go against the grain. However, the more we advocate for ourselves by asking for accommodations we need, the more we create space for our potential clients to do the same.
[Image descriptions: All graphics have photos of wedding clients interacting or close-ups of their hands. (1): Text reads: “Managing meetings in the wedding industry. Finding balance can feel impossible when scheduling potential client meetings. Let’s talk about how to ask for accommodations, especially as chronically ill, Disabled, and neurodivergent business owners.” (2): “#1 Releasing shoulds: The wedding industry can make us feel like we should have to meet with potential clients, often in-person. For many of us, as caregivers or people with limited spoons, that’s not accessible.” (3): “#2: Meetings aren’t mandatory. When potential client meetings—whether in-person or virtual—lead to burnout, it’s okay to redirect to email or ask for accommodations that work for your accessibility needs.” (4): “An example script: ‘While I’m happy to schedule a Zoom call, emailing or collaborating in a shared Google doc tends to be more accessible for me, if that would be of interest.’” (5): “#3: Virtual availability: When we do schedule video calls, centering them around our own availability can lead to less burnout. While it can feel selfish in an industry that is client-centered, many folks will respect transparency and work/life boundaries.” (6): “Zoom fatigue: In the Medium piece, ‘What Zoom Fatigue Feels Like When You’re Autistic,’ writer Jae L. shares: ‘If you’re Autistic, as well as having to work even harder to process sensory input, you’re likely to experience some additional challenges that increase the cognitive load.’” Following the text is a photo of an excerpt from the article, including things like small talk, the need to perform, conversations being hard to follow, eye contact being difficult, and anxiety. (7:) “#4: Sustaining our spoons: We have to do what is most sustainable for our businesses and bodies–especially if we’re Disabled, chronically ill, and/or neurodivergent wedding vendors in a capitalist, ism-filled industrial complex that wasn’t designed for us.” (8): “Creating space: The more we advocate for ourselves by asking for accommodations we need, the more we create space for potential clients to do the same.”]