One of the things I am most grateful for is a best friend who also runs a photography business. We are able to be constant sounding boards for each other, and over the years I have realized that not everyone has that blessing in their life. The entrepreneur life is a roller coaster. You can be flying high one second, and panicking in less than an hour. I am so thankful to have someone that I can be entirely honest with about what’s not working, or share my new big ideas, and celebrate successes- never in competition- I mean, goodness that’s just so valuable!! Even when she tells me what I don’t want to hear. Like how I need more spreadsheets and budgets in my life!
Last month we decided a few days of in-person brainstorming and goal setting was what we really needed this January. Because she’s strong in what I desperately need help with, and vice versa. We got really inspired when we saw Nancy Ray whip out her big poster board, so we decided to get creative and think outside just a few sheets of paper too. She showed up with a car full of poster board, and we spent two days digging deep, asking ourselves “why”, and brainstorming for clarity.
It’s one thing to look at what’s not working in your business- but it can be a whole other mountain to create the action steps to fix it. That’s what we wanted to leave last week with- not just the big goals, but the tangible list of how we plan to achieve them. I am feeling relieved that everything is out on paper instead of swimming around my brain, fired up that 2016 looks like the most amazing year yet, and absolutely terrified at the intimidating size of some of the things I wrote down!!
Here are a look at some of the top things that definitely DID work in 2015:
I CONTINUED TO PURSUE MY OWN VOICE AND STYLE: My greatest goal of 2015 was to use film in my commissioned portrait sessions. To see so much of my website portfolio now showing that reality, is such a joy to me. I have been drawn to black and white film for as long as I can remember, before I ever thought I would be running a portrait business, and now I use it to create art for families. Intimate, emotional, timeless, black and white portraiture is becoming more and more of my signature style, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a style of work that isn’t full of striving for me- it is naturally how I see moments unfold, and clients are finding me and specifically booking my services because of it.
I LAUNCHED A BRAND NEW WEBSITE: This past summer I signed up for Squarespace and launched a brand new website that I designed myself. It was a long labor of love, as I worked long and hard to choose every word and image exactly as I wanted. My About Pages took me many months to write, as I would come back to them again and again, wanting every single word to be my very own, and perfectly descriptive of the mothers and families I long to work with, and the brand I have poured myself into.
I BEGAN BLOGGING AGAIN: For much of 2015, and even previous months to that, I stopped blogging outside of SEO upkeep. This decision was born out trying to find my own way, my own space, and my own vision. I didn’t want to blog just because that was what everyone said you were “supposed to do”. It was really important to me that my clients were able to see a professional, polished, portfolio focused site when first encountering my work. Having had an all in one blogsite, I knew that in order to blog more frequently about business, my personal ideas, travel, and more- that for my own taste, I needed to separate these sites. I now blog under my own vision, confident in my own voice and why I do it, and I think the response has been a good one!
SEEKING EDUCATION & INSPIRATION FROM OUTSIDE THE PHOTOGRAPHY INDUSTRY: When I first started my photography business, I was hungry to learn anything from anyone. I read numerous blog posts per day, searched for interviews from my favorite leaders, and took anyone’s words of success and tried applying it toward my own. As I grew in my craft and found my own style and brand, I narrowed in on the photographers I found most inspirational, and narrowed my sphere of influence to their education platform. While I still learn from this group, this year I began to look outside the photography industry and stared looked at creative entrepreneurs as a whole. I began listening to business podcasts, reading books, and learning from authors, speakers, and creative business owners who have nothing to do with photography, but everything to do with running a successful business. This was a game changer for the way I viewed how I run my own, and I am going to continue to do so in the year to come!
HONEYBOOK: I plan to blog more about this software in detail this month, but only being a Honeybook user for just under a month, I am already confident that it belongs on this list- and that’s really saying something! I got so BUSY this past Fall, with so much traveling, and many projects to upkeep on my plate- that I was really feeling the stress that came with not having the organization that I desperately needed. I was outgrowing the system I created to use myself, but nothing until Honeybook came along filled that need (and my sanity!!) sufficiently. Honeybook is an online software that allows you to manage your studio all from one dashboard- from custom proposals, online invoicing, client payments, and more. If you are in the wedding industry, you can even team up with other vendors under one workspace! I have previously tried online systems like this in the past, such as Shoot Q, Pixifi, and 17 Hats, but this is the first system I have stuck with and LOVED. It has a clean, professional, branded user interface, and the customer support is unmatched from my other personal experiences.
HAVING A BOOKKEEPER: It’s one of the only parts of my business that I outsource, and she is worth every penny. It started somewhere around Algebra for me. From the very beginning of life itself I have hated numbers. I don’t want to look at them, add them, track them, subtract them, or spreadsheet them. So I wouldn’t. And then I would be in a total mess come tax season. Knowing my numbers are being organized by someone who is gifted in this area is my saving grace and definitely goes under what worked for 2015.
HOSTING MY FIRST WORKSHOP: The Fount Collective, my second business endeavor, hosted our first workshop at Marianmade Farm in Wiscasset, Maine this past May and with only a few minor “first workshop” set backs, it was all in all a great success. I was blown away by how rewarding and fulfilling it was to see other photographers of motherhood come learn and be inspired. Alongside that, we opened registration for our May 2016 workshop this fall and it completely sold out in just weeks. It was definitely a cause for celebration, and made it’s deserved place on this what worked list.
But 2015 wasn’t perfect. Here are a look at some of the top things that definitely could have gone better:
COMMITMENT TO A MONTHLY MAINTENANCE DAY: Let’s just say that the proof is in the pudding- like when I went to get my annual mileage totals to my bookkeeper last week, only to realize I had installed the amazing Mile IQ app last January, but didn’t actually begin using it to track miles until August, AND I didn’t classify what miles were for my business until….last week… all at once. So not recommended. Tasks like this get seriously ignored when I am busy, and I am an expert at justifying why a task I would prefer to complete should take priority over a task that needs to be completed. It’s an unfortunate gift, really. So this year, I am once again, committing to a monthly business maintenance day that will help me to stay on top of #AllTheThings.
BEING BUSINESS MINDED AND FINANCIALLY CONFIDENT: As a creative, it is so easy to make business decisions based on “pretty things”. Pretty branding, pretty packaging, pretty camera bag, pretty workshops…seeing my business through the lens of BUSINESS and not just creativity has never been a strength of mine. However, this first full year of being full time has taught me differently. I learned some really hard lessons in the hardest of ways. But this year is going to be different. I am taking steps to make sure my decisions are more about business in the year to come. The bottom line, is that if my business isn’t making a profit, than I can’t do this as a business. And if I can’t do this as a business, that mother, who longingly prayed to have children for years, won’t have that meaningful black and white portrait holding her baby, in the unique and special way that only I see motherhood and family. So it’s not a bad thing, profit. It’s necessary. I took out my profit and loss statements from 2015 and really studied them for the first time. I am going into the new year with an entirely new outlook on how I make my decisions, and I am excited to see those changes take place.
BETTER MANAGING MY TIME: Working from home, with no accountability for my schedule, has been challenging. So much of my personal reflections had to do with wanting more time for the things I am passionate for outside of business. This showed me that I wasn’t being as efficient as I could be with the office hours I had. Or rather, made me realize that I didn’t really have office hours at all. This year, I am setting better boundaries for my work hours, making better use of auto responses for email, and intentionally taking time to do more of what fires me up personally.
TRAVELING MYSELF THIN & WEARY: 2015 was a year of incredible travel adventure for me. Opportunities came my way that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I got to photograph in the countryside of Denmark and ride a bicycle through the cobblestone streets of Copenhagen. I got to photograph at the base of waterfalls, the peak of mountains, and the black sand beaches of Iceland. I got to walk the pier of Newport Beach, California, see the sunrise in Charleston, glimpse the slopes of Stowe, Vermont and sip cappuccinos with close friends in Atlanta. It was all so beautiful and amazing. But there was also too much in a too little time. I was not intentional with my session scheduling, and made countless exhausting drives to Connecticut to make sure everyone’s maternity session was photographed on the perfect week of expectancy, and that their baby wasn’t too old to show that newborn squish. It burned me out not ever being home long enough to complete a load of laundry, or sort the mail. I had watched other photographers live that traveling life, and I saw how tired they were when I saw them in person. I promised myself I would better care for my schedule when the time came, and this past year I did not. It made for the worst version of myself at home- always exhausted both physically and mentally. I attended two Fall conferences and had nothing to hardly contribute to a conversation with those I admired most in the world. I was depleted in a way that a good night’s sleep just doesn’t cure. So this year, in 2016, I am committing to better caring for myself in the amount of travel I take on. I will be more selective in my trips to Connecticut and New York, and hope to work with many more local families here along the coast of Maine.
Although I am keeping many of the specific goals of the year under wraps, here is a look at my vision for the new year:
It’s trendy now to choose a word for the year, but I believe it can be such a powerful way to create an intentional direction for the next 12 months, both personally and in business.
I began knowing what my 2016 word would be months before January rolled around, and that word is “WELL”. In both definitions, I want to see this word come to life this year as I personally dig my spiritual “well” deeper. No longer depleted, but with something of value to draw from for ministry and family legacy both. In business, I want this to be a year of doing business “well”. To make decisions and find direction with intention, with vision, with careful thought and planning- without rushing. To chose “well” over “first”.
Some of the goals I have set for this year both personally and in my business:
What about you? Have you taken time to think about what worked and what didn’t work last year? If you are feeling overwhelmed and maybe unsure of where to start with this, I recommend investing in Lara Casey’s Powersheets. They are such a great resource and helpful tool to get your mind in the place it needs to be to set intentional goals and action steps for the year ahead, both personally and in business.
I am looking forward to a year full of promise, and doing business WELL.