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First, let me say how amazing you all are for showing up and talking with me every day. I love my job, but this community has really been giving me life lately and I’m so thankful for it. You guys are so awesome and are each doing so much in your own work. I’ve been thinking a ton on all the things it takes to make our businesses thrive – all the things I’ve had to figure out, mistakes I’ve made (thousands), and growth I’ve seen. What would be amazing for any business owner is to be able to go back and have our 2019 selves talk to ourselves last year, and the year before that, and if 2021 us could come back to speak with us now.

As much as I wish we could all do that, we can’t, but what we can do in our community is help each other out. Having your own business is amazing, but tough. We’re all a rookie in some sense, a veteran in different ways. We are always growing, making some mistakes, and always learning. The good thing is we’ve got community here which is so helpful in making hard lessons easier to learn. We can totally share to encourage or prevent mistakes or validate or whatever we need to make our creative businesses thrive. In a ton of ways – in our strengths and weaknesses – we are all versions of each other in different aspects of our business. Surrounding yourself with people (and being the type of person) who picks others up when they fall and builds them up when they stand tall is so important.

 

That’s what you guys are to me – this community. I love getting to see it every day. A few weeks ago I asked on Instagram what the best thing you’ve done for your business is. YOU GUYS SHOWED UP SO HARD! I got hundreds and hundreds of responses and dm’s that were SO damn good. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it all but knew it had to be shared, so, I talked with a friend (maybe that’s tip #1? Talk with friends you trust about what to do, haha) and we looked at the responses and knew we had to organize them and share them. So here we go! I took the first 100 responses from you guys and organized them, but then I also asked a few of my good friends who are creatives and have their own business to help speak a little more on those ideas you brought up.

There were so many good responses, so I broke them down into a few categories
01
Business
02
Trusting Yourself
03
Client Experience
04
Bucking Trends
05
Balance
06
Long-Term Approach
Here’s what you guys said about running your business
  • 01 “Hiring an assistant. Realizing I can’t do it all alone.” @laruaraephotography
  • 02 “Create a work schedule.” – @taymeophotography
  • 03 “Invest in education.” – @lisalarkphoto
  • 04 “invested in all the equipment and flights to get more of the content and clients I want.” – @michaelakesslerphotography
  • 05 “Honeybook and getting a bookkeeper and accountant.” – @elizabethgrantphotography
  • 06 “Honeybook and hiring my husband ;)” – @hellocaitcarr
  • 07 “Workshops and investing in education resources.” – @hannycrabb
  • 08 “Rebranding and hiring professionals to do things for me. I realized I can’t do it all.” – @emily_wehner
  • 09 “Education and spending money, so I don’t have to do it all.” – @janallaphoto
  • 10 “Getting a mentor, hands down.” – @elishamariephoto
  • 11 “No, working for free!” – @belovedproductions
  • 12 “Upping my prices.” @lauradeanweddings
  • 13 “Hired an assistant” – @thiswildromancephoto
  • 14 “Quitting my job and forcing myself to finally start this business, because then I had no choice.” – @sydneylynncranford
  • 15 “Invested in advertising and SEO.” @sierragrown
  • 16 “Invested in education, 100%. Especially from you!” – @thesecondstar_totheright
  • 17 “Investing in education from other people I wanted to learn from.” – @mckellwall.photography
  • 18 “Hire a designer to create a legit brand and web designer.” – @courtneysheasmith
  • 19 “Honeybook and trusting God for growth, not my strength.” – @sincerelythekitchens
  • 20 “Making a website and business cards.” – @chandlerkphotos
  • 21 “Honeybook.” – @jessdiazphoto
  • 22 “Investing in a Canon 5D Mark IV, prime lenses, and using your code to get Honeybook.” – @momentsphotographylv
  • 23 “Raising my prices and buying your presets.” – @maddiemstokes
  • 24 “Investing in education, workshops, and making friends in the community.” – @kennymmarsh
  • 25 “Going full time and investing in the equipment I needed.” – @sophieaxiemae
  • 26 “Creating a workflow and guides for common FAQs and styling.” – @makenzysmith
  • 27 “Stop trying to snag every potential client, which means letting them go when they don’t like my prices.” – @jessthesimp
  • 28 “Investing in myself-classes, equipment, etc.” – @ro.birkey
  • 29 “Invested in tools to streamline my process and save me time.” – @elenaogle
  • 30 “Setting my pricing based off my expenses and how much I’d like to make each year.” – @landonlacey
  • 31 “Investing in the right education and workshops.” – @sarah.twohill
  • 32 “100% dedication. Save 30% of everything I make, know how to SELL, invest in your business.” – @taylersuterko

“At the beginning of 2019, I chose to dedicate my time and energy to educating myself in all things business-related. I’ve found so much information from podcasts, online courses, and even Instagram accounts. By giving myself a better foot to stand on and feeding my mind good, QUALITY content, my business has grown tenfold…. LITERALLY. I also found a business partner that is just as passionate and hungry to make this company thrive as I am, and it has been the biggest game-changer! As much as I hated admitting it, you can’t always do it alone. Having a good partner or team not only makes your life easier but helps truly grow your business.”

Sam Hobson aka @marmalaid

“The big one for me is that I wished I had started earlier with seeking financial management education and focusing on truly building wealth. I read the book Profit First, implementing some of the main principles in the book. This completely transformed the way my money flowed, so I had a super clear picture of my expenses and profits. I also started using the apps Qapital and Betterment to implement consistent savings transfers and promised myself that money was untouchable. And finally, I hired a team to manage my finances and taxes (Shannon and Chad at http://www.polaristaxes.com/ are the bomb!). Now I feel completely in control and at ease about my financial direction, which is such an amazing feeling.”

Catalina Jean aka @SEOISFUN

So many good points about trusting yourself
  • 01 “Getting off my butt and starting it. It’s done so much for me in my confidence.” – @lynnshapirophotography
  • 02 “Taking the leap to make it full time. Dedicating time to it made all the difference.” @megpiephoto
  • 03 “Raise the prices to what my work is worth.” @syndey.owens
  • 04 “Realizing my potential and deciding to quit hiding me to try and ‘be’ a certain thing.” – @sarahwilhelmphotography
  • 05 “Selling the shares of a business I created to start on a new path was the hardest but best.” – @mattyroh90
  • 06 “Going part-time at my 9-5 to pursue my business.” – @olviakharding
  • 07 “Trusted my gut and went for it! Also, fully investing in branding and gear.” – @madisonwrightphoto
  • 08 “Take second shooter/mentorships.” – @morgangeremiaphotography
  • 09 “Quit school and decided to dedicate myself to what I love and pursue education through a different avenue.” – @karinagoel
  • 10 “Have more confidence in myself. Charing a little harder and trying to jump out of my comfort zone.” – @zuzrocka
  • 11 “Started! Stopped the self-doubt talk that comes with starting something new!” – @graygoosechild
  • 12 “Gave all my time, knowledge, and abilities to achieve my dreams” – @enriquecalvo_
  • 13 “Defined what success was to me and stay on track mentally.” – @cassitrottierphoto
  • 14 “Say yes to new opportunities.” – @flaurelphotography

I think of this like the edge of the pool feeling we all know – we’re going to jump into the pool but still we almost always hesitate, right? This relates so much to our lives and business, and this is maybe the most important category in my mind because FEAR enters into most everyone’s life who is asking for something better/fun/good/happy. Better is exactly what we’re asking for ourselves and our clients when we start a business. Spoiler alert with this – if there is belief, there will be doubt. If you feel it, that’s normal, but shifting that fear into motivation and confidence is so important. Wynn Wiley and Emma Quinn, two absolutely amazing humans, touched on this. If you’ve know of them already (which you should try to do if you don’t), you’d know their heart, have seen their battles and watched them champion vulnerability over and over again. When it comes to jumping into the pool, they’d always be the first.

“I wish that I would have learned earlier that I need to be the witness and not the judge. And that the only thing that doesn’t go out of style is the truth. I just want the people considered hiring us as photographers for anything is that um, you really don’t need me/us. I mean it.

You don’t need a photographer to come and make your story or your lives or your wedding day into something that can have a pretty bow wrapped around it. And you sure as heck don’t need one to take your story & your uniqueness and turn it into something that fits some mold or the industry’s mold of what’s “in” with poses or golden light or perfect tones. I’ve spent far too long doing this. Hear me say it again – I am so. Guilty. Of this. Lately, letting go of controlling every element of a shoot to fit “my aesthetic” has brought me to one place- happiness. Finally. Again. Doing something I love.

And to you, the photographer reading this. We have to do better. As an individual. As an industry. For our clients. To tell their truth. Our clients don’t need our fingerprints, and they sure don’t need our ego or what we make to keep up with the Jones’ of other photographers here on an app that will be more irrelevant than myspace in a few years.

The days of the Instagram aesthetic are over. The only thing that doesn’t go out of style is the truth. Hands-off, heart on, let’s make photos that make us all feel again.”

Wyn Wiley aka @wynwileyphoto & @pattiegonia

“The best thing I’ve done has also been the biggest challenge – growing while not being over-influenced by the work of people I look up to. Being vulnerable here – it’s been hard. I’ve been a rollercoaster of trying to learn from others’ work in the process of pursuing my own improvement. I’m moving from putting myself and my creativity into a cramped little box to opening that box up and KEEPING IT OPEN. I make it habit to attend workshops as it’s important always to be learning, but the key is to take what you learn and shape it to who you are and the people you work with, NOT take who you are and your couples and shape it around what you see in the industry. I look at it as contrasting rather than comparing – comparing looks for a winner and a loser and says ‘this is better and this is not as good’ whereas contrasting says ‘I like this and I LOVE that’… I feel contrasting gives me better direction and keeps me in a healthier, more creative state. I felt like this was best for my couples as well, because they got me, not a folder of other people’s ideas.”

Emma Quinn aka @helloimemmaquinn

You brought up mentorship and client experience a lot
  • 01 “Developed mentor relationships! Also, interned for a photographer!” – @melissastuckeyphoto
  • 02 “Mentorships/workshops.” – @sydnee_australia
  • 03 “Freedom, investing in myself through workshops.” – @wolf_and_light
  • 04 “Making things more personable. Being very intentional.” @kaitymaee
  • 05 “Only posting the kind of clients and work I want to book!” – @photoswithjill
  • 06 “Going quality over quantity for clientele!! Working with people who get what I’m doing.” – @hm_murph
  • 07 “Workshops, personal shoots, traveling.” – @vic.and.josh
  • 08 “Collaborate with other artists who are way ahead of me.” – @kiiimbo3

A lot of people’s emotions are based on how they felt when the picture was taken. This is why it’s so important that not only the photo is amazing, but the experience of the people who hired us was! Dawn Charles and Autumn Nicole touched on how focusing on the person was the best thing for their work, business, and opening new doors.

“I think the number one thing I did was when I decided to stop trying to be the photographer I thought people wanted and show people who I am. Everything from my website to my Instagram and interacting with my clients are 100% genuine. I want people looking into hiring me to know exactly the kind of person they’re working with. It opens the doors to real friendship with my clients, rather than just a working relationship. This has made my business and branding unique, more authentic, and way more enjoyable. Plus, I’m able to capture people better when they already know and are comfortable around me.”

— Autumn Nicole aka @autumnnicole_

“The best thing I’ve done for my business is to learn that I don’t have to be the right photographer for everyone. So much freedom came from realizing that I only have to speak to my people and be the best photographer for them. That realization allowed me to be comfortable in my creative skin and stop worrying about repelling people that weren’t right for me anyway! Instead, I make true, authentic connections with the clients who chose me for me.”

— Dawn Charles aka @dawn.charles

Something every industry struggles with embracing or bucking trends on their way to success. As creatives, this is a touchy subject but you guys brought up great points on navigating this.
  • 01 “Connecting with other creatives and meeting likeminded people.” – @charlottesowmanphotography
  • 02 “Collaboration has always taught me the most.” – @kateoliverphotos
  • 03 “Create a website instead of relying on social media for clients.” – @haileylowexo
  • 04 “Ignoring people who said I couldn’t do it.” – @elisabeth.strack
  • 05 “Believed in myself. Trust.” @annkatrin_braun_photo
  • 06 “Stopped working full-time on my other job.” – @manonengelsphotography
  • 07 “Creating content whenever I can.” – @t.bri.nphotography
  • 08 “Staying unique and not following the worlds ideas.” – @mosvideography
  • 09 “Just going for it, doing shoots, getting content, posting and creating.” – @danisokphoto
  • 10 “Getting involved in everything I can and talking to everyone within that.” – @gabby.webb
  • 11 “Unfollowed a ton of other photographers because of comparison and self-judgment.” – @samanthamoonphotography
  • 12 “Constantly putting work out there. Making sure it’s work that I am proud of.” – @jennyclairhiggs
  • 13 “Networking! Making friends in the photo community.” – @emma.halet
  • 14 “Continuing education even if it helps my confidence and nothing else.” @haleyjphoto
  • 15 “Do whatever I want and always put myself first.” – @lindseyboluyt

So the bottom line is a lot of our work will be similar, but if we’re trying to copy someone else’s work we’re not going to get it right, our clients won’t get OUR best work, and you’ll probably struggle mentally and in your bottom line. Following your creative touch is key, but it can be hard to navigate. Good friends Easton Walker and Cara Fuller talked about inspiration and creativity.

“The day I allowed myself to look beyond the limits and really go for what I wanted was the day my business changed. It didn’t matter what gear I had, how long I had been shooting, who I knew, what others thought, or where I’d been. If I set out to make something happen and gave it everything I had, it happened. And it’s still happening. Getting out of my own way and believing it was actually possible was the best thing I’ve done.”

— Cara Fuller

“In a world where it is increasingly easier and easier to pick up your phone and “find inspiration” for your work, how do you maintain individuality/originality in your shooting style? For us, it begins and ends with having a style and feel to our life, and that tends to always translate to our work. We wear Hawaiian shirts and Vans to weddings because that is who we are (plus we don’t own a tie), so having your style and sticking to it will resonate with the people who hire you and in the film or photo you create. If you have a weird idea or weird shot you want to try or even a weird joke you want to tell, LET IT FLY! See if it sticks and if it doesn’t, there are no worries because you were letting your individuality run crazy and no one can fault you for that.”

— Easton Walker aka @ravenrosefilms

Wisdom on finding happiness and success at the same time (aka BALANCE)
  • 01 “Learning to work my booty off but not forcing growth it’s not ready for.” – @saammwiches
  • 02 “Taking time off.” – @bn_____
  • 03 “No editing on weekends/late nights/and taking breaks to mentally rejuvenate.” – @kenibphotography
  • 04 “Finding a balance between creating things for others and creating things just for me.” – @taylormhall_
  • 05 “Looking after my mental health – meditation, exercise, and cut off times.” – @plume_creative_
  • 06 “Hired a mentor for this year!” – @jessikachristinephoto
  • 07 “Setting business hours for myself instead of working in line at the store.” – @digitallyengraved
  • 08 “Hire help. Nanny. Editor. Assistant.” – @jaleesamatteazziphotography
  • 09 “Prioritizing my mental health.” – @claudz.photography
  • 10 “Taking Holidays!” – @sundaysunphotography
  • 11 “Quit full-time job I hated. Started with no money, but I’m happier and healthier.” – @joannaelizaphotography
  • 12 “Set personal boundaries with work and social life.” – @sarah_gehman
  • 13 “Saying yes to space. Allowing myself a night off even when I have a ton to edit.” – @livvincentphotos
  • 14 “Learning boundaries and saying NO!’ – @alysarenephotography
  • 15 “Making my workspace and not working at the kitchen table.” – @lindseyk.photo
  • 16 “Making myself say positive things about my work, not just criticize after each shoot.” – @andrea.neff.photos
  • 17 “Taking mental days and ensuring I have time for myself every single week.” – @emsavs_
  • 18 “Knowing when to take a step back and give yourself time to breathe.” – @itsmelissak
  • 19 “Co-work out of our local bouldering gym. Daily yoga classes for mental clarity.” – @karin_samelson
  • 20 “Constantly reminding myself how valuable my time is. And saying no a lot.” – @tessauroraweaver
  • 21 “Outsource editing!” – @erincovecreative

Two people who are amazing at listening to their soul and their mind at the same time are two wonder couples in Abbi and Callen Hearne and Nate and Megan Kantor. They are so travel heavy that they’ve had to manage the miles putting wear on their bodies just as much as the time shooting and in front of a computer. They’d be the first to admit it’s hard to balance this and also that sometimes it’s a sprint, but even in the hustle you have to find your place of rest and love, otherwise what’s the point?

“As an adventure wedding photographer, it’s always been super important to me to actually ‘get amongst it’ and live an adventurous life. For the most part, if we’re shooting an elopement in a National Park, we already have experience exploring, hiking, climbing, and just having fun in that park. I am super adamant about work-life balance. For me, it means making sure I have plenty of time climbing towers in Moab instead of just shooting weddings with the towers as props. When I’m in Yosemite, even if I shoot 8 of the 10 days I am there, I make time to climb and hike with friends. I believe, for entrepreneurs, the workload has so much more to do with our mindset than our actual must-do list. There are certainly times for the grind but, overall, I know I am a much better photographer, creative, service provider, and person if I’m taking time to do things that aren’t directly related to my business.”

— Abbi Hearne of @thehearnes & @abbihearne

“One of the biggest things we’ve done for our business is to prioritize quality in all aspects… including our own lives. Lots of people get burned out in their first few years doing this work, and it’s understandable. The long hours behind a screen, the managing expectations, the giving of everything you have – energy, time, priorities – every single weekend, it can be hard to sustain. Focusing on our quality of life by raising our prices to make sure we’re paid a proper living wage, taking on fewer weddings, and giving ourselves actual days off to go do things outside of photography has made our business so much more fulfilling to us. We’ve learned to make room for our life to exist outside of our business.”

— Megan Kantor of @cedarandpines & @megankantor

Last, you guys brought up good points about focusing on being in it for the long-haul
  • 01 “Self-growth and introspection! Following where my heart and gut were leading me and prioritizing learning.” – @featherandtwine
  • 02 “Not giving up… even when you think it’s just not working out, I always kept trying and learning.” – @loghanbennett
  • 03 “Passion projects.” – @nessietodd
  • 04 “Identifying my ‘why,’ establishing goals, and staying true to my values.” – @ashschellburg
  • 05 “Never comparing myself to other photogs because there IS enough room at the table.” – @lexxayyyye
  • 06 “Built a relationship and friendship with several good coaches! Game changer.” – @shalyce_janae
  • 07 “Moving out west – best decision ever.” – @_acranephoto
  • 08 “Surrounding myself with other photographers who are encouraging, loving, and uplifting.” – @ren.mckenzie
  • 09 “Research. Aligning with those who inspire me and learning from them.” – @estormstudio

Keeping your eyes set on the long term is vitally important to make sure you’re creating a career, not a hobby. This entails all of the things we talked about above wrapped into one. Ultimately, the long haul of your business is going to be a defining part of your success, who you are, your happiness, and your family. Like maintaining your body, this takes understanding how health works in order to make sure you keep going. My two friends Jordan Voth and Travis Wild are two people whose eyes have always been looking far down the road and prove focusing on wisdom and truth will shape your life in the best ways.

“One of the best things I’ve done for myself and my business was never putting myself in a box when it comes to what I shoot. Before weddings, I started out photographing fashion & lifestyle work and working with clients such as Nike & Finish Line. Since I began photographing weddings, I have found a great balance between commercial/lifestyle work & weddings/engagements. Whenever I feel burned out on one, I will photograph the other to spark my creativeness again. It really helps me bring my very best to each shoot.”

— Jordan Voth aka @jordanvoth & @septembertheshop

“I’m a writer, videographer, and photographer, but from early on so many people told me to specialize, give up two skillsets and pursue one. They were probably right in some ways, but it never felt right for me. Telling a story in-whole and being able to communicate in different ways is important to me. Having a diverse skill set has also connected me to people and businesses alike that’s given me tons of opportunities. So, I’d tell myself to trust my skills and work in the direction I want to go. Create even when no one is looking yet and show what you can do. And when your eyes are set on a way different goal than what others want, that’s fine, it’ll likely serve you well in the long run anyway. Personally, I think of it like, yeah, if you want to grow a tree focus all your resources on that tree and make it awesome, but I’ve always wanted to grow a forest. I’m going to do what it takes, no matter how patient I have to be, because I want the forest.”

— Travis Wild aka @travywild & @travisawild

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