Categories: Business & Photography.
I think as other small business owners may do, lately I’ve been wondering about this whole “success” thing. What does it mean to succeed? When you have you really “made” it? What are you supposed to feel? What’s supposed to happen? What comes after success?
As I’ve thought more and more about what success is, I’ve realized that there’s so much value in actually putting a definition on what it means to you as an individual. Success to me is going to be completely different from anyone else. Without defining what success is to you, it’s so easy to feel like you should be striving for someone else’s version of it…which is simply leading you down the wrong path and further away from true success for yourself.
I’ve defined success on a small scale to keep it manageable. One wedding at a time. So to me, I’ve succeeded if at the end of each wedding, I have delivered an easy and enjoyable experience from inquiry through image or album delivery, complete with a collection of images that authentically tells the story of the day. In my head, this has to go on a wedding-by-wedding basis, because viewing it as an entire wedding season rather than thinking about each couple’s unique experience minimizes the gravity of how important this experience is for my couples. There are no words for much joy and happiness I feel when I create a story of a wedding day with beautiful, real moments, or when my clients tell me that I made their wedding day fun and comfortable, or when they thank me for helping them stay on track and stay organized and prepared throughout the planning process. That is my success. And it feels SO good!
But I know that success can be so many things. It can be material, it can have to do with the balance of your family, it can be working with a certain type of clientele or in a certain market, etc. However, we live in a world where it’s become normal to equate success with how much money you make. This is the trap I was falling into when I realized something was wrong. Obviously there’s no getting around the fact that you have to make money to live, but me making more money was not going to make my clients happier. It was not going to make their experience better. It was not going to make them trust me more, or more excited to work with me. So when I realized my mind was super conflicted on what success was, that’s when I knew that actually defining it for myself would allow me to think much clearer about my business and be much less inclined to stray off the right path.
What have I done with this definition? I’ve actually written it down and put it on the wall behind my computer. Why? Because in a world where everyone has the means to share all of the great things in their life, it’s way too easy to believe success is in these small little details. Yes, everyone loves to see their work published. Who wouldn’t love the honor of being asked to speak somewhere or be interviewed? And you must be a big deal if you have X amount of Facebook fans, likes, Instagram and Twitter followers, blog comments, etc. Don’t get lost in thinking that is what TRUE, long-term success is.
Your success should be nobody else’s and nobody else’s success should be yours. We are all meant to offer something different and unique, so do some soul-searching…figure out what REALLY makes you feel like you’ve arrived. It should be something that makes your heart so happy that you want to scream it from the rooftops, but then you realize it’s your definition of success and nobody else’s, so you don’t NEED to scream it from the rooftops. It just makes you feel so good inside knowing you did it, and you don’t need validation from anyone else. And don’t worry, there is no wrong answer. But I promise that once you put a definition on what success is, you will stop reaching for things that may be leading you away from what you’re really meant to do, and you will feel a whole new level of fulfillment in your work.
This image is from Kaitlen and Joey’s wedding last Saturday in Savannah. Check out their full blog post here…you will fall in love with them :)
Categories: Business & Photography.
Happy Monday everyone! I am really excited to finally share more about my experience at Making Things Happen. I had actually put MTH Review on my blog calendar for today a few weeks ago, but funny enough, last night in a dream Lara told me to “make what matters happen,” so I know today really is the perfect day to recap :)
It’s been almost two weeks since the experience and taking some time to reflect afterward has been so great. For those of you who don’t know, Making Things Happen is an intensive that Lara Casey founded back in 2009. Lara’s mission was to share how to make what really matters happen in life and business. For a few years, Lara, Gina, and Emily traveled once a year to several different cities and held a one-day intensive, but this was the first year they made it one large, two-day event and also incorporated a second day all about building a powerful brand.
I went to Making Things Happen because I wanted to learn more how to harness what skills and gifts I have and move forward more purposefully in building a business and lifestyle that serves my family and our goals. I honestly had NO idea what to expect. I have followed several women online who have attended, and each shared one prominent statement whenever they reviewed their experience. “If you let it, Making Things Happen will change your life.” This seemed really extreme to me, and the actual schedule and plan for the conference is kept pretty under wraps, so I had no idea what the experience would really be like.
Well, Making Things Happen is profound, and it can change your life. I think for me, I’ve always had this uber-awareness of work/life balance because growing up, my parents worked, worked, and worked some more, and all for the right reasons, but there was so little balance and not much intentional dedication to doing things as a family. So, I’ve always known that I wanted my adult life to be completely different from that, therefore I’ve been pretty adamant about keeping my work and life pretty separate so that the two can benefit each another without hindering one another. So for that reason, I feel like I was already a little more prepared. However, the room was filled with women and men from so many different walks of life, and hearing so many different stories and experiences was so inspiring and also an incredible reality check. If you follow Lara, Gina, or Emily’s blogs at all (or the Making Things Happen blog), you may know many of the tools and processes these three women use to keep focused on what matters, but there is nothing that could replace actually being there in person and doing the exercises within the structure of the intensive. It is so powerful to be surrounded by 100 other people who want to make the most out of every part of their life.
So for the actual work we did? We shared. We dug deep. We were provoked with really intense questions. We listened to women who DO make what matters happen speak about their struggles, challenges, and how they keep positive, focused, and driven. We cried…a lot. We got HONEST…so very honest. With total strangers. We answered hard questions. We shared our fears openly. We shared who we are at our core and where we are going, and we owned it.
It was really, really powerful.
As for my experience, I actually got sick the day that I made the trip up…so I was the sick girl. You know how every workshop or conference has a sick girl? The one who can’t stop blowing their nose, sniffling, or sneezing? Yup. That was me. I am so sorry to Kristin, Kylie, and Nicole who all sat on either side of me while I disgustingly blew my nose the entire first day. Such poor timing :( By the second day, I was full blown sick…completely congested, exhausted, and still blowing my nose. Ugh. Despite all of that, I still feel like I got everything I needed to get out of MTH personally, but unfortunately I did not really get to make many new friends. Because I was congested, my voice was all crazy and I was pretty self conscious about it. Because I was a walking germ, I didn’t want to be shaking people’s hands or breathing in their vicinity. And by the time we had an opportunity to get to know each other more at the end of day two, it was 5pm and I still had a five hour drive home :( So I was really disappointed about the timing of that (especially since I’d been sick 2 weeks proir!) but I definitely tried to make the most of the experience despite my nasty cold (that is STILL not completely gone! It’s been awful!).
When it comes down to it though, what I took from the MTH Conference was some really huge stuff…personally on day one, and then translating the work we did on day one into business on day two…it was mind blowing. Having uninterrupted, continuous focused time to dig deep and ask myself these important questions produced some really meaningful information that I had never really taken that much time to think about. I left with a pretty big action list, but I’ve already conquered more than half of it, re-written my business plan, re-evaluated the mission of my business, lived my ideal day several days, and best of all, I’ve done so many of the things that really fire me up…because life is too short not to.
The hard part will be continuing to WORK HARD to make what matters happen. The reality is that MTH is not a solution. They don’t give you all the answers. You don’t show up and they don’t share anything monumental and epic that will forever change your life in an instant. What does happen, though, is that YOU do the work yourself to kind of redesign your vision of life, your purpose, and who you REALLY are, and then the light bulbs go off. If I want my life to look like X…then I need to do Y. So the hard part truly is doing Y. And doing it over, and over, and over, and then doing the next thing that will lead you to X. It’s one thing to know what you need to do, but it’s a whole other thing to follow through. It’s a process…it really is. But it’s all about progress rather than perfection. So if any of what I’ve written sounds exciting to you, I encourage you to check out some of the information below. It was truly a inspiring and meaningful experience :)
Categories: Business & Photography.
I got home late last night from Making Things Happen in Chapel Hill, NC. I’m honestly at a loss for words as to how to explain the experience. I had no clue what to expect, but somehow got so much more than I imagined. I’ll be doing a full, bigger post in the next few weeks, but right now I just need some time to take it all in and think about the hard work ahead. What I kept thinking last night was just that life is too short. Life is too short to be anything other than who and what I want to be. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Life is too short to let it all pass by living on the surface. This quote also rang true to me…
Categories: Business & Photography.
Wow this week has gone by in a blur! I can’t believe it’s Friday already and the weekend is just about here. Things are exciting around here today because tomorrow officially starts “wedding season.” Even though it’s not my wedding and I’m just second shooting, I really love the excitement of things picking back up and getting to be a part of another amazing wedding day, especially alongside a photographer who I really enjoy working with. Once tomorrow comes, slow season will officially be over. I’m happy and sad at the same time. I’ve been really looking forward to all that this year has in store and there are so many exciting things just around the corner…things like Making Things Happen next week! I’m so pumped.
Today I wanted to share a kind of strange habit I have. I think I officially realized how strange it was this morning. Since starting my business, I’ve always kept these notebooks. They are not special notebooks, just the cheap $.98 ones from Walmart or Target. You know, with the yellow, blue, green, or red covers. They are never fancy because when I’ve had the fancy ones, I never write in them. They are always “too pretty” for me to write in. My ideas and handwriting are never really pretty enough so those notebooks always lie around completely blank. But I just LOVE these simple ones. I keep two: a Big List notebook (inspired by Katelyn James…this one only gets added to and refreshed once every week or two), and a general ideas notebook, and I write down anything and everything in them. I’m not necessarily a journaler unless I just REALLY need to get something emotional off my chest and need a healthy place to put it, but I’m a huge list maker. Like lists for my lists kind of list maker. So these notebooks tend to be lots of lists, tons of brainstorming, notes from webinars, ideas, where I go through the math for some of the financial parts of my business, etc.
Well in preparation for MTH next week, I wanted to run through my 2013 Goal Setting exercises one more time, but I realized I used up the last page in my notebook on Tuesday. Womp womp. An ordinary person might just grab a sheet of loose leaf notebook paper, printer paper, a composition book (cuz I’ve got two cute ones lying around), but that just doesn’t feel the same to me. These notebooks have become my official place to put ideas and I love having them all together in one place. I love that they are easy to flip through with the spiral bound, I love that I can easily tear pages out without leaving a big chunk of paper in the middle, I love that they are so not pretty which means I feel free to write whatever sloppy ideas I have at the time, and I love that they are hole punched, so that when I finish a notebook, I can tear out all of the “big ideas” or important pages, add them to my business binder, and toss the rest so that I’m not keeping the clutter.
Does anyone else have weird obsessions like this? Or is there anyone like me who WISHES they could write in pretty notebooks but just cant? I’m secretly jealous of everyone who keeps notebooks that are a lot prettier than this and freely write in them!
Categories: Business & Photography.
In the digital age, it is so easy to be “inspired” by all sorts of things on the internet. As I’ve continued to progress with my business and really find the heart and soul in what I do and my specific voice in the photography industry, I’ve learned a lot about inspiration and where to find it.
I’ll admit it…for a long time I had no idea what inspired me. I knew that I loved to be outside, I loved the way soft morning light and dramatic evening light flattered my surroundings, and I loved anything that felt “happy.” I thought this was enough. But when your business is built around a lot of things, and one of them is your ability to be creative and unique, you have to dig much deeper than that to really discover what inspires you.
In these early years of my business and the sea of other photographers out there, it is WAY too commonplace and easy to be inspired by other photographers. Most of us do it…we have a list of photographers blogs who we love to frequent. This is fine, but it need to be managed. Last year my mind was plagued with constant negativity about myself and my work because all of this “inspiration” I loved so much was really tricking my mind into feeling like I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t doing enough. I couldn’t be enough. There is always something bigger and better I could be achieving, because so and so was right there in front of my face doing it.
In my mission to really take 2013 by the horns and make this the year of some big life changes, I knew I had to get some new boundaries in place. I still have a ways to go. I still fall back into my old ways every now and again. But these boundaries have truly helped change my mindset so much. There’s a quote I’ve seen that goes something like this… “Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.” This quote is so true. It’s so easy to want to be and do what everyone else is…but where will that get us? True success comes when we harness the specific gifts we’ve been given as individuals. So trying to keep up with everyone else is only taking the wrong fork in the road on the journey to where you are truly supposed to go. Here are my tips for managing inspiration (and they apply to many other industries/parts of life besides photography)…
- Take the time to figure out what really inspires you. Read books, magazines, or watch something on TV you typically wouldn’t. Spend time outside. Travel. See new places. Meet new people. Everything you expose your senses to is one more step to getting closer to knowing what really makes your creative energy go. Start an inspiration wall where you tape up magazine pages or pictures that you LOVE. Print off words that inspire and motivate you and add them to the wall. Go through your Pinterest account and cull the old junk that isn’t relevant anymore. Be selective. Go for walks with your camera. Go for a walk with only your macro lens. Ask friends to model for you so that you can shoot whatever you want, then shoot whatever sets your heart on fire. Keep a folder on your desktop of all of your FAVORITE images you’ve ever shot. Then take a step back and find the patterns and repetition in all of this. It takes time. I am still figuring it out. But the closer I get, the more enthusiastic I am about really fine tuning my business and message this year to be able to deliver exactly what I am meant to deliver.
- Don’t get sucked into the endless pit of social media. Set boundaries. That can mean something different to everyone, but for me, I started with un-liking other photographers pages. Nothing personal against them, but why do I need to see what everyone else is doing all the time? All that leads to is… “Man, I wish I was doing that.” What’s positive about that? Then I took it a step further and now I only use my Facebook profile for my business page. I rarely post to my personal profile and I never look at the news feed anymore. The news feed is filled with way too much garbage and is a huge suck of my energy and time. I would rather use my time efficiently in my office, not wasting hours scrolling the news feed, and have extra time in the evenings to spend with my husband and do stuff around the farm. Getting things done around our farm and investing in the relationships in my life inspires and motivates me. So I’ve traded “following what everyone else is doing” for “actually doing things with my life.” What can you trade?
- Use Google Reader as a place to keep a list of carefully curated photographers who truly do inspire you. These photographers should be far better than you are and far more successful at this point in their business than you are. These photographers should inspire you to work hard so that you can be among them one day. My Google Reader keeps a feed of about 20-ish photographers and professionals who I admire. Unless my friends are truly inspiring, 100% authentic and themselves, and far better than me, they are not in my Google Reader. Again, nothing against them – I love my friends! But we can update one another on our businesses over coffee, emails, etc. Why should I compare my behind the scenes to my friends highlight reels? An example of the blogs I follow on Google Reader… Making Things Happen, Emily Ley, Lara Casey, Amber Housely, Jose Villa, Melissa Jill, Emily Steffen, Eric Kelley, Ryan Ray, and Justin & Mary. Lots of film photographers. Lots of business women who are also moms. Lots of people who have built truly authentic brands based on their unique and specific gifts. The best of the best.
- Surround yourself with the best. This is kind of an extension of my last point, but invest your time and energy into people who are better than you. I’m not saying ditch your friends who are not yet at the same point as you in their business, because these friends are important too…you are inspiring them. But reserve a certain amount of time and energy for spending time (meeting for coffee, working together) with professionals who you aspire to be like. Truly successful people spend their time where they want to go and be. Put yourself out there. Go where they are going.
I am definitely no expert in this department and it has taken me a long time to realize the importance of understanding inspiration and then managing it, but I am feeling such a difference in the way I look at my business and my life. Life is way too short to be anything other than what we are supposed to be, so go be it!
Shot on Fuji Pro 400H with a Nikon N90s
Although I have deep roots in Maryland where I grew up, I am absolutely in love with all things southern. I live on a farm in a small town in South Carolina with my handsome husband, my beautiful step-son, our two yellow lab fur-kids, and three spoiled horses. My blog is a journal of sorts. It’s where I can share all about the things I love so much: my family, our life together, and of course all of the amazing and wonderful people and pets whose story I get to tell.
I love collaborating with laid-back and down- to-earth couples who appreciate the value their wedding images will have for the rest of their lives, and I believe in unique weddings that are truly designed around two people and who they are together. I strive to create images that are emotional, organic, fresh, and genuine, but that will remain timeless twenty, thirty, or sixty years down the road. I believe in printed images, developing friendships with my clients, and having a completely relaxed and enjoyable wedding experience. Each and every story I get to tell is unique and I truly enjoy sharing all of the little pieces that together form this beautiful relationship.
I am currently booking weddings for 2013 and 2014, so please get in touch below to start the journey of documenting your love.