You guys, I’m a big fan of lists. If you were to search my house on any given day, you would find them everywhere. Grocery lists, to do lists, things I want to make- you name it, I’ve got a list for it. This post is no different. This year, I really want to hold myself accountable, and what better way to do that than make a public posting of my successes and failures for 2013. I’ve seen other photographers making their lists of what worked and what didn’t, and I thought it would be good for me to sit down and really think about the last year. So, without further ado:
1) Attending the Pursuit 31 Conference. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again- stepping completely out of my comfort zone to attend the P31 conference this past fall was the best decision I’ve EVER made. EVER. I left Georgia fired up and with so many ideas for where I wanted to take my business that I was extremely overwhelmed- but in the BEST way. If you’re even just thinking about attending this year’s conference, just do it. You can read about my experience here.
2) Online Studio Management. In 2012 I had zero organization when it came to client paperwork. I had some things on my computer, others on my iPad, and still more floating around my office/dining room at the time. In 2013, I knew something had to give. I was tired of searching three different locations to find the information I needed. After trying to make my own system, and trying several different studio management softwares- I found ShootQ and fell in love. Clients could book online and ALL of their paperwork was easily accessible to them and to me. WIN.
3) Delivering images with PASS. Before PASS I was that photographer who burned images to a CD and wrote the title on with a Sharpie. How very professional of me. I tried the flash drive route but honestly, I couldn’t find any that I could really say I loved. Then came PASS. Now my clients have access to their photos the second I am done editing. They have their own app and constant mobile access to their photos, as well as the ability to down high res imaged.
4) Being Authentic. From the beginning, I have strived to be open and honest with my clients and blogging audience. Somewhere in 2013 though, I forgot what that meant. I made excuses for being tired and behind on blogging. I finally sucked it up and decided to share what the real problem was: a health issue that I’ve been incredibly uncomfortable sharing with others. That blog post was the second most viewed and shared post of the year. I received SO many emails and comments of support from others who could relate. It really reminded me to stick with my policy of honesty and openness.
5) Making New Friends. This sounds cheesy, but making friends with industry peers has been so beneficial to my mental health and my business. I met so many talented and giving ladies through coaching with Katelyn James, attending the P31 conference, and participating in several online forums. I love having these ladies to bounce ideas off of, learn from, or grab coffee with.
6) Realizing that this is MY business. I started to realize this in 2012, but 2013 was really the year for me to begin to define how I wanted to run my business, and to become more confident in the fact that I get to make the big decisions. I am finally to a point where I no longer think that I have to do something just because it seems like the popular thing to do in the industry. That has been such a freeing feeling and giving me the ability to be more creative with what I want to offer, as well as how to offer it.
7) Hiring Katelyn James to shoot my wedding. I know, you’re probably thinking this makes no sense. But seriously…not only did Katelyn rock my wedding photos, I learned a lot just by observing how she worked with me, my family, and my friends. That experience changed how I shoot details, the wedding party, and allowed me to now have my OWN testimony to how awesome a first look is!
8) Figuring out my “Why.” My “Why” is the reason I run this business. Being able to completely define it is still a work in progress, but in short, I am a photographer to capture those little moments that make up the big picture of each individual love story. All of the sweet moments that get you through the harder ones. They way he tucks your hair behind your ear when you’ve had a rough day. The soft smile she gives you as she walks to meet you at the end of the aisle. THOSE are the kinds of images that fuel my fire.
What Didn’t (and how I’m going to change that):
1) Not having office hours. Between my full-time job, taking classes for my master’s, and figuring out what it truly means to be in a marriage, my work hours have been all over the place. I’ve answered client emails at one in the morning on New Year’s Eve, I’ve spent hours late at night on the weekends editing or blogging when I should have been snuggling with my husband. It’s just so easy to do when you have a job that involved working from home. This year, I’m going to manage my time more wisely and have specific working hours.
2) Blogging 5 days a week. I’m sure I didn’t have to tell you that one! My blogging schedule was ALL over the place last year. This year, I plan to blog 2 days a week, probably Tuesday and Thursday. This way I can not only ensure that I’m blogging regularly, but also that I’m providing quality content since I won’t be rushing just for the sake of having something posted. This is going to fall under number 1 as well- those office hours will be when I work on my posts!
3) Mini Sessions. They just didn’t work this year. Or last year. Perhaps I wasn’t marketing them well enough, or perhaps it’s time for me to realize I’m just not a mini session photographer. In 2014, minis will not be offered. There may be a few specials here and there, but I won’t be planning marathon days like I was before.
4) Marketing. I depended wholly on word of mouth marketing in 2013, and it worked. My clients were AWESOME about spreading my name around, and I am SO thankful for that! I really want to work to expand my client base this year though, which means I’m going to have to make a new marketing plan and try some new ideas. Photogs- if you have something that has really worked for you, I’d love to hear your ideas!
5) Vendor Relations. It’s funny when you think about it- at my old job I earned my paycheck managing relations with other vendors. However with my own business, I didn’t really do a whole lot with that this year. I think I was burned out from doing it for another company for so long. Anyways- this year I want to really get to know the other vendors I work with at weddings! I’m excited!
6) Providing only digital files. Now I know it’s kind of confusing to list this as a “didn’t work” when I listed PASS as a “worked.” Let me start by saying- I have NO plans to stop providing my clients with their digital negatives. However, I only had a few clients order albums and/or prints this year. It makes me sad to think of all those photos sitting on a hard drive forever! I want to work on a better way to educate and encourage my clients to print and display their images.
7) Shooting whatever comes my way. In 2012 AND 2013, I took whatever opportunity to shoot came my way. I shot birthday parties, weddings, newborns, families, seniors, maternity- literally everything. In doing that, I wasn’t able to focus in on what I’m truly passionate about. So this year, I’m focusing on weddings and couples shoots. That’s not to say I won’t have a little bit of room for a different kind of shoot here and there- but they won’t be a frequent occurrence.
My “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals” (BHAGS- coined by Justin & Mary) for 2014
1) Shoot 15 weddings. I realize this is more than tripling what I shot this year, but I want to grow this business by leaps and bounds this year!
2) Introduce “special” sessions. I’m still not exactly sure what the name for these sessions will be, but I’m really excited with this concept I’ve been working on for a few months now. Think celebrating marriage, love, and dedication. AH I CAN’T WAIT TO SHARE MORE INFO ON THESE!
3) Work with a pro, and completely rebrand. Anything I make this year will pretty much be going right back into my business. Now is the time to create a cohesive brand identity that really projects ME and what I’m all about!
4) Learn to shoot film. I met with a few other film photographers last year and they really sparked my interest. I’d love to play around with film this year and see if it’s something I want to incorporate regularly into my shoots.
5) Improve my client experience. I want nothing more than to spoil my clients! You guys are honestly more than just clients to me, you’ve all become good friends, and I love every minute of it. I really want to work to improve client education, gifts, and just the overall experience of being an SDP client this year!
and now for the big one….
6) Shoot AT LEAST one destination wedding. I know this might be a long shot, but I’m putting it out there. I SO very much would LOVE to shoot a destination wedding this year. California, Italy, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Ireland, France- all of them are on my bucket list. If you know someone, send them my way!
And because I don’t like blog posts that are nothing but text, here’s a preview of a wedding I had the honor to second shoot in the fall!