Feel the Fear, and do it Anyway

I just got home from the Click Away conference where (for the first time ever) I got up on a stage and spoke to a ballroom full of people.  

My speech was about the Three Things You Need to Know to Build a Six Figure Business - know what you do, know who your people are, and know how to communicate what you do to your people.  All really good stuff that I believe in with all my heart! 

I’m happy to say that the talk was well received.  And I’ve since heard from people that were moved and inspired by it.  

But in the days following the conference I realized that I left something out, something I didn’t even know I was leaving out until I got home.  

And that is what I want to share it with you now.

For some reason my husband and I own two copies of a book called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”.  The funny thing is, neither one of us have ever actually read it.  Despite that fact, “feel the fear and do it anyway” has become sort of a mantra in our house.  When things are hard.  When a choice feels risky.  When we are at a crossroads, we look at each other and say those words.

When I started my business -way back in 2000- I remember being terrified.  Could I really do it?  What if I failed?  What if people hated my photos?  And the worst… who the hell do I think I am?

The fear and the self doubt were overwhelming sometimes.  But you know what?  I felt the fear and did it anyway!  

I’ve since learned that the fear that comes with doing something new is a good thing.  It keeps us on our toes.  Makes us work harder, push ourselves a little bit more.

I think being in business is a lot like being in therapy… for it to work, you need to be vulnerable.  You need to take risks.  You need to be willing to put yourself out there.  You need to allow yourself to be scared.

Those are all things I’ve felt in my journey as a photographer.  But if I’m being honest, I haven’t felt them for a very long time.  Until last Saturday that is.  Getting up on that stage at Click Away brought them all back.

There I was again….

Can I really do this?

What if I fail?

Who the hell do I think I am?

But you know what?  I did it.  It scared me, but I did it.  I felt the fear and did it anyway.  And it was amazing!

So that is what I want to share… 

If you are going to build a business that you love.  One that is both emotionally and financially fulfilling, yes, you need to know what you do, you need to know who your people are, and you need to know how to communicate what you do to your people. All of those things are important.

 

But you also need to let yourself be scared.  It’s okay.  Feel the fear, and then push past it.  Feel the fear, and do it anyway.  It will be worth it in the end.  I promise. 

Sandra Coan, film photography, Little Bellows

Negative Reactions and How They Effect Your Business

Everyday in a facebook group, there are posts written by photographers about other photographers. Posts saying "so and so local photographer is advertising sessions for $50 and giving the files away! I don't know how they can do that! They are destroying the industry! I know them a little, I'm going to talk to them about why they should charge more." Seem familiar?

There are very likely in OTHER groups that you aren't a part of comments like "so and so local photographer charges $100 for an 8x10! Can you believe that?!! Who do they think they are charging so much! I charge $50 for my sessions and am booked solid!"

I'm here to ask one serious question that I want you to think really hard about.

Why do you care?

I don't want to imply that there is anything wrong with caring, I just legit want you to think about why.

Do you think they are taking clients from you? Are you afraid that potential clients will compare your prices to theirs and make the choice to go cheaper? Are you annoyed that you have spent time and money on educating yourself  and take pride in running your own business and they don't seem to follow any rules? Or are you just annoyed that they exist in general?

I understand all of those scenarios. I've thought them all over the last 7 years in business. I'm chimed in before with "Ugh! I know! What are they doing!?" type of comments before. And you know what it did for me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

Well, I take that back. It did do something. It perpetuated a very negative attitude and outlook that effected my business. My own attitude hurt my business not the other, cheaper photographer. 

Instead of working on my business I instead internet investigated said photographer. I took time out of my day to look through their website, facebook, and social media. Instead of emailing my clients I took time out of my day to read through comments on the facebook group. Instead of getting a newsletter out I was too distracted by wondering about if said photographer even filed taxes. And if I added up all that time wasted. . . ugh. I can't even begin to think about the total number of minutes, hours spent doing unproductive, negative things. 

So think about how you can react when you see posts like that. The posts will ALWAYS be there. From photographers you know, photographers you even may respect. But why do you care? Always put your business first and instead of comparing or wasting your time with negative thoughts, instead think about how you can make your business better. Do something for your clients so they know you are providing more than just photos on a thumb drive; show them you are providing a service that can not be compared to any other photography business in your area. Stand out.

This isn't a post about community over competition either. I think a little competition is healthy and can drive you forward in your business! But those photographers charging $50 for their hour session and giving away the files are not your competition. They are not ruining your industry. They are doing what they are doing. You go do what you do.

Don't stand with the crowd of complainers. And then see who's out in front after a year. 

Maryland Family Photographer © Meghan Boyer Photography

Your Creativity & Your Business

Chances are you started your photography business because you had a passion for photography. For art. For creating photos for families just as you would want or maybe that you wished you had from your own childhood. You loved it and were really good at it. You were so good people wanted to pay for it. And you maybe thought, "hey a little extra money would be awesome". Then you decided to start a legitimate business. You got a business license (hopefully!!!), created your website, and bought a great logo off etsy. 

Then things slowly started to shift. Facebook groups and photographer friends were shocked at how little you were charging so you decided it was time to charge more. You realized you were shooting a ton, editing a ton, and then you focused a lot on how much you were charging. You created a new price list 4 times in a year. You bought 4 more logos from etsy that same year. You shot a ton and were so happy to book so many sessions.

And then all of the sudden you didn't want to do it anymore.  You dreaded going to sessions. You didn't even care about the money. And you realized you didn't want to even pick up your camera. 

Burn out. It happens to the best of us. And ultimately what it's really about is balancing the creativity and art that fills us with the business savvy and understanding we need. 

Business is boring. To most. There are exceptions that find business interesting and fun (I get called a dork a lot for this and I'm cool with it). But to most photographers and creatives, it's the part of it all that makes us cringe. And the thing is, if you understand business you can put things in motion so you don't have to think about it all the time. You can focus on being creative and stretching your work and staying inspired. You just have to learn a little business. 

Your photography business does not have to be a drag. You can still be creatively fulfilled making beautiful photographs exactly how you want AND have a successful, profitable business. It just takes a little extra work and a little bit of re-focusing priorities. Less about the logo and what everyone else tells you should be happening with your business and more about what you need your business to become.

© Meghan Boyer Photography

Are you burnt out? It's the spring, so probably not yet. But bookmark this to come back and read on October 17. When you are in the middle of that crazy ass fall season that your bank account needs but your brain, heart, and sometimes lower back desperately hate. OR don't wait until the fall. Just wait a few weeks and join us in Portland for our Little Bellows Retreat. Registration closes on Friday (that's only 2 days away). Don't miss out. Let us help you prevent that next burn out stage.

3 Way to Generate More Income

Who out there is a photographer struggling to make an income with their current business? It's likely that nearly everyone's hands were raised there. 

Making a living running a photography business is HARD. It's a huge challenge, and we often make it harder on ourselves without even knowing. I know I did for a long time! 

It might be time to diversify. No I'm not talking about your stock portfolio, although my husband is a financial advisor, I know jack shiz about that. BUT I do know that diversifying your income is a great way to make extra money without a ton of extra work. Here are 3 things you could start doing to bring in extra money each month. 

This is a stock images that sold that showed up in an ad I saw on FB.

This is a stock images that sold that showed up in an ad I saw on FB.

SELL STOCK

Yes, that's right. Sell stock. No it's not selling out. It's not cheapening what you do. It's simply uploading photos to your agency portfolio and waiting for the money to come into your account. It's not tough. If you are a film photographer, use those extra shots at the end of a roll for some intentional shooting for stock. Look through your hard drive, what photos of your own kids or family or still life do you have just sitting there? Upload that! And then earn money each month in your pajamas. (Jonathan Canlas coined that phrase "pajama profits" and this is exactly that!) I use Stocksy and Offset personally, but there are a LOT of other agencies out there. 

This image is one I had on my hard drive. I was taking photos of my kids, testing out a new camera and my youngest was. not. having it. And I took the shot. When uploading Stocksy, I figured why not. And it's sold several times. You never know what you might already have that you can turn into money. 

REAL ESTATE PHOTOGRAPHY

Yes, it's boring as hell to most of us. But how hard would it be to reach out to a realtor (we ALL know one), and offer to shoot their next 2 listings for free? Learn how, use a very wide angle camera, and practice. Then do a kick ass job and set a price. An easy simple way to add a few additional shoots per month that cost you nothing but a little time but bring in good extra money. 

CORPORATE HEAD SHOTS

Do you offer head shots? I know they aren't the most exciting thing in the world, but they are easy to do and only cost you a little time. Ask your friends and family if the places they work have corporate photos. Chances are someone works for a company that does them and it takes a phone call, note, or email to get started. 

I promise you that if you do any or all of the above, this isn't going to make you any less of a fine art photographer, it won't devalue your wedding, family, or newborn business, it doesn't make you a sell out. It's just smart work. To help things be less tight financially. You don't have to show this work. You don't have to market, advertise, or blog it. It's just something to keep in your back pocket. 

XO,
Meghan

The Importance of Follow Up

Sandra Coan, newborn photography, Little Bellows

One of the things I teach when mentoring is the importance of good communication and follow up.

I always say, reach out to your clients. Show them what you can do for them with your images.  Tell them what you have to offer with an effective website and a solid email marketing campaign.

 And follow up!  

Got and inquiry that you never heard back from?  Follow up.

A call that you returned, but only got their voicemail?  Follow up.

You have something to offer.  

Your clients want to hear from you.  

Don't be embarrassed, or shy.  Tell the world "I'm really good at my job and I want to share my gift with you"

I believe in it and I like to practice what I preach, so here it is.

My follow up.

Sandra Coan studio lights and film, Little Bellows

A couple of weeks ago, Meghan Boyer and I announced our Little Bellows Film Retreat, a two and a half day film and business get-a-way at the beautiful Edgfield winery in Portland, OR.  

This is truly a workshop like no other, specifically designed for family photographers who specialize in film.

Whether you shoot in a studio or in client's homes, you will leave with a firm understanding of how to handle any lighting situation, how to use artificial light for that extra boost when you need it, and what film stocks will work best for your desired look and feel.

You will also learn to establish your brand, set yourself apart from your competitors, create a workflow that will save you time and money, and what you need to know to create a business that feeds your soul (and your family)

As an added bonus, each attendee will get a 30 minute mentoring session with either Sandra or Meghan to get in depth with your specific needs.

This retreat is designed to ignite your creativity, strengthen your business, and revive your passion.

Click here for all of the details and to register.

See you in the spring!

Branding vs. Marketing

Do you know the difference between branding and marketing? If I posted the question on Facebook, I would get some answers that were spot on, some that were a little confused, and some would just say something to the effect that branding is your logo. It can get confusing.

Marketing

Let's tackle marketing first because it's the easiest to understand. It's more straight forward. 

Marketing is how to reach your people. It's what you do to reach your people. The actions you take to keep your people engaged. Marketing is your message. Newsletters, social media campaigns, your printed materials....that's marketing (very simplified marketing). Your logo and business cards? That's not branding. Those are marketing materials!

Marketing is easier to control. You are consciously putting things out there in front of clients or potential clients in hopes of getting their business. Branding is harder to control because we sometimes don't fully understand all that it encompasses.

Branding

So then, what is branding. Branding is you. Is your work. It's every word you write, every image you choose to post. Every complaint you write on your personal Facebook page is a part of your brand. I'll let that soak in for a second . . .  

Maryland Newborn Photographer Meghan Boyer Photography

Yes. Even your personal page, your personal tweets, your likes on a Donald Trump post or pledged support for Hillary Clinton or vaccinations or Super Bowl controversy, even on your personal page, is a reflection on your brand. Even if you aren't "friends" with your clients! And this is not to say there is anything wrong with any of that. You just need to consider that everything having to do with YOU is a part of your brand. 

Consistency is King

Branding is crucial for your business. It's your photographic style. It's the way you present yourself to clients, in person or in correspondence. It should always be consistent. Your BRAND is the foundation. It is how clients are attracted to you, and if it looks different every time you do not have a strong brand. And then those clients will go next door to one of the other thousands of photographers in your area for their next session. Your brand should make your clients FEEL something. They should get the same feeling every time they think about their next session with you. Is your brand funky, modern, and exciting? Your clients will feel excited about the unique images they'll get. Is your brand classic and clean? Your clients might feel a sense of calm knowing they're going to get another classic family portrait for their walls. 

Maryland Newborn Photographer Meghan Boyer Photography

There is SO much more I could talk about in this post. This is a VERY brief overview. But, it is something we'll talk in depth about at the Little Bellows Film Retreat in May! If you missed the release of that YESTERDAY, go check it out for yourself!! We hope to see you there. 

XO,
Meghan 

10 Ways to Start Your Business Year

Happy New Year!! 2016! WOW! I don't know about you, but there is something different in the air this New Year's. I have a feeling about this year that I haven't had in a long time. There is excitement and promise of so many good things to come! (Just as soon as I recover from this hangover.)

I put together some things that you can do right now to get your year started in the best way possible! 

1. Purge
Clutter is suffocating. When my workspace is a disaster (which it often is) I find it so hard to concentrate on doing anything productive! Clean it out! AND THROW STUFF AWAY. You don't need to save most of the things you're saving. Save yourself the guilt and just chuck it. This goes for your emails, computer, and closet too! Go through that inbox today. Organize the emails you need to keep into folders and trash the rest. Get your inbox down to 0! Ok, try 20 first. Move on to your computer, do a thorough clean up of your old files and move things off of your hard drive. It's slows your machine down. Lastly, the closet. Take everything out and put them into 3 piles, things you love, things you like , things you haven't worn recently or aren't in season. Only keep those pieces you love or are staples and pack up the out of season stuff.

2. Look at your numbers
If you haven't looked at your business numbers recently, it's time. Look at your last year. How many sessions did you do? Did you meet your goal? Look at your pricing and reevaluate as needed. Be sure you are charging what you should to run a sustainable, profitable business and not just picking a number out of the air or copying a competitor's pricing. And remember, so many of us are tempted to reevaluate our pricing in the winter months because business tends to be slower. Don't do that. Look at your entire year, your COGS, and come up with your numbers the right way. 

3. Set a huge goal
Brainstorm some things you'd like to accomplish. Get a list together and then read it out loud back to yourself. What was it that made your heart go a little faster when you heard it? Circle it on your list, and BOOM, you have your goal. Make it big! Even if it's a goal that takes years to accomplish, the big goals are the most rewarding. Start to make plans to work toward the goal and start to really focus on making it happen. Those big, scary ideas that we try to push off, usually are the things that we deep down really want to do. Don't stop yourself this year. You can do it!

4. Educate
Make education a part of your business plan for the year. Sign up for a class or workshop that will challenge you. Learn something new! You can pick out some business related books and set out to read a few this year. The more you learn, the better you and your business will be long term.

5. Schedule time OFF
Go play! When you take a break your mind resets, your creativity resets, and you get the energy to come back swinging! Make sure you take care of yourself this year. Maybe you set a schedule that you don't work on Sundays, or that you're "off the clock" at 6pm each night. Maybe you take one weekend a month to go on an adventure with your family. Maybe you plan a family vacation for months down the road. Down time is necessary to be your best self. Rest your mind and body. Your business will survive, I promise. 

6. Reflect
Make a list of everything you did in 2015 personally or professionally that you are proud of. Looking back at your accomplishments does not make you a douchebag. You SHOULD be proud! And it's ok to feel proud. Own your accomplishments! 

7. Invest in a good pair of shoes
Seemingly silly, but photographers are on our feet a LOT and spending a few extra bucks to save yourself from extra discomfort is worth it.

8. Set up one software program that will make your life easier
Technology is amazing. Embrace it. Whether it's 17hats, hootsuite, latergramme, Lightroom, Boomerang, it doesn't matter which one. All of those (and lots of others not mentioned) are there to make your life easier. You'll have more time to focus on other things or maybe even be able to drink your coffee while it's hot!

9. Make self care a priority
Be nice to yourself. It's hard to be a business owner. You work too much. Give everything you can leaving little left for yourself. Go get a cup of coffee at your favorite place. Go buy a new lipstick you don't need but it looks great. Go get a manicure. Get a hot shave (dudes). Do something every week for yourself. Maybe that's just giving yourself 5 extra minutes in the shower to close your eyes and meditate. Maybe it's giving yourself 30 minutes a day to read quietly. No matter what it is, do something you enjoy, and that's JUST for you. 

10. Pay it forward
This past year I did a charity Santa event. And it was a ton of work. And I'm so excited to do it again next year. Raising enough money to feed 3 families in Haiti for a YEAR was amazing. Now, you don't need to do something on that big a scale. Next time you're in starbucks, grab one of those packs of $5 gift cards, and as you leave, hand one to the next person who enters. In your best friend's neighborhood? Drop off a bunch of flowers on their front porch. Call someone and tell them why they matter to you. We are all so lucky, and while it can be hard to see sometimes, giving to others in some small way can bring so much more joy to our lives. And it will definitely bring smiles to others as well. And what better way to start a year than that?

Happy New Year Friends! Let's go kick 2016's ass!
xo,
Meghan

3 Programs for a Faster Workflow in Busy Season!

Who else is up to their eyeballs in client sessions? Tis the season for photographer chaos! I love my fall season, crazy as it may be, but I didn't always feel this way. I spent years over-committing, getting backlogged, going crosseyed, dreaming of photoshop, and ultimately doing my clients a disservice by being so frazzled I wasn't giving them the best of myself and my brand.

Does that sound familiar? There's hope. Trust me. There are many things that are crucial to helping me stay on track with my workflow. Today I'm going to talk about my workflow AFTER the session is over. And, I'm going to give you three specific things I couldn't live without. 

1. Lightroom
I couldn't do my job without this program. I could live without photoshop (although I do bring images into PS on occasion if I need to really fine tune or remove something in an image). The first thing I do after a session is organize my film and then upload any digital images. Yes! I shoot hybrid! Sometimes I'll shoot only 20 images at a family session digitally, other times 100! It depends on the session and the vibe and how it flows as to how much film I'm going to shoot. 

Lightroom is so much more than editing software, and when I learned about all the things it could do for organization I was so excited! The geek in me couldn't wait to get organized. (yes, if you know me, this is pretty funny and ironic). Yes the rest of my life is messy, literally there are toys and clothes and kid cups everywhere I look, but I really can't stand to be unorganized in my business. 

So, what to do in LR? This could be an entire series of blog posts right here. Editing and presets, holy moly that is just too much to cover today. So I'll keep it to the most significant things for me. SMART CATEGORIES. FILE ORGANIZATION. KEYWORDING

I'm not going to get into the details of why i keep just one catalog (mostly laziness) or why I organize my files the way I do (I'm anal about dates!), but I do think it's important to talk about smart collections. I have these set up so I use a rating system. When I get my film scans back, I match my digital files (if I keep any), and then export for upload to their gallery on Shootproof. I set it up so those exported images are automatically imported into the catalog. I then go through them, rename them into my sequence I prefer, and start rating. I go through and rate any images I feel I'd like to go in their blog post a 3. If they have prepaid for an album, or I'm designing an album for them to encourage a sale, I will go back and see if there are any additional images I'd like to include in an album and rate them as a 1. ALL the 3's are going to automatically be included in the album folder! It's pretty great. I then go and export the "blog these" folder from LR and save it within that client's main folder on my drive. And the biggest hurdle to blogging is now over! And while that sounds like a lot of steps, it takes me about 1 minute to make my picks and export them to the client's sub-folder. Maybe 90 seconds if I'm feeling particularly indecisive. 

Because the catalog is mirroring your hard drive, any time you rename or move images or a folder within LR, it moves or renames then on the drive as well. I rarely go in Finder to look for an images. I know if it's recent with in the last 4 months, it's going to still be in my LR catalog. It's so easy to stay organized through LR. 

Keywording on import is crucial to me. I have metadata and keywords applied on every images imported into LR. I don't even have to think about it anymore.  Copyright is there, keywords for SEO are there. It's easy and important to do upon import. 

4. Blogstomp
I like to create diptychs for my vertical images when I blog them. This program makes that SO easy. YES, you can do this in LR. But because I'm so familiar with Blogstomp and the system works for me, I keep doing it this way. 

I go into the client's main folder, go to the sub-folder that my blog images were exported to and I drag them into Blogstomp. I have in my settings already set up different options for sizing and preferences. I have a setting for Squarespace (where my site is through) so I know my specs for image size there. Just click on your image, or select 2 images for a diptych, and click Stomp It! And done. So. Darn. Easy. Then it's just a simple drag into your blog post, schedule that for whatever date comes next on the blog calendar and voila. Blogging DONE. It doesn't have to be intimidating.

3. 17hats
There are so many client management options out there it's crazy. And it's overwhelming to start by randomly picking one. And if you're like me, you've done free trials for several of them but ended up just staring blankly at the screen as none of it made sense at first? That's where 17hats is different. It's really, really simple. AND affordable. But enough about that, what can it do for you?

Almost everything. Thats what. It keeps me on task. It makes me work faster. It reminds me that I need to get to the post office to drop off the film from the weekends sessions, and it keeps me on track to prepare the blog post and where my contracts are. 

During the time where I'm waiting for scans to come back from my lab, that's when it's easy to forget what needs to be done next for a client. Because sometimes, there's nothing to do while waiting. Since I don't edit my digital images (except maybe one favorite to post to social media), I'm not really continuing with that client's workflow until scans come in. But then, 17hats reminds me to upload to Shootproof, send the email, make my blog selections, schedule the blog post, follow up with the client, etc. There is an entire Workflows section where you can create templates for the different sessions you do. I have one for family, newborn, empowerment, and weddings. They are all different because there is often different communication needed for each session. It might take a day to set up your workflow templates, but once you do it's so easy to stay on task.

 

So. Now what? Don't be overwhelmed. Be motivated and relieved that there are systems already out there for you to use! You don't have to reinvent the wheel! Stick with what works, but if you were nodding your head furiously with my questions at the beginning about being up to your eyeballs, then stop and take a minute to think whether any of these things could help you moving forward. 

That was a lot of info thrown at you, and you might have questions! Post them here! Or on the Little Bellows Facebook Forum. Or simply just give us a shout! And stay tuned, there is more workflow information coming in future posts!

Happy Monday Friends!
~ Meghan