A Creative's Journey : Week 3

Mired in the Minutiae

This week I've been furiously trying to get through tedious work.  Non-paying work.  I've been purging backlogged stuff that's been sitting on my desktop, post-it reminders I've had up for 6+ months, papers that are stacked on my desk.  As a creative, its great to get all these awesome ideas in my head and make plans to put to action BUT at some point it's too much.  It's crippling.  I mean, look at this picture.  Seriously.  The clutter is distracting me from getting my real work done.  It's paralyzing me.  There are so many ideas, so much to do, that I look at my desk and don't know where to start.  Do any of you feel this way?


So I'm spending a few days reviewing my notes and deciding if they're actionable and worth looking into.  Do they fit into the goals I have set this year?  If not, I'm either purging them or jotting the ideas down on my Trello To-Do list for a future look down the road.

Along these same lines, I'm purging a lot of stuff from my Desktop.  Look at this.  It's embarrassing!  How can I get anything done?  And guess how many browser windows I have open?  Any guesses?  I have 13 open.  About half are personal things - parenting articles, vacation references and ticket outlets.  The other half are work pages - tutorials, reference articles, SEO, retail, my blog, this blog, and not one but TWO online courses.  It's too much.  So anything that isn't related to my to-do list for the week or the near future or not related to my 2017 goals, I am closing or bookmarking for later.


This goes for everything on my Desktop, too, including emails.  I have 329 unread emails, bookmarked to read later.  I'm stuck in the minutiae.  Too much distracting me from getting my work done.  I have vowed not to buy another online course until I've gotten through the three I bought last year.

So join me in clearing out your work space!  Set yourself free so you can get your paying work done and stick to a schedule that will propel you forward, not paralyze you!  I'd love to hear your de-cluttering story so feel free to tag #acreativesjourney.

Now for this weeks' scoreboard:

  1. How was I brave this week:  I set up a meeting with a podcaster who wants to collaborate with me.  ME?!  I automatically think, what the hell do I have to contribute or say?  But then I stopped those voices because I knew it was mostly fear talking, and I set up the appointment.
  2. How was I kind this week: We are helping take care of a friend's daughter who's Uncle passed away.  The struggle is real when having to skip out of down to meet with family and attend a funeral when your spouse works long hours or is traveling.  Believe me, I've been there.
  3. How did I fail this week:  How did I fail?  Hmmm, I don't think I was brave enough or honestly worked enough this week to fail.  The kids had no school Wednesday so we went skiing, then Isaac was sick Thursday and today.  So I guess my fail was not setting aside enough hours to actually work.  This week was a crapshoot for me.

What about you?

A Creative's Journey : Week 2

Here it is, late January and I'm just now solidifying my 2017 goals.  I vowed last year that I would get on top of this earlier this year, like in late fall, to get a jump on 2017 yet here I am again.  Anyone else with me?  Do you set goals for yourself and your business?

Portra 800

Portra 800

I'm kinda embarrassed to tell you that last year was the first year I was really intentional with setting goals.  LAST YEAR.  And I've been in business for 8 years.  Ouch.  I learned a few things about myself in the process.

1.  Writing a goal down and telling someone about it had me 100% invested in reaching it.  It became real.  It became believable.
2.  I learned that goals have to be specific and measureable.  The goals I had that weren't, took too long to reach, or didn't get met at all.
3.  Concentrate on quality, not quantity.  Having 20 big goals became overwhelming vs. having 3 well-thought-out goals.
4.  Review your goals throughout the year!  I put my goals in my work journal and referred to them often last year.  This helped me so much.  It helped me stay focused instead of distracted (most of the time).
5.  It's okay to tweak your goals!  Maybe something is really working and maybe your experiencing more road blocks with another goal.  What is setting you back?  Lack of time?  Finding the right contact?  Fear?  Procrastination?  Overwhelmed?  Maybe this goal needs to be broken down into baby goals spread out through the year.  A few of my goals that didn't get much attention I am revising and breaking down for this year.  I am also eliminating some because it's not a priority for me.

So how do you get started if you're a procrastinator like me?

Jack Canfield, author of "The Success Principles" says on page 79 that that goal setting has to be SMART, otherwise it's just a want, a wish, a good idea.  A goal has to be:


Wait, what? Do you feel like I'm kinda backing you into a corner? I know the feeling!  But by making your goal all these things, you spend time to REALLY think about it and you become invested in it, and you KNOW you can achieve it. Try it out!

If you want to do some extra credit, think about where you want to be in your business in 3-5 years.  Dream big!  What would you be on cloud 9 about?  Think it, see it, smell it, and feel it then write down all the specifics.  Then put it up on your mirror or somewhere you'll see it every day.  I'm in the process of doing a more intense version of this for 2020 with my mastermind group and it's been a really fun excercise!

And now onto my progress this week:

Scoreboard Week 2:

  1. How was I brave this week:  I submitted a proposal to teach some photography classes at a conference - eek!
  2. How was I kind this week:  I teamed up with a room parent in Isaac's class to pull together their class art piece for the school's auction when another mom was unable to help.  We both feel pulled in about 50 directions but teaming up together and getting it done feels great.
  3. How did I fail this week: I did not work out ONCE.  Not once.  I tweaked my back last Friday and it was sore all weekend so I didn't go skiing, but the rest of the week was a crapshoot.  Now I feel like a big lazy slob.  I rely on running for mental health as much as physical health!

If this post has helped you come up with some SMART goals I'd love to hear them!  Tag your images and stories #acreativesjourney so I can share your story.



A Creative's Journey : Week 1

Currently I've been thinking a lot about where I am in my business and in life.  I've had many successes and some disappointments, who hasn't?  I feel I fit into the mold of "a struggling artist" who is torn between spending most of my time on family and life, or diving head-first into building a business that is highly successful (and I admit "well-known" would stroke the ego).

But the thing is, through last Fall (and continually) I keep playing the comparison game.  Comparing my work and my business with those I look up to and am surrounded by.  And while sometimes it's motivating, many times it leaves me feeling like crap.  And I play the guessing game - "Is my work not good enough?", "Don't people like me?", "What am I doing wrong?", "Am I too expensive?", "Maybe this isn't my thing."  I'm thinking the very things Brené Brown tells us to dismiss.  Who has been here?  It's TERRIBLE.  My friend Sandra Coan once told me, "If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will."  Good point. 

So then I read Simon Sinek's quotes or pick up Brené's books again (and get off IG and FB) to reset my psyche and get going.  And I've recently realized that all this reading and massaging my ego doesn't do shit for my business.  So am I gonna get off my duff with the mindset that I am as worthy of success as anyone else out there and take action?  Yes, I am.

"You are 100% responsible for yourself." - The Success Pinciples by Harvey Karp

This Fall I attended the Click Away conference here in Seattle.  Did you go?  If you haven't bought tickets for this conference, I highly suggest you do.  (The next Click Away will be in Amelia Island, FL in 2018!)  It's chalk full of great speakers, workshops, on-hands training, and my favorite thing, networking.  At the conference I listened to Yan Palmer and many other amazing photographers (including Sandra) speak.  Yan talked about some of the same things above and also things that hold you back, like guilt.  She set a goal for us about living our lives and running our businesses with intention and courage, and doing it guilt-free.  Don't apologize.  You are worthy.  It kinda blew my mind because I always feel some kind of guilt.  Guilt for being away from family if I'm trying to run the business, or guilt walking that I put off that blog post AGAIN and walked an extra 2 miles playing Pokémon Go with Isaac.  Seriously, feeling guilty has me ALWAYS questioning myself.  And it's paralyzing.  So I'm going to try and take Yan's advice this year.

Do you feel the same way?  If so, I encourage you to fumble along #acreativesjourney with me as we navigate this thing called running a business SUCCESSFULLY (#thestruggleisreal ).  I am going to write weekly blog posts here on Little Bellows holding myself accountable, in hopes that it'll help you too.

After all, Simon Sinek says, "Success always takes help.  Failure is done alone."

I was so inspired by an article I read on the Huffington Post a while back.  It's geared towards parenting but I think it carries over to our creative/business journey just as much.  If you haven't read Megan Conley's post, "We Ask Our Kids The Same 3 Questions Every Night," I highly recommend you do.  I'm going to ask myself (and you) these same three questions every week:

  1. How were you brave this week? Courage (in life and business) is often made up of many small acts.
  2. How were you kind this week? Kindness is leading with understanding and becoming stronger for others.  Are you building other photographers up that could use a lift, or offering up some advice they are fumbling through but that you are an expert at?  Or do you have a personal act of kindness that you'd like to share?
  3. How did you fail this week? This is straight from the Huff article - "Life is full of defeat — self-inflicted and otherwise — but that doesn’t mean we are defeated! It just means that we are trying and there is something beautiful in that, isn’t there?"  This personally is a big one for me.  I'm afraid to fail.  But this year, I'm breaking the cycle.

"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

So here goes.  Here are my answers for the week.

Scoreboard Week 1:

  1. How was I brave this week: I put this post out into the world!  I kid you not, this is scary for me, talking about my struggles with you. 
  2. How was I kind this week: My niece, who is pregnant, found out that her unborn baby has a heart condition.  They had to fly to Boston for an experimental surgery to try and help the baby.  We are watching her dog and I started a Go Fund Me page to help them.
  3. How did I fail this week: I keep putting other things off such as looking at my 2016 numbers and setting new sales goals and I count that as a fail.  I also did not get accepted to Stocksy and although that's a fail, I'll try applying again!

So here's to all of us fantastic, amazing, talented, fearful, guilty creatives that are going to make a difference in our lives and/or businesses this year!  I hope you are with me!  Be sure to tag your images and stories relating to your journey by using the hashtag #acreativesjourney or commenting below so I can find you.  I'll be featuring your stories/struggles/and wins along with mine.


Three Things I Wish I'd Know When I Started My Bussines

I’ve been in business since 2000.  That means I’ve been doing this photography thing for 16 (almost 17) years!  

And the truth is, most of that time I had no idea what I was doing.  I was just making it up as I went along.  

Because I was just making it up as I went along, it comes as no surprise that I made many mistakes.  

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself these three things.

Do not compare yourself to others. 

This is with out a doubt the most important thing I’ve learned over the past 16 years. Comparing yourself to others is bad for your soul and is absolutely toxic for your business. 

To be successful at what you do, to love your job and to be able to make money doing it, you need to be true to yourself and your creative vision.  You need to trust what it is that you do and you need to focus on that.  Doing so will keep you inspired, but it will also help you fine tuned your unique brand. And creating a unique brand will enable you to stand out in any market, no matter how saturated.

So don’t compare yourself to others.  Instead, figure out what it is that you do, and focus on that.  You’ll be happier and your business will be stronger!

Grow your list.

When I first started my business, we didn’t have social media (yes, I’m that old).  And so when Facebook came along I, like many other photographers, became obsessed with it. I could post one image on my Facebook page and get hundreds of likes and in doing so, reach thousands of potential clients. So I worked really hard on growing my following.

Then Facebook changed it’s algorithms, and suddenly it didn’t matter how many followers I had, none of them were seeing my posts anyway.

What I know now is that while social media marketing is important, the number of Facebook likes or Instagram followers I have is not where I should focus my attention.  Now I know that the best thing I can do for my business is to grow my email list.  The size of my list, not the number of followers I have, is what is important to me.

Here’s why.

I don’t own Instagram.  I don’t own Facebook.  Or Twitter.  Or Pinterest.  But I do own my email list.  So I know if I really want to reach my people, I can send them an email and get the important messages out.  And my clients will decide whether or not they want to see my content, not the Social Media overlords!

Grow your list!  It’s the best thing you can do for your business!

Take care of the talent.

A couple of years ago I had a light-bulb moment while talking on the phone with Brian Greenberg, the owner of Richard Photo Lab.

Brian and I were talking about my business… my workflows, marketing plans, that sort of thing, and then out of nowhere he asked “What are you doing to take care of the talent?”  At first I didn’t know what he meant and I had no idea how to answer.  He went on to say that when you are running a photography business, all of the nuts and bolts business stuff is important, but if you ignore the artist in you, neglect the talent, the business doesn’t matter, because you will not be able to sustain it.  When you are your business, you have to take care of yourself.  You have to nourish your creativity so that you have something to give.  

This is the best business advice I’ve ever received.

Take care of the talent.  Allow yourself downtime.  Create just for you. Or create nothing at all!  What ever you need to refuel.  Take care of yourself so that when you are at work you have something to give.


Remember, as business owners we get to make the rules.  We write our own job descriptions every day.  So write good ones!  Be smart about your business so that you can create a career and a life that you love!

Five Steps To a Great Business Year!

In the business world, January is often looked upon with dread.  It’s after the busy fall season, after the Holiday rush and many find the slowness to be stressful. 

I say January is a great time to sit down and make plans for the upcoming year! Take advantage of the slowness to get yourself organized and ready.

 Here are five things I do every January to set the tone for the entire year!

  1. Set a goal.  I’m a HUGE believer in the power of setting goals.  The bigger, the better.  Decide what you want.  Make it big.  And then work toward that goal all year long.  Setting a big goal for yourself can help move your business in amazing directions!
  2. Reflect.  Look back over last year.  Make yourself a list.  What went well?  What are you proud of? What would you like to continue with in the new year?  What would you like to tweak? Take the time to take pride in your accomplishments and add your list of “tweaks” to your goals for the year!  Continue doing what works, and change what needs improvement. It’s a good practice in business and in life!
  3. Look at your numbers!  This one can feel scary but it’s SO important!  Go through your old contracts.  What are your clients buying?  What products are the most profitable.  Is there anything that is not selling?  Is there anything your clients LOVE that you could sell more of?  Now is the time to identify those things in your business.  Let go of the things that are not profitable and boost your offerings of the things your clients love.  know your C.O.Gs (cost of goods) and start your year off with your most profitable foot forward. 
  4. Purge.  This is a big one for me.  By the end of the busy season, my office looks like it’s been hit by a hurricane.  Take advantage of the slowness of January to clean and purge.  It feels so good to start the year off organized!  
  5. Educate.  Look back at your goal for the New Year?  What is it?  Do you want more clients?  Do you want to earn six figures?  Do you want to master social media?  Whatever it is, find a workshop or a class or a book that is going to help you get there.  Education should always be a part of your business plan! 

If strengthening you business is part of your New’s Years goal, be sure to check out  Lady Boss Workshops!  This awesome online workshop will be launching in the Spring but we’ll be sending out solid, actionable business advice all year long to our newsletter list.  So sign up today!

Happy New Year!  Lets make 2017 great!

Sandra Coan, Five Steps to a Great Business Year

New Year, New Beginnings

There is something so magical about January 1st.  In theory, it’s just another date on the calendar.  But to me, it’s signifies a new beginning.  A fresh start.

I like to treat each calendar year as an opportunity to try something new. Challenging myself to try something new helps me push myself and my business.  

Sometime it’s small things… like raising my prices a little or deciding to take a workshop on something I’ve been trying to learn. And sometimes it’s big things… like deciding to teach my own workshop or pursuing publications and speaking engagements.  

Whatever it is, I set my intention and the start working toward my goal on January 1st.

Last year my goal was to speak at a professional conference.  

In October, I was given to opportunity to speak at Click Away, but that intention was set in January and I started working on what I wanted to say long before I was even asked to speak.

That is the power of setting your intention.  That is the magic of the New Year.

So my question to you is this...  What are your goals for the New Year?  

What new project will you begin?

Will you learn something new?

Raise your prices?

Or maybe start the business you’ve been dreaming about for years?

Whatever it is.  Set your intention.  Take the risk.  And let the New Year be your new beginning.

Sandra Coan, Studio Film Photography

P.S.  If starting or building your business is in your New Years plans, be sure to check out my exciting new project!  Visit www.ladybossworkshops.com for more information.

Mini Session Marketing Tips to Help You Sell

Can we take a minute to talk about mini sessions?!! 

I know a lot of photographers hate them.  I hear it all the time.  But, you know what?  I LOVE them!  I really do! They are fun AND super profitable!  And every year they get better.

So, today I want to tell you a bit about why I love them so much.  I want to sell you on the mini session!  And I’m going to share three marketing techniques that will help you knock your mini session sales out of the park.

Ok… here we go.. why I love mini sessions.

Short answer:

They help me meet the needs of all of my people.

Long answer:

The number one worry I hear from photographers when talking about mini sessions is that they fear that if they offer a short, less expensive version of their services, clients won’t book the longer, more expensive packages. 

In my experience, that’s just not true. I find that the price isn’t what motivates my mini session clients.  It’s the ease of it. Mini session clients want something quick and fun. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a mom sigh at the end of a mini and say “Whew!  I knew he/she could only handle 15 minutes!  That was great”.   Or, I hear a version of“Thank you so much!  The fall is so busy, and this is all I had time for this year!”

Listen, families are busy!
People are worried that their kids will melt down!
Sometimes, they just want one or two photos for a Holiday card.  

And thats okay!  

Those are your mini session people.

Some families, on the other hand,  love (and need) a long session. They want to spend the time, making sure everything is perfect.  They don’t want to feel rushed. They are coming into your studio to create heirlooms, not just to get a few photos.  

Those are your regular session people.

By having regular sessions, and well planned mini sessions, you can meet the needs of ALL of your people… and who doesn’t want to do that?!

(Oh, and don’t be surprised when you get families who’ve booked your full session in the summer coming back for your mini session in the Fall!) 

Sandra Coan, Seattle Film Photographer, Marketing tips for successful mini sessions

Okay, now, if the number one fear around mini sessions is getting price shoppers, the number two fear, is not booking.
It happens.  A photographer will plan a mini session weekend, and then no one books.  


To help with that, I want to share three things I do to build buzz around my minis.

  • I make them special.

Mini sessions are an event.  I only do them in the Fall.  I make them fun and fast, fifteen minutes, tops!  And, I have goodies for the kids when we are all done.  

My people know that mini sessions happen in the Fall, and I start getting email from people wanting to book in July and August.  But I only take bookings once the dates have been announced, and once those dates are announced, they go like hotcakes!

  • I’m smart about my schedule.

My Holiday dead-line is the first weekend in November.  So when do I run my mini sessions?  Yep, the second weekend in November.  


I want to create an incentive for all of those families who’ve been putting it off, or have been too busy, to come in.  This is the last possible time to get photos before the Holidays, and my people know it. 

  • I price to sell.

While price isn’t the main motivation for my clients to book a mini session, it does play a part.  I make sure my sittings are priced to sell.  I also offer a few of my best selling items as add-ons and I talk to my clients about these add-ons at the end of their shoot.  Every. Single. Person. Adds something to their package. 

My clients get a great value and get their Holiday shopping done, and I meet my sales goals.  A total win/win. 

Sandra Coan, Seattle Film Photographer, Marketing tips for successful mini sessions

Okay my friends… I hope I’ve motivated you.  Have you done mini sessions this year?  If not, try it!!  It’s not too late!  Then report back… I want to hear how it goes!

Happy shooting!

Sandra Coan, Seattle Film Photographer, Marketing tips for successful mini sessions

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

The One Question That Changed My Life

What causes certain people to succeed where other people fail? This has been a question that has fueled my photography business over the last five years. How can so many people go into the business only to drop out just a few months or years later and what is the main factor that creates longevity. I have decided that the main factor is our relationship to fear. How do we handle certain situations and decisions when we act from fear rather that acting from faith? How do we handle risk? How do we deal with being completely uncertain?

Just like with everything in life, there are no guarantees. A woman who has been at her job for over 30 years could lose it tomorrow without warning. Just like you could start a business and fail. But with this one question, I was able to take the biggest risk of my life up until that point and it made all the difference.

Perfectionism is Ruining Your Business

Many people in creative fields can be perfectionists, especially photographers, florists, wedding planners and people who need to care about the details. I am constantly on the look for the perfect light and space, to put hair and clothing in their proper place, and to make sure it doesn’t look like a tree or a lamp post is coming out of my clients head. My attention to detail is has become my super power over the years. I don’t know why the X-Men franchise hasn’t brought on “Highly Aware of Every Detail Girl,” but, in my own life, I truly do feel like the Syndey Bristow of Wedding Photographers.

This super powerful attention to detail comes with it’s very own nemesis—a dark, evil, horrible case of perfectionism that has plagued me ever since I was first praised for being perfect.  We live in a society where it’s almost impossible for a woman not to be plagued and haunted with perfectionism. Every day we see perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect eye lashes, perfectly plumb lips, breast that are always pointing upwards. If we frequent instagram, we also see women always happy and sexy and hipster and sometimes baking cakes and their houses are all white and all perfect, and it doesn’t help.

Two years ago, I went on a mission eradicate perfectionism from my life and business, and the results were overwhelming in their success. Here are the top three ways that perfectionism was ruining my life and my business and what I did about it.

1.     Perfectionists Get Less Done—perfectionists just take longer to get things done. Time truly is money. Time is our most valuable commodity that we have. We can never get back all the wasted hours we spent on over editing our photos. Perfectionists take longer choosing websites designs, putting together marketing material, or debating on what to publish and how to publish blog posts. They doubt themselves at every turn and do not want to put anything out in the open that they do not deem as perfect. This is a vicious cycle because perfectionism does not exist. I now limit myself on the time I take to make decisions. I let my assistant blog for me even though I do not always like how she does this (she really is a saint to work for me). I make faster decisions on new websites, newsletter layouts, and just go with my very first inclination on most things even thought 80% of the time I know they could be better, but I also know they are good enough for now.  There are a million ways that I have implemented over the past two years that have cut my perfectionism by at least 75%. It feels lighter, business flows easier, and clients are actually happier.

2.     Perfectionists Let “Rejection” Affect Their Behavior— How many of you get a client who doesn’t like something you created and you let it immediately affect your state of mind and being? You want to crawl into bed and you question why you ever decided to run your own business. Whether an inquiry decides to go with another photographer, a client doesn’t like their photos, or you have a bride that just refuses to follow communication norms and just harasses you.  These kinds of occurrences are going to happen any time you run a business, and it does not mean that you are doing anything wrong. One of my favorite quotes by Tony Robbins says, “Your biggest problem is that you think you shouldn’t have any.” Perfectionists think that if they do everything perfectly than all the results should lead to perfection. This is just not reality and can cause for a lot of heartache and questioning of “what did I do to attract this!!!”. To which I want to say, “baby, this is life!” The sooner you can detach your emotions from your perceived rejection—the sooner you can deal with the issues at hand like a badass and continue moving forward. I truthfully do not even use the word “rejection” in my business or when I am on Tinder. 

Taking a purely emotional response to problems is the number one reason why female-based businesses fail—they take the normal day-to-day problems and internalize it as simple meaning they are not good enough. If you constantly feel like you are failing, then your business is going to fail. I am a very empathic person and often take on the energy of those around me. When I get an angry email, I immediately feel that negativity and go into stress mode. It used to stay with me for weeks—like a dark hole in the pit of my stomach accompanied by feelings of helpless to change the situation. I have now recognized in myself that when I get a negative, sad, or upset email or phone call—my first reaction might be to mirror those feelings. Because I know this, I have set in place at least five rituals that I use to get me out of my state of suffering and put me back into a happy state of prosperity and productiveness. The rituals are too long to list here, but most of them include getting present, dealing with what is, not projecting into the future, and detaching from the emotions and looking at the facts. When we can look at the facts as they are (instead of creating a story around why they are what they are) then we can solve them. This is often a more masculine way of operating, but when I am running my business, I do tend to take on more of a masculine energy (if you haven’t delved into the wonderful world of masculine and feminine energy traits, I highly recommend it!). 

3.     Perfectionists Put Others Before Themselves—here is the root problem: Perfectionism is truly just a mask for shame.  We feel shame that we aren’t good enough, that we can’t do it all, and that we have flaws.  Most people who have struggled with perfectionism are really just struggling to find self-acceptance. We have subconsciously decided that to be worthy of love and significance we have to be perfect. Perfectionism is often tied to eating disorders (which I have had and still struggle with), with a desire to always appear happy and fine, with the inexplicable need to have straight As in school (and an A- usually meant weeks and weeks of consuming self hatred), and so many other red flags that are simply tied with us not loving ourselves enough. When we put everyone else before us it can mean staying up all hours of the day and night to email and edit, it means booking clients during the mornings when you really want to be taking a yoga class, it means making exceptions and casting aside the activities that would serve you best so that you can accommodate everyone around you. When you release this perfectionism—this need to please—when you release it, your business still succeeds, in fact, it thrives, because you are rested and happy and have done the things that you need to do to fill your cup instead of trying to fill everyone else's. This is the hardest one to grasp, but I recommend starting simple. One of the best things you can do is have a business or life coach, join a supportive mastermind, or find other levels of support from women who can see you clearly for who you are.  Avoid hanging out with critical, negative, and Debbie Downer type people.  Take time each morning to do things that put you in a positive, happy, and joyful frame of mind.

In conclusion, perfectionism is not some cute little personality trait we can live with, it is the vilest of villains and we need to f*cking murder it dead. The end.

Did you like this article? Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more business tips or schedule a free 30 minute coaching session to work through any blocks you may have towards your business. 

VENDORS: Dress: Leanne Marshall Ribbon: Poetry of Silk Bouquets: Ava Floral (www.avafloral.com)


What if it were actually CHEAPER to shoot film?

Have you done your numbers? Figured out your hourly rate? Do you know how many rolls of film you shoot at a session, and how much the total cost per session is? If not, you need to figure that out. It is eye opening.

My name is Meghan, and I am a spreadsheet addict. And I am proud! And every day I look at my "MBP by the numbers" spreadsheet. Every day! Things don't change on it from a day to day basis, but it's good to always keep your business budget in mind. What the heck is "MBP by the numbers"?? It's the giant spreadsheet I created that holds everything relating to money for my business. My goal gross, my hourly rate calculated, my number of hours spent per client, my average sale, my session fee breakdown, my product pricing breakdown, and lots of other pages. One that was eye opening to me is the Film Costs page (I told you there was a page for everything!) But what that page told me, is that it is actually CHEAPER for me to shoot film than digitally.

Did that just blow your mind?

I know you don't believe me. I definitely wouldn't! But here's the breakdown:

  • I know my average cost per roll (BW or C41, 35mm or 120) is $22.76. That will change slightly with film costs, but it's my average right now. 
  • I know my 1 hour shoot will have around 5 rolls of film, making my total film cost per session $113.80.
  • I know my hourly rate according to my gross and hours available, etc, is $122
  • Shooting digital would take approximately 2.5-3 hours of editing time costing me a minimum of $305 (hourly rate x 2.5)
  • Film scans take about 15 minutes to cull and do any needed tweaks (typically just straightening because my head shoots crooked), which costs me $30.50 of my time.
  • My session fee is $225
  • Cost of shooting film for the session including edit time: $144.30
  • Cost of shooting digitally for the session including edit time: $305 and up
  • Profit from my session fee for film: $80.70

  • Profit from my session fee for digital: -$80 (yes, that's NEGATIVE!)

Seems crazy right? But numbers don't lie. It COSTS me my time (which is worth money!!) to shoot digitally. I encourage you to take a look at your own business finances. KNOW your hourly rate. Know your value and what is worth spending your time on and your money on. It might just be eye opening!

Meghan Boyer for Little Bellows // Budgeting Film

How To Pick The Right Workshop For You

Every time you log into Facebook, you are likely bombarded with 100 new photographer workshops that are  "OPEN FOR REGISTRATION NOW!!!" Hey, Little Bellows was one of those posts that you either looked at and thought "oh cool maybe I'll check that out", or you thought "Ugh, another annoying workshop!" or maybe you just breezed by the post and went on with your life. 

This is not a post promoting the Little Bellows workshop. Registration is closed. Don't worry you are safe. :)

But this is a post to help you. Help you sift through the workshops that seem like they were thrown together by a photographer who has taken a lot of workshops him/herself in the last year and are now teaching (copying) everything they were taught to make money, and the workshops that are put on by professionals who are experts in their craft who genuinely want to help others succeed. Because there are a lot of workshops that fall under both of those categories unfortunately (or fortunately?).

There are 1 day, weekend, weekday, online, on location, PDF's, retreats, styled shoots, business focused, film, hybrid, luxury, beginner, advanced .... I could probably go on forever on the different kind of workshops out there. 

Ask yourself some questions to help you decide what kind to sign up for. 

What do you most want to get from a workshop?

Do you want to learn or get more confident with film? 
Do you want to network with other respected professionals?
Do you want more styled shoot looks for your portfolio?
Do you want to shoot at all?
Do you want to learn a new skill?
Do you want to meet a mentor?
Do you want personalized help with your website and/or portfolio?
Do you want a marketing plan and ideas on how to build your business?

How far do you want to travel?

Do you want to go to an awesome or exotic location you've never been?
Do you want to stay close to home?
Do you want to stay in your pajamas?
Do you have childcare to think about?

How much money are you comfortable spending?

Do you have a designated budget for education? 
Do you have cash to pay or do you have to use credit?
Will you be able to make back the money you spent quickly?

Who is the instructor?

*this one is important!
Are you drawn to their work? Why?
Is your style similar to theirs?
Do they work in the same genre or with the same medium?
How is their social media presence? Are they helpful? or are they a complainer?
How long have they been in business?
If a film shooter, how long have they been shooting film?
Have they recently (in the last year say) posted about a similar workshop they attended?
How many workshops have they done?

Photo taken at Yan Fam Way 2.0 in Marfa, TX (which was wonderful ;) )

Photo taken at Yan Fam Way 2.0 in Marfa, TX (which was wonderful ;) )

I'm not going to say which workshops I think are legit and not. That's not helpful. What I would spend my money on might not be the same thing you would find value in. I also tend to jump into things. And in the past have walked right into the "PDF ONE DAY SALE!!!" and wasted money on a bunch of junk that I either never read or that wasn't helpful to me.

I will say this. . . it is hard to be a good educator. You have to be able to know more than just photography. You have to know psychology, you have to know HOW to educate people, you have to have excellent speaking skills, writing skills, and people skills. It's not something just anyone could do or else there wouldn't be a teacher shortage in most states. Look into who the workshop teacher or writer is. Read their posts on social media going way back, get a feel for their voice and see if it's one you really want to learn from. With a little digging you might realize they aren't for you afterall.

You work hard for your money, and I want you to make the best decisions that will help you and your business grow leaps and bounds. Do your research, it will pay off in the end. 

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

What's On Your Site?

When is the last time you looked at your website? I mean REALLY looked at it? As in went through each public page with a fine tooth comb looking for typos, ill fitting photos, or anything that just doesn't fit your brand any more?

This is something you need to be doing. And doing it often. 

It's easy to forget our website's importance. Most of our time online is probably spent on social media be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We often see those platforms as the most important web presence. While they hold their own importance, your website is your BOOM factor. It's your complete presence in one place. No distractions from hashtags, ads, or any other posts from random people about this crazy political season. 

Go through every page on your site. And spend a LOT of time on that first page. What does that home page say about you as a brand? Is it relaying the message you want? Is there anyone you can ask to review your site for you and give feedback? Maybe even a past trusted client? Or other photographer? 

The most important thing to figure out is what your website says about you. Is it saying what you want it to? Are you getting site traffic but not many inquiries? Then there is a disconnect somewhere and your site is where to look first. 

maryland family photographer © Meghan Boyer Photography

If you're struggling with your site, that's something a mentor can do for you. They can get you on track and help find the blocks that might be hard for you to see yourself. Both Sandra and I offer mentoring, and you can find more information here

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.


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. 


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. 


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. 


Stop Thinking About How Hard It Is

Don’t waste your time wondering when you’ll get noticed and when will it get easier and when will you have to stop hustling and why haven’t you become famous yet and why isn’t everyone booking you??

These questions are a cement weight around your neck that will drown you in self-importance and some idea that things should be different than they are right now.

Get up.

Be grateful.

Love Life.

Help others.

Oh yeah, always be the hardest working person in the room.

The number one thing I see lacking in photographers (and florists and wedding planners and stylists and the world) when they start their businesses is patience. Sure, it could be “know-how”—but that’s easy to figure out (find the people who are where you want to be and hire them like crazy to show you how they got there). Sure, it could be life and work balance (I am not sure this exists, except where exercise is involved, for the love of God, please exercise and get away from your desk each day). But, it is truly not all the things we think that it is.

It is patience, grasshopper.

It is picking up your camera everyday and creating something. It is thinking outside the box—again and again and again (or even inside the box, or blowing the box up or what have you) with out any expectation of grand applause or 1,000 likes. Those likes will come one day, probably farther away than you think. You are going to log so many hours creating shoots, posting your glorious work online, blogging, snapchating, periscoping, facebooking, working, hustling, and more.

That is ok!

That’s what owning your own business in this media landscape looks like.

Somehow, with the Kardashian mentality of today’s society, we think we should all be superstars without really putting in our 10,000 hours. And the truth is, we shouldn’t be. Not being a superstar is the best way to keep that hunger alive. Not being a superstar keeps us on our toes with constant drive and innovative.

Protect yourself from these hamster wheels of death type thoughts. Kill them dead in your mind. Do not entertain them, even for a few minutes. Kick them out of your head. Remind yourself, again and again that gratitude creates a life worth living. We are creative. We are naturally hard on ourselves, but we need to stop it. Now. No more.

Commit to it.

Take your photos. Post your photos. Be good to people. Add value. Repeat.

That’s it.

Keep doing that and you, dear grasshopper, are going to make it. Big time.

In the words of one of my inspiration heroes, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ,“We get knocked down, get back up, and chase our greatness even stronger.” 

D'Arcy Benincosa on Little Bellows

D'Arcy Benincosa is founder of The Path Workshops taking place in Salt Lake City and Paris in 2016. For more information on the workshops, look here: http://www.thepathworkshops.com/


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!