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Mar

For Photogs: Asking Why

As business owners one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is WHY? Cause lets be honest, we ask this question of our mentors and people we admire in the industry when trying to understand their businesses, but we often forget to ask ourselves this question.  
 
When preparing for a mentoring session with a photographer, Chris and I do a deep dive analysis of the photographer's business. Part of this usually includes writing down questions regarding why the photographer does things a certain way, operates their business using a specific process, and the thinking/reasoning behind an aspect of their business. While many times they have an answer that is a well informed intentional reason, a lot of the time if we are confused about why they do things a certain way, they may also be. Here are the top five answers we get when we ask WHY that raise a concerning flag: 
 
I don't know 
• I've always done it that way 
• Other people do it  
• I don't know how to do it any other way 
• I didn't know that's what I was doing
 
 
As business owners it is our responsibility to know why we make the decisions we make for our business and do things the way we do. "I don't know" is one of the scariest answers because if the photographer who owns the business doesn't know why they do x,y,z then who does?! Running a business from a place of blind emotion is like a sailboat at sea with no rutter. The boat will go wherever the tide takes it with no clear reasoning, direction or purpose. Surely this boat will eventually run into the ground. For example, the question "why do you charge what you do for your services?" shouldn't be answered with "I don't know." Strong business are built on a foundation of informed processes and decisions that work best for that business. 
 
If you are doing things simply and only because you have always done it that way, I can guarantee you are not growing as a business owner. Significant or forward movement never came from comfort zones, the worn path, or doing things the same way time and time again just because. 
 
Doing what everyone else is doing is very risky. Answering the question "why are you hosting a workshop?" or "why are you offering discounts?" with "Because everyone else is" is concerning. Making decisions for your business based on trends and what works for other people really isn't a smart place to run a business from. Because let's be honest, trends change and what works for them may not be best for you and your business.  
 
The heartbeat of WHY you do what you do within your business should come from a place of clearly knowing your own business, goals, intentions, and motivations.

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Feb

5 Tips To Accomplishing Goals

It's that time of year when most of the goals we set for ourselves for the year have probably not been crossed off our To Do list and are still waiting to be achieved. And if they all have been achieved already, then you need to dream bigger scarier dreams! And it's right about now that I wish there was a perfectly crafted turn key way to guarantee getting things done and accomplish all that we have set out for ourselves. Wouldn't that be great? While there is no turn key, there are five main things that have really helped me in accomplishing goals and getting stuff done that I want to share with you! Let's jump right into them: 
 
Write them down. Chris has probably said the phrase to me, "you don't know where you're going if you don't know where you're going" literally a million times. And he is so right. It may seem like an obvious or simple thing to do, but clearly identifying your goals and what needs to be done is going to help you 1) know what you are working towards and 2) identify what you need to do to get there. And I don't just mean have your goals loosely floating around your head somewhere between your grocery list and the time of your dentist appointment. I mean pen to paper, clearly writing out specifically what your goals are. I often do a huge brain dump of all the things I want to get done (for the year, that month, for the day) and then prioritize them. 
 
Keep them visible. Now that you have them all written out, keep them out. Have your goals sitting on your desk or hanging from your mirror where you can constantly see them. This way you will see them each day and remind yourself what you are working towards. Writing them in a journal and then tucking that away until the end of the year to see if you (*fingers crossed*) hopefully can check off some of the goals that you (*fingers crossed*) remembered, isn't going to be helpful. Chris was the one that truly taught me the power of this very early on. And I will let you in on a little secret... Chris used to keep a little laminated (yes, laminated!) card with his goals in his wallet. So each time he took something out of his wallet, there were his goals demanding not to be forgotten and calling for action. Each time Chris would achieve a goal he would take a marker and cross it off on the card. True story. At first I honestly thought he was a complete (yet adorable :) ) dork for doing this, but let me tell you, Chris has achieved more of what he has set out to do for himself more then anyone I know! So write down your goals and keep them visible. 
 
Identify smaller steps. As great as it is to have a list of goals, I have found that they just stay a list of things that hoooopefully will happen UNLESS I identify what needs to be done for each to be accomplished. This means taking each goal and writing out the steps that need to take place in order for me to move forward in the direction of achieving them. Notice I didn't say what steps I need to take to achieve the goal. While in some cases it may be as cut and dry as simply doing XYZ and the goal will be achieved, a majority of goals don't have clear 1,2,3 steps. So I encourage you to write out ACTION steps that you believe will help you move forward toward your goal, even if it's just a little. Maybe a step is reaching out to a colleague or emailing a question to a vendor. Goals are often much less daunting when we identify smaller steps to take for each. And then the key to this tip is taking action and actually doing these steps you identified!  
 
Assign timing to them. Having "this year" be the timing for when you want to achieve your goal is often much less motivating and can lead us to put off taking action towards that goal. Simply put, it can encourage procrastination. In February we may feel like we have lots and lots of time to achieve that goal, but how many times has December rolled around and we realize we haven't done anything to work towards it. Having timing associated with goals and the steps to be taken helps us 1) prioritize what to do first, 2) allocate our resources and 3) adds a sense of urgency in achieving it. 
 
Have someone hold you accountable. This is a big one and something we can so easily forget as business owners. Many of us are so used to juggling everything with our business and doing it all ourselves, that we forget the importance of accountability. While Chris and I are in constant communication about the status of things, we sit down every other week together to go through our goals and share updates with one another around the business. It's a status meetings of sorts. Some of the projects Chris isn't involved with at all, but just vocalizing to him the progress or lack there of is helpful for me. I share with him some of the obstacles I am facing and he can encourage me and sometimes provide suggestions about what to do. I know not everyone works with someone else in their business, but even if you have a colleague or friend that can hear your goals and what you are working towards, it can be super powerful. If you can both help one another in getting that much closer to accomplishing what you set out to do that's even better! I know it may not be easy, but it's important to share your goals, dreams, and action plan with someone so they can encourage and hold you accountable. 
 
 
With all the snow on the ground right now, I am day dreaming about this sunny shoot in Santa Barbara CA... I think we need to plan a west coast visit again sooner then later! Adding that to my goals and making the timing ASAP! ;)

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Jan

Q&A: What Should I Share On My Blog?

I think anyone who has a blog has probably asked or wondered about these questions at some point... I know I certainly have! What should I share on my blog? Are there things I should or shouldn't share? How do I know if I am sharing too much? These are such great questions and important things to think about. 
 
There is no clear answer, but what IS clear is that there is no right or wrong answer! :) Here are three things to ask yourself as you think about these questions and write for your blog: 
 
What are you using your blog for. Whether you are a photographer or another small business owner or just have a blog for personal use, it's important to identify what the purpose of your blog is. Is it the space that you showcase your recent photography work? Is it an educational tool where you post information and content to help others? Are you using it to share more about yourself and your story to inspire and encourage others? Knowing what you are using your blog for will have shape the kinds of content you will post on it. And this purpose will help you filter through the things you will/will not share in that space. 
 
I primarily use my blog as a tool for people to get more about me and my photography. This is why I share on my blog about my son and husband, failed cooking attempts, the last wedding we captured, frequently asked questions from other photographers and tips/tricks to shooting. I aim for a balance between posting personal, business, and educational content but let whatever I have going on in my life help determine the frequency of each. For example, when we are in the thick of wedding season, I post more weddings and share more of my couple's love stories. 
 
Once it's out there, it's out there. I know you already know this and have probably heard this a thousand times when it comes to the internet and social media, but it's worth repeating and reminding ourselves! I think when we write posts for our blogs, especially ones that are maybe more on the personal side, we forget that once we post them people will actually see and read them. After all, that's what we hope for! Maybe its five people, maybe it's five thousand. Just know that when it's out there it's out there for people to see, so deciding on boundaries and thinking about what you want to share is important.  
 
Before I publish each post on my blog I do what I like to call the "Super Bowl test." It's not as cool and action packed as it sounds, but it helps me! I ask myself, would I be willing to stand in the center of the field at the Super Bowl before Beyoncé performs at half time, with the stands filled and it being broadcasted live on TV to the thousands at home watching for the game or just the commercials (I am a self-proclaimed commercial watcher) and say out loud to everyone what I just wrote. Would I be willing to share with thousands of strangers and also people I know what I am about to post? Am I comfortable with sharing with everyone what I wrote? Only if the answer is "yes" do I publish the blog post. If I'm not sure or think I probably wouldn't, I revise the post or decide not to post it. That's my super not-so-fancy gut test. Now this isn't to say I am not vulnerable in sharing things, but it's worth asking myself this gut check question each time. 
 
Setting boundaries. Thinking about and deciding on boundaries around what you share on your blog is really important. You may decide that you will have very few if any boundaries. Or on the other hand, you may decide you will have clear conservative boundaries and will just post photos from your weddings/shoots. Maybe you choose not to post any photos of your children and family, maybe you do. Maybe you decide not to most any posts about your personal life, but just share educational content. Whatever you decide, know that there is no right or wrong answer. You should decide what you are comfortable with sharing and what works best for you and the objectives you have for your blog. And you can change your boundaries if you choose, just know like I said above that once it's out there, it's out there! For me, I decided a long ago to share my photography, educational content, as well as personal posts. There are some things I choose not to go into great detail about and keep more private, just as many of us do in our lives, but do share things about myself and my life as a way for people to get to know me better!

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Jan

Survival Tips for Mom-tographers

Going from "Business Owner" to "Mom AND Business Owner" was definitely a huge transition for me. It was uncharted territory and I quickly found out what worked and what didn't. I listened to the tips and advice I was given by business owner moms I really respected and made adjustments to find a new balance.  
 
I am so excited to be part of a mom blog series by my sweet friend, amazing business owner and awesome mom Jody Gray. Today I along with some other incredible moms in the industry, are sharing our top survival tips for Mom-tographers! So if you find yourself making the transition to Business Owner AND Mom/Dad or will someday, be sure to check out the post by CLICKING HERE!

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Jan

The Thing About Goals

With the start of the New Year, most people are doing the same thing: taking down holiday decorations, regretting how many cookies they ate over the past month and making resolutions for 2015. Well at least that's what I have been doing. And part of people making resolutions involves setting goals. Goals to lose 10 lbs, travel to Europe, book x number of weddings for the year, change jobs, start a hobby. But the funny thing is is that most people don't achieve their goals for the very same two reasons. Yup, two reasons. Every.single.year.  
 
Okay, the first one. Brace yourself for some mind exploding information... Are you sitting down? Goals you never set for yourself will most likely not happen. MIND BLOWN. Okay so maybe not the most earth shattering news, but one so many of us forget. Including me. I so easily fail to remember this simply truth sometimes. And by "setting goals," I don't mean just having a loose idea of what you think your goals might be in your head either. I mean, sitting down and writing out your specific goals for the year. Remember to not leave out the ones you think you won't achieve. The point of setting goals isn't just to have a list that you are 100% confident in achieving without a doubt just so you can feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the year. If none of your goals scare you, stretch you, and make you question if you can achieve them, you aren't dreaming big enough. Don't let 2016 roll around find you realizing you didn't achieve any of the goals that you never had.  
 
The second reason why most folks don't achieve their goals year after year? Well, the beautifully reliable thing about most goals is that they require ACTION to be achieved. You write them down in your best cursive on the pages of a pretty journal (<-- totally guilt of this every year including this one). You put a stake in the ground and decide on that list of goals. But the truth of the matter is, when we write down our goals and do nothing, you know what usually happens? You guessed it - NOTHING! The goals sit there on the pages of that journal and go nowhere - that's simply as far as they get. I'm a huge fan of identifying and writing down specific goals, but it's what comes after that truly breaths life into them and makes them happen. It's the purposeful hustle. It's the intentional steps you take that bring you closer to checking that goal off your list. One thing that has helped Chris and I is to take each one of our goals and list out five actionable steps for each with dates in which to complete them by. We then refer back to these goals and steps through out the year to check on our progress, revise goals, add more steps, etc.  
 
Because I mean, lets be honest, when is the last time someone rang your doorbell and was like "Oh hey, I was just driving by and decided to stop at your house to let you know that all those goals you wrote down that you wanted to achieve... well, POOF! Here they are! You are 10lbs skinner, just went to Europe and back and if you check your calendar your wedding season is fully booked. I mean, right?! That hasn't ever happened to me anyway. My goals have been achieved by identifying them and taking ACTION. Whether they are small baby steps or large leaps in the direction of your goals, I encourage you this New Year to remember to DO something about your goals. GO after them. MAKE them become a reality by WORKING towards them. Don't let their existence just be in that journal but let your goals be things that have become your reality and things you can check off at the end of 2015!
This is one of my favorite quotes from the inspirational Lara Casey... I keep this hanging in my studio all year long as a great reminder! :)

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