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Here you will find my most current photo work, mixed in with stories of my life. Feel free to comment and leave some love. <3

September 12, 2011

I feel like I just got home from summer camp. I can almost smell the campfire on my clothes. It’s that feeling when you just get home from an awesome experience, fresh and ready to take on the world. I feel refueled, mentally at least, and I’m still riding that “high” of inspiration, motivation, and the passion to focus, and to change.

Let’s get real for a minute. Or a weekend, rather.

This past weekend, I was invited to be a part of something truly amazing. Life-changing amazing. That might sound like a big deal… well IT IS! I was lucky enough to be selected to attend a live workshop with Tamara Lackey as my instructor at the creativeLIVE studios in Seattle, WA. The two-day workshop was focused on “Taking Care of Business”, which for me relates to my photo business. This workshop marks a very pivotal point in my path as a professional photographer and business owner.

Brace yourself for one long, reflective, blog-post about my experiences, and my thoughts. You might want to single-task for this ;)

As the owner of a photography business, I am expected to be everything. Or at least have it all covered. Aside from being a good photographer, I am expected to know how to be a good business manager, a good accountant, a good sales person, a good marketer, a good designer, a good… well you get the point. For the past as-long-as-I-can-remember-since-I-started-this-whole-business, I have tried to be ALL of that. And over and over and over, I have failed, miserably. Hopefully from an outside perspective this isn’t SO apparent, and I have a feeling that it isn’t since people continually ask me “how do you do it ALL!?”. The answer: I don’t think I do!!!

But guess what? Failure is a key piece of the puzzle of success. And I’m ok with that. For every 10 times I fall flat on my face, I move forward. I know this. I have known this. For some reason, I just didn’t know that it applied to me, until this past weekend.

There is something so incredibly profound about someone speaking to your heart. It’s like all of a sudden, you can feel this rush of warmth fill in spaces in your heart that you didn’t know were missing. And at the same time, your brain gets all tingly, and a lightbulb goes off, and the clouds open up. All at once. That’s the best I can describe it, clarity.

I arrived late Thursday evening, checked into my room, and went down to the hotel restaurant to meet up with my new friends and colleagues- the other chosen ones. I was so excited to meet them all in person, especially after doing a little online stalking, and emailing. You could tell that everyone was anxious, excited, and a little nervous for the entire experience. But at least we were all in the same boat. :)

I could hardly sleep that night. I don’t know if it was excitement, or just that normally I’d be up working/editing away anyways. Needless to say, getting up at 6am was NOT easy, lol. But one thought about being LIVE on camera for 8 hours to literally thousands of viewers got me in that shower and getting ready FAST. I met up with a couple of the other students, Jesse and Donovan and we all walked across the street to the creativeLIVE studios together.
From the moment we walked in, you could feel the energy of the atmosphere. Positive. For some reason, I wasn’t nervous to be on camera. Thinking about how thousands of people were watching live just didn’t seem to phase me. Maybe it was that everyone else was so nervous they just sucked the energy for that right out of me… Whatever it was, I am incredibly thankful. The set was gorgeous. Modern, sleek, and fun looking, complete with pretty green apples! Everyone on the set was incredibly kind and welcoming. I felt like we were all long-lost friends! The rest of the students and Tamara arrived, and soon enough Celeste was counting down until we went live.

While re-capping every little detail might be interesting to some, I’d rather reflect on the experience, and what I have learned from it. Since I love lists, here you go:

Things I have learned, and will be implementing into my business, and life.
•  I can’t do it ALL. Nor should I attempt to. What I can do, is figure out my strengths, my passions, and delegate the rest.
• Emotional and physical rest are a VITAL part to being successful. Work in 90 minute intervals, and single-task to get more done.
• I need to be affectionate towards the business side of my business. Dreading it will get me nowhere, and when you break it down, it’s really not all that scary anyways.
• My brand needs to be a reflection of ME. Anyone can buy equiptment, learn PS, etc., but what will set me apart is branding myself in a way that reflects who I am and what I believe.
• Branding and marketing are two separate things. Recognize that. Divide and conquer.
• Realize what makes me dead inside. Stop doing those things, and find a way to take care of them in a different way.
• Know my role. I am an artist, not so much a visionary or manager. Knowing this will help me figure out what I should be tackling myself, and what I should leave up to others.
• There are other ways to get work done than hiring a full time person. Interns, part timers, and commission-based helpers are all options.
• It NEEDS to be EASY to do business with me. I need better marketing materials, and a better mindset.
• You can change your mindset, if you can accept the idea, be ok with the idea, and own the idea. I am working on this, specifically when it comes to helping clients choose the best prints/albums/wall portraits/etc. for their homes. Realizing that they are coming to me because I am the expert, and they want my advice. By changing this mindset, I can change the experience, and therefore change my outcome.
• Money. It’s not the root of all evil, but blind worship of it is. I need to get a better handle on all things financial within my business, and personal life. This will help me achieve my goals much faster.
• The more money you spend, the less you have. The less money you spend, the more you have. Sounds so simple, but definitely spoke to me.
• Fear is a normal thing, and even a good thing. Fear is inevitable, and a part of the process. If you’re scared, you’re probably doing something right.
• Stop telling yourself things that you wouldn’t openly tell someone you love. Get rid of the negative thoughts.

Things I am going to change
• Better up-front communication with clients about their experience. I will help to plan the shoot better, get to know my clients better before the session, and help them through the end of the process by finding out their intention for the shoot, what they’d like to get out of it, and what they’d like to take home from it.
• Acquire my own “team”  to delegate the things I don’t want to do out, so that I can focus on what I do want to do.
• Re-assess and re-brand my business, with an emphasis on who I am, and what my vision is for my clients/work.
• GET IT TOGETHER!!! The business side must be in a good place for me to be successful. I will be better at managing my finances, invoicing, contracts, and clients so that I can stay on top and be a profitable business.
• Simplify the experience. It needs to be easy for clients to work with me, and I need to make it that way.
• SERVICE my clients. I will gain a new perspective, and each time I consider communication with a client, I will first think of how I can better service them. What can I do for them, so that we maintain a relationship that involves the least amount of work on their end, and the most amount of enjoyment.
• I will change my mindset about sales. People are obviously hiring me for a reason, and I need to be better at finding out what that reason is at the beginning of the transaction, and work towards it the entire time.

Whew! I obviously have a LOT to improve, and organize, but thanks to this amazing experience, I now have a starting point, and a very specific direction. This will be a new start to a better experience for my clients, and for myself. In the end, I just want us both to win, and I feel like by moving forward and embracing these new ideas and disciplines, I can accomplish that.

I cannot even tell you how close I have become to the entire group of people who were on this crazy ride with me, but here is a start: (totally stealing your individual-comment-idea Donovan!)

Tamara- WOW. Thank you, for everything. Your honesty, your directness, your challenges, and for sharing your wisdom. I truly feel like you genuinely care about me, and the success of my business, and that is enough to make my eyes well up with tears. There is something so intense about someone who believes in you, and who shows you that. Thank you for sharing that with me, and with all of us. I appreciate your candid nature, and your genuine demeanor. The wealth of knowledge you have shared with me over this past weekend is exactly what I needed, and hoped to gain from this experience. I don’t think I could ever say enough “thank you”s, so I work hard  to instill the knowledge into myself and into my business, since actions speak the loudest. I am so happy that you now know about me ;) , and I sincerely hope that we are able to stay in touch. You are such an inspiration, and I appreciate you. Plus you have some awesome T-rex dance moves.

Erika- You. Are. Amazing. We clicked from the moment I met you, and there is something so genuine and positive about you. You are warm and friendly, and I can tell that you are so dedicated. I know that you will learn to disassociate yourself from the negative, and focus on the positive, only furthering you in many ways. I am happy to know that I have a lifelong friend in you, and I look forward to watching you succeed. Don’t doubt yourself, you’ve got this girl, just freakin’ get started! :)

Kelli- Girrrrrrrrrl! I can honestly not wait to hang out with you again! I am so happy that I busted down your wall soon enough to get to know you so well in just two days. You are an incredible person, and you are strong. I hope that you embrace yourself more, and infuse that into your business, because you will be unstoppable. Thank you for the laughs, the real convos, and for opening up with me. I am so happy that we are friends, and I know that we will be for a lifetime. WPPI will be here sooner than we know, and I can’t wait to share that experience with you and hopefully our other fellow classmates! Until then, I cast “REVELIO!” on you and your personality, ;) because you have so much to offer to so many. And, my daddy taught me good.

Donovan- Dang boy! You can drop it like it’s hot!! I didn’t expect those dance moves from you, but I should have. You have such a unique talent that I know you will take off and be uber successful with! I am so happy that you have found reason and confidence to take your business to the next level, and to start getting legit. You are worth it, you deserve it, and I hope you won’t sell yourself short anymore. I am so glad that you made it all the way from New Orleans to hang out with us and inspire us all. I love your witty sarcasm, and how you are so meme savvy :) You have such a warm and friendly demeanor, and I am sure that will only further you in your endeavors. And yes, we will be meeting up again!! Let’s make it happen!

Carolyn- You are wonderful. Your genuine nature and willingness to share your experiences and knowledge is unusual in this industry, and I really appreciated it. You get it. I am so happy that you are booked for a very successful fall season, and I have no doubts that you will continue to succeed with your business. Thank you for sharing stories about your kids, and your experiences, and for sharing your tears. That takes guts. Lots of them. But it’s beautiful to see someone so shamelessly emotional about what is important to them. You inspired me, and I can’t wait until we get to hang again :) Along with the workshop, one of the most valuable things I learned this weekend was about the golden circle, so thank you for that as well. Cheers to Mountain Dew! ;)

Jesse- I didn’t get to chat with you as much as I would have liked, until the hour before I literally left town. I am so glad I stuck around for that, because you are inspiring. Thank you for your honesty and feedback, I value that so much. You are so careful it seems, with everything. I can tell how much you care about your business, and I know that you will succeed. You have real, raw talent, there’s no denying that. I can’t wait to see what you do with your brand, and how you decide to market YOU. I hope that we get another chance to hang out (WPPI maybe?!!) so that I can see a little bit more of the REAL Jesse Clements :)

Kenna & Susan- you two are an inspiration. Both of you are so warm, sincere, and welcoming. Thank you so much for the honesty and encouragement. You are a vital part of the CL operation, and it is great to meet you in person after watching you for so long on CL :) I can’t wait to come back again, and I’m working towards that one-year promise full-force ;)

Celeste- You are a ROCKSTAR. You are incredible at your job, and I can tell how much you really enjoy it. Thank you for being so friendly and engaging, and such a pleasure to work with. I loved hearing about behind the scenes, and watching you in action! Your hard work pays off, and you deserve it. Send me a link to your etsy and post some cute hair fluffs! :)

Craig- Thank you. THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU for doing what you do, and building such an amazing platform to do it. I believe in creativeLIVE 100%, and I cannot wait to see what comes next. What you do is inspiring, and innovative. All of the people you touch is insane. Thank you for everything. I had such an amazing experience, and I am already ready to come back. You’ve built a fabulous team of people who genuinely care and believe in the same things, and it shows. I am proud to be able to say that I was a tiny piece of the big CL puzzle, and hopefully in the future, I will be able to be a part again. Thank you for welcoming me into your CL family, I am so happy to be a part.

Crew- You are all inspiring. The work you do is incredible, and I am astounded at the level of professionalism and the dedication you have towards the show. I didn’t get to know many of you super well, but your love for your work is evident, and inspiring. Thank you for everything. I couldn’t have had this experience if it weren’t for each and every one of you, and for that, I am so so grateful.

Here are some of my favorites I snapped :)