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Things I Wish I Knew in Business

I started taking portraits back in 2007 when friends and neighbors were deploying to Iraq left and right.  The value of a portrait was foremost in our minds but for me the concept of running a business was not.  I was a middle school art teacher at the time and if you had told me that I would become a wedding photographer, I would have laughed.  It has taken me almost ten years to get where I am and in doing so there have been a lot of mistakes and wasted resources along the way.  I hope to shed a little light on helping you avoid pitfalls that I have fallen into as well as how to move a business successfully.   Grab a cup of coffee and lets get to work.

Invest in Education

No amount of fancy equipment will make your products better without the knowledge behind how it works.  Do your research and hire the best possible mentor you can.  There are great free resources out there but they only got me so far.  The moment I started investing back into my business and my education, I started reaping huge rewards. However, don’t become a workshop junky which leads me to the next thing I wish I had known.

Research

I can’t tell you how many times not researching something at the beginning of my business bit me in the butt later.  I have untold amounts of templates and actions that I no longer use.  I purchased a camera body only to turn around a year later and upgrade because what I had was not truly what I needed to have.  I have been fortunate enough to have access to multiple workshops that I did not pay for either because I won a contest or it was a gift.  Not all workshops are created equal and while I love them, often times it is the same thing recycled and rehashed again.  This can leave you feeling like you wasted your money instead of investing it.  Ask past workshop attendees what they thought.  Do the ground work and know yourself and what you need.

Know Thyself

I started out just wanting to take pretty pictures as a creative outlet for myself and I didn’t take myself or my business seriously.  It has taken me far to long to find what my business stands for, what my goals are with it, and who I want to serve.  Take time to know who you are and what you stand for.  In the long run knowing this will make your business stand out more quickly because your message is clear.

Invest in Your Brand

 I have rebranded several times from a self made logo to two different professionally made logos and a brand rename.  This goes back to all the other three points, that if I had done the research, educated myself, and known who I was serving and why, I would have saved myself countless hours of redoing, reworking, and remaking everything to do with my brand.  Down to the colors and look of your brand can express to someone an idea or even a value of worth.  Your brand is the first impression, your website is your storefront, and your images are the final dealmaker or breaker.

Outsource

This took me way to long to figure out.  I spent countless hours doing my own SEO, editing, and website design.  I am ever so grateful for our family photographer who shared the name of her personal editor and gave me back countless hours of family time.  It is hard to let go and allow someone else to do something that we feel we need to control but is it worth managing those tasks when you could be out on a date with your husband or snuggling your kiddos?

Do you dream of having a successful business that makes you want to embrace Mondays with joy and excitement?  You can, even if you move every three years!  You can, even if you are a busy momma or a brand new wife!

Why Publication Matters

When it comes to moving, publication can matter but not for the reasons you think.  In dealing with moving a business, it has a lot more to do with SEO and being found than street cred and bragging rights.  While a publication from a well known blog or magazine is amazing and I love seeing my work in print, it doesn’t actually help me if potential clients can’t find my website in a new town or state.  Online publications create credible links to my website and Google loves that.  The more great publications, the more happy Google is and the more happy Google is with your website, the higher your ranking is.  Publications are just one of the many crucial ingredients in the SEO recipe or algorithm if you will.

Location and Publication Go Hand in Hand

Let’s add another layer to why and how publication matters by talking about location.  If I were looking to relocate my business to a nearby state, it would be wise for me to do a portrait session at a venue in the area I am moving to and attempt to get it publish it in one of the regional blogs in the area.  This starts letting potential clients know you are there.  It also starts to provide you with recognizable content from the area you will be in.

Regional Networking

By having a publication in a regional blog, this opens the doors for networking in that area.  Local vendors who follow those blogs will start to see the work you are creating and become familiar with your brand, your name, and the style of work you produce.  When someone is familiar with your business, they are more likely to be willing to work with you or refer you to clients of theirs.

Want to Know More

Are you still struggling with how to move or start a business in a new area?  Check back here every Monday for more tips and tricks to grow and move your business.  If you want to dive deeper into making your business work for you and not the other way around, sign up for one of our limited coaching sessions at info@meredithryncarz.com or check out our newsletter below.

How Styled Shoots Help Your Business

Lets say for a moment you are moving your business from southwest Texas all the way to coastal Virginia and none of the previous work you have looks anything like what coastal brides are looking for.  You want to book business in your location but have nothing local to show for it and you are the new business owner that just came to town.  How do you combat this giant mountain blocking your success?  You have a styled shoot.

Collaboration

As the perpetual new girl and new business in town I need other wedding vendors to know who I am and fast.  I can’t sit around on my butt hoping something will happen.  By collaborating with other local vendors in the town you have moved to, they get to know you.  They see how you work and the level of art that you produce.  You are also helping them solve a problem by providing them with images that they need to move their business forward as well.

How Do I Set Up a Styled Shoot

So, you may be wondering how to go about even setting one up once you know when and where you will be moving.  There are two ways to go about this.  Option One is for those of you that simply can’t go to that town ahead of time.  Option Two is my preferred method that I intend to implement the next time we are looking at relocating.

Option 1:

  • Research the town you are moving to and the vendors there.
  • Reach out to vendors you would like to work with
  • Set up a styled shoot for a few weeks after you arrive
  • Start using that styled shoot to network in the area and announce your arrival

Option 2:

  • Fly or drive to the new town you are moving to ahead of time
  • Have a styled shoot already planned for the time you are there
  • Use that styled shoot to start marketing to brides long before you ever arrive there

Jade green and gold wedding cake at Union Station HotelUtilizing Social Media for Styled Shoot

Once you have finished the styled shoot make sure you get your images to all the vendors involved.  Tag them on social media when you post images and start using those images to market to new brides in the area.  Go above and beyond to thank those vendors for helping build a cornerstone for your business in the market you are moving to.

Diving in Deeper

Want to know more about how to effectively move your business and help it to grow and flourish?  Contact me to hear more about our e-book on moving a business and one-on-one coaching sessions.  You’ve got this great gift and it deserves to be used.

SEO is king when it comes to moving

SEO is King when Moving

Over the years I have learned that one of the most important things in my business is SEO.  It is also one of the most difficult things to understand.  I am by no means an expert on it but there are several simple things I have picked up over the years that have helped insure that I don’t get entirely lost in the mix of things.

Flipping the Switch on SEO

Recently I talked about using your newsletter list to its fullest potential.  Once that has been done, you need to start implementing SEO for the new town you are moving to.  So how do we do that?  There are two ways of going about it and I have done both.  Our past few moves I have done my own SEO with decent results and booking clients before we ever moved.  The first way requires a lot more work on your part and has less of a guarantee of working while the second has shown me even higher ROI than attempting to do it on my own.

  1. D.I.Y – in the past I have done the SEO thing myself and it was rough and time consuming.  Yes monetarily it looked like it was a better choice but when you look at the amount of time it took from doing other important things, it was really not something I want to do again on my own.
    • Go over your website with a fine tooth comb and change your current location to your new location using key words that work for your new home.
    • Change the names of all your jpg to reflect where you are moving to.
    • Change ALL of your social media to reflect where you are moving to.
    • Start posting bucket lists of things you want to do or places you want to shoot when you get there.
  2. Outsource – I started outsourcing my SEO a few years ago and I have to say that the idea of not having to change EVERYTHING myself for every future move is amazing.  The amount of bookings and inquires has quadrupled from when I was doing it on my own and I can’t imagine attempting to do it on my own again.

So in tackling the dreaded SEO beast there are some key things that you need to do even if you aren’t moving.

  1. Make sure your photos are renamed with alt text and key words for your area
  2. Make sure your contact information is EASY to find on all of your social media and website.  Nothing frustrates people more than wanting to get in touch with you and being unable to.

Want to know more about how I handle my SEO?  E-mail me at info@meredithryncarz.com or post a comment below.  Want additional tips to move your business forward?  Sign up below to be on the VIP list

Doing Research Before a Move

Researching before a move is one of the best things that I can do to prepare my business for success.  It is also one of my least favorite things to do (next to hanging curtains) in regards to moving.  I hate research! I love to read great articles, books, and magazines but numbers, data, and statistics make me cranky. However, if I want my business to flourish, it is super vital.

In order to do your research, you need to know who your ideal client is.  Once you have figured that out, you can progress on to where to find them.  Write down some key words or ideas that correspond to your ideal client and then we are going to use those words in the next step.

Start with where: where do they live, eat, shop, go to school, and hang out. I use several places to look for this but, two of my main sources to start with are the local real estate listings and newspapers. I look for real estate listings that I think would appeal to my ideal client and make a note of that zip code for later.

Using the zip codes of the real estate listings, start looking for boutiques or businesses that you would like to partner with once you are running your business in that area. It is never too early to reach out to them and to let them know you are relocating to that area. Make sure that the relationship isn’t just a gimme-gimme one sided situation or that will quickly leave a negative taste in their mouth and a really bad first impression.

Newspapers generally have a digital copy now and I use that to start learning a lot about the location we are moving to. Here are some of the reasons I take time to read the local newspapers:

  • Find local stores that your ideal client may like
  • Fun events that appeal to your ideal client
  • Find interesting session locations they may like
  • Find out what is important to the locals of the area
  • Learn Local Terminology – an example of this are terms like hill country, HRVA, The 757, and Tidewater Region

So, now that you have an idea where your ideal client lives, shops, eats, and works, what do you do?

  • Contact those new businesses you found in the newspaper and see if you can partner together.
  • Attend some of the fun events in the area and start building your community.
  • Drive through those zip codes that you found and learn the area. You may find some neat local stores or session locations by accident.
  • Look up local blogs that target your ideal client and get to know their editors. They are often a wealth of information and some are very generous to share and promote their local area.
  • Find out if there are any industry societies or communities you can join and get to know them. If there aren’t any then start one.
  • Look at what others in the area are doing but remember to be yourself and remain true to who you are!

By implementing these strategies, it will take the strain out of moving your business to a new area, turning it into a fun adventure instead.  Want to know more?  Feel free to send an e-mail with your specific moving questions.  We would love to help you out!

Blog Review of Shutterfest

What is Shutterfest

I have attempted to review and explain what Shutterfest is for the last few days.  Describing this hybrid style conference is difficult to say the least.  It is the balance of chaos and order perfected and is unlike any conference or workshop I have ever attended.  3,000 people descended on the Union Station Hotel for a week of business and photography education.  The hotel itself had literally been booked for a year in advance which was the first clue that this conference was going to be amazing.

Information Overload

There are literally so many classes that you can’t attend them all.  Even after the regularly scheduled classes are over for the evening, there is a myriad of things to do.  From Canon photo walks to personal projects to impromptu classes put on by the teachers, it has gained the nickname slumberfest due to the amount of sleep you will need to recoup after the week is over.  Didn’t get into a class, no worries, because you can rent a model at the Rent-a-Human station.  They have wardrobe, hair, and makeup already provided.

What to Know

I would say that after my first time at Shutterfest this year,  I was slightly unprepared.  I would highly suggest the following tips:

  • Rolling camera bag instead of a shoulder bag – my arms and back were exhausted.
  • A Waterbottle – not a lot of water fountains
  • Snacks – Union Station was very pricey
  • Layers – The weather kept changing
  • Cash – Food trucks for lunch were awesome but lines were a bit long
  • A Traveling Light Stand
  • Roommates that keep the same hours as you
  • Room at Union Station – TOTALLY WORTH IT
  • An external battery for your phone – very limited outlets and plugs
  • Swap notes at night with friends who attended different classes
  • Find a buddy – it was such a joy to spend time with a fellow Army spouse and photog friend of 4 years as well as getting to know a local photog as well.

I would also suggest bringing lots of business cards to exchange with the models and other photographers.  There are no divas here and everyone was incredibly helpful to each other.  This was by far one of the most community focused group of people I think I have ever been around.  Come as you are because every level and genre of photographer is accepted here.

Classes

I ended up taking primarily business related classes with a few shooting related classes on day two.  The knowledge the instructors provided was priceless and if you are a part of my Restart Specialist private group, I hope to see you there tonight at 8:30pm to answer questions and share some new things that were shared at Shutterfest coming to 17hats.  Below are a few shots from the week.

Jade green and gold wedding cake at Union Station Hotel

 

 

 

Giving Back Through Photography

This week we are taking a look at the idea of giving back not only with your time but with your talent.  As military spouses we move all over the world and see a vast array of communities and needs.  As photographers, we have a talent that can often help those communities but we don’t always use them towards that purpose.  We are given the gift of telling visual stories and I firmly believe that there are stories right in your community that need to be told with the God given talent you have been blessed with.

So you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with successfully moving my business to another state?  The short answer is nothing and everything all at the same time.  Giving back has nothing to do with financially moving a business and everything to do with creating and supporting community.  It is about investing yourself into the community you have been placed in and leaving it better than when you arrived.  We are used to the semi-nomadic lifestyle of moving every two to three years and then picking up and moving on.  Military life is sometimes set up in such a way that we stay within our little bubble of safety and forget that there is a community right outside our very walls that doesn’t move and that stays long after we have PCSed.  These are the retirees, veterans, and locals who grew up here.  They have stories to be told, and events to be documented.  You have the unique gift of being able to give back and help them.

For me there are certain stories that tug at my heart strings and that I am passionate about.  Those are the stories that I look to tell each time we move whether it has been a local historical society, the JDRF, or in this case something that hits a little closer to home.  As a military spouse and the sister of two veterans, being asked to capture the Warrior Run is near and dear to me!  To tell the story of these women who tirelessly volunteer and organize this event every year is an honor.  To capture a community who comes out to support what they are doing makes me proud of all the hard work they pour into what they are doing.  To see the video go here: Warrior Run 2016

So today, take a moment to stop planning and creating business goals for the next year and ask yourself a question.  How can I serve?  How can I connect with my community and use my talents to leave this new town better than when I got here?  It can be as simple as telling the story of a community that came together to run while raising awareness and money to support their local wounded warriors.  How will you serve in the community you have been placed in?

rebranding for a move part 2Part 2 of Rebranding for a Move

Last week Elise Kluge shared with us her knowledge about branding and when and why you may need to rebrand your business.  Today she joins us again to share how to adjust your brand strategy.

Excuse me, what? How do I adjust my brand strategy?

If you are sweating in a panic take a deep breath and rest assured that marketing strategy isn’t just for corporate guys at the top; small businesses can build powerful brands too! Based on the wedding photographer example last week, here are some brand strategies to overcome the challenges she faced with marketing to a younger demographic in a different state.

  • Goal 1: Target younger customer
    • Tactic: Update brand colors to a brighter palette to show youthfulness
    • Tactic: Integrate website with Instagram to be closer to customers
    • Tactic: Create social media graphics to enhance brand visuals
  • Goal 2: Target higher-end customer with larger budget
    • Tactic: Use modern fonts to communicate elegance
    • Tactic: Adjust tagline to highlight quality
    • Tactic: Create printed client magazine to show professionalism

You are not alone in this journey. If marketing and design are not your strong suits, then consider hiring a professional brand specialist.

Wait, can’t I just buy a premade logo?

It’s true, successful rebranding is a lot of work and can require a financial investment. If you don’t have the funds then save up or find a company that will work with you in steps. Above all, steer clear of premade logo templates.  The pre-made logos you’ve seen on Esty and Pinterest are great except for one major thing: they were made for someone else! When you try to stuff your name and business into the premade design you’ll find it doesn’t really fit.

Cinderella’s stepsisters didn’t fit into the glass slipper not because it wasn’t pretty, but because it wasn’t made for them. The same is true for premade template designs. When the design isn’t made for your brand it will never fit quite right no matter how cute it is. Be the Cinderella of your own story and walk confidently in your own glass slippers.  Okay, enough with the princess analogies. I think you get the point. Your business deserves a brand that is uniquely yours.

Want a friend to help you get the job done?

If you’re ready to stand out from the crowd and make your own mark then you are ready to rebrand with Mark Branding Boutique. We understand that rebranding is a lot of work and it can feel a bit overwhelming, that’s why at Mark Branding Boutique take care of EVERYTHING for you. We do the research, create a marketing strategy, and deliver a design with depth and authenticity so you can connect with your new customers.

More Business Tips | Relocating Your Business

Rebranding before a moveRebranding

You only get one chance to make a good first impression, especially when you are moving to a new location.   So before relocating your business, consider one vital question: will your brand leave a positive first impression on your new customers?  In today’s guest post from my brand and website designer, Elise Kluge, we will break down what “rebranding” is, how to assess if you need to rebrand, and how to achieve your branding goals.  Make sure you read all the way to the end for the awesome gift away that Elise is offering.

What is “Rebranding”

Rebranding is all about improving what customers think and feel about your business and can include an update to these common elements:

  • Logo design or business name
  • Tagline or slogan
  • Brand colors, patterns or styles
  • Website and social media accounts
  • Business card and other printed documents
  • Marketing and advertising strategy

Should I rebrand?

There are many reasons why a business would consider rebranding, here are some common reasons for small businesses:

  • To improve customers connections
  • To revitalize declining sales
  • To attract a new type of customer or new market
  • To improve brand reputation
  • To communicate a new message

If you plan to move your business into a new market, then you must adjust your brand and marketing strategy accordingly. Every geographic location has unique characteristics and challenges. If you want to successfully navigate your new market, then you need to understand your new customers, competition, and industry. The results of your research will determine if rebranding is necessary..

  • Case Study:For example, you may be a wedding photographer from a California suburb moving to a growing college town in Texas. In your research, you discover that the average age in this new college town is much younger than your current customer. Further, you find that the competitors in the area are priced much lower than your current area. To connect with a younger bride without lowering your pricing, you will need to adjust your brand and marketing strategy.

Want to know how to adjust your brand strategy for your next move?  Check back next Tuesday for part two of Elise’s guest post.  Want to follow Elise?

Website:  markbrandingboutique.com

Email: info@markbrandingboutique.com

Instagram: @markbrandingboutique

 

 

 

 

 

Giftaway

Want to get your brand in order, but need help knowing how to take the first step? We thought you might say yes, that’s why in conjunction with @markbrandingboutique having a guest post on our blog today, they are giving away a free branding consultation worth $200.

We are excited to announce the launching of Mark Branding Boutique’s website and resource community. The website and community will provide valuable resources, free downloads, and exclusive tips to small business owners interested in building a strong brand. On April 3rd, these resources became accessible to the public for the very first time and to celebrate, they are giving away a free branding consultation (Retail value of $200) in partnership with The Restart Specialist.

Instructions

To enter to win the free branding consultation share the blog post on Facebook (link in profile)
Contest closes April 10, 2017 at 12 PM Eastern Time. The luck winner will be announced on April 11th.

Letters of Introduction when moving a business

A Little Old Letter of Introduction

As a huge Anne Shirley fan growing up in rural Georgia, I was well aware of the age old custom of letters of introduction.  They were vital to society back then and in some ways are still just as important today, though they often take the form of e-mails instead of a letter.  As a military spouse and a business owner, it is important for me not to remain the new girl in town for very long and letters like these still serve a purpose even today.

As we prepare for a move, I will often ask friends, family, and clients if they know anyone in the area we are moving to.  About fifty percent of the time they do, or they are from there.  I always politely ask for introductions and have always been amazingly blessed at the people I have been able to meet because of it.  This holds true in business as well as personal life.

I think that letters of introduction can come in two forms, both the letter from a friend introducing you to someone they know or a letter (e-mail) introducing yourself to some of the wedding vendors you admire in the new town.  Neither of these letters should ever be salesy in any way and should only ever focus on getting to know the area you are moving to and offering to become part of the new community.  Being a part of a community implies a give and take . . not just gimme, gimme.

This is where you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone.  Contact a few local vendors in the area you are moving to, introduce yourself, your business and tell them you want to get to know the community and help where you can.  That is it . . . don’t ask for anything other than a coffee or lunch date.  When you make yourself more about community than yourself . . the world just sets itself right.

So what if you aren’t facing a move . . what do you do?

You know that venue, boutique owner, cake artist . . that you have been admiring from afar?  Contact them, take them out to coffee . . and then SHUT UP!  That is right . . just listen and ask how you can help them.  That’s it!  Try it and see what happens . . when you do, let me know how it went.  I promise it gets easier after the first go round.  You can do this!

Moving a Business | The Restart Specialist

Hello & Welcome

Do you desire a thriving creative career despite the challenges of relocating? Then you are in the right place! Welcome to the space you have been searching for! After spending years searching for the answer to constantly relocating my photography business, the Restart Specialist was born.

  

  

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