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Midyear reading listA Mid-Year Reading List

At the beginning of the year, I had a few books that were on my list to read or re-read.  As the year has progressed, I have added a few more to my list.  Some of these I have read and some are on my list to read throughout the rest of the year.  As my kids have gotten older it has become easier and easier to get back into reading, something that I was voracious about before they came along.  I would usually stick to fiction books but as both my businesses have grown . . more practical books have entered into the list as well.

Personal

The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson is one I have been slowly reading through over the past 6 months.  The book is fantastic for any momma wanting to be more intentional in her home.  There is so much meat to the book that I have really had to think through what I am reading.

Uninvited by Lisa Terkeurst is focused on those feelings of being left our and lonely.  While I put this book under the list of personal books to read, I think we as business owners often struggle with this feeling of being on the “D List” so to speak.  I haven’t started reading this one yet but I am excited to.

Cultivate by Lara Casey is such a treasure to read!  I was honored to be part of the team of ladies that read it before it came out as part of the launch team.  It came at the perfect time where chaos was the theme of our household.  It is a great study to do with a group of girlfriends and really pour into it together.  The book follows Lara and her family through the journey of loss and joy while cultivating a life of intention in the midst of that journey.  This book was so good, I will be rereading it soon.

Business

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier is a book focused on brand building.  Our goal this year for both arms of the business was to really hone in on what both brands really stood for.

Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts is another branding book recommended by Mary Marantz in her bootcamp class.  I haven’t read it yet but expect it to be awesome.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a classic business book and a best seller.  It has been on my list for awhile but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Disclaimer: Cultivate was provided by the publisher. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

Comparison in Business

Comparison in business is the internal and silent ugly disease that can eat away at the joys of being a small business owner.  We seldom talk about it but man do we feel it eating through our core like a hungry worm through an apple.  We all deal with it and to say we don’t is a lie.  I had the joy of working with three lovely new business owners this past weekend and I loved what one of them said.  “Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter ten.”  She completely hit the nail on the head.  My journey and purpose in life will not mirror someone else’s journey and it shouldn’t.  Goals are great but comparison is not.  I have to be honest with them and those out in internet world.  I feel it to . . there have been seasons in my life where comparison has nearly eaten me alive and it wasn’t healthy.  It might have looked like I had it together on the outside but the reality was my insides were just a rotten as that apple.  So how do we deal with that comparison and surgically remove it?  Today, I want to share with you my five favorite ways of combating this silent business killer.

Have a Person

I love Grey’s Anatomy and still watch it in the background while I am working through my to do lists.  They had their person, the one they could go to when things got gnarly.  Have a person, a mentor, a friend who understands the seasons of life you are in in your business.  Whether this is a spouse or fellow friend in the creative industry, have a person.  My husband has been my person for a long time.  I am blessed to have someone who in many ways is the opposite of me.  He is systems and processes and I am arts and whimsy.  He reminds me to get out of my box.  He holds me accountable and I am blessed because of it.

Turn off the Social Media

How many times have you found yourself aimlessly scrolling through social media only to look up at the clock and realize half the day is gone.  Not only can it be a huge time waster but looking at all the good things others are experiencing can make your chapter one feel like a chapter zero.  If you find yourself feeling that way take a social media fast or at least limit when and why you will be on there.  This is a huge one for me.  If I am on there, it is because I am answering a question or responding to something.  It wasn’t always that way and if I am really tired I find that I fall back into that pattern again.

Sleep

I am not someone who is blessed to be able to operate on less than six hours of sleep.  My husband is but I am not.  I know that I can’t provide the best experience to my brides if I don’t get my self to bed at a decent time and this goes hand in hand with taking care of myself.  I make myself go to the gym and while I would really prefer to make a fool of myself attempting to dance in Zumba, I head over to the weight machines instead.  Comparison creeps in more readily when we don’t look after our bodies, our minds, and our souls.  How are you addressing these three areas in order to provide a better service to your family, friends, and clients?

Read a Book

Turn off the electronics and just read.  Pick up a book about the business world outside of your industry.  Don’t know where to start?  Pick up Lara Casey’s Make It Happen.  I love what she says about “choosing purpose over perfect.”  When we choose our purpose over perfection there is no more room for comparison.  When we focus on what we are put on this earth to do, we become more driven and less concerned with being like someone else.  Books are powerful and life altering.  Take time each day to turn off all the noise and just read.

Outsource

I was incredibly embarrassed to admit that I have outsourced certain things in our lives until recently.  I felt like it didn’t make me a good enough mom and wife if I couldn’t do it all.  That giant internal disease of comparison came rushing in like a storm.  I was an exhausted mom with a brand new baby and a preschooler attempting to run a photography business that was growing beyond what I could handle at the time and I think sweet Gina Zeidler could see it written all over my face as she started to take our family photos.  She whispered that one heavenly word to me “Outsource” and it was such a blessing to take that plunge!  In the years since that has happened I have looked to outsource things I hated doing so that I could spend more time with my family and less time letting my business run me.  Make a list of the things you like least and find a way to hire an expert to do it for you. Here are a few things that I don’t do during wedding season if I can help it!

Above all else know that your book will be completely different than mine.  Your chapter one may look glorious to how my chapter one was.  There is no comparison of the journey though because each will be different but each will be just as beautiful and special because it is your chapter, your book, your story.  Stop comparing what your journey looks like and start simply enjoying it.

When we build a business, we never think that some of the things we are doing might just be hurting us and our ability to succeed.  This is even more important when we frequently move our business and need it to be on point and ready to go before we ever arrive at our new location.  Sometimes they are the simplest things that can lead to client confusion or even a fellow vendor wanting to refer you but they can’t.  Here are five quick things that you can fix today that are hurting your business and I have been guilty of them all in the past!

Contact Information

With as much as we move, there are often things that slip through the cracks that should get fixed but don’t because we think they are minor until they actually become a major issue.  The biggest issue that could be hurting your business is the inability for a client to contact you.  I recently went to contact a local wedding vendor about a styled shoot that she needed help with but I couldn’t find her contact information anywhere.  There was no way to e-mail her and there was no phone number anywhere to be found on her social media.  The best I could do was message her through social media and hope that she got it.  This got me thinking, what if that had been a bride or client wanting to contact her.  The first thing to do is make sure you have contact information clearly findable on your website and across your social media accounts.  If someone can’t contact you the way that they want, they won’t hire you.

Correct Information

This may sound redundant compared to the last point but I can’t tell you how many times I or someone I know has searched for a small business for something they needed, only to find that they no longer live in the area that they have listed on their website and social media.  Unless you are willing to travel back to that location make sure you remove it from your information.  In addition to correctly listing your business location, make sure that it is consistent across all social media and web information.  If you listed your business on Yelp, Google, Bing, or Wedding Wire and you have moved then you need to go in to all of those accounts and change them so that your information is accurate.

SEO

I know I harp on this a lot but if you aren’t actively (and correctly) trying to use SEO then your business will end up on page 50 of Google and you will be left wondering why no one ever contacts you with inquiries.  I say this as someone who has tried to do my own SEO for years with some success with it.  However, I learned the hard way this year when I rebranded that the age of my website URL had been really helping me in the past.  My brand new baby URL was of no interest to Google and I have had to work really hard to get it to where it was.  It still wasn’t enough and the more I dug into SEO the less I realized that I actually knew.  My suggestion is to hire an expert.  Someone who does SEO for a living and knows what they are doing.  I have done my research and I can tell you that not all SEO experts are created equal.  Some are good and some are REALLY REALLY good.

Using Social Media as a Business Tool

Social media really started just as I was leaving college.  I have seen it grow into the behemoth that it is today and I can only imagine where it will be in just a few short years from now.  As someone who moves and has clients who now live all over the world, this has been an amazing tool in some ways.  A very wise mentor of mine taught me to see it as just that.  It is a tool and it should be treated as such.  I see a lot of creatives who over share personal stuff on their business page or who post controversial things on their personal page.  While it is a personal page, clients can see that and that could be hurting you.  Consider changing the security settings of who can see what you post but ultimately, once you become a business owner, even your personal page becomes an extension of your business.

For more tips on how to grow and move your business, check back here every Monday for our Move It Monday series or dive deeper and purchase my e-book on how to move your business effectively.  Want to dive deeper into success?  I now offer mentoring sessions face-to-face or over an internet call.

The Slow Season

For most photography businesses, the slow season runs from December through February depending on your geographical location.  In some places farther north with the lack of indoor studio space, it may run longer, so what do you do with that time where you may not be photographing as much?

Rest

We seem to have been swept up into the idea of “Always Hustling” and while I’m not against the hustle, I didn’t quit my full time job to work even longer hours from home.  There needs to be a balance to the hustle, a period or rest and renewal.  Without this balance in the down season, we become quickly burnt out and a business operating from burn out does not serve its clients well.

Reset

Every year I take December and January to hit the reset button on my business.  I take an analytical look at what worked and what didn’t in the previous year.  From there, I rework what needs to be fixed and update areas of the business like my website that has been put on hold during my busy season.

Get Creative

During the down season, I love the chance to flex my creative muscle and try out new locations, gear, or a technique.  This is the time to do a big styled shoot, visit venues, or do headshots for fellow vendors.  This also helps in keeping your skills sharp.

Want more tips for what to do in the down season?  Sign up for our Restart Specialist Newsletter Here.

A Dangerous Mindset in Business

Where your mind is set can make or break your business.  One of the most dangerous mindsets we can fall into as business owners is the place where we say “What’s the point, I move in two years” and then go about our day and our business from that perspective.  As someone who moves my business frequently, I have come across this often and it is not only killing your business but it is de-legitimizing everyone else in your industry.

What Does a “What’s the Point” Mindset Look Like

To put it bluntly, a mindset like this smacks of poor customer service and poor business processes on the part of a business owner.  At the root of this attitude is a lack of care or a business owner that might be burnt out from lack of systems in place. You know you are stuck in this type of thought process when you over promise and under deliver every single time.

When you operate your business from this standpoint, you will often find yourself with unhappy customers or feelings of exhaustion and frustration on your part.  Operating a business from this perspective can also lead to lots of burned bridges but a person in this frame of thought often isn’t worried about that because they are thinking about the next place they will live.  A person with this mindset is under the assumption that what happens in location A stays in location A and won’t ever effect them when they move to location B.

What Can I Do to Combat This

The best way to start combating this mindset is to bloom where you are planted.  Start taking care of your current clients and serving them.  Always keep in the forefront of your mind that the world is a lot smaller than you think and how you conduct your business in one part of the country can still effect how well your business does on the opposite end of the country.

We have repeatedly experienced this with past clients who continue to follow what we do and refer new clients to us no matter where we move to.  We have also had the immense joy of photographing families 4 years later when they happen to relocate to where we are.

Secondly, start taking a look at your workflow and processes.  Are you burnt out?  When you operate a business from a place of exhaustion and frustration then you are always playing catch up.  If you are feeling like there is no point in how you run your business, this might be why.  This might sound counter-intuitive but take a break.  Block out a week or two where you aren’t working with clients.  Take this time to really refine your process and workflow so that you can better serve and bless the clients you have.

Scheduling and Business

I love schedules and knowing what comes next.  I am a creature of habit and I thrive best in a well functioning and orderly space.  That being said, my husband also calls me the “Pile Queen” because when life gets busy, my system of scheduling, workflow, and organization tends to look a little messy and chaotic to the untrained eye.  The reality is that without that schedule and workflow, I would be lost and my sweet brides would be waiting a lot longer than they do to receive their images.  By having a personal and business schedule for the week, I know what is tending and am able to accomplish a lot more by managing my time.

5 am Club

I am not by nature a night owl, nor am I a morning person but I kept finding in the early stages of my business that I was interrupted most mid-morning. It frustrated me to sit down to my desk to work, only to be stopped mid-way through a thought.  A fellow momma and business owner suggested biting the bullet and getting up at 5 am consistently in order to have a few hours of time to work without loss of my train of thought.  Since starting this back in 2013, I have found that I get more done in those wee hours than any other time of the day.  I focus on blogging, editing, and education during that time while saving e-mails and phone calls for the middle to late part of the day.  You are probably curious if I work from 5am straight through for 8 hours and I don’t.

Chunking

Because I am a mom as well as a business owner, I chunk my work into portions of time throughout the day.  I work for a few hours from 5-7am and then focus on getting the kids to school.  Once they are off then I sit down to other shorter tasks that can be accomplished for a few hours.  Then I am out the door again to pick up our youngest.  During her nap time I work for a few more hours.  My goal is to work as little as possible while my kids are awake or home from school.  There are some evenings that projects need to be finished but my desire is to not be face to face more with my computer than I am with my kids and husband.

Workflow

In order to spend as little time as possible in front of the computer, I have created templates for things that are asked frequently.  These are all then loaded into 17Hats where I manage all my client files and information regarding their sessions or weddings.  I love this system for its easy of use and ability to be used remotely if I need to access something on my phone.  Have more questions about my workflow?  Send me an e-mail to info@meredithryncarz.com or join my Restart Specialist Newsletter here.

Privacy and Business

I sat in a mentoring session a few weeks ago with a new photographer.  Her website is launching soon and she was struggling to figure out what to blog about.  She wanted her family and her life to remain private which left her feeling like she was between a rock and a hard place.  This got me thinking, how can you maintain being a private person in a very public, social media driven world?  The short answer is that you can’t 100% make that happen.  The long answer is through the use of filtering and intentionally crafted content, you can.

Oversharing and Business

In business there is a point where to much is simply to much and it becomes oversharing.  This can take place with our hobbies, kids, or really anything we are passionate about.  My first child was born right after I started my business and for awhile, I was guilty of being onboard with the oversharing.  I have watched this idea of oversharing and humble bragging spin into a maelstrom of meer acquaintances knowing more about us than sometimes our closest friends do.  I want to flip that idea on its head so that only my closest and dearest friends know those intimate and sometimes hilariously silly things about me and my kids.  I get what this business owner meant when she said she felt pressured to share her personal life as a business owner, yet the strong determination to keep private things private.  So how do we avoid the potential of oversharing in business? How do we still allow us to shine into and through our business that we run without spilling out every detail of our existence?

Crafting a Semi-private Business

A few years ago, I made the determination to run what I do on social media through a filter.  My business account has a filter on it that only allows for me to share some personal items.  I still want my clients to see and know who I am but they don’t need to know every little hobby or passion that I have.  I don’t share my love of knitting or that I played dress up with my three year old the other day.  These things don’t appeal to my clients as a whole.  They are at a stage in their lives where they are looking for or needing very specific content and I don’t want their search to be bogged down by information that isn’t helpful in getting to know me or solving their problem.  Want some actionable steps to craft a semi-private business?  Sign up for my Restart Specialist Newsletter here.

A Preschool Pick-up Line and Leaving Your Mark

Last week I was headed into pick -up my daughter from preschool and saw what would normally have been an unremarkable and boring white line in the concrete.  However, it was broken up and marred by the most perfect imprint of a leaf.  That little crunchy fragile leaf had left a pretty dramatic effect on the much stronger paint and concrete.  Originally, when they were painting the parking lot, I bet no one even realized that they had painted over it.  To them, it became invisible.

Leaving Your Mark

Growing up I remember going camping a lot with family.  We were always told to leave a campsite better than when we got there and that in doing so, we were making the space better for all those who would use the area after us.  There was no monetary value in this, no personal gain other than the satisfaction of doing something for others.  The impact of doing this may not have been seen immediately or ever even noticed but it was there.  We were leaving an invisible marker, one that had the ability to effect others.

What we often do as business owners is behind the scenes and maybe only a 1/3 of what we actually do is out there for the world to see.  We pour our hearts into what we do and just like that leaf, we may feel flattened, painted over, and sometimes forgotten.  OUCH!  That thought is painful for those of us that feel called to this business we have built.  We want to leave our mark.  To say, “WE ARE HERE.”

A Long Lasting Effect

You may be feeling like that leaf right now, completely invisible to others, but I want you to look closer at this photo and at your business.  That leaf may have been invisible for a time and is now long gone but it’s impact is far reaching and permanent.  What you are doing has a lasting impact.  You may not feel it right now but it is there!  Keep showing up, day after day to make your mark and the proof will eventually shine through!  You’ve got this!!!

Pricing and Romance in Your Business

A few years back I realized that I was in love with my pricing but our romance was not getting me anywhere!  I was looking at the relationship I had with my pricing through rose colored glasses and not the harsh light of reality.  It took my sweet business minded husband a while to convince me that my pricing and I, we needed to break up!  So here is my question, are you so in love with your pricing that you can’t see how much it is actually hurting your business?

Three Reasons We Get Romantic about Pricing

As young entrepreneurs, it is easy to get romantic about how we price our goods and services.  Here are three reasons why we do that:

  1. The New Girl: We have all been there as new business owners and we desperately want to be busy and booked like the gal down the street so we undercut or price exactly as they do, hoping that we will be as busy and successful as they look to be.  We price according to someone else and when we start to book clients we get excited and romantic about our pricing because hey, its working right!
  2. A Status Symbol: We want those bragging rights so badly that we create a package at a certain price point but don’t ever factor in that mathematically we end up being in the red when all is said and done.  We throw every freebie in imaginable to attract clients to this package but in the long run when they book us, we don’t actually turn a profit from it.
  3. Fear: We price ourselves to low out of fear of never getting booked and we devalue our business and our brand.  This type of romance isn’t like the ones above, no, this is more the Mary Shelley type Gothic Romance and it can hold onto us just as strongly as the rose colored ones.  Out of fear we set our price and remain there because if we raise it to be profitable, we might not ever get booked again.

These romantic looks at pricing aren’t based in reality or logic and they are hurting you, your business, and your brand.  So now what do you do?

Three Things to Consider When Looking at Pricing

There are three big things to consider when looking at pricing goods and services in a small business.  Here are three key points in pricing:

  1. Cost of Goods: For each package provided to a client, what are your cost of goods?  Do you outsource your editing or have an assistant that needs to be paid?  Do you provide client gifts or have gas and parking fees to pay?  For us, we try to keep our cost of goods at or below 25% of the package price.
  2. Hours per Client: How many hours are you spending on each client?  Did they hire you for an 8 hour wedding package?  I bet you spent way more than 8 hours working!  Start keeping a timesheet and figure out per package or session how many hours you are actually hands on working.
  3. Take Home: Once you have figured out what your cost of goods are per client and how many hours you spend on each client, it is time for math.  This is where you start to figure out how much you are actually bringing home when all is said and done.  This can either be empowering or sobering when you look at these numbers.

When you are able to logically break apart your pricing, then you can start to rebuild it in a way that is wise and profitable, two things we all want for our business!  Want to know more about moving your business forward without fear?  Join the Restart Specialist Newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/b-eAz5

Why the Experience Matters

We are just settling back in from our week long trip to DC and as a family who love history, art, and good food, we were in heaven.  As a business owner, I spent this morning reflecting on that trip as I edited our photos and the one thing that stuck out was that how you experience something will often cloud your opinion of it.  Often times the end product may not be enough to bring someone back if the experience was horrible.

The Coffee Experience

After getting settled in our hotel, we took a walk around the area we were staying in and decided to stop in a coffee shop called Pret, just three blocks north of the White House.  Nothing really stood out at first until we went to place an order.  The barista was smiling and chatty in a way that you could tell he cared about his customers.  He informed us that the pastries were made fresh every day in the kitchen downstairs and then proceeded to hand us already warm cookies from the display.  As he passed my Chai to me, he also passed a smaller sample cup to my husband because he hadn’t ordered a drink and wanted him to experience their organic tea as well.  It was a wholly different experience than going to a normal chain coffee shop.  Even if the drinks had been average, I would have come back for that experience.  We went back twice every day while we were there and each time, the experience was just as good and the drinks were always perfectly amazing.  When you are the little guy competing is a sea of over saturation, how will you stand out?  I think that when you provide a good experience followed by a great product, you have a customer for life.  How do your customers experience your business?  Is it making them a customer for life or training them to feel like a photographer is a photographer is a photographer?

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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