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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?

Importance of Venue Tours

Whether you are a wedding, senior, or portrait photographer going on venue tours is incredibly important not only to your business but for others as well.  We have talked in the past about the importance of community and networking and when it comes to venue tours, thats exactly what they are about.  Here are a few key things to remember when going on a venue tour.

Ask Questions

During the your venue tour ask questions from a bride or clients perspective and record this information for later.  Consider asking questions that include the following:

  • Interesting facts about the venue
  • Their favorite types of events to host
  • Catering space
  • If there are any special features about the venue
  • Average price point of renting the venue for events as well as for studio portrait sessions
  • How far in advance they book out
  • What do they need and how can you help

These last questions are the most crucial to a venue visit because of one major issue that we as creative business owners have.  So often we go into a meeting with another business owner and ask for what they can give us and not the other way around.

What Does the Venue Need

How often do you try and step into other small business owners shoes and think about what they may need?  As photographers we are so used to being able to have great photos for our blogs and having access to getting great headshots.  We know the value of a good image and how it can communicate an idea or feeling so much faster than words can.  I am still shocked to find that we as photographers don’t send images back to vendors from events that we covered.  This is just one of the many ways we can take care of the others around us rather than showing up to a vendor meeting and instantly asking what someone else can do for us.  Take a moment and get curious about their needs and you will be amazed at what happens.

Blog It

While you are visiting a venue, photograph it and then when you get back to your office, blog about it!  Using the notes you took during your venue visit, write about all the great points of the venue and then send that gallery of images to the venue manager.  Once you have done this, check in from time to time with that venue owner to continue to take care of their needs.  This may sound counterintuitive but when you take care of them with out expectation of return, good things happen!

Want more information on moving your business without fear?  Join our newsletter for the Restart Specialist here.

The Moving Blues

If you have ever moved your family and your business half way across the country, then you probably have experienced the moving blues or even stronger depression.  There can often be a sense of loss over routine, familiarity, and a sense of impending failure as a business owner.  I was recently talking to a fellow photographer, military spouse, and college friend about moving her family and business.  They had moved from one end of the country to the other as her husband retired and for them there was a huge sense of the moving blues.  She asked me if I often experienced the same thing and to be honest, I have.  It can be lonely and frustrating to be in a new place with no sense of roots but it doesn’t have to be that way!  Here are our three easy steps to sweep out the moving blues and bring in a sense of excitement and adventure to a new place.

Research

Research doesn’t sound like fun to me.  It never did, except when you are talking about a move.  I get ridiculously excited about researching for our moves, so excited in fact that my husband feels the need to reign me in a bit, but who can’t get excited about the fact that there is a Hobby Lobby a mile from our new house.  Ok, so that may be a little bit extreme but you can kinda get where I am going with this.  Here are a few of the things we research ahead of time:

  • Places we like to shop (especially when our current town doesn’t have it) – Anthro, Target, Pottery Barn, Hobby Lobby, Whole Foods
  • Lists of the best places to eat in the area – We use Food Network and other online lists of 50 best places to eat in the state we are moving to.
  • Wedding Venues – One of the best things about moving is new locations to work with and shoot at.  Hello pretty new Cathedral!
  • Fun museums and activities to go to as a family
  • Farmers Markets – have I mentioned we are foodies

Plan

The more you plan out your impending move, the more smoothly it should go for your family and your business.  Reach out for help from family and friends to make this easier if you have young kids and plan fun activities as you settle into your new place.  It is really easy to try and make your move into a marathon of unpacking but don’t.  Actively make a decision to take breaks and reward yourself for accomplishing big tasks (including the ones for your business)

Get off Your Butt

Getting off your butt and out of the house is seriously the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your business.  If you normally work from home, go to a local library or coffee shop.  Learn as quickly as you can how to be a “native” of the area you are in.  Do things you keep saying you want to do but don’t.  This sounds like such simple advice but our first move as a business owner was really rough on me.  I didn’t handle it well and because of that my business and family life suffered.

Change Your Mindset

Moving doesn’t have to be hard or depressing.  It can be an adventure and a big gateway into new opportunities for your family and your business.  When you make a determined effort to shift how you view your upcoming move, you will be amazed at how everything else changes.  It is easy to cling to how perfect the last location you lived in was or how undersaturated the market was but the reality is where you are is where you are supposed to be.  Make the best of it and bloom where you are now planted.

For more tips on moving a business without fear sign up for our newsletter here: The Restart Specialist

A Time for Rest

I was starting to lay out schedules and meetings for the rest of 2016 last night and couldn’t believe the summer has zipped by already.  J and I were chatting over a glass of wine and reruns of Malcolm in the Middle and realized it had been two whole years since we took a real rest from this crazy pace of classes, kids, and work.  It got me thinking about schedules, calendars, and intentionally blocking out time for rest.

Fear and Lack of Rest

I find that when you move frequently, it can often be accompanied by a lot of fear.  The fear of losing clients and having to rebuild, fear of finding your place in a new area, and just the general fear of the unknown can cause us to feel like we have to work ten times hard than everyone else.  The reality of this is that it often leads to burn out.  We need rest to be creative.  The lack of rest may feel like getting ahead but it really is just holding you back.  Fear can be healthy in some cases but when it comes to a business that fear has to be held in check by being surrounded with periods of rest.

Finding Rest

So how do you find rest in the midst of constant cycles of moving?  Preplan your rest times.  Sit down with your calendar and plan ahead for moments of rest amidst the building.  When you do this, you will find that you come back from those periods of rest, refreshed and more creative and focused than you were when you were running at ninety miles an hour every single day of the week.

  • Build in a small time each day for rest, even if its a coffee break or trip to the gym
  • Build in one day a week where you don’t touch email, internet, or the computer in any way
  • Schedule a vacation once or twice a year

Finding Our Rest

After that chat the other evening, J and I made a decision to take a trip to DC this fall to enjoy some museums and monuments with the kids.  A few days without work for either of us.  We also made a point to plan out time for breaks throughout the rest of the year.  Whether it is simply sitting at Barnes and Noble with a coffee or playing at the beach, our minds need that break.  We are also cutting down on our blog schedule until September just to enjoy those last few days of summer.  We will be back with our Moving without Fear series then.  How will you find rest amidst the cycle of relocation?

Making a Game Plan

The idea of making a business game plan amidst an ever growing mountain of moving boxes and a baby crying left me wanting to bury my head in a pile of cake.  That was several years ago and it wasn’t a pretty sight.  I had spent countless hours researching where to live and what the community was like but I had no idea what I was going to do with my very fledgling business when I got there.  I hadn’t made a game plan for moving my business to a different state and because I hadn’t, I lost a lot of money in the process.  There were countless nights I spent trying to figure out what I was doing and in reality, I just spent time chasing my tail.  Want to know what my two biggest mistakes where with that first move?

Why?

When I started this business I knew deep down in my subconscious why I was creating images but the thought process behind it was spotty, unclear, and definitely not laser focused.  If you had asked me back in 2009 or 2010 why I was doing this thing we call photography, I would have sputtered something out, probably turned an unsightly shade of red and then asked you to smile for the camera.  When you are the new kid in town, you better know why you are getting behind the camera every day because inevitably someone is going to ask you.  Do you know why, really why you pick up that camera to snap that shutter everyday, because when you are clear on your why then the how of making a game plan falls into place so smoothly that it feels like running satin through your fingertips!

Get Your Game Face On

So when is it time to get your game face on and make that plan?  It certainly isn’t time to be making a game plan as the boxes are being stacked one after another by the front door and the last of those numbered moving stickers has been slapped on your grandmother’s antique four poster bed.  The minute you know for sure that a move is coming is the moment when you have to start to plan.  That is the time to start making lists, networking, and making changes to all the little things that need to be fixed, altered, or renamed.  However, let’s say, like 2010 me, you are up to your eyeballs in stickers and cardboard praying that you can get the internet set up in time to send out that gallery that is late.  What do you do then?  You breathe and make that same list.  You give yourself grace and take it one step at a time.  You take care of your current clients, love on them, and go above and beyond when you run late on a deadline.

But I Need a List

I love my lists and I am so old school about it that it drives my husband nuts when I write them out on paper.  Every move has a checklist for my business that gets set in motion the moment we know we are going to Virginia, Kansas, North Carolina, Alabama, or wherever my husbands job may move us next.  Over time that list has changed and morphed as my business has done the same.

The Need for Community

Being the “new girl” in town every three to four years can certainly shine a light on your need for community quicker than anything else.  Our first and second move as a newly married couple was eye opening to this.  Our first home was in a historic neighborhood with other families who were extremely close knit.  The kind that bring cookies around when they see a moving truck pull up and scrape snow off your driveway because they know your husband is out of town.  It was a stark contrast to our second move across the country to a newly built home in a town that was busy and booming.  There was no community connection and we had no idea how to create one like what we had experienced in the past.  It left us feeling isolated and really shown a spotlight on our need for community, not only personally but professionally.

We needed a community, a tribe in our second home and really never found one until half way through our time there.  My business suffered and almost completely died because no one knew I existed.  Over the years we have gotten better about finding our “people” and getting plugged into new neighborhoods and experiences quickly because we are better together as a community with friends and coworkers than alone and isolated.  Not only does our family thrive but my business does as well.

How Do You Find Your Tribe

So how do you quickly find your tribe and get plugged into a community that in reality has no idea what it means to peal moving stickers off of furniture all the time?  The simplest answer is to get your butt out of the house!  Find shared interest groups, faith based, hobby based, or industry based.  Make a point of introducing yourself and get curious about the people and the town you have moved to.  It is so easy when we are removed from a place we were comfortable to compare the new place to the old.  That is the quickest way to be labeled a “Negative Nancy” and be ignored.

So What’s Next

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Fear and Business

Fear can be either a powerful motivator or a giant cement weight around our necks, dragging us down and drowning our true potential.  As business owners we have big dreams of providing for our families and having the financial freedom to be our own boss.  For some of us that dream has become a reality but for others, fear stalks us like a silent shadow waiting for that time when we have to move our business yet again and start all over.  Because of the lives we have chosen or the people we fell in love with, we are the modern nomads who move every 4 years.  We are experts at relocating our families but when it comes to restarting a business, some of us feel at a total loss of how to regain a client base.

Say Goodbye to Fear

I once asked a well known leader in the wedding industry what they thought I should do to gain momentum in my business since our family relocated every four years.  Their response was incredibly hurtful and it hung like a cloud over my head for several days.  He said, “Go be a second shooter because this is the life you have chosen and that is all you will ever be able to do”.  Oh folks that got me FIRED UP because he wasn’t the first industry pro to tell me that.  I made the decision then and there never to ask that question again because it was one based out of fear.  Fear of not being good enough, smart enough, or business savvy enough to be successful in every new city I have moved to.  Instead, I made a decision to do something about it and change the creative landscape for those few brave souls who aren’t going to let a little adventure like moving stand in the way of their dreams and success.  Are you with me?  Are YOU ready to say goodbye to fear?  If you answered yes then it is time for you to start moving your business without fear of failure!

Education

When I started this business, it really wasn’t one.  The reality was that it was a hobby where I got to create pretty artwork and be creative.  There was no attention paid to PNL statements or ROI and there certainly was no type of workflow.  The honest truth was that the business ran me and not the other way around.  It ruled our lives and created a lot of tension that didn’t need to be there.  Over the past few years, as this hobby has evolved into a legitimate business there has been one ultimate truth that has stood out and that is that I need to learn as much as I can about the industry I am in while also stepping out and learning from what other industries are doing.

Stepping Out

Stepping outside of my industry was one of the best things that I ever did.  Over the past year I have spent time attending various trainings that are being used by  companies like Citrix and the U.S. Government to obtain better work environments and higher levels of customer satisfaction.  I have seen a massive change in not only my personal outlook but also the way that my business operates.  It is easy to stay within the comfortable bubble of what my industry is offering in the form of education but it is so much more exciting to get out there and learn from other business leaders how they work and what tools they use to be successful.

Applying it to a Move

So how do I apply this concept to a move?  Look up what great business education is in the area you are moving to.  Find out what workshops, conferences, and industry leaders are there and learn from them.  When it comes to education and moving, I look at it through the lens of opportunity.  I am in a brand new place with amazingly smart people and I have three years to learn and soak up everything I can.  I expect that my business will grow, age, and mature with each new place we call home because of the education and experiences I am exposed to.  What opportunity for growth awaits you in the new location that you move to?

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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