I want to encourage you with this today, and encourage you to give yourself permission to tap into your intuition and to let your intuition and let your business really kind of fill into the space of your purpose. Remember that you purpose can change with you as you grow and change as a person. I am a different person now than I was in my twenties. I’ve evolved, I’ve changed, I’ve grown as a human, as a woman, and my life experiences have helped to shape my journey. You will grow and change, and your purpose may change a bit as time goes on, but remember that those experiences just aid you in your journey. Checking in with yourself and evaluating where your purpose is and where your focus should be helps to keep that cognitive dissonance from welling up inside of you.
Every year since 2012, we've taken a weekend in late January to plan our business for the year. Sometimes we get away for the weekend, other times, we make hardcore reservations on our couch...you feel me? But each year, we create a plan that drives our business for the entire year.
But what if I don't have time for a weekend of planning?
It's been a complete game-changer for us, but it can be tough to find that time. Whether you have a family to take care of, a busy business you can't step back from, or just a crazy pace of life, taking a weekend away does mean hitting the pause button on a few things that can feel too important to pause.
But you really can't afford not to! Here's what you're missing out on if you're not creating a yearly plan for your business.
You have nothing to aim for
In the "go" and "do," it's natural to start going through the motions! In fact, it can be so easy to "book-shoot-deliver" that you don't pull yourself up for a breath. It's in that frantic pace, in that focus on the minutia that you lose your point of view. When YOU lose your point of view, CLIENTS will be repelled from you because they don't really see and hear what you're all about.
You don’t know what’s broken when something isn’t working
One year, I was running on autopilot and stopped to look around in September of that year. No one was booking us and all of a sudden I felt a cold, hard panic! I had NO CLUE why! Why didn't I have a clue? Because I was just going through the motions, doing the next thing and not tending to my big picture. When I realized that there was a problem, not only was I clueless about WHAT the problem really was, but I was so frantic to change something, that I tried to change everything and still didn't see results! I spent time choosing new website templates and platforms. I curated my portfolio, asked for reviews, posted on social media each day, etc. But still...no one was finding us, so I churned harder!
What I hadn't yet learned was that a good yearly plan includes ways to test and troubleshoot to know how to get your desired responses. When I learned and began implementing this skill, I was in control. I knew how to chart, test, and change things in my business!
You’re just going through the motions
There's something to be said for automating your business. But automating and going through the motions without emotional investment are two different things! Why is this a problem? When you're going through the motions, potential clients and booked clients start to feel it. You'll start hearing people complain that you are "checked out" or "don't seem to care" about them. Creating that yearly plan allows you to stay focused on those dear clients and give them your best because the REST is running like a machine.
You feel burnout and anxiety
I've mentioned above how you can miss problems, go through the motions, and run a business with nothing to aim for. Those things can happen, yes. But how do they impact you, dear entrepreneur? That precious creativity you'd like to foster, that energy you want to have in reserves, that vision and focus you envision yourself having...you trade that all in for anxiety and burnout. Why? You're spending your time grinding, keeping your head down, facing problems you don't know how to fix. It wears you out. And you deserve better.
There’s never a feeling of “enoughness” in your business
When you don't have the focus that a yearly business plan can give you, how do you ever know when you have enough? When you can reward yourself? When you can be proud of your accomplishments? You can't because there's always one more thing. Don't do that to yourself!
So, what do you you really want from this next year? Go ahead, comment below and share in the conversation: What do you want from your business in 2018?
Ready to learn what types of goals to make in your business? Attend my FREE live training by signing up HERE
Every business owner has a nightmare client-the kind that makes you wonder why you left your stable job to work with these people. I've had a handful in the past few years, but quitting was never a more serious consideration than in two particular cases. Both times left me with sleepless nights, a bitter taste in my mouth and a feeling of hopelessness. I felt like the only light at the end of the tunnel was closing the doors and going back to substitute teaching.
The two clients that made me want to quit
I attracted two clients into our business that made me want to quit. Both were ugly scenarios-low pay, high work, degrading treatment, and ultimately left me asking if owning a business was really worth it. Both clients left me asking “why did this happen? I genuinely cared for these people and wanted to serve them!” While I can’t change another person, the reality is, when I took a step back, I could see ways I could take responsibility even before they booked with us.
The one mistake I made to attract my worst clients
While I may have tweaked our sales call format, and finessed our client care process since then, the reality is that the single misstep I made was this:
I was desperate.
And because I was desperate, I wasn’t confident in my value. I wasn’t comfortable with each of these clients walking away from us and felt like my business depended on them booking us. We felt like we NEEDED them to hire us...even though it was a bad fit.
3 lessons I learned from my worst clients
Lesson #1: Trust your gut
I recently read about a study done on a group of women who were well versed in the luxury handbag market. They shopped for, owned, and resold luxury handbags regularly and, in this study, they were shown two identical looking bags-a designer and a knock off. They were divided into groups and given two chunks of time to identify the real designer bag. The first group was given 5 seconds to identify the designer handbag and the second group was given 30 seconds. The 5 second group identified the designer bag with startling accuracy while the 30 second group always struggled to choose the correct bag.
Moral of the story: when you’re well-versed in something, trusting your gut will prove more accurate than spending time contemplating all the options. When you're experienced, more time to choose a plan usually leads you to overthink things. If you have the experience to back you, trust your gut reaction.
Lesson #2: Be the expert guide
Because I was learning and growing, I didn’t know how to guide my clients. I went through adolescent phases of trying to do so-eagerly agreeing with them and letting them feel like I was their enthusiastic cheerleader, trying to be aloof toward clients until they worshipped me (isn’t that like, super luxury??), but ultimately, the best approach for me was to be an expert guide.
This means that I’m fully confident in my value and expertise, but I guide my clients with recommendations and experience. I use helpful words like “recommend” and “suggest” instead of “should” and “only.” This allows me to share my knowledge when it’s wanted, but still gives my clients full decision making liberty.
And ultimately, I’m not God-things could go far differently than I thought-there are always precedent-setting circumstances in my line of work. I don’t want to have pressured my clients into something and then have it come back on me afterward if something goes poorly. I want my clients to have the best information to make the decisions that make them happiest.
And when I started applying this approach, my clients trusted me even more as a vast wealth of knowledge and a trusted resource they could rely on.
Lesson #3: Believe in your value
Believing in my value ultimately came down to needing to change my mindset. Instead of a scarcity-driven belief that the client in front of me was my golden ticket to my next paycheck, I began adopting the belief that the clients I wanted were already out there for me and they’d find me in the right time. There was plenty for everyone and I’d have enough (clients, pay, work, publicity, etc). Just this shift in my thinking created a much more relaxed, positive, and confident approach.
Now our meetings have become much more like a great date. By the end, I’m willing to leave without a kiss goodnight and they are only leaving if we have a second date scheduled. Ideal, right?
You'd better believe that these lessons created massive shifts in our business! Drop a comment below-have you been burned by a client before? What have you learned from it?
Welcome to The Successful Creative, a place where we can walk the journey together of monetizing your creative passion, learning to strengthen our mindsets, and think and dream bigger.
My story learning to be a successful creative
Hi! My name is Stephanie and I'm so glad you're here! I am launching this blog as a result of five years of hard work, learning curves, and growth as a wedding photographer. I'm at a point in my journey where I recognize that my love of teaching coupled with my experience running a business could encourage and serve others on their journeys. Here's a bit about my story:
Matching my natural skills with a job description
I grew up with a penchant for teaching. I would collect all the kids in my neighborhood and lead them on wild expeditions, I would “play teacher” and I would “teach gymnastics classes.” (I can't even do a cartwheel...I don't know how I got my friends to attend gymnastics classes!!) Whatever I learned, I wanted to share with the kids in the neighborhood...even if I wasn't an expert. Becoming an elementary teacher seemed like a natural progression of my life’s narrative, right?
After college, I had two interesting jobs: I was a crisis and trauma counselor for college aged girls for several years and then I taught elementary school. Each job ignited my desire to connect with others, encourage them, and teach them.
Pretty soon, however my natural intuition for connecting with people, drawing out their best assets, and then teaching them, was crowded out by paperwork, school politics, test results, and scripted, unimaginative plans (hey, my ideal reading lessons involved building trees in my classroom. Worksheets? notsomuch) I felt suffocated and wondered if I’d ever actually do the thing I loved: teaching.
Jumping into small business ownership
During this time, I met my now husband, Stephen. By the time we got married, he had trained me well and added me to his photography business. So as a newlywed, I jumped headfirst into helping someone with their business. I was thrilled to encourage him, believe in him and troubleshoot HIS business for a few months until I realized he viewed it as OUR business. As soon as I had skin in the game, I began backpedaling REAL quick. I was filled with intense fear, self-doubt, hurts, and a scarcity driven mindset leaving me feeling desperate with each new business hurdle.
Over the next few years, I had to work through some major mindset issues, anxieties, and recalibrate my view of myself, my purpose, and my life’s calling. Along the way, I found that there were elements to running a business that I was naturally adept at. There were elements that tapped into my desire to connect with others as well as my penchant for being a bit of a pipe dreamer. But no matter how big I dreamed, my fears and mindset issues were like concrete blocks around my feet. I couldn't actually go anywhere!
But, God knew where I was and as I prayed for change, He sent me on a journey of change that I look forward to sharing with you soon.
Running a business through roadblocks
One of my first roadblocks was a really simple one-dealing with opposition. I think the first thing that appealed to me about wedding photography was the affirmation! I mean, I picked up a camera and people were praising me and throwing money at me. Wow, it felt kind of addicting! I think I may not be the only one who began her journey with the addiction to affirmation!
But reality quickly set in when we experienced our first bit of opposition-someone questioning our value instead of throwing money at us, someone stating that they weren’t happy with the experience we provided instead of just gleefully praising my skills. All of a sudden, things got really real and I had to determine if I was going to continue to live for affirmation or if I was going to build a business that rose above opposition to achieve greatness.
What is a successful creative?
Chances are that you’re here because you like the idea of being a successful creative. You want to be successful and you yearn to create new things. But you may feel like you have one or the other right now. You may even be in the place of experiencing your first bit of opposition in a journey that’s been filled with affirmation. If that’s you, I want you to know that you’re not alone. What you’re going through is one of your biggest tests to determine how serious you are about being a successful creative. I believe you have what it takes. And where you feel weak, I have you covered.
With each growing pain I experienced, I wrote about it, asked myself “what tools do I wish I had while going through this?” and then I created them for you! So you can expect this to be a place where you can find resources to help you on your journey to building a profitable business.
I plan to serve you really great, honest content on this blog and via email because I believe that the journey I’ve been on has taught me deep and powerful lessons about how to run a profitable creative business and I want to share that with you.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more of my story and I’d love to know about yours. Comment below and let us know what do you do and what are you proud of in your business? Brag on yourself and let us cheer you on!