For the last several weeks, I’ve been head down in my business. I completely rebranded and did absolutely everything myself (with the exception of a little Illustrator help from my soon-to-be-architect brother! He’s awesome!). I designed my new website, and am currently in the process of ordering new business cards, client gifts, stationary, and lots of other things to match my new brand. I’m also have a profile on WeddingWire, which is new for me! Paying for advertising wasn’t something I’ve been entirely comfortable with because I’ve read about so many photographers who’s businesses have successfully taken off completely through social media and word-of-mouth. That was the business I wanted to be, and still want to pursue. However, I did what many photographers take years to do and I quit my day job after my first full year of business. There are so many reasons for that decision (you can read about that journey here and here), one of which being that Josh Staley Productions is booking so many weddings that the DJ business needed attention that Josh didn’t have time to give!
I’m so proud of Josh and the business that he’s built. He’s been able to train and employ two of his friends, and all three of them love to DJ and have been extremely successful so far! He advertises on the Knot and has crazy visibility thanks to them. I’ve been having to deal with the fact that there are so many more wedding photographers around than wedding DJs. At least at this point in my business, it’s hard to book weddings because brides have so many choices! However, I’ve invested in learning from some great people who have told me, “Invest in YOUR clients. Find the clients who are a perfect fit, and pamper them to death. Give them the experience of a lifetime because you know what you’re doing and you are more than capable of delivering! You can raise your prices, because your work is worth it! Don’t settle, because a business who settles will never become a business that thrives.” So that’s what I’m doing! I did some business math yesterday and scared myself at the number of weddings and portrait sessions I still need to book in order to meet my income “goal” for 2016. Would I absolutely love to meet that goal? Yes. Should that be my ultimate goal? No.
If I’ve heard one common theme echoing time and time again the past few months through the network of photographers that I’m a part of, it was this:
We’ve said yes to everything, and it was a huge mistake.
I’ve always been a person who’s said yes to everything. If someone needs something done, I’ve always been the first to volunteer. If there’s something that I myself want to do, I will make sure that it happens. Someone told me once, probably a year or two ago, that I was too much of a “yes” person. I believed them. I could see it, easily. They were totally right. But even as I type this post, I can see that I’ve been blinded when it’s come to my business.
I’ve made the excuse to say “Yes” to everything pertaining to my business because I feel pressure to succeed. My house, my church, and even my husband have all come after my business. It’s a tricky road to navigate, because now that photography is my job, it’s so easy to become consumed and place photography at the top of my priority list every time. On the other side of the coin, I know that I shouldn’t always be working on photography, so I allow myself to relax and take a break. But my most recent revelation has been this:
Just because I “take a break” from photography doesn’t mean that the other important things (husband, church, home) are rising to the top of the list. Instead, it usually means that my own personal comfort is at the top.
That means that if I spend all morning editing or blogging and then “take a break” to watch an hour of television when there were chores to complete… I was number one and business had just slipped to number two. If Josh asks me to put away my laptop, and I say hang on, in a little while, business is back on top. Whoops. That’s not to say that there will never be a work project that’s super urgent, or that watching TV is always wrong. But there’s a balance in there somewhere, and I haven’t been hitting it. I talked to a trusted counselor friend of mine this week and she asked me how I succeeded so well in college. I told her that I had a calendar that was always within arm’s reach. That I scheduled every day right down to the hour and then actually followed it. It was amazing! I haven’t been doing that and it’s been hurting me. Instead I’ve been getting up, opening my laptop, and only coming up for air when I realize it’s 3:00 and I haven’t eaten lunch, or I’m supposed to be somewhere in twenty minutes and am still in my pajamas. I’ve been letting my business own me, instead of me owning it.
So for this coming week, I’m going to experiment. I’m going to write myself a schedule and force myself to actually stick to it. That means that I’ll have scheduled “work time” that can’t be the same as browse-my-favorite-blog time, and when that time is done, it doesn’t matter whether or not the task is complete. Work time will be over. And it will be time to move on to something else… like hit the gym time, clean up the kitchen time, or reading time.
I’ve always loved to read. When I was a kid, I was obsessed. My mom would take me to the library and I would fill up TWO of large canvas bags with Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children, and Babysitter’s Club. I would read every single one in the two or three weeks they were due back at the library. One summer in college, I realized that I hadn’t read for fun in a little while and read ALL of the Harry Potter books in just over a month.
At the beginning of 2016, I was thinking about this past year and realized that again, I hadn’t read for fun in a while. I started reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan, a book I already owned but hadn’t read since probably my senior year of high school freshman year of college (Amazon actually told me when I had bought the book when I searched it to insert the link… creepy?!). Anyway, the first chapter hit me hard… it’s entitled, “Stop Praying.” Stop praying?? What?! Of course the title was written to catch the reader’s attention, but the content couldn’t be more spot on. Chan asks, “what if I told you to stop talking at God for a while, but instead to take a long, hard look at Him before you speak another word?” He talks about how God is incomprehensible, a Being we cannot fully understand, all-powerful, all-knowing, and yet somehow loves and cares deeply about us at an individual level. But we don’t take the time to actually consider all of that when we pray. For me, the level of conviction was deeper… I haven’t spent much time in prayer lately at all, let alone take time to think about God before I pray. My heart breaks just thinking about how much I’ve been taking the Lord for granted, how I’ve ignored him and thought that just because I’ve taken lots of Bible classes and grown up in church and know a lot about Him, I don’t really know Him. Not right now. Because my business and me have been numbers one and two.
I don’t have a magic solution. I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t even have a good way to end this post. But let me encourage you to look closely at your own life, and be honest with yourself. Are you giving your job or your schoolwork more of your time than you are giving to the Lord and your family? There are all sorts of good excuses we give to put our jobs first, and the easiest one is money. That’s the one that I used. “I have to put work first, because I have to make money!” …when really, Josh makes enough to support us. The real reason I wanted to make money was to uphold my pride, and maintain the I am always super successful persona. Because me and my business mattered most. If you find yourself in the same spot as me, I beg you, don’t stay there! Write down action steps and start today. It will be trial and error, you will make mistakes. But with each mistake, you will learn something. Pick up the pieces and start again.
I titled this post “The Best Yes” for two reasons… one, it’s the title of a book by Lysa TerKeurst that I’ve decided will be next on my reading list after Crazy Love. I can’t wait to dive into it but I know that I need to finish this one first. The second reason for the title of the post is that God is and always will be the Best Yes, and everything else good that I have comes from Him. As I’m learning, always saying yes to myself and to my business will quickly destroy what actually matters. Saying yes to the Lord will never return void.