HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS BY CASTING YOUR VISION

I think about business all the time... well...  a lot of the time, haha! I never knew I enjoyed business, but my journey has taught me that beyond my passion for photography is a passion for small business. There is just something about it. Being able to create something and have a means to share it with others, all while creating business systems is something I get really excited about. #nerdalert. 

Something else that my journey has taught me is that no matter where we are in our journey we have more to learn. Owning a small business means we will be in a constant state of growth and learning, because things change. People change, businesses change, technology changes, customers change... everything changes. So if you are on your own business journey, buckle up, it will be the hardest most rewarding career path you could choose.  But how do we get from floundering in our business to casting vision and seeing our business grow? 

KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU WANT TO GO

If I would have read this a few years ago, I would have thought, "I think I know myself... I know I want to run a small business... I can try a few things to figure this out." But, one thing that small business will teach you is that knowing yourself is more then just thinking about things that you like or things that you think you are good at... that's what I did, haha. Let's talk this out.

I believe that God created in me a passion for small business... I've been dreaming about small business since I was in college. The hard part about this was that I had no one to show me the ropes, I was lacking in confidence, I didn't believe in myself, and I was scared out of my mind. It was easier to find a typical day job then to try to run a small business. When I opened my first shop in 2013 I knew one thing, I wanted to work for myself. That's it, nothing else. I had over come a bit of fear, quit my typical day job, and I was on my way. Here is where things went wrong. I didn't have a long term plan, I didn't write down my business plan, and I wasn't even quite sure what I was good at. I simply knew I was willing to try to figure things out. That, my friends will only get you so far, and my journey is the perfect example. I went from opening an Etsy shop, then I changed my product, then I closed my shop, then I focused on Lifestyle blogging, then I offered services... can you see where this is going? I didn't have a plan or a vision. 

So, how did things change? Long story short, I got tired and started looking inward instead outward. I picked up a few business books and started reading. I didn't have a plan right off the bat, but I started really looking inward at what my strengths were, what my weaknesses were, what kind of business I wanted, how I wanted that business to operate, and how that business would operate in the future. And I prayed a lot. I knew to get it right I had to give it to God. I knew it had to be His business and I knew I had to trust Him as He guided me. 

Ask yourself: 

What are my strengths? Not just things that you think you are good at, but what do you really excel at? Turns out, planning and organizing my business was a huge strength of mine.  Hanging out alone for hours on on end was a strength (with the occasional friend stoping by and coffee dates on the whim, I can't be completely alone. :)) Sharing my journey in a teachable way was a strength. 

What are my weakness? I'm not the type of person that loves to drive around and scout locations... this is not a strength of mine. Meeting new people on the fly is not a strength of mine. I love people, but I love having people over to my house where I can serve them food and we can hangout. This is when I learned that portrait photography was not a strength for me. I love portraits, but I loved them for myself, I loved them has a hobby, not as a business. 

How do I want this business to function in the future? For me I see businesses in two different ways. One, a business that can run online from anywhere. Two, a business that functions locally. Portrait and wedding photographers function locally. They may run their business online, but they still meet with people locally and in person. I learned, after moving across the country a few times, that it was not ideal for me to run a business locally. I knew the business would  have to run online from anywhere. 

Asking yourself these questions (and many others) will help you start casting a vision for your business and once you really understand how you want your business to function and how you will function  in your business, then you can start building a business for growth. You don't have to have it figured out right away, but laying a foundation will get you started. How is your business journey coming along? xoxo. Samantha

PRO TIPS FOR YOUR BUSINESS PORTRAITS

When I was thinking through this post I initially thought, "headshots," but when I think of headshots I think of super stuffy photos... people standing next to brick walls with their arms folded. But, portraits for your business or blog are so much more then that. These photos are the the first impression you leave with your audience. It's the first time your audience gets to know you and the photos you choose say a lot about you, your business, and how you want your audience to feel when they engage with you and your business. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR PORTRAITS TO SAY?

When I thought through this photo session I thought about what I wanted to share with my audience. I thought about how I wanted them to feel. Yes, I wanted my photos to establish professionalism, but more then that I wanted my photos to establish a relationship. When you arrive here, I want you to feel at home. I want it to be like you've arrived at my home studio, where I would offer you tea and cookies. I wanted my portraits to say, "I'm so glad you're here, l'm so excited to hang out with you, and I can't wait to help you in your business." 

LOOK AT THE CAMERA

I'm actually a fan of photos where I get to look away, but for these photos I knew it would be important for me to look at the camera. I knew it would be important to engage my audience. When we meet someone in person it would be kind of awkward if they never looked us in the eye or vise-versa. The same goes for our business portraits. When we look at the camera we're looking at our audience. We're engaging with them. 

SMILE 

Smile at your audience. Smiling is friendly and when people arrive at your site and see you smile, they will hopefully want to get to know you more. This is similar to when we meet new people in person. When we meet someone new and they don't smile we wonder why. Smiling engages your audience and lets them know you're happy that they are here. 

LEAN IN

Body language says a lot in our photos. When I used to do portraits I would ask my subjects to lean in to engage the camera. Sometimes we want to turn our head away, or lift our chines, or turn our shoulders away, but I recommend leaning in. You don't have to lean in with your whole body, but you do want to lean in with your shoulders or your torso. 

MIX UP YOUR ATTIRE

What we choose to wear communicates a lot about us and our business as well. I wanted to look professional, but I also wanted to look personal and causal. This outfit is one of my favorites. I love warm weather and I love shorts... if I could I would wear shorts all year long, I would. If I was to have you over to my home, this is something I would wear. It's important to me that I communicate a very "cozy home" feel on my site, because it's important to me that that is how you feel when you are here. 

CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD

Inspiration boards are my jam. They help me get inspired and they also help me communicate something that I can't always articulate in words. Whenever I have to step in front of the camera, this means that Tyler is usually stepping behind it. I can't always articulate what type of photos I am hoping for, but if I create an inspiration board I can show him exactly what I'm hoping for and he can create it. Inspiration boards are perfect whether you have hired a photographer or asked a friend. 

Don't stress out about your business portraits. Think about you, your business, and what makes you unique. Remember that as you grow your business grows as well. What is important for you to communicate through  your business portriats? xoxo. Samantha 


SHOP THIS POST: Heather Gray Cardigan (similar) || White Linen Tank (similar) || White Camisole (similar) || American Eagle Midis (similar) || Rocket Dog Flats (similar)  || Eye Candy Pumps (in blue


3 TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR STYLED PHOTO SESSION

The outcome of styled stock is just as important as the preparation, because you get a greater outcome when you're prepared and plan your sessions. Even when I did portrait sessions I had to take time to plan for my sessions. I gathered inspiration, I sketched thumbnails, and I thought through a sequence of images I hoped to create. The same goes for shooting styled stock. 

One thing I really struggle with is actually making time to plan my sessions. It's not that I don't have the time, haha! It's that I don't always want to plan my sessions. I often feel boxed in when I have to plan something I am creating... I'm not sure whey I feel that way, but in the end I always do better when I take the time to plan my sessions. Planning my session gives me a blueprint of my desired outcome and in the end hopefully saves time too. 

PICK A THEME

Before I get started with any session I choose a theme. I decide what kind of story I am going to tell. This could be a styled desk top, a breakfast theme, a minimalist theme, a watercolor/art theme, or whatever else I can dream up. Choosing a theme provides art direction for the two next steps. Without a theme, I could end up with a mash-up of random photos and props. 

CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD

Pinterest, of course, is the one stop shop for inspiration boards. I create a variety of secret Pinterest boards that allow me to curate inspiration for the session I want to create. I'll pin other styled photos that I like, photos that inspire me, props that I like, and a variety of lifestyle photos. I gain a lot of inspiration from lifestyle photos because for me there is a lot of freedom in lifestyle photos, even though they are sometimes the most difficult for me to create. 

MAKE A PROP LIST

One of the last things I do is gather my props and I'm working on getting better at writing out my prop list too. Writing out my prop list also gives me an opportunity to outline my props, which props will look best together, and which ones will go best with me theme. Writing out a props list helps me to visualize my images. If I take the time to go through my props and really think through what I would like to do with each, by the end I should have a variety of ideas.  This prop list will also help keep me on track with my theme.

BONUS: SKETCH OUT YOUR IDEAS

Sketching out your idea is another great way to flush out your ideas and keep your theme on track. Sometimes when I start a session I"ll be really excited and I'll with a few ideas bouncing around in my head. With just a few ideas I'll start shooting and it won't be too long that I'm all out of ideas. My excitement kept me from fulling thinking through my session. What would be a better idea is to take those few ideas and excitement and sketch out each idea. Once I would have the first few ideas flushed out, I could sketch out a few more ideas, that way I'm not left in the middle of a photo session without ideas. 

My goal for each session is to create a sense of organized creativity. I know that if I start without organizing my thoughts, ideas, or props, that my session will fall flat and I'll be disappointed with what I create. How do  you stay inspired and organized when you'r creating? xoxo. Samantha 



5 TIPS FOR BETTER WORK LIFE BALANCE

This weekend reminded me that I need to reestablish my work life balance. If I'm not careful I can work all the time. I now I need to slow down when I feel like I'm being pushed through my days. Tyler and I had plans on Saturday to take care of some life "chores." Long story short, what we had planned didn't work out. It was something I was really hoping we could take off our to do list, but it just didn't happen. I found myself in tears feeling overwhelmed and after a long talk with Tyler I knew I needed to slow down and reestablish a better balance between work and life.

REST IN JESUS

One of the first things I know I need to do when reestablishing a better work life balance is focus on Jesus. One thing that causes me to race through my days, in hopes to get as much done as possible, is fear... fear of the business missing out. When this happens, I know I'm off track. I know I'm trying to make it happen all by myself. I have to refocus on the timing of Jesus and let Him carry the burden of success. I simply have to show up and do my best. I don't have to make the business succeed. I just have to abide in Christ and let Him guide me.

EMBRACE ALL YOUR WINS

Another thing that usually sends me into a tizzy is that I'm a task master. This is both a strength and a weakness. I function well with task oriented projects. I understand what needs to be done and I get it done. It's strength that I can see the tasks and attack them. This task master strength is a legitimate weakness as well because it can cloud everything else I have going on and I can become enthralled by all of my tasks that I get overwhelmed and anxious. Being a task master can sometimes lead to imbalance. 

A friend of mine gave me some really great advice to help me balance my task master tendencies. I often struggle with not getting tasks done and I sometimes feel bad about it. He reminded me that I have to embrace all of my wins. If I'm not completing "work" related tasks it's because I'm working on relational tasks. I'm taking time to spend time with Tyler or friends. I'm taking time to call my brother or write a friend a note. Or I'm taking time to take care of myself. 

TAKE CARE OF YOUR SELF

This is a big one I often neglect. It's really easy for me to stay focused on my tasks and work myself into a frenzy. It's hard for me to relax sometimes when I know things need to get done; laundry, dishes, cleaning the bathroom, picking up... you know, basically anything house related. This past weekend, I had plans to get a lot done, but then I spent my Saturday morning crying. That's when I knew something needed to change.  I decided I would spend my weekend doing nothing, no work and not too many chores. Tyler and I went on a date and when I woke up on Monday morning I took things slow. I put my hair up and put on a little make-up (something I don't do when I am home.) I spent time reading my Bible, praying, and before rushing ahead into my day, I picked up around the house. I took a few deep breaths and knew whatever work I managed to get done would be good. 

ASK FOR HELP

I'm not sure why asking for help is so difficult for me, but man, I need to get better at this. Tyler is always ready and willing to help me, but he doesn't know I need help unless I ask. I have been working on being more specific about my needs and asking Tyler when I need help with certain things around the house. Running a business is also super tough and I need help with that too. I have been trying to get better about asking other business friends for help when I can't figure things out. We're all in this together. 

SPEND TIME IN COMMUNITY 

This one is so important and the one I am the worst at... but I'm trying to get better. I'm partially bad at this because we've moved around a lot and I takes me a while to make friends. By nature I'm cautious when getting to know people and it takes me a really long time to decided I feel safe with a person. But I know that spending time in community and making friends, makes all the difference for me.

How is your work life balance? Is it easy for you to overwork yourself? What are some of your favorite tips to keep things in balance? xoxo. Samantha