COFFEE TALK: THE STRUGGLE TO STAY ON TRACK

This past week I found myself thinking a lot about the pace in which the business is growing and the pace in which I perceive  other businesses growing... which I always think is way faster then mine, haha. ;)  Most of the time when I find myself in a slump or questioning how fast I should be going, it's because I'm spending too much time comparing my journey with someone else. There are other photographers out there doing more, creating more, creating faster, having better ideas, implementing their ideas faster... you get the idea. 

Comparison is the thief of joy.
That quote is so applicable for me. The minute I start comparing myself to others, the minute I forget about everything Jesus has done for me, the way He is growing the business, and all the things that make me and the business unique... that is when I start to feel lost. That is when I start to feel that I am not enough. Comparison is the thief of joy. To compare ourselves to others is to try to take away everything about us that is unique. 

When I find myself comparing my journey to others, a part of me suddenly feels the urge to hustle, to create more, to create faster, and to spend more energy on creating "extras." Have you noticed there are a lot of businesses offering extras... more freebies, more products, more offerings. There isn't anything wrong with offering extras. Extras are great, I keep thinking of extras I would like to offer, haha! But because I am a team of one, offering extras just isn't an option without other areas of the business suffering. And if there is one thing I have learned through all of this, it's to provide quality over quantity and to genuinely care for my customers and clients. 

STEP BACK AND EVALUATE 

So what do I do when I feel like I'm starting to veer off track and feel the urge to hustle? What happens when I start looking to the left and the right, instead of keeping my eyes focused on Jesus? I think about the type of business Jesus has given me to steward, the type of business He inspired me to create. This business is meant to care for and serve others and the best way I'm able to do that right now is through creating quality styled stock photography. A part of me wishes I could do more, but another important component of this business model is for it to function minimalistically. I knew it was important for the business to be simplistic and clear. I wanted you to know exactly what you were getting right when you popped on to the Elah Tree site. 

MAKE A LIST

What I love about list making is that we are able to clearly see what is best for the business and what we should be working on next. I know that creating quality styled stock photos are important for the business because I'm still getting my name out there. Plus, the more styled stock photos I create, the stronger I become as a photographer. The more styled stock photos I create also provide more variety for customers. Getting everything out on paper really allows us to see what's a priority and what's a distraction. There have been plenty of times where I have had an idea or I thought I needed to add extra offerings. When this happens I write everything down and allow myself to process it. I'll come back to it a few days or even weeks later and usually by then I'll know whether or not it's something I want to implement. A lot of times I'll decide that the idea isn't a good fit or it's just a distraction, or it needs to be saved for later. 

For example, I have really been wanting to create instagram story templates and quote mockups. I think these would be super fun and great offerings. These aren't bad things to offer, but they aren't what's best for the business right now. These are ideas I'm saving for later.

I’m always fighting the fear of being left behind. Fearing everyone will race past me.

One thing I think we all struggle with as online business owners is the constant bombardment to to do or be more. I know this is one of my main struggles because I always feel like I'll be left behind. Remembering the quality of the craft I offer and staying focused on the customer helps to keep me on track. In the end, after I've processed everything, written everything down, even had a mini freak out, I know it's all about keeping my eyes focused on Jesus. It's my job to show up, work hard, and steward the business for His kingdom, He does all the rest. 

Have you found yourself in this same place? Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by all the things other people are doing and fearing that you'll be left behind as other businesses grow around you? If you are there, find comfort in the fact that you are not alone. I'm right there with you. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. xoxo. Samantha


3 WAYS TO BOOTSTRAP YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

If you have been hanging out here long enough, you may remember the days where I shared about our student loan debt. While that student loan debt has been a definite thorn in our side it has also taught us discipline in a whole new way. Tyler and I are firm believers in bootstrapping our dreams, paying cash, and running the race, even when it's hard. 

There have been plenty of times in this business journey that I wish I could have just snapped my fingers and had a pile of cash to invest in the business. An extra pile of cash would have meant I could hire things out, like a website designer, or a copywriter. But from the beginning I knew I was going to have to bootstrap my way through this business. Hopefully these insights will give you encouragement to bootstrap your business too. 

CONTINUE WORKING THAT FULL OR PART TIME JOB

We all wish we could throw caution to the wind and quit that day job right from the start, right? I think it's easy to want to jump the ship of that full time job before the business is off the ground or before any systems are in place. I actually did something kind of like this, haha! In 2013 I quit my day job to pursue running my own business. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but nothing about the business was even built yet, I didn't even have a website. The thing about this particular experience was that I quit my job because it really wasn't a good place for me to work and I had planned on finding a part time job while I worked on the business. But I ended up not finding a part time job, which made things pretty tricky. That is an example of what not to do, haha. 

A great example of what to do is to keep that full time or part time job while you build your business. It takes time for businesses to turn a profit. I currently work two days a week at a completely different business and I can't stress enough how important this is. Tyler and I know that each business venture we want to pursue we want to do debt free. So, even though things may take longer and I sometimes have to do edit or shoot on Saturdays, it's worth it.

WATCH YOUR EXPENSES 

Something that I have learned this past year is that expenses can eat up your businesses profit really quick. It's really easy to want to sign up for every service out there, from social media schedulers, accounting platforms like Honeybook, and really anything else you can think of, but these expenses add up. Keep in mind that none of these services are bad, I have wanted to sign up for them too. But I didn't want them eat into the businesses profit, especially if I could manage the actual tasks myself. Things take planning and sometimes a little more time, but if you are able to implement systems within your business without spending cash then in the long run, when your business is really making profit, you can say yes to all the services that make running a business easier. 

LEARN AS YOU GO

I feel like I have learned more as a small business owner then I learned in college, haha! Embrace the learning aspect of being a small business owner and it is a perfect way to bootstrap your business. One thing that I really had to embrace in my journey was learning CSS. I'm not a web designer in any way, but I got really good at googling CSS. Sometimes learning new things can feel frustrating, but there are somethings you can figure out and bootstrap until your business is making a profit to hire someone to do it for you. 

With time, determination, and discipline, you can bootstrap your small business. Stay focused on the journey and simply take one new step each day. What are some ways that you have bootstrapped your small business? xoxo. Samantha


WHY I LOVE WHAT I DO

I open my email and there it is, "you have a new order," and in typical Samantha fashion, I've got praise hands lifted high, thanking Jesus, because He is making things happen. When I see a new order or a client inquiry pop up in my email, I'm always so excited because I absolutely love what I do.  

Whenever shop orders come in I'm always so excited to see what they have picked! And then I'm almost always thinking, "How can I make their experience even better?" One of the reasons I love what I do is because I get to take care of and serve others. I am so honored when people purchase styled stock images from the shop or hire me to create custom brand photos because it means they trust me enough to come along side them in their business journey. It means that I am helping to ease their burden. My hope and prayer is that through every customer and client experience, they will be blessed. Their own business journey will feel lighter and full of joy. 

Now before you think that everything is sunshine and roses, I still do have my struggles. Are there hard days? Oh my gracious, yes. Are there days when I struggle to create? Yes. Are there days when I don't feel enough? Yes. Are there days when doubt creeps in? Yes. When I run into days like that I fix my eyes on Jesus and I just get really honest. I tell Jesus how I'm struggling and how I need help. 

There are so many things about styled stock photography and small business that I love. Styling props, taking photos, creating systems, finding new ways to do business better, implementing processes. I even love the challenges. But at the end of the day the most beautiful thing about small business is the opportunity to bless and love others in Jesus name. Whether it's customers, clients, people reading the blog, business friends, or anyone else the like. 

Every opportunity is an opportunity to love well.

That is why I love what I do. What are some of the reasons you love your job, small business, or craft? xoxo. Samantha


3 TIPS FOR WORKING WHILE YOU TRAVEL

A few weeks ago, Tyler and I spent a week in our home town and before we left I shared these three tips with the Elah Tree email subscribers. Do you want fresh content before anyone else? Do you want FREE stock photos and photography and business tips straight to your inbox? Join our mailing list! 


Working as a full time creative or working full time with a side hustle always seems to take a little extra finesse and balance when vacation or any type of travel gets worked into the mix. Don't you think? I think one of our major concerns is that things will fall through the cracks or we'll just go dark on social media. Do you want to a secret? If either of those things happened, if things fell through the cracks or we went dark on social media, everything would still be okay. Because each day is a new day full of grace and mercy. 

There have many years in the past where I planned every single blog post, had every thing written, scheduled every social media post and did everything under the sun I could think of.  Everything published, things on social media went smoothly, and for the most part I was able to check out. Sometimes we need those types of breaks and they are important to take. One thing I think we forget as creatives and small business owners is that there is a lot of ebb and flow in our work and in each season.  

Embracing the ebb and flow. 

Tyler and I will be in our home town for about a week. Tyler is actually teaching a course while we're there, so I decided that I would do a little work while I was there too. I have scheduled a variety of things, but I also decided to embrace the ebb and flow of this small business and allow my self some time to work. 

Three Tips to Make it Work for YOU
Do you want to work while you travel? That is the main question. For this particular trip I wanted to work and I knew I would have time. Tyler and I are traveling again in September and I won't be doing any work during that trip. It's all about the ebb and flow, friends. So, if you decide to work, embrace that decision. You've built your business to work around you life, decide how that looks for you while you travel. 

  1. Prep the timing consuming or difficult task. This is going to look different for everyone and they might not even be difficult, just easier done from your home office. For me this meant I prepped all of my graphics for blog posts, newsletters, and social media. I knew if I had time before leaving that I would get some posts written, but I knew because the graphics were ready and in place I could open my laptop anywhere and write the content. 
  2. Put your shop on autopilot or vacation mode. Because all of my products are digital, my shop can run without me. There is one product in my shop, the "Mix & Match" option that I fulfill by hand. While I'm away I will simply remove that item from my shop. It would be just as easy for me to take all of my images with me, but I decided I did not want to fulfill orders like that while traveling. 
  3. Give yourself grace. Working while you travel is tricky, takes balance, and lots of grace. Don't beat yourself up if you don't get everything done. Don't beat yourself up if you don't get that blog post written... you can write it when you get back. Make your plan, but be open to your plan changing. 

I think one of the hardest things we do to ourselves is trying to make our journey or business look like someone else's. We think, "they are doing such amazing things! They must be doing it right." They are probably doing amazing things, but the secret is they are doing it right by them. They are doing the things that work perfectly for them and their business. Embrace the things that work perfectly for you and your customers. Some people might cringe at the idea of working while they travel, but I embrace it. I love that I have the freedom to get work done regardless of where I am. Embrace the things that work for you, friend. xoxo! Samantha