When I started this journey of full-time photography, I had NO idea how little I knew about my business and myself. I’ve been blessed over the years to be in the right place at the right time, meet some amazing people and honestly, I haven’t had to really advertise myself. I had a website and eventually a Facebook page, sure, but very little effort was put into getting new clients. Most of my clients until a year or two ago were people I already knew, friends of previous clients or friends who I said, you BETTER hire me when you get married (I’m so glad you did Mike and Megan). Then, when I realized, ok, I’m serious about this (about 3 years ago), let’s try to get some more clients we don’t know! I signed up for the Perfect Wedding Guide, applied knowledge I gained from working at an IT job to my website (God bless Dreamweaver!) and really started putting myself out there. I started reading more books on advertising, marketing and talking to my friends about it. I couldn’t wait to start full-time photography because I thought, yes! I can finally do all these things I’ve always wanted to do with my business! I can really define who I am and show potential clients who we really are as a company.
But it wasn’t that easy. Actually, far from it. For the first time in a very long time, the phone stopped ringing, emails ceased and I was left dumbfounded. I didn’t really realize it until the end of the year. It took me a few months because I was so busy with lots of fun weddings, a trip to Vegas and a cross country trip to California. When the dust settled, I started to freak out. What am I doing, why did God call me to do this now?? I am so thankful for all that He has shown me over the last few months. First and foremost, that He is in control of my life, my business and my finances. Every time I thought, ok, this is it, I have to throw in the towel, go back and work a “real job,” I would get an out of the blue order, a tax refund, a military payout (Thank you Bret for joining the Marines!) and then a ton of bookings all at once. I am still absolutely blown away that I am sitting here right now.
Part of what I’ve wanted to do is really define what our company is about. In other words, really defining our brand. It’s hard to put to words. I didn’t think that it would be, but holy cow it’s been tough!! If you follow my blog and check out my website regularly, you may have noticed I’ve changed things a few times since last fall. In some ways, I’m almost embarrassed at all the change. But every time I make a change, I know I’m getting closer to making my online presence match the experience you get when working with us. I think my biggest problem over the last few months is trying to take advice and fit my business into the advice of others. Now, I want to say very very very emphatically, I have received amazing, wonderful, honest and to-the-point advice. I am SO thankful for every person who has given me advice. I really can’t thank each of you enough! So, don’t hear what I’m not saying! My problem has not been the advice I receive, but how I use that advice. I feel that as I have tried to take advice and do what others think would be good, I’ve lost sight of….well, everything.
I finally stopped and said, enough. I have to refocus myself and tell the truth about what’s been going on and really figure out how to tell people who we are as a business. I started by figuring out my hierarchy of needs. First and foremost, I need to be ok with my Lord and Savior. Ensure that I am spending time with him daily. Holding his word up to my life and making sure I’m doing things his way and not my own. Second, I need to ensure that things are good with with my husband and our marriage. Then taking care of my health, my home and friendships. Once those areas of my life are in order, I can approach my business with the right mindset. Just taking care of those things before I start working has had a huge impact in the few days I’ve been really trying to accomplish this. I realize each day it will take different amounts of time to accomplish the task. One day it will take me an hour to clean the apartment…but the next day, only 10 minutes.
So, tonight, I wanted to take some purposeful time to think about the business. I’ve found that I find lots of inspiration at Panera Bread.
I packed up the laptop and notebooks and enjoyed a nice meal. I started listing things out…mostly answering, Why Are You Doing This? and Are You Adding Value?
My answer to the first question was “because I believe God called me to do it. I think I am a decent photographer with something special to offer.”
The second question was a little harder to answer. This was my initial answer… “We become friends we each of couples. We strive to make you comfortable so the real you comes out in your pictures. We genuinely care for each of our clients. We even try to pray for each couple or family before we start photographing. Every wedding we book is truly an honor. The friendships we have forged over the years still continue.” Then I thought, ok, I need to see if that’s what my clients are actually experiencing and to build from what previous experiences actually were.
I started reading through all my testimonials. It was overwhelming to re-read all the wonderful things my clients have said about me. I was seriously about to cry. I didn’t until I took a break and read about this engagement story.
Then, I finally found it!! Coined by the beautiful and wonderful Kayla Bawroski. “They were really great photographers and friends, too. They were close enough to us to know us better than we knew ourselves — really. After about half of the formal shots were done, John and I were ready to call it quits. It was so hot!! But Jennilyn and Bret made us keep taking pictures and I am so, so thankful for that because they caught some really beautiful moments.”
Bottom line, this is my business. To be great friends with our clients, get to know them so well that on their wedding day, we can make decisions (like the one above) that give them the best end product.
So there you go. There is my heart, for all the world to see. Do with it what you will, but I wanted to share.