Running a business is an ever evolving reality. There is no right or wrong way to do it necessarily. People will tell you what they think the right way ought to be, but ultimately, only you can decide what’s best for your business, your heart, and your clients. I say this often, and I kind of hope I don’t stop saying it because I think it means I’m continually growing and learning… here it is folks: I’m going into my 5th wedding season and I JUST NOW feel like I’m a wedding photographer. I feel like RTP is really starting to take its own shape; the initial stages of this business remind me of that scene from Bambi where he’s trying to walk on ice. Or maybe better yet, a middle school student. Because let’s be honest, that’s a really confusing time.
I’ve since graduated that phase, along with what I believe would be similar to a high school and college phase of running a business. Now I feel like I’m in a master’s program. I’ve got a really good idea (a bachelor’s degree, if you will) of who I am as a photographer and now I’m, well, mastering it. Perfecting it. Capitalizing on our strengths. However, however, however, I fully expect and intend for RTP to evolve and to continually reinvent itself every five years or so. With all the reflection I’ve been doing about the past year and what I want to do this year, I’m discovering that 2011 is looking like a pretty transformational year for us. I feel that we’re finally gaining some valuable traction and experience that can only come after multiple years in the business.
With that said, we have a big retreat weekend coming up for the RTP staff where we’re going through each and every aspect of this business with a fine-tooth comb. In preparation for that, we’re each (Jesie, our photo editor, and a longtime RTP visionary) putting together a list of what worked well in 2010, what didn’t, and what we’re going to do differently in 2011. Below is the start of MY list. Definitely not everything, but this is what has come to my little mind so far.
What didn’t work and what’s next for 2011 will be separate blog posts.
— Praying with Jesie before each and every wedding – about our couple, our gear, the flow of the day, anything that is distracting us from our job, as well as the well-being of the men in our lives
— Continuing to have all our consultations in my house where I’m comfortable in my own skin
— Auto-reply during insane seasons where I knew my response wasn’t feasible for days and days
— Buying all our batteries at the beginning of the year and getting them for free with rebates
— Pricelining our hotels and saving tons of money
— Tracking our flights and saving tons of money :-)
— Going out to dinner with our clients after their engagement session
— Jesie and I having our favorite and designated things to shoot on a wedding, knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and how we’re each covering a certain event (For example, I’m a borderline introvert so huddling up in a corner shooting details is like heaven for me and re-energizes me. Jesie gets so tired by the end of the day, though thankfully there is a wild reception and loads of people to re-energize her.)
— Custom white balance!
— Our short family photo lists, with me shooting and Jesie prepping folks for the next shot
— Really learning and accepting my style of shooting (i.e. we’re okay with a high iso at receptions, we like the grain, though we do get a variety) and communicating that upfront so there are no surprises
— Blogging personal stories, passionate moments in my life
— Switching from Lowepro backpacks to Lowepro carry-on, roller board bags
— Charity shoots! It’s a must to give back to this community who has given so much to us.
— Having a consistent, dedicated, in-house photo editor and culler
— Our Reveals. Having clients over to view their images in person is so rewarding and fun!
— Our Apple TV. Makes our reveals a cinch!
— Mailing packages once they’ve been completely fulfilled and not sending products as they come in (with the exception of the disc)
— Sticking to my guns about Sundays off – this was the only day where I had the best chance of relaxing, worshipping, and spending quality time with the boyfriend
— Tithing 10% of my income. It’s amazing how the Lord has in return blessed us and this business, which is not why I tithe, but definitely a great benefit to see the Lord take care of us.
— Reserving at least 1 weeknight/week for myself
— Having a set work schedule for both myself and photo editor
—Moving into a bigger home and new home office, further physically separating my work life from my personal life
— Getting in front of the camera more often to learn a bit more what our clients experience
— Working out MWF in the morning, even if it meant starting my day at 9:30 – I felt great and didn’t feel guilty for sitting on my butt all day – and I had more energy and focus!
— Nurturing friendships in the industry and learning not only about my colleagues but their families too
— A video blog post – I only did one, but it seemed rather effective and folks loved it! Nice change and extra personal.
— Our promo video – it’s just about done, only a preview has been released, but the whole process was exactly what I needed to kind of force me to figure out exactly what RTP is all about
— iCal calendar and reminders were way cooler than my Franklin Covey planners and Post-Its
— Integrating THINGS into my life and making it my sole task management system
— Recognizing that I need a business-savvy mentor in my life, one who I respect and never want to show up to empty-handed (i.e. not meeting goals, not growing, etc.)
— Our Lightroom cataloging, file organizing system, as well as our archiving system
— Not answering calls and emails as soon as they come in. Designating a time to return inquiries
— Keeping a Moleskine journal dedicated to notes, inspiration, etc. relating to the business
— Zero-ing my inbox ~2 times a week, moving tasks that took more than 2 minutes to my Things list
I’m sure I’m missing some areas, but hopefully y team can help me fill in those victories. What didn’t work is comin’ at you tomorrow! Stay tuned…