This year is a huge shift for me, as I come to terms with my calling, a shift in business focus, and a greater focus on client care.
Those that have been with me for a while know there was never a day where I did not love photography or dream about it being my full time job. But when I graduated high school, I didn’t head off to study photography. I didn’t start a business right away, and I didn’t have any confidence that I could make a living with my art. I chose strategic communications and business as my field of study and imagined I would have a 9-5 corporate office job, because that’s the responsible thing to do. What I didn’t realize was that my education was preparing me to be my own boss, not work for someone else.
Something changed in me, around November 2015. (Largely due to a few conversations I had with Martha, my sister-in-heart… you can read more about our friendship on both my blog and hers.) After the worst creative year for me ever, I put on a “just-do-it” attitude and decided that I am capable, knowledgeable, and talented enough to be a wedding photographer. I went into 2016 with energy, passion, and high hopes for my future. I put in late hours reading the books, tuning in to classes and conferences, and educating myself about e-commerce, web design, opt-ins, and all the things other photographers were doing that I thought I had to have in order to be successful.
And by the end of January, I was exactly where I was in November. With one wedding on the books for the whole year, no money in the bank, no inquiries, and my portfolio looked exactly the same.
Here’s where I went wrong – I was trying so hard to build a business (website, workflow, technology and tools – that all cost money and take time) that others took YEARS to work up to BEFORE I had any clients, relationships, or support from others in the wedding industry. Instead of seeing a friends’ engagement as an opportunity to help them celebrate or educate them about choosing a wedding photographer, I gave my pitch to them the minute I could. Instead of talking about why a professional and educated wedding photographer is so important, I was only running promotions. When I took a step back and stopped trying so hard to sell, and started talking from the heart – THAT is when Photography by Jo truly became a business with a mission, a future, and a tribe of people who continually support me. THAT is when I got BUSY! Booked up with lovely engagement sessions, styled sessions, and precious weddings that I have the honor of documenting.
My heart has always been in wedding photography. Being solely responsible for documenting a bride and groom’s wedding day is a great honor that brings me so much joy. I get to hear the toasts and blend into the crowd of close friends and family, all expressing their love and support for the couple. I’ve welled up with tears working a wedding, getting so into the moment and feeling proud of a couple I wouldn’t have gotten to know outside of my profession. I leave a wedding with a full heart, and can’t wait to get the photos back in the hands of the couple. The feeling of sending back a wedding gallery is indescribable! But it wasn’t until I figured out how to SHOW this passion in my marketing that I was able to experience growth.
Growth happens seemingly slowly in the wedding industry. Even if I booked 15 weddings tomorrow, they would likely not happen for another year. So that’s another year before I have those new photos to share, new experiences to talk about, or any income to show for it. And another year before any referrals may come my way after that wedding. While outward appearances don’t relay the massive changes that I’ve gone through over the last six months or so, I know that 2017 is going to be a year of immense growth, that I’ve got incredible brides to celebrate with, and the coming weeks hold great excitement and meaning for me.
2017 is the first year I am starting as a married woman, a college graduate, a homeowner, and an experienced business owner. I’ve passed the phase of set-up, and I’m ready to start wow-ing my clients, teaching brides-to-be why excellent photography matters, and taking my craft to the next level. Plus, I’ve BEEN the bride now, so I have loads more wisdom to share from that experience!
It’s also a year of shift for me. If you’ve followed along, you know I’m shifting from primarily weddings to milestone + lifestyle. (Meaning, I am adding maternity, newborn, and first year to my primary offers. Exciting!) Perhaps that’s a reflection of my life. My husband’s sisters (between the three of them) have three tiny humans and one on the way. We are lucky enough to live a day trip from each of them.
You probably recognize the little ones from my Facebook and Instagram. I swear, they make my heart swell so much. I didn’t think I could love another person’s child like I love these kids. And through experiencing that connection and watching them grow so fast, I’ve come to find a passion for maternity, newborn, and child photography. It’s not something I saw myself doing two years ago, but it’s where my heart is leading me.
I am so thankful for my people, my clients past and future, and my husband for his unwavering support.
Thanks for reading my musings & more!