Meredith Ryncarz-Only a Second Shooter

Imagine walking into a wedding industry event and leaving more deflated than when you got there, feeling more angry and frustrated with your career choices than ever before.  That’s how I felt walking out of a workshop last year.  I had asked a simple question and one that I thought a leader in the wedding industry might know.  After all this is a heavily saturated military town with several veterans and military spouses attending that day.  I didn’t get the answer I wanted that day, but I got the answer I needed to fire me up just enough to make a change.

I asked the speaker what I as a military spouse could do to effectively move my business every three years.  His response felt like a slap in the face.  He said “This is the life you chose and you can get out at any time.  You decided to marry a military man.  If you want to be successful then make the choice to leave the military life, otherwise, just be happy being a decent second shooter for someone else when you move.”

This wasn’t the first time I had heard this line of reasoning coming from an industry pro but it was the harshest and most blunt version of it.  I left feeling angry and hurt, but somewhere stuck in the ever present traffic that is highway 64 I realized that I already had the answer.  I was tired of leaving mentoring sessions and workshops being told that I had to settle for just being a good hobbyist or a decent second shooter.  I wanted more and I knew that I wasn’t the only one out there.

I started looking at past years revenues and analyzing what had worked and what hadn’t.  I began formulating and process mapping how to recreate my successes.  The inner nerd in me came out.  As I dug in deep, I found others who were struggling with being told they would never own a business or be successful at it and I began mentoring them.

Out of that one painful incident, the Restart Specialist was born.  I am grateful for those harsh words because they pushed me to move past the box the wedding industry wants to put me in.  Their viewpoint that because we relocate we can’t own a successful business is wrong.  Do I have to work harder, smarter, and faster because we move . . . yes.  Do I have to run my business a little bit differently  .  . .yes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I chose this life, this man, this business and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

How to see Positive Growth in your small business.

Here is the thing. Over and over again I have the “when will the trend (of photographers and other creative business) die” conversation and for a while I thought this way too. When I started my business that was the plan, to wait out all those other photographers who would fail and I would come out on top. This was such wrong thinking! Sure, trends die, but many of them just change, and I see that happening to the “creative industry.” Sorry to break it to you, but this entrepreneur-creative-business-from-home-life isn’t going any where, it’s getting bigger and better and changing as our culture and technology changes! When I finally embraced this that’s when things started to take off for me. When I stopped waiting and gripping, I started to think bigger, and started planning more. My attitude towards my business community changed and my heart for my own business grew positive. Even my competitiveness changed! Trust me, I’m in this to compete. This is business and that’s how it works, but I’m competing differently. You could say that I am competing positively!

There are six things that I did to move into more positive competition with my business that helped me see growth:

  1. I started to network and become friends with my competition! There are so many groups I am in on Facebook and I try to make some of the events. I also started to peruse some of those as actual friends!! I hang out with them, offer advice when asked, and even debate (maturely). This has expanded my view and led me to so many opportunities! Once you start to hang out with others like you, you will find that they struggle like you, and their lives are not as fabulous as it may seem on social media.
  2. I started writing down my goals. I have never known the power of true goals until I wrote them down. Writing them down not only helped my stay focused, but it boosted my confidence! It’s a simple act, but it must be done. I will write down many lofty ones too! Ones I think are impossible, because if I fail, that’s okay! I am the boss and it only means I try again.
  3. I listened to podcasts. There is so much free advice out there from amazing business owners with just a click of a button and we need to take full advantage!  My favs are Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin’s Start Up School, Andy Stanley, Built To Sell, and (of course) the new Unconventional’s podcast. One of my favorite things to do is sit with a hot cup of coffee, some busy work and listen to a new podcast!
  4. I re-evaluated how I’m doing and the “why” of my business continually. Michael Hyatt talks about this in one of his recent podcasts. He says that he writes down all the reason why he does something (rather than writing down why not to). He says that it re-engages you into whatever it is and it even will help you reconnect emotionally. I do something similar to this and usually happens when I’m goal setting or rebranding, although I now see it needs to happen even more than that. I also take into account how my business effects my family. Is the health of my family benefiting from my business? How? And are the benefits greater than the costs? What need to change for my family to come first in my daily life and business second- yet still grow?
  5. I invited my husband into my business! Ryan is the total opposite of me and has no interest in taking pictures, but I was so involved with my thing and I could tell he wanted to understand me more, so I decided to slowly introduce him to my world. I feel like I have a partner in this! There is so much more to this conversation and will have to be expanded upon in another blog post!
  6. And finally, I have to redefine my idea of what “success” is. I am a stay-at-home-mom with two little kids, I am a small group leader with my husband at my church, I am a good friend, daughter, artist and so many more things. I have a life outside of my business and it is not my full-time job, even though I don’t have a full time job elsewhere. I cannot sit at a desk for eight hours and work, I am pulled in many different directions and interrupted every 5 minutes. This doesn’t mean I cannot run a business, this also doesn’t mean I can’t run a successful business, it just mean I do it slower and different than the majority. I will never let my lust for success come between me and what the Lord has called me to do (be a mom and wife and church leader), so I have had to realize that my way looks different from others. This was the single biggest lesson I had to learn. This changed my heart, mind, and the way I do daily life. Instead of the burden of trying to keep up, that burden has been lifted and I am a happy business owner and happy mom. There are still days I struggle hard, but I come back to this truth and that pressure goes away.

Life changes when you feel excited and energized by your business. I know what it’s like when business feels more life-sucking than life-giving and it’s not worth it!  If you are starting your business and you feel the comparison monster or you’re struggling with doubt, try some of these things and see if it helps. Most of these take time and energy that we don’t always have, but when has business ever been easy and instant? Right. Keep going and working hard! You’ll get there!

The Part Time Creatives

The Part Time Creatives

(I wrote about this on my personal website but this is an extension)

There’s a big movement going on in the photography industry right now. “Community Over Competition” has taken over and it’s empowering photographers to encourage and motive each other like never before. It’s been an incredible sight to behold, as a bystander, to watch the entire dynamic of our predominantly social industry change into a huge powerhouse of friendship and encouragement. They meet up on Tuesdays and always seem to have something going on. However, even in a community that opens in arms in such a positive way, it’s still possible to feel like an outsider.

Let me rewind a bit. 

I started my little business almost five years ago back in college and I never really knew where it would go or what to do with it. When it came time to graduate college, every one and their mother asked if I was going to be a full-time photographer and the answer was a confident no. I wanted to see what else was out there for me and I fell in love with digital marketing.

Here we are two years later and I still feel the same way about my answer. I work a full 40+ hour week at my day job in digital marketing and every night and weekend when I come home, if I am not editing or shooting, I am soaking in the rare nights I have to myself (and my husband and Max.) So while I prefer working on my career and working on my business simultaneously, I don’t have time to meet up and mingle with that wonderful group and it does feel like I’m always left out.  I know I am not the only business owner out there balancing a career with being an entrepreneur and I take comfort in the fact that someone, somewhere, is feeling a little left out too.

I edit photos on my lunch break, I send out contracts at 7am before work, I go to sessions after work sometimes still in my business clothes. It’s not conventional and it’s certainly not sane, but it’s just the way it is right now and I’ve gotten real comfortable with it. I use to hide all of this to my friends and clients, I didn’t want anyone to know that I was juggling both because I was afraid of what they would think. Was I not making enough money to just pick one? Did I not have any clients anymore? Did I piss them off and have to fall back on a regular job?  It felt like I was living a double life for awhile until I realized something so important. Just because I am not running my business like Pinterest says I should be running my business, doesn’t mean I am not successful. Success is defined by you, not the photographer with a six-figure income and tens of thousands of followers.  What does it look like for me? Coming home at the end of a long week after kicking ass for 40 hours, getting Google Analytics Certified, learning something new, etc, and then reading an email from a client who is so thankful she found you because you gave her confidence that she didn’t feel like she had before your session.

That’s success.

If you’re reading this and you’re balancing a day job with a burning passion for your small business, just remember one thing: just because you aren’t doing what the internet says you should be doing at this stage, doesn’t mean a damn thing. Keep rocking it out, keep pushing to defy that status quo, and remember, there’s always another lonely creative out there fighting the same good fight.

 

 

 

 

ashley-thomas-sunset

“Defying the Status Quo”

For someone standing on the outside of the photography industry, I can understand how all of us look different. Each photographer has their own cute website with a handcrafted logo, different personalities, and obviously different photographs. However, are we truly all that different? In a community that seems consumed with the latest on Style Me Pretty and creating their own version of the same, how can we stay true to who we are while setting ourselves apart?

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in what every photographer is doing these days. I could spend hours scrolling through my social feed just to get a millisecond of a sense to what is going on outside my own world. I keep hearing this #GirlBoss mentality but what is exactly does it mean to be a #GirlBoss if all I keep doing is “Keeping up with the Jones’”? What’s the big secret to defying the status quo and just kicking ass all on my own without fear that the community will reject me?

You have to stop caring.

I don’t mean that in a derogatory way of course. But there has to be a separation between what you want to be doing and what others are doing and the best way to keep those separated is to not worry about what the others are doing. It’s easier said than done, I am fully aware.  It’s also hard to do without alienating your friends and friendors. I rarely follow any local photographers for this exact reason and I totally see how that can come across as rude, like I am not being supportive. When in fact, it’s just for my own sanity.

I’ve always been a bit of a ‘loose cannon’. I say what I want; do what I want, when I want. It gets me into trouble sometimes but it’s just who I am… and maybe it’s because I’m an only child, who knows.  When it comes to my photography business though, it really helps me remember the most important piece; it’s my photography business. There’s no one to tell me “No you can’t put a cuss word on your website” or “No you can’t use 148,935 colors in your branding.” I’m the boss. The #GirlBoss.

Around this time last year, I started to develop a really crazy passion for food photography. It’s something that I had never done before and I was a little timid to post anything online because I was predominately known for weddings and what if posting my food photography wasn’t good? What if I sucked and only I thought I was good? What if it messes up my pretty Instagram feed? What if it’s not “cool” and what if people start saying things like “she’s probably shooting food because she can’t book any weddings?” Those little bugs sat in my ear for all of two seconds and then guess what… I stopped caring. Now I post my food work on the regular and am even considering starting up a side business.

Once you push past that barrier of “it’s not what everyone else is doing”, the more you creative and free you will feel. Isn’t that why we all started photography in the first place? To be creative?

 

ashley-thomas-senior-pic

What is The Unconventional Life?

What is The Unconventional Life?

The Unconventional Life is simply this-

“You doing business and life in a way that is “Unconventional” to others in your industry.”

 

Right now you might be thinking to yourself, could this be me, am I Unconventional? The answer is YES!! How can this be?? Because, you are you! You are different than anyone else around you! You are not supposed to be a cookie cutter business man or woman, you are too unique to be like someone else!

Our purpose at The Unconventional Life is to help you and others like you find their voice and identity in being The Unconventional.

My name is Luke and I’m the co-owner of Luke & Ashley Photography. As we enter our 5th year as wedding photographers I want to go back and reflect on our humble beginnings. Back in 2011 we were on the verge of bankruptcy. 3 kids, on food stamps, and barely making ends meet with a $12 per hour job and $86,000 in debt. During 2011 we discovered something amazing.  We realized people would pay us $25 to take their family pictures and deliver the pictures to them on a CD!!!! Our minds were blown! I am a entrepreneur at heart so immediately we went into business!! With a basic camera in hand and a simple ad on Craigslist we went to town!! We booked family sessions, high school senior sessions and our first wedding at $200! Man, we were bringing in the dough!  We were desperate to do whatever it takes to get us out of our financial situation.

Soon after that we discovered this amazing world of other photographers in our local area. Immediately we thought, we are horrible! Self-comparison sprang up, doubt, and intimidation came pounding on our door.

It was like we were standing at the foot of a massive mountain thinking to our selves, how in the world do we even start climbing this?

We began to look around at others in the industry, everyone was all at different stages in their own business, and we felt small. Who were we to think we could even do this? Yet we felt so determined to make this business work that we knew we had to climb the mountain, but how? We saw some people take the path to the right, some people were going left, others seemed to jump in a rocket and just take-off over the mountain! Yet our business just seemed to crawl as if we got the slowest pack mule possible to take us up to the mountain. I’m sure many of you have felt this way, the going is slow or it is not moving at all. You feel stuck at the spot your in, looking around at others as they accelerate to success. We felt the same thing, then one day it occurred to us;

 

“What does it take to be successful?”

Is it looking like someone else, booking 25 plus weddings in a year, being a full time photographer, attending every workshop and meet up in our area? Spending hours behind a computer neglecting your family, creating a image on social media thats fake, not being true to you?

 

NO.

None of those “identities” brought us success or made us feel like we have finally “made-it”. If anything they drove us insane! Chasing the latest fad or trend in the industry will kill your spirt and destroy your creativity. Your probably thinking I have heard this before from so many others, this is nothing new. Your right its not, but if your not careful you will end up like so many, burnt out and defeated.  We want you to know there is hope and here is how we found it!

 

Take a good look at the following definition and really spend some time thinking about it-

 

unconventional

adjective  un·con·ven·tion·al  \-ˈvench-nəl, -ˈven(t)-shə-nəl\

Simple Definition of unconventional

  • : very different from the things that are used or accepted by most people : not traditional or usual : not conventional

 

Full Definition of unconventional

  1. :  not conventional :  not bound by or in accordance with convention :  being out of the ordinary <an unconventional outfit> <an unconventional thinker>

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary

 

We saw the mountain and decided to climb it, UNCONVENTIONALLY.

 

Ashley and I realized that if we want to be successful in our photography business and life we need to do things that fit our lifestyle and allows us to be different from others. Imagine for me everyone you know that has a business is standing at the bottom of this same mountain that was I talking about earlier. Everyone starts on the same equal playing field. There is a ref standing at the starting line of this race that we all are about to run, he raises the gun, there comes this hushed silence as everyone anticipates the shot from the gun and POW there it is. Everyone takes off knowing that they all have to climb the same mountain to get to the other side. There is no path, there are no instructions and there is nothing standing in your way but your will to climb. Immediately there are people who have the creativity to build a vehicle out of mid air, climb in and drive up the mountain, Then there are others that build that rocket, climb in, take off and blow us away in their smoke. Others just start running looking for the best foothold to grab onto, others follow them. As you stand there looking at all that is happening in front of you, you start to second guess your capability to even get started, or maybe you climbed up the first 50 feet and hit your first little hurdle and panic! That was us. We saw others move up this mountain of life and business  and it caused our heads to spin. In that moment of second guessing our purpose in this journey we decided to be different, not just Unconventional, but to live a Unconventional Life!

And it is funny that we use the term unconventional.

Unconventional is actually everyone.  We are all different.  We all have different minds, cultures, ways of thinking.  Yet, for some reason we tend to think that we are wrong for being different.  We are wrong for not looking like the masses.  Beauty is the differences of our society.

It was amazing to see what happened next! As we planted or feet firmly on the idea to lead an Unconventional Life our business took off! We looked up the mountain, saw leaders, saw failures, had a few failures our self, took from what we saw and created us! Not a cookie cutter of others, but us! We created a couple, a business, a family and a life that is Unconventional to those around us.  Nothing is wrong with those around us, we just knew that their definition of success wasn’t for our family.

As we move forward in this direction in our lives, as we create this Tribe of like minded followers, we want you to know that its okay to be different. Your success will never look like someone else. Someone else’s success will never reflect in your success. The sooner you realize that it has to be about you, your drive to climb the mountain, your desire to be uniquely creative in your approach to success, the sooner you will embrace this grand adventure that this life has for you.

The team here at The Unconventional Life wants to help you find that creativity, to help you climb that mountain not in the same way we did, but in a way that allows you to be you! I will leave you with this-

 

BE, UNCONVENTIONAL. LIVE AN UNCONVENTIONAL LIFE.

Ashesh -

I love this! Thank you for your insights and encouragement. Unconventional is the way to go!

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