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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?
- 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!
- 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!