Hi, I'm Tara and I am so excited that you came by to check out my little corner of the internet! I'm a wife, mom, and a photographer from Erie, PA. If you asked my friends to tell you about me they'd probably describe me as cheerful, laid-back, and always smiling My blog is a mix of my photography, personal, weddings, etc... and I hope you leave feeling refreshed + inspired! :) 

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January 5, 2017

2017 + What I’m Changing This Year

So this is going to be a little bit of a personal post and a little bit of a business post and who knows what else but it’s Wednesday afternoon, the kids are back in school after their winter break, baby boy is taking his nap, and I’m feeling inspired to write. Inspired. Oh wow. It has been such a long time since I have said that word. That sounds a little depressing but it is so true. 2016 was a really good but a really weird year for me. It was a learning year, for sure, and it was a year for making mistakes (I made about a thousand of those) and a year for doing things a million different ways because I didn’t know how to do them right and I needed to figure out what was going to work for me. It was a year for a lot of feelings. Good feelings, bad feelings, scared feelings, happy feelings, and feeling what being really really proud of myself for the first time in a long time felt like. 2016 was my first year doing photography full-time and it was really hard and there were times where I sat down by myself or with Nathan and I couldn’t think about anything except how badly I wanted to quit and how I didn’t want to be a photographer anymore even though for so long that was what my dream was. There were slow days where I found myself consumed with every single guilty feeling that a mom could feel after walking out of my amazing paying salary job to be that crazy artist who wanted follow her dreams. It was really hard at first. For the first time in my life I had no boss to answer to if I wanted to take a day off or to give me tasks and goals and those other important things that a business needs to flourish and grow. I really quickly learned that there was a lot more to photography than taking pretty pictures and expecting business to flood in on it’s own. Even though I had been managing two teams of people and had 10 or so big-name clients that I was responsible for at my old job I suddenly realized (or more like was slapped in the face with the fact) that I knew nothing at all about business. Nothing. Like absolutely nothing. It was bad. Sooooo bad. I had this amazing talent and this passion for what I was doing and had already been doing for almost 5 years but I had no idea what it would take to do this to support my family. Nathan wasn’t working because I was always so busy at my old job and I was making such good money that it was easier for him to be a stay-at-home dad then for him and I to both be juggling busy careers and having to worry about finding a reliable babysitter for 3 kids so we literally had no other help or nothing else coming in and that made things really hard. For the first time in 5 years of doing photography I started realizing that I needed to invest in myself and my business or else I was going to get absolutely nowhere really quickly and that wasn’t an option for me because I’m just the kind of person who does everything I can to be amazing at what I do. Failing has never been an option for me and neither has been being just okay so I very quickly started investing in new equipment, photography workshops and some business education, and eventually that led to me deciding to open my first little studio later on in the year. I learned how to hustle for myself and for my business for the first time ever and all of a sudden things were good. SO good. So much better than I could have ever imagined them being my first “real” year in business. Things were going so great and all of a sudden I was so busy that it was getting hard to keep up. I hear so many people in this industry talking about how easy it is to get burnt out if you don’t do things right and I never thought that could be me but it totally happened. I found myself editing for 4 other photographers, shooting on average about 3 sessions (or events) a week, and doing in-person sales and ordering for every client which meant having at least 7-8 photography appointments per week between shooting, doing reveals, wedding consultations, and my mentoring 1:1s. It was exhausting and I quickly started thinking of photography as work instead of what I love and I started to hate it even though all of these amazing people I was meeting and doing pictures for would see their images and fall in love and be literally over-the-moon gushing and gushing and gushing over how much they loved their gorgeous images and how they would cherish them forever. When I would be caught up enough for a slow day here or there I wanted to spend it as far away from the computer as I possibly could because my mind was so exhausted and I was so over photography and I didn’t have great processes in place so I was literally changing parts of my business every other day and some things that I really needed to be doing I wasn’t doing which hurt me later down the line and at times I was literally working against myself instead of just taking a time-out and spending a few days simplifying things to make them easier for me. Simplifying. That brings me to 2017. 

2017. I think that our lives have different seasons and different chapters and different parts and I think that this is about to be a really really good season in my life. Don’t get me wrong, 2016 was amazing. We brought our baby boy into this world, I met a lot of amazing people, I did successfully “make it” my first year of being a photographer full-time and opened my beautiful little studio, I learned a lot about photography, I learned a lot about myself, and at the end of the year after I was all done with my Christmas sessions I did the right thing and I sat down and made some pretty detailed lists full of things that I needed to change for this year, what I was doing right, and what goals I had. For the first time in a long time I started looking through my old work, exploring the internet, buying new books to read, and doing just about everything else possible to figure out what truly inspires me and what drives my heart. I invested in my first photography workshop and learned about what goes into and how to create artwork that I am in love with and for the first time ever I have finally been able to look at my own work and feel inspired and proud instead of wondering how to make it better. That was HUGE for me. Most people may not realize that I am literally the most insecure and sensitive person in the world. I worry about what everyone thinks and my heart hurts if I’m not making everyone happy, even if it’s at my own expense. Because of that the end of 2016 taught me a lot about my priorities and where I want to be. I realized that sometimes I need to say no and that’s okay. That I can’t make everyone happy and that some people just aren’t my ideal client and will just bring me down and those people aren’t worth wasting my time or my emotions on. I want happy people in my life. People who lift me up and that I can laugh and smile and connect with. People with good intentions in their hearts. I finally learned that sometimes it’s good to say no. That there are yucky people out there and sometimes it’s really really good to say no and it is absolutely necessary. 

I’m not really a New Year’s resolution kind of girl because my resolutions generally involve big unrealistic things like buying a big new house, rescuing 10 puppies, adopting 20 babies, and losing 30 pounds but that’s just because I have big dreams and there’s nothing wrong with that except that 2016 taught me that the journey and the struggle and the hustle are a lot more important than just having big dreams because without the hustle you will never get anywhere. So instead of New Year’s resolutions this year I decided to just write down a few things that I wanted to change or work on to simplify my life in 2017 and make things easier for me so I can spend more time feeling inspired, spending time with my family and doing things that I love that aren’t photography, and just to decrease my overall stress and workload so I can keep loving what I do and I can start enjoying life a little more again. I love working for and serving all of my amazing clients but I love spending time with my family too and not feeling like a chicken with my head cut off 24/7 so I’ve finally started to realize that I can do a really really amazing job at serving my clients and creating beautiful work for them if I just write a little more time spent on the actual business part of my business (like writing client workflows and automating business tasks with my client management software that I spend a ton of time doing like sending out appointment reminder emails) instead of just shooting and editing like crazy all of the time. If you are a client of mine or a future client of mine and have made it this far then don’t worry. I’m not having a mid-life crisis and slowing down or anything lol I just am making a point to be smarter about how I spend my time and what I outsource and ask for help with what I can so I can be even busier and serve even more amazing clients and couples this year. My ultimate goal of 2017 is to serve even more clients than I did in 2016, shoot even more weddings, and make my processes a whole lot more simple and focused that way I don’t have to spend as much time doing so much “stuff” and I can be way more organized when someone needs something. If you are a creative and you are wondering how I am planning to simplify this year, then I highly recommend that you check out 17hats! That is my referral link incase anyone wants to check it out. Last year I had different business management software that I didn’t like nearly as much and I am already feeling so much more in control of my life again since signing up with 17hats. You can automate client emails, invoice, make quotes, record expenses, and pretty much every other little thing that a self-employed business owner may need to do. 

I’m sorry not sorry for this totally long and rambling post about 2016 but like I said I was inspired to write and I felt like there may be some other people in this world who are chasing their dreams but struggling and I wanted you to know that it’s okay and you aren’t the only one. 2016 was a huge year for me but it was definitely one of the hardest. Even though there truly were times when I considered giving up because of crappy stuff that was happening with crappy people I am so unbelievably glad that I didn’t because I know that God gave me the strength to quit my job and follow my dreams last year and that there is a reason He did. I will never give up. Never ever. And I know that this year is going to be SO much better because of everything I learned and all of my experiences in 2016. I have met so many amazing people through photography and have had so many beautiful clients who have trusted me with their memories and appreciated their pictures so much and you all are without any doubt what has kept me going this past year and pushed me on to even bigger and better things for my business in 2017. 

If you are a client or a future client and are wondering what changes you will be noticing this year then here’s a quick list:

  • I am no longer doing in-person reveal and sales appointments in 2017 unless requested. I absolutely LOVED being there when my clients were seeing their images for the first time and getting to help you through the ordering process however a lot of my clients have kids or are very busy with work and the popular opinion was that everyone liked the online galleries that I used to use a lot better and wanted to do things that way again which is fine with me because then ultimately I can spend a little less time at the studio chatting with clients (what can I say lol I’m a talker) and more time shooting, editing, learning, and planning new and exciting things for my business. If you loved doing in-person reveals as much as I did and want to see your pictures and order your products that way, that is GREAT and I would still love to do things with you that way so just let me know! Plus it gives me that satisfaction of still being with at least some of my clients when they are seeing their images for the first time 🙂 There will be no extra charge or anything if you request an in-person reveal. It’s just something that I will be offering as a complimentary service for those who want it.
  • This year I am requiring that you pay your session fee at the time of booking and a deposit to secure your wedding date. I will send an invoice to your email so you can pay with your debit or credit card. If you don’t have a card then I am more than happy to make arrangements to meet you to accept cash or check however it must be received in order for your session to be booked. Period. I tried implementing both of those things last year but was way too relaxed about it because I was afraid of being pushy or upsetting someone but this is something that I HAVE to do this year. I had a lot of no-shows last year which really sucks especially when I spend a lot of time getting something set-up at the studio for the shoot or have already dropped my kids off at the babysitter and I also had a few people who tried to take advantage of me in really random ways that I would have never even thought of that could have been prevented if I had them sign a contract before their shoot. It was a lesson learned and I am so so so so sorry to my amazing clients who always show up to their sessions and who I know will never take advantage of me but I just need to get in a good workflow of doing this for every single person or event that I shoot so just know to expect it and that I am sending it with a smile and the best intentions at heart 🙂

If you have stuck with me this far lol then THANK YOU for taking the time to read my post!!! I wouldn’t be starting this year off with this optimistic and grateful of a heart and such a big smile on my face without all of you. 

xoxoxoxo Tara 

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