Posts filed under ‘Inspiration’

Sage Declaration No. 2 ::: Practice

Yesterday, I asked you to think about how you are going to educate yourself.  Today, I want you to think about Practice.  All of those things we learned in our youth (walking, running, biking, swimming, reading, math) were only accomplished with a great deal of practice.  Today, we expect “now, now, now”.  I want the email now.  I want the appointment now.  I want the money now.  I want my dinner now.  But, nothing great is ever learned over night.  We must practice – and we must practice A LOT.

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, Outliers.  In it, he discusses the “10,000 Hour Rule”.  His theory is that no one can achieve greatness without working VERY hard.  He believes that you must practice something for at least 10,000 hours to become an expert at it.

He explains how everyone thinks of Bill Gates as this child prodigy / phenom / college-dropout / computer mastermind.  But, the reality is that he started his computer programming education as a child.  He had the fortuitous opportunity to go to a school in Seattle that had one of the first computers in the country.  And, he began programming while in junior high.  He was a bit obsessive so he programmed at all hours.  By the time he reached college, he had years of experience unmatched by most in the country.  Naturally, he had become an expert.  Gladwell surmises that Gates had practiced his skill for 10,000+ hours before starting Microsoft.

So, I ask you:

What do you need to practice? How will you build your skill set?  How will you commit to practicing?  How will you improve and benefit from 10,000+ hours of hard work?  What will you do to achieve success?

We cannot become experts in our field or in our business without practice.  There are no short-cuts.  We cannot build an empire overnight.


August 13, 2009 at 6:00 am 1 comment

Sage Declaration No. 1 ::: Educate Yourself

It seems like we spend most of our youth actively learning.  As a child, we learn how to walk, then run.  We learn how to ride a bike and swim.  We learn how to read and do math.  Over time, we’ve learned gazillions of complicated things.  Once we graduate from school, if we go to work for a company, we are asked to learn new things from our employer.  But, what happens when we are self-employed?  Where does that learning come from?

Today’s post is a simple one… think about:

How are you going to continue the learning process?  How are you going to build on the knowledge you have to become a stronger business owner?  What do you need to learn to be better at what you do?

If you aren’t learning something new, you are becoming stagnant.  Make a decision today to read something that educates you.  Make a decision to start surrounding yourself with people who encourage your learning process.  Make a decision to expand your mind, and learn something new.

August 12, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Inside Out: Examine Yourself

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Creative Commons License

We’ve spent the last several months putting plans into place for your business.  We’ve written strategies, analyses, forecasts, budgets, and reports.  This week, let’s take a step out of the business and look inward.  What is it within us that will make this business happen? What is holding us back?

Last week, in working through the SWOT Analysis I wondered what it would be like to write one for myself.  What would the SWOT look like for me, the individual?  This was a really interesting exercise because in taking a look at my own personal Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats I found that there are also characteristics that do affect my business.  What happens within us affects all the facets of who we are: mother, wife, business owner, philanthropist, teacher, friend, daughter.

Your personal strengths are the things that build you up.  They are reflected in your business.  They are reflected in the relationships you have.  They are reflected in the strong decisions you make for your business.  These are the things that will make your business happen.

Your personal weaknesses hold you back.  They are the areas you know you need to work on.  They affect how “you” look in your business.  They are reflected in the decisions you make.  Identifying them can be a challenge.  But, knowing them gives you the understanding and insight to work on them.

Your personal opportunities are the prospects available to you.  These are largely out of your control, but are there for the taking if you use your personal strengths to guide you.  These life-long opportunities go beyond your business life, and much deeper into your personal life.

Your personal threats are those things that eat into at you late at night.  They feed off of your insecurity and weakness.  You want to control them, even though they are outside factors that you cannot do anything about.


  • How are you going to use your personal strengths to seize opportunity? (SO-Strategy)
  • How are you going to use your personal strengths to minimize threats? (ST-Strategy)
  • How are you going to minimize your personal weaknesses to make room for the opportunities (WO-Strategy)
  • How are you going to minimize your personal weaknesses to lessen the threats? (WT-Strategy)

Look inside your core.

August 11, 2009 at 8:10 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: David and Corbin Baxter, Owners of Soulbox Productions

David & Corbin Baxter

Photo courtesy of Sil Azevedo, Azevedo Photography

This week’s Insider Interview is brought to you by Kelly Simants.  She met with David and Corbin Baxter of Soulbox Productions a few months ago and was wowed by their energy and enthusiasm.  She loves how open the videographers are to share with people in the industry. David and Corbin started their business in 2001 when they wrote, directed, and filmed a feature length film.  They began filming weddings full time in 2004.  I love what they have to say about their clientele: “It is amazing to us that our clients are just like us.  They find us through our work: creative, energetic, carefree, organized, and detail-oriented.”  This is so relateable.  They have managed to give prospective clients a taste of what it’s like to work with them.  Brilliant!  Here are more brilliant thoughts from David and Corbin.

David & Corbin Baxter
Owners, Soulbox Productions
Dallas, TX
Established 2001

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Capturing once in a lifetime moments for our wonderful couples. We’re so lucky that we’ve built so many great relationships, we absolutely love what we do!

What is your best tip for time management?

Make attainable yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Corbin and I set priorities and accomplish them as efficiently as possible. For example, we pride ourselves on replying to inquiries within 24 hours.

What is your little marketing secret?

Network, network, network. Corbin and I are both advertising majors and so it was a surprise to us in the beginning that building relationships with your clients and other wedding vendors is by far the best marketing.

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

Well, we’re going to be a little biased on this one and say anything vintage: cars, dresses, veils, invitations and for us, true super 8mm film coverage.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

Started filming weddings in super 8mm from the beginning. We had Corbin’s father’s super 8mm camera for 5 years and didn’t even know it.

Thanks David & Corbin!

August 7, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: Laura & Chris Randall, Owners of Edit 1 Media

Laura RandallLaura Randall and her husband Chris are the founders and co-owners of Edit 1 Media, a video production company.  Recently, I visited with them in their Tacoma home.  I was struck by their warmth and sincerity.  Instantly, I understood why their work is so beautiful, so touching, so real.  (That’s how they are!)  Several years ago their son Matthew was diagnosed with cancer as a toddler.  On their journey to hell and back they started filming him.  They met so many families that wanted Chris and Laura to film their children.  So, they began taping the families as a way of helping them in their catharsis.  What began as something charitable, turned into requests for filming all life events… including the more uplifting ones, such as weddings.  Their entrepreneurial story is by far the most touching one I have ever encountered.  Out of this very painful moment in their lives, blossomed an amazing business… and a healthy little boy…  Matthew will turn 15 this year!  Thank you so much, Laura and Chris, for sharing of yourself with me!

Chris RandallLaura & Chris Randall
Owners, Edit 1 Media

Seattle, WA and Honolulu, HI
Established 1998

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

The interactions and emotions. It might be the look on a mother’s face as she watches her son dance with his new wife for the first time. Or the quivering lower lip as a father sees his little girl as a beautiful bride. Or the smile on a bride’s face when her soon-to-be husband whispers “You are so beautiful!”. Or the roaring laughter of the crowd during the Best Man’s toast. There is so much power in these moments and I love seeing the story unfold. Every wedding we film is unique and I love being a witness to the story of the day.

What is your best tip for time management?

I am a list person and I have been since I was a kid! I use a program called Remember The Milk which I can access from my laptop or my iPhone. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to cross things off on my list. I also keep a running list of our editing backlog and send that out to our clients periodically so they can see where they stand in the queue and what items I’m waiting to receive from them in order to finish the video.

What is your little marketing secret?

Be very visible, stay in touch with other industry people and let your personality shine through!

What is the funnest trend you are seeing in the industry?

For videography it is definitely Same Day Edits! This is where we take video footage from earlier in the day, edit it on-site, then project it on a large screen at the reception!! The guests are completely blown away and it’s a HUGE smash hit!!

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would have learned how to handle accounting, budgeting, taxes and our workflow from the very beginning! As Michael Gerber says in “The E-Myth” (paraphrased) – “Just because you are good at doing something, doesn’t mean you are good at running a business!”. We have spent the last few years really stepping back and re-evaluating how we run our business while still keeping our artistic and creative passion flowing. It is a delicate balance and there have been some hard lessons learned along the way, but we love what we do and we love to continue learning how to make things work even better!

And, here’s a clip of some of their amazing work…

Seattle Same Day Edit with 5D Mark II from Edit 1 Media on Vimeo.

July 24, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: Laurel McConnell, Owner of Laurel McConnell Photography

Photo courtesy of Barbie Hull Photography

Photo courtesy of Barbie Hull Photography

Laurel McConnell is seriously one of my favorite people in this industry.  Her photography is amazing, gorgeous, incredible, delightful and talented.  But, it’s Laurel herself that I adore even more.  She is funny and smart.  She is witty and bright.  And, she has an incredible spirit and fire.  Laurel is a marketing maven and any wedding business could learn a lot from her on branding, niche, and having a “company voice”.  (You’ll know what I mean if you read her blog and once you read her interview below.)  Her personal flair is on everything she does… and that’s what makes it so special.

Laurel McConnell
Owner, Laurel McConnell Photography
Based in Seattle, WA (but travels worldwide)
Established 2001

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Other than the obvious (happy giddy love and gooey gushy moments & feelings) it’s the anticipation of what exciting things could happen and the cool things we’ll find. Each time we change locations or focus on a new part of the day a whole new world explodes in front of us, waiting for it’s turn to be documented.

It’s like each day is a scavenger hunt- I put all of my energy into finding the light in each situation, absorbing the energy of the people around me, and being in the right place at the right time for the moments that are happening before my eyes. Bride bathed in the most beautiful light that it takes your breath away, CHECK. Ring bearer picking his nose, CHECK. Dad crying when he thinks no one can see him doing it, CHECK. Series of a surprise proposal during the reception of his best friend’s wedding, CHECK. Talk about an exciting day.

What is your best tip for time management?

I’m probably the worst person to ask about this because photographers have SO much pre and post production for each shoot and client that we drown and end up missing dinner, but I like to save a little bit of time each day for my “research” (blog reading, newsletter reading, market trends, social networking, etc) so I feel like I got a treat and got to “goof off.” I got to have a little bit of fun and can move on, and really get stuff D O N E. But really… I turn off my email and phone, lock the door and shut the curtain, and work solid straight through lunch and sometimes dinner: I call this my little Workcation. You can always tell when I’ve had one because there are like 5 blog articles in a row, and then hear nothing but crickets for the next three weeks while I face the music of the missed calls and unanswered emails!

What is your little marketing secret?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret, now, would it?! But I can give you two hints:

1. Being genuine in your personal relationships with other people in your industry when you network. Your network of other photographers and professionals is your biggest ally and loudest cheerleading squad.

2. Finding something people generally like outside of what you do for work that you can write about on your business blog to keep folks coming back for more. In otherwords: yep, you guessed it, CUPCAKES are my little marketing secret.

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

The wedding photography industry is so ridiculously trendy, it’s dizzying and distracting, so I’m going to be a little abstract here. The one thing that stands out once you take away all the photobooths, generic post-processing ready-made actions, and retro-vintage-thingamabbobers is CREATIVITY AND INGENUITY. The hottest new trend is to be creative and differentiate yourself from other photographers with a difinitive STYLE. People are trying new things outside of their normal realm of shooting, marketing, image-processing, writing, reading, listening, and letting it inspire them to carve out a niche and style that is highly marketable to the types of clients they want.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

Not a dang thing. There are millions of awesome workshops, blogs, and chatty photographers who are willing to share more now that what was available when I came out of commercial art school. Heck, you don’t even need to go to school anymore, most budding photographers I meet aren’t or didn’t. But you know what…. I feel like the route that I took, learning things the HARD way, finding my own way to do things, shaped and molded my style, business skills, and personality in such a way that if I did anything differently, I just might blend into the masses.

YAY!  Thanks Laurel!

July 17, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

The Side Business – If You Have a Job, But Want To Do Your Biz

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Creative Commons License

We have all been there!  (Well, most of us have.) We have all had a day job and wanted to start our business. We have all tried to figure out how we would make that happen.  We have all tried to balance the job and the start of the business (whether it was “on the side” or “on the brain”).

My favorite personal finance blog is The Simple Dollar.  Trent Hamm simply writes an easy, practical, and well-thought guide to financial living.  I love his personal perspective.  He is not a financial planner.  He is not an “expert”.  He is you and me, trying to rub two dimes together.  His blog is one that I follow religiously.  I always learn something new.

Today’s advice for the side business is reposted from Trent’s site.  (A big thank you for all of your wisdom, Trent!)

How to Quit your Dayjob in One Year, by Trent Hamm

No matter what your financial situation, you can quit your job in a year. Anyone can do it as long as they have a plan and stick with it. Here’s what you do:

Step One: Figure out why exactly you don’t like your current job. Is there simply too much work? Too many aspects of work that are outside of your control? Too many responsibilities that you’re uncomfortable with? People you’re uncomfortable with? Your passion is now elsewhere? Make a very, very detailed list of the problems with your current employer. If these problems are one or two in number, you might be better off addressing these problems directly within the scope of your workplace. For example, if your life is hell at work because of a new administrative assistant, discuss this with an appropriate person in your workplace. There might be a healthy solution that doesn’t involve you walking out.

Step Two: Define, with as much detail as possible, what you plan to do in one year when you quit. Obviously, you’ll have to do something. Likely, if you’re quitting your job for stress-related reasons, it’s going to be something that doesn’t make nearly as much money, especially at first. The same is true if you’re quitting to start an individual creative career, such as being a writer; you’re not going to have much money. So you need to consider doing something that maybe doesn’t pay well, but allows you to continue to live while you follow your muse without being burnt out.

Here’s an example: I know one person who worked as a computer programmer for $50,000 a year who wanted to quit so he could do “nothing.” Since “nothing” was pretty broad, I asked him what he meant. He said he wanted to read and enjoy nature and simply unwind. I suggested that he find a job doing something un-stressful where he could probably read while at work, like working at a convenience store. What’s he doing now? He’s behind the counter of a 7-11 and he couldn’t be happier with his life.

Step Three: Figure out exactly how much you spend in an average month. Include everything you ever spend. Don’t forget anything, even if it’s not regular, like auto insurance, taxes, health insurance, and so forth. Look at your pay stubs, every receipt you have, every statement you have, and everything you can remember. Sit down and figure out what you spend on average in a month. It will be surprisingly high; don’t worry, it is for almost everyone.

Step Four: Lower that number as much as reasonably possible. If you want to quit, you’re going to need to get rid of some of the waste. [The Simple Dollar] is loaded with suggestions on how to do this, but the real key is look for ways to zero out (or nearly zero out) everything that is nonessential. Find free entertainment. Eat cheap food. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.

If you’re really considering this plan, you may want to spend the first month participating in my 31 Days to Fix your Finances program, a series of articles that revolve around re-engineering your financial picture in terms of your true life goals.

Step Five: Take that difference and start putting it in a high interest savings account. Don’t even give yourself a chance to spend it, have it auto-deducted from your primary checking account. Many people can put as much as half of their pay into savings if they buckle down and commit to it. You might also want to pay off any high-interest debt if possible; make those credit card balances vanish.

Step Six: Start transitioning your life efforts towards your post-job life. Let’s say, for example, that you’re quitting to become a writer. Your free time right now should be devoted (as much as reasonably possible) to getting that writing career started. If your plan involves going back to school, you should fully immerse yourself in the process of applying and selecting a school. Meanwhile, gear back at your main job and merely do what’s required. If you’re going to be walking out the door in several months, there’s no reason to kill yourself, plus exerting yourself too much at work will reduce your energy for working at your post-transition goals.

Step Seven: Let the year go by. You can use this time to get used to living more frugally, building up some savings to help you when you quit, and also focus on your goals after quitting your job. For a lot of people, this period convinces them not to quit their job. The simple fact that they’ve readjusted their life priorities and know that they’re setting themselves up to be okay if the job disappears makes much of the stress of the situation leave.

Step Eight: A year later… quit your job. If you’re still miserable at work after a year, but you’ve got money in savings, your worst debt is gone, and you’ve been preparing for a post-job life, now is the time to quit. This really could be the first day of the rest of your life, especially if the stress level of your job was literally killing you.

Remember, no job is worth your life. If you are no longer enjoying life because of your job, get out. Get out now while you still have some life and some spirit left inside of you.

OK, here’s my take on it…

My take on Trent’s post can be summarized as such:

  1. Be ready to sacrifice your money:  You need to financially prepare for this leap (unless you plan on getting some nice investors to launch your biz, which is also a great idea… I’ll post on that some day).  You’ll need to make a budget and stick to it.  You need to save for a rainy day!
  2. Be ready to sacrifice your time: You need to practice, practice, practice your craft until you are ready to go out on your own.  You need to work on your biz in your free time until you are ready to launch.  Before I launched my business I saw my dayjob as something I did, but I told myself (and everyone else) that my job was stationery design.  In my mind, I was already that business owner even if it was after my 9-5.

And, if you are feeling a little scared… you may need to go back and read about The Shy One.

July 8, 2009 at 6:00 am 3 comments

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