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We’ve MOVED!

We are SO thrilled to share with you our new home.  Please make sure to bookmark our new site and change it on your reader:

Our new address:

www.sageweddingpros.com

SEE YOU THERE!

August 17, 2009 at 2:00 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)
laurelmcconnell.com
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

Happy Fourth of July!

I’m taking a 3 day weekend for the holiday… Hurrah! Hope you are taking a deserved break this weekend to spend with friends and family.

I’ve heard that most of you will be enjoying this long weekend… but in case you need a reminder, I’m referencing this post on the importance of taking a break… Read here. Enjoy your time off!

July 3, 2009 at 7:44 am Leave a comment

Something you should know (part 2)…

Your competitor can also be your greatest ally.

I came into the wedding industry from the fashion industry.  I worked for a company that imported and distributed apparel from France.  We sold to huge department stores and tiny boutiques. My job as West Coast Sales Manager was more of a game in mediation and dispute resolution between competing stores.  The bad energy between people was poisonous to their businesses and it was poisonous to the industry.

So, naturally, I began my business thinking that anyone who also was an invitation designer was EVIL.  Boy, oh boy, was I wrong.  I moved my teeny little business (at the time) from LA to Seattle in 2005.  Seattle people are very friendly and warm and inviting.  Businesses blossom by word of mouth.

When I did my first Seattle Wedding Show in 2006 I was in uber-disbelief that my competitors actually came up to my booth to introduce themselves to me. “Wait.  What?  Huh?  Did that just happen?” is what I thought to myself.  And, slowly the ice began to melt.

Over time, I’ve learned more about my competitors.  I’ve also learned more about my business.  I’ve learned about my niche.  I’ve learned about their niches.  And, I’ve learned that we all add value to this industry.  We all have a different place in this market.  There are very few people that do it just like I do it.  And, there are very few people that do it just as my competitor does it.  I’ve also learned that these businesses are amazing and unique and different and beautiful. By better knowing my business and their businesses I can better inform the customer.  I can better teach the customer about stationery. They have been a great resource for me to refer someone who is not a match for our style of product, thus making me a “go to” for stationery knowledge.

So, this is something that you should know…
Get to know your competitors. Knowing them and their businesses will help you carve out your niche.  It’ll help you add value to the wedding industry and your industry segment.  It will help you differentiate yourself.  And, having a unique niche in your market is what will give your business value without taking away from someone else.

And, with that… go hug your competitor… I dare you!

My Competitor: The wonderful Brown Sugar Design Studio

My Competitor: The very talented Brown Sugar Design Studio

June 9, 2009 at 6:00 am 14 comments

Los Angeles Meetup!

I’m dying to meet you Los Angeles area wedding pros!

Please join us for a Meetup:

June 16 – 5 to 8pm (ish)
Barbrix
2442 Hyperion Avenue (Silverlake)
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Here is the link to RSVP:
RSVP for Los Angeles Meetup

If you don’t want to register through the meetup site, you can also email SageWeddingPros-at-gmail.com .

June 4, 2009 at 3:58 pm 2 comments

Cost Cutting Thursday

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

Every Thursday we present 5 COST CUTTING TIPS for your business.  This week we are going to focus on a huge cost to your business: WASTED TIME.  These are things that take up your day that could be spent focusing on your business.  By increasing your productivity and cutting out things on which you waste time you can increase the profitability of your business.  This applies to you, the owner, and to any employees you may have as well.

5 ways to cut costs (and cut wasted time):

  1. Set limits on social networking sites
    Social networking sites like facebook and twitter are extremely valuable ways of marketing your business.  However, you can find yourself sucked into their vortex and all of a sudden what began as a logon to notify your followers about a new product has turned into a game of word twist.  (I am as guilty as the next person.)  When I catch myself in a pattern of repeating this bad habit, I limit my time by setting a timer of 30 minutes to get my online networking done.  And, then back to work.  I make sure not to come back for a few hours.
  2. Crunch the can
    As small business owners we can become accustomed to working A LOT.  Because we have flexibility of when we work it often becomes working all the time.  But, how much of this time is really earnest work time?  If I look at a 10 hour work day, chances are that 7 or 8 hours of this time where actually spent on work.  So, why stretch the day out to 10 hours?  If you crunch the can – or, shorten your work day – you’ll find that you can actually get a lot done in less time.  (As a parent, I can tell you that this naturally happens the minute you give birth!)
  3. Hire a professional to do the dirty work
    How much time do you spend working on something you have not been trained in?  (Accounting)  And, how much do you hate the hours you spend on this?  (A lot)  And, do you find you could be spending your time doing other things?  (You bet!)  It seems silly to be telling you to spend money by hiring a professional in a cost-cutting article, but there are certain investments that are valuable to your overall success.  The time you spend spinning your wheels with your taxes is something that a trained accountant could do in 5 hours for less money that you can be billing out to your clients for 20 hours.  I always say: do you want to have another career in addition to everything you already do? Chances are that you are not aiming to be a CPA someday, so why go there?
  4. Don’t check email for the first hour in the morning
    I wrote a post a few weeks ago with this in mind: begin your day with the focus of your most crucial task.  Before you logon to your email, do one crucial thing.  (I challenge you to spend 30-60 minutes on your business plan.)  It’s amazing how much you can get done before the email time-suck begins for the day.
  5. Track your time
    Not sure where your time is going?  Track it for a couple weeks.  You’ll probably find that there are chunks of time that are unproductive.  Some people find that they are unproductive after lunch.  Shift your focus to something that doesn’t require much concentration if this is the case.  Or schedule your meetings after lunch.  (When I’m unproductive in my “desk work” it’s often because I feel like socializing and a meeting is a perfect match for that time.)  You may also find that you are not billing accordingly to your clients for the hours that you accrue.

We are not robots.  No one is expected to be fully productive at all times of the day. The key is to recognize when you are wasting time and adjust your focus.  Often, burnout can lead to lack of productivity and it’s a sure sign that a break is needed (a day off or a walk around the neighborhood.)  The time you waste is time that can be spent making your business profitable – or, more importantly – spent on the people you love.

Do you have cost cutting tips?  If so, please email us at SageWeddingPros-at-gmail.com .

May 7, 2009 at 6:57 am Leave a comment

Where is your money going?

Grandfathers expense book 1933-34  ccLicense

Grandfather's expense book 1933-34 ccLicense

The first step to budgeting is knowing where your money is going.  Many of you probably save your receipts and promptly turn them into the accountant during tax time.  This is great, but you may not have an idea of where your money is actually going.

Let’s break down some easy-peasy ways to track your expenses.  You’ll need to schedule some time each month to work on this.  Think of this as a very important appointment with yourself.

The Old Standbys

These are the most widely used systems for tracking expenses, and happen to be what I use.

  • Quickbooks is my favorite program to use, but it is expensive ($100-300) and can be tricky to learn.  I recommend this if you are interested in getting very detailed reports about your expenses.  I also think it’s essential to have something like this if you are tracking inventory.  If you don’t like numbers or don’t have very complex systems, then this is not the best program for you.
  • Excel is also one of my obsessions.  (Yes, I am a total nerd.)  I love cells and rows and columns.  If you don’t have many transactions each year, excel is a good place to start.  It’s easy to use, and most people have it on their computers.  If you aren’t trained in excel, an inexpensive course at the local college will give you the basics.

The Rookies

These are new online programs for tracking expenses.  They are user friendly and, in some cases, FREE.

  • Wesabe (www.wesabe.com) is a great online tool for tracking your expenses.  Wesabe allows you to link your bank accounts to the website.  From there, you can have a look at all of your expenses in one place.  You can tag and itemize items.  There are also great tips available for your planning.  Take a tour of Wesabe here.
  • Mvelopes (www.mvelopes.com) is an online tool known for it’s ease with budgeting.  If you are a photographer and are saving up to buy a new camera, this system would allow you to save your money in a “virtual envelope”.  The program is set up for personal financing, but would work easily for small businesses.  You can try it free for 30 days and then enroll in a quarterly or yearly plan.  Take a tour of Mvelopes here.
  • Your bank may have some easy online expense tracking and budgeting options.  Wells Fargo allows you to categorize expenses when you send payments using their bill pay.  American Expense often sends itemized bills showing charges and their classifications.

After tracking expenses for 1-3 months, you should have a good idea of where your money is going.  This will make your budgeting easy to do.  Tomorrow, we’ll share how to make a good budget and, how to stick to it!

March 31, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

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