Thursday, March 15, 2012

What a difference the sun makes.

I hesitate to write a lot of words with no photos but perhaps I will populate posts later with images. Or perhaps people don't mind. Either way for fun I'll add this, a photo I asked Brittany (my part time assistant) to take as I desperately need to update my "headshots" (the thought of which makes me want to be shot in the head. That sounds intense. Shot in the head with flowers).

I'll be brief because I want to actually post this now while it's in my head. [edit: HAHAHA brief. oops]

Finally I am defeating the self-defeat I've been snuggling with the past several years. I have been so weighed down with the possibilities, something that sounds really exciting, the POSSIBILITIES!! but they are actually endless. Being a dreamer has been conflicting with being a DOer.

I made a lot of decisions both last year and this year that have finally led to this moment of freedom. I don't know that I would be at this point where I am open to hear the things that every business book, blog, and speaker has said, if I hadn't:

1. Taken on too much responsibility in my business (created an impossible to do list with impossible deadlines and beaten myself up over it)
2. Promised things to myself that I couldn't deliver
(There is nothing quite like swearing you'll go running tomorrow and letting yourself down, even talking yourself out of it. And realizing that that cycle is continuous, that you actually are your worst enemy)

I complained that things were not fair, that I wasn't born with a trust fund, that I didn't start my business earlier, that my ADD made it harder on me than for everyone else. I mostly complained to myself, or to my husband, but that didn't make it less damaging for both of us. He didn't want to listen anymore. Or I complained to my friend Morgan since she "could understand" as a fellow photographer. I think I was actually being a pretty toxic friend.

I invested a lot of my hope in WPPI, as a magical event that would turn me into the bubbly excitable personable photographer that I desperately wanted to be. And it definitely helped. Aside from a party that made me love life in general, Jesh de Rox and Mary Marantz were wonderful examples of client interaction gone right. I immediately changed the way I connected to the people I was photographing and invested more of myself in my emails and phonecalls to brides.

Those were just pieces. I felt inspired, but I didn't exactly know what else to do. I knew I should think differently but I wasn't sure what was right.

I can be impulsive sometimes with business decisions, which is TERRIBLE, by the way, but sometimes it works in my favor. Making Brands Happen announced a webinar series. Lara Casey, the editor of Southern Weddings, along with Emily Ley of Emily Ley paper, were hosting.

I met Lara a few years ago at A Bryan Photo's workshop (he actually has some spots left for his workshop here in Birmingham in just a few weeks, let me know if you want to hear about my experience there), she spoke about branding and I'm sure if I go through the boxes in my closet that still need unpacking, I could find my frantic, excited notes about creating a brand from who I was back then, before my business was a real live thing.

Since then I'd see posts from Making Things Happen and wish that I would somehow make the magic happen on my own. Beating myself up because I didn't want to need a workshop to make me want to change (and I was beyond afraid that I would leave with a religious high that remained unfulfilled, having wasted money and potential).

In 2010 I paid for a consultation with a professional organizer and it was SO helpful. It was expensive, especially for a new business owner, at $175 for an hour, but I learned a lot of tips and tricks that helped me get through that next 14 or so months. I did feel disappointed knowing that to really maximize my time with her I needed to have more sessions (much like therapy), and that I just couldn't bring myself to spend that money again. I started processes that I couldn't quite maintain, and some of the things I had happily adopted (like a magical tote bag that held my life), caused me stress when they stopped working (my tote bag handle broke and I tried to fix it but the canvas was too thick for my sewing machine and too hard for me to hand sew, and instead of buying a new one I just felt defeated).

When I saw the link to the Making Brands Happen webinar, and the price, (earlybirds received all 3 for $200, and regular price would be $300), I felt like I should do it. The classes were Branding (something I'd long been planning and pinning about, but really wanted help in solidifying my decisions), Client Experience, and Getting Published.

The butterflies started when I read that THREE spots were open, one at each webinar class, for a branding evaluation, and you could get one for $200. The evaluation would be during the webinar for the rest of the participants to benefit from as well.

The idea was absolutely terrifying, but it also felt like the strategy some people use for accomplishing their goals of creating no way out (spending a lot of money on a guitar so that you can't even fathom not learning to play, taking out a loan to buy equipment to give yourself no other option than to succeed, going tandem skydiving because that instructor is absolutely going to jump out of that plane and you are going with them...all things I will not do never ever, but you know what I mean). I knew that even though I was planning big things for my brand, this would mean a professional that I admired and respected would be spending time with my brand, exploring the places I could improve. Specific places to start. INVALUABLE.

I wasn't sure, but I pressed buy. And then my credit card caused all sorts of trouble since I'd just changed our mailing address on our account with our recent move and I couldn't make my paypal cooperate. Which meant I had to wait 15 minutes for my cart to clear (since there was only 1 slot per seminar and eventbrite gives people 15 minutes to complete the order). I should've set a timer but instead I refreshed and refreshed and worried that someone else would snatch it up. Thank goodness I don't shop on Gilt Group. Can you imagine?

I knew that I would learn things but I also worried I would just feel more convinced that the only way was to find a way to buy a full branding package from MBH, just as the session with the organizer had made me wish I could buy more. And I'm not going to say that I don't want to go to the Making Things Happen Intensive, but I am saying that there are things that I can do right now, and things that have already changed.

As soon as I filled out the questionnaire to prepare Lara and Emily for the evaluation of my brand, I knew this was going to be big. I was absolutely miserable and stressed out, writing answers to the toughest questions about my business, my life, what is important to me. The answers seemed more important and difficult than any college essay, and I found myself in tears over the truth as to why I've been struggling every single day and never feeling at peace. It felt like therapy without the "And how does that make you feel?" But once I'd sent it off I felt potential. And panic.

On Wednesday I was a nervous mess. The webinar would start at 12 central time, I hadn't taken time to eat yet, and I wanted to restart my computer to make sure my open tab and program habit wouldn't slow things down. I put all of my desktop items (I screen shot a lot of things and should probably figure out how to select a folder for them) in a folder to get my desktop clean. I cleaned my desk. I made some coffee in the keurig, drank it all before the class even started, turned my phone to completely silent, put out paint swatches of "my colors" to inspire me, opened a notebook to a new page, did jumping jacks as per Morgan's suggestion when I texted her to say how nervous I was. My husband texted me and wished me luck (a working wedding day tradition that absoutely brightens my mood when the jitters get the best of me).

I took notes like I was in school again, only if school was magical. Like Hogwarts. I had a million pieces of paper. I was latched on to every word. Lara mentioned that they'd be doing the evaluation of my brand during the webinar and I thought "It's really happening".  I'm actually getting butterflies remembering it. Once we got to the evaluation I wanted the band-aid ripped off, I was so afraid to hear criticism. But I laughed at the things that I knew were true. I immediately fixed a few things in my online presence that I'd been putting off. I learned things I didn't know.

All of the attendees were sent homework today (yesterday now but I'm "in the zone", I tell my husband this when I can't stop editing because it's firing me up, and I've said that or "I'm on a roll" at least 5 or 6 times today), and I had a follow-up on the phone with Lara and Emily today since the webinar didn't allow for a live chat feature. I didn't realize how nervous I was until I heard my voice shake, and otherwise that might be the best phone call I've ever had.

Because, there is no going back.

The time I put into writing answers to the tough questions and the emotions that came with it are minimal compared to the feeling I have now. Before when I'd get fired up about my business, my brand, it was just me saying "YEAH"! Assuming that the feeling would make the magic follow. I couldn't get to the action part. Or I would, for ten minutes, be on top of the world, and then remember my to do list.

I will probably have more to say about this in the future, I can't imagine not, since this means a major LIFE change, not just some website tweaking. This will be a slow process. But I absolutely CAN take the baby steps necessary.

I don't want to leave you thinking I'm selling a product, although I'm sure every blogpost written about these webinars will have that effect. The part of the Making Things Happen plan that has me most fired up right now is a part that you have access to.

I want you to accept this challenge. Don't think beyond step one for now, I have a feeling that just the first step will have you hooked anyway. You are 10 minutes away from improving. I saw this post when Lara Casey posted it some 8 months ago, and I felt discouraged by the length of it, and honestly discouraged by the comments below that were so positive. I was so bogged down in guilt in spending time on anything other than editing images (and other such tasks), eating, or sleeping, that I *couldn't* take the time to do this list of tasks. Lists were daunting. So I tried to forget it. I am glad that I didn't ignore things this time.

Lara recommended the challenge to me today during our phone call and that's the only thing I needed to hear. I need that kick. If you need a kick too, I will kick you. WE can do this. You don't have to be alone. Give YOURSELF 10 minutes. Right now or on your lunchbreak or before you go to bed or when you wake up. Do this thing. Fight through the resistance. You can.

If any of this spoke to you TELL ME SOMETHING GOOD. I want to encourage you and I want to be encouraged by you. If you take on the challenge, tell me. Remind me. Help me keep this up. I don't want to quit because this is about LIVING.

From MTH:

Also... a year ago (March 15, 2011, the Ides of March) I received the keys to my office (a big change for my business, client interaction, marriage, time management). One year later, exactly, all of this ^ happened. I have a lot of excitement for next March 15th.


  1. I really love this post, Kelly. I'm so excited to hear you took a leap and decided to sign up for that webinar. I'm definitely thrilled to see what's in store for you during this next year (business change, branding, whatever else). =)

    Also - that quote by Karen Lamb is absolutely the truth. I may have to print that quote/paint it on a canvas and hang it up in my office...

  2. Girl. You just killed it. I was in the session with you, and watched -- absolutely transfixed -- as Emily and Lara evaluated your brand. Your determination and commitment to making your brand better was INSPIRING. It's hard to take criticism - I'm right there with you on the shaky voice and the butterflies in the stomach. But you DID it!

    I can't wait to see what comes out of this for you! I'm with you on this wild ride that is "The Challenge." Please please please keep in touch! (You can find me at or @sarahannewatson on Twitter, or on Facebook


  3. I just wanted to drop by and say hi! I was listening to the webinar too! You did great! I absolutely love your's dead on with how I feel! I was telling my friend about it and saying it was life changing. I've gotten more accomplished in a few days than I have in forever. Can't wait to see where this takes you....i mean, us!!! We're in it together :0

  4. I got here from Lara's post and am inspired by your decision to be deliberate! Thanks for your words!

  5. Thank you for all the love! It feels good to make changes and I'd love to keep up with all of you as you take on the challenge as well :)

  6. Hi Kelly! Wonderful to read this today- I was on the webinar with you and let me say- I am excited to see the change and excitement in you! Congrats on what you've done so far and I am sending you lots of encouragement to take the small steps to make what you want happen. I am about to start on my journey and it's so nice to connect to others feeling that same nudge forward!! XO


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