By Hope Taylor
(The Guest Blogging Series: While Natalie is recovering from surgery, her friends have offered to bring you incredible content. Learn more about the author of this post at the end and be sure to leave some love.)
Oh my goodness, I just love me some Natalie Franke. I met Natalie years and years ago at one of my very first photography meet-ups…and then I fan-girled the day away when I attended her Bayside workshop in my first year of business! Since that first time meeting 4 years ago, Natalie has become such a dear friend of mine. But, even more, she has become a role model and a leader in my life that I look up to in every area. I can only hope to become half the woman that she is one day.
I couldn’t be more excited to be sharing on Natalie’s blog today (and knowing that she is resting and NOT typing up content while she recovers!). But, I should probably introduce myself! My name is Hope Taylor and I am a wedding photographer and educator based in a little town called Fredericksburg, Virginia (about halfway between DC and Richmond)! I began my business as a 16-year-old high school student and I went full time directly after graduation…forgoing my college education in the process. If I had made the decision to attend the college I committed to 4 years ago…I’d be graduating with a business degree this year. So crazy to think about!!
Today, I want to share with you some of the VITAL changes I have made in my business over the last four years that have helped me create growth, streamline workflows and build BALANCE in my business at the start of each new year. I am cheering you on and wishing you all the happiest holiday season!
The holiday season is upon us (YAY!), which also means its time for what we refer to as “off-season” or “slow season”. As business owners and entrepreneurs, our busiest times typically come in seasons – meaning we have times of hustle where we are working nonstop, and seasons of rest where we have a little more free time. The upcoming holiday season (and colder months for us East-Coasters!) are almost always considered a “slow season”. We don’t have as many shoots or projects, so we have more down time than we are used to as business owners!
When I was in the beginning seasons of my business, I always felt a little bit lost during this time of year. I was so used to the nonstop hustle that I didn’t know how to REST or how to utilize my newfound free time in a way that created GROWTH in my business. So, instead of strategically using this time to improve my business and build a platform for the upcoming year, I let it all go to waste. Now, going into my 5th year of business, I have an entirely new way of approaching “off-season” and utilizing it in a way that BUILDS my business! So, today I want to share with you FIVE of my “must-do” projects during off-season (that you probably don’t have time for during the busier seasons!)
1. REST and get RE-INSPIRED
I almost didn’t include this on the list…and then I almost put it at the end. But I can’t exaggerate the importance of REST enough during this time of year! The purpose of this blog post is to spark creativity and give you ideas of ways to utilize your extra time…but it is not to make you feel like you don’t have time to rest. After a busy year of hustling your tail off…make sure that you prioritize resting and getting re-inspired. No one can work from a place of exhaustion or burnout…so don’t force it! Spend time with loved ones, participate in holiday activities, put social media away, take a break from blogging, and fill your heart up with things that you love. Then, when you feel rested and inspired, come back to your business with a fresh perspective to dive into these off-season project ideas.
2. ANALYZE your past year with an honest heart
This can be a tricky thing to do…but it is NECESSARY. Sit down and take a look back at the last year in your business. What worked? What didn’t? What projects and topics got you fired up? What left you feeling burnt out? What areas can you improve or simplify? What workflows can be streamlined? Open up a notebook or word document and do a brain dump…and be honest with yourself! If you started a project last year that you used to love but don’t love so much anymore…now is the time to be honest with yourself about what you want to continue in the new year. It’s the best time to make changes and re-vamp!
3. CURATE your favorite work
I think this is my favorite off-season project! Each year, I sit down and curate all of my favorite images from the year in 3 categories: best of seniors, best of weddings and best of engagements. Then, I blog these images and use these galleries to refresh my online portfolios and website. On top of updating my online presence, I analyze this work to decide what made these images my favorite from the entire year. How can I work to shoot more images like these ones? What can I do to bring in more clients like the ones I photographed in these images?
4. Set big GOALS…then take bite size, baby steps to get there
This one is so hard for me! When I have a big goal or dream I want to achieve…I like to get started on it RIGHT away. But one of the things I have learned over time is that it’s best to take bite size, baby steps towards big goals instead of rushing to get them done. So, in January of each new year, I lay out 8-10 BIG goals I’d like to achieve in the new year. I know that I probably won’t achieve them ALL…but I focus on spending my off-season making baby steps towards these goals. For example, if I want to host a retreat for my education alumni, my first baby step would be posting a poll to gain interest. Then I can go from there!
5. Consider areas that you can OUTSOURCE
We’ve talked a lot about analyzing your business and finding the things you LOVE doing…but what about the things that you don’t enjoy? For me, those tasks are things like editing, bookkeeping, designing and pinning on Pinterest. Because I realized that those tasks were taking time away from the things I LOVED doing (AND the things that made me the most income), I started searching for ways to outsource those tasks. If you have a task in your business that you want to take off of your plate, off-season is the perfect time to start looking for someone to outsource to! You can begin the process with a Skype call and find the perfect person to implement into your workflow before the new year begins.