Our move to Wisconsin from Arizona in 2014 was kind of kismet.
The company I was working for full time was getting bought out, and I was just staying on through the transition. I was pregnant with Eisley and already anticipating a maternity leave. Then Andy got this amazing job offer and the only catch is that we needed to move across the country in just a few short weeks. No pressure right?
So here I was, in a brand new state with no family or help and no clients and three littles to take care of. I knew I wanted to take a few extra weeks off to accumulate, and then I jumped into my business and within one year, was completely full time shooting only weddings.
Now, not everyone is going to have that experience where their job just sort of ends and life kicks you in the butt to grow your business or find another office job. In fact, for the three years before that point, photography was just my side hustle. A passion that I loved to do on the weekends but was too scared to put myself out there enough to go full time. If you are reading this and are at that point, it takes major courage and heart to start your own business and you’ve totally got this.
I know at this point, you are probably like “yeah but Elizabeth, HOW?”. These little people are totally taking up all my time and it’s so hard to split my focus! I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be hard. Hard and rewarding and you’ll still have some nights where you feel major mom guilt.
In the first part of this four-part series, I want to talk about 5 things I did to grow my business to full time in 2014.
- Have a Heart to Heart with Your Spouse – I 1000% know I wouldn’t have been able to grow my business without Andy being on board. We had a really big discussion about my business and where I saw it going in the next five years. We talked about how we would handle childcare and what would happen if my business didn’t grow and I needed to get a full or part-time job. Will we hire a nanny or put our kids in daycare? Will I try to work and watch the kids to save money? This is a discussion you must have and continue to have, otherwise you will start to resent each other.
- Figure Out Your Finances – Every family is different. I knew my full time would be about 15 weddings a year. Others shoot 25, even 40 weddings a year! It was important to me that I bring in some money to the family, it is a business after all. So talk to your spouse, or set a number for yourself of what you are going to pay into the household each month. You can pay yourself weekly, or monthly, but the most important thing is that you pay yourself! If you need to bring in $2000 a month for your family to live on, then your goal needs to be netting $24,000 a year in your business. If you are struggling, I’d suggest talking to a financial advisor. Especially if you are going from a job that paid well, you want to make sure your minimums are secure with your company.
- HUSTLE – The first few months of growing my business in Wisconsin I blogged every, single, weekday. I blogged about everything! What my clients might need, our new home, my goals. I had zero clients and no family or referral groups out here, so I hustled hard on my blog. You know what? Within 2 months I started booking weddings because brides felt like they knew me from my blog! Blogging has been the #1 most important source of new clients for my business. In addition to hustling, I set up styled shoots, reached out to vendors and joined the Married in Milwaukee network. There’s a lot of extra hours the first year, but you’ve totally got this!
- Setting Mom Hours and Work Hours. – I’ll be honest in that this is still the hardest one for me, and I’m dedicating an entire blog post just to this topic in this series. I love my business. I love the feeling of being productive. I love meeting clients. But you have to be strict about what your hours are. You need set defined mama days and set defined work days. That doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in an email check if your kiddo takes an unexpected extra hour in his or her nap time! Whenever I feel mom guilt or burnout, I take a good hard look at where I am spending my time and adjust where needed. Do your kids need you more in the mornings? It’s ok to not start work until 1pm. Just make sure you are clear about your expectations with your clients. For example, I need 24 hours notice on a phone meeting just because my kids are with me a lot and turn into mom magnets as soon as the phone rings. It’s seriously the most bizarre phenomenon. Set your hours, and don’t live in your business and you’ll start to see growth simply because you’ll be able to devote 100% to whatever you are currently working on. Your kids (and you!) will love having a reliable routine.
- Don’t Be Scared of Growing Slow – It’s so easy to get scared as a business owner, especially if your work is seasonal as it is in the wedding industry. If you are not finding your ideal client right away, just keep at it. This business takes a lot of hard work and heart, and eventually, you will find your tribe. Since I was growing my business with three kids under 5 at home, I was ok with not blowing up overnight. I wouldn’t have been able to handle all the demands and probably would have burnt out really quickly.
It’s hard work and you may feel like the #hotmessmom poster child at school drop off. But you my friend can rock this mom/business owner life!