December 2012 Archive

2013: Defining YOUR success

Three and a half years ago my time grew exponentially more valuable…and divided.

Ten months ago, my time-value doubled again…

…and I found myself forced to rethink and really redefine my personal definition of “success” within my business. (This was Chloe “assisting me” around 1 yr old)

The wedding industry is a crazy one and if I was going to use other photographer’s calendars to define my success I would not only wear myself out trying to compete but I would  be plagued by insecurity and it would rob the joy of owning my own business doing something that I love.

And here’s the thing…I knew from day one that I did not ever want to be that photographer shooting more weddings then there are weekends of the year.  In fact, that sounded miserable to me!  But as long as I allowed “Mr. 78 weddings a year photographer” to be the “standard” of my success as a professional then even if I was taking the amount of work that I wanted to be taking (never more than 2 weddings a month) I would always feel like a “little guy”…always consider myself amateur and subsequently never take my talent or my business seriously.

Defining what success looks like for ME has been crucial to allowing my business the room the breath and growth. Crucial to learning to say “no” to the work that I really don’t enjoy (more on that later), and crucial to getting closer to the “sweet spot” where talent meets passion and business growth is organic and you actually ENJOY your work.  What a concept right?!  This is something that I feel so passionate about that we spend an entire session on it at the Business and Branding Essentials Workshop for photographers. (The next one is March 2nd!)

Defining what sucess looks like for YOU (and not compared to the other guy – or what the “industry” would dictate) is crucial to goal setting. Crucial to taking back the joy. Crucial to business growth. But it is not enough to know what you can “handle” and just wear yourself out taking every job you are offered as long as you have open space on the calendar. You have to define for yourself what it looks like for YOU to run a “successful” business.  To do that you have to ask yourself why you started doing this in the first place and where does it fit now amidst the things in life that you really value.

Forget what they are doing.  Forget what the forums or blogs say.  Forget what your peers are doing.  Forget the “industry standard” of success. Forget even what you have been doing.  Within your business…are you Happy? Rested? Energized? Able to prioritize the other things in your life?  Creatively inspired? If so, then GREAT! Keep doing what you are doing!  But if the answer to any of these is  “no” then I would challenge you to get out a pen and take the time to put a name to YOUR definition of success and never look back.

Depending on your situation you fall into one of two camps and the camp that you are in determines your starting point in creating your success definition.

1. Success for you is contingent on a certain dollar amount of income. In this situation, based on your circumstances, success for you is based on a dollar figure that you need to meet in order to help support your family etc.  If this is the case then you need to decide exactly what that dollar amount is that is needed and then take a long and serious look at what you spend the most time doing within your business versus what actually makes you the most money.  As a basic example, if you spend 70% of your time editing and 30% of your time actually shooting – and if actually shooting a new client is what bring in more money then you might consider outsourcing your editing to a reliable source which would allow you more time to book and shoot new clients which not only pays for the outsourcing but also allows both your income AND your available free time to increase!

2. Your success is not tied to a certain dollar amount. If you are blessed to be in this camp then there is not really a set dollar amount that you need to make in order for you to call your business a success.  If you are in this camp then you have almost NO reason to be doing anything less than blissfully thriving in your business! You have total freedom.  Freedom to say no.  Freedom to try new things. Freedom to fail.  Freedom to do exactly what you love the most and accepting nothing less.  If you are in this camp and you are consistently taking work that you don’t love  (work that doesn’t fire you up!)  or if you are in this camp and you are EXHAUSTED or burnt out with your business then you are allowing something or someone else to define what “success” looks like! I am blessed enough to find myself in this camp.  Anything that I do is a bonus to help our family but is not a necessity.  But I have NOT always been here.  I know what it feels like to be sharing in the burden of financial provision.  Maybe that is why I have been so challenged over this past year to redefine my success now that things have changed – there is NO reason why my business should be bringing me and my family anything less then blessing and joy.

It has taken me a long time to recognize the things that I was allowing to rob me of joy in my photography and in being a business owner.  At this point in my life with a marriage and two daughters as top priority, my time is more valuable than ever and I have to really zero in on how it is best spent to be a blessing and not an added burden to my family.  So what does MY success look like exactly?

Success for Shay Cochrane Photography is…

Only taking work that is exciting or interesting to me; work that will bring me and others joy. Subsequently saying, unapologetically, “NO” to work that I do not really enjoy and that does not fire me up. Success means working with my ideal client and sending other inquiries on to other professionals who would better meet their needs. Success for me means being able to maintain a business that only adds blessing (financial or otherwise) to my family and does not burden or otherwise hurt or inhibit my true priorities –  my marriage, being an awesome mom, time with God and time investing in and serving others. Success for me means guarding the boundaries of  a certain weekly and monthly work load so that I can keep the first things first in my life.   If I find myself getting stressed, bored, overwhelmed or frustrated by my business then I have slipped out of my “sweet spot.”  While I am not quite there yet, this year is the start of some major changes and I am SO excited. As I redefine success for this stage of my life I am thankful beyond measure to even have the opportunity to do what I love successfully.

So, its YOUR turn!  What is going to be your specific definition of “success” in the new year as it relates to your business?

Clementines and my Secret Dream

Can I just share with you my secret dream?  I want to shoot a cook book.  Actually, I have wanted to shoot a cook book for years but seeing as I am not writing a cook book…it has been slow going.  I just can’t think of a better way to marry two of my favorite things: food and beautiful images.  I pour over Real Simple magazine mostly to see the amazing and stunning-ly simple images they are known for.  Well, this year, my dream is going to become a 2013 goal.  Somehow, I’m going to make it happen. And that started today with a bowl full of clementines.  You out there…if your secret goal for 2013 is to write a cook book…you have my number. I’m your girl.  Your taste-testing/food photographer extraordinaire.

NO GIRLS ALLOWED!…(well, except mom)

I have gotten the pleasure of getting to know and work with Natalie and her husband Steve over the past two years and this photo shoot has been a long time coming! When Nat e-mailed about the shoot it went something like this…(paraphrased and embellished for dramatic effect) “I have four boys…as in loud, tuff, messy, goofy, rough-housing boys. They range in age from 2-16. So…I just want pictures that are real. No docile girly family photo sitting in a wheat field. No matching gingham outfits. No confetti. Just real.”

We were obviously a match made in heaven because REAL is my favorite!

If you havn’t heard me go on and on about Natalie before, then you need to go check out her site Chic Sweets and get cozy with a cup of hot chocolate (or iced tea if you are here in FL where it is a balmy 75 degrees out) and take a spin around my blog where I have featured her delicious work a few times.

Natalie and Steve – thank you for trusting me with your family and most of all for just being you and showing what real,messy, silly, wonderful, family-love looks like.

Break out those Christmas Jammies!

FACT: Sometimes I am jealous of my client’s photos. haha. Such is the case with this ridiculously, amazingly, unbelievably cute christmas shoot that I just did with my sweet friends the Fennig family.  Abby was inspired by a precious shoot to put together a fun Christmas themed shoot of our own featuring christmas plaid pajama-clad kiddos, a white bed and all kinds of fun goodies like feathers, christmas cookies and their favorite christmas book to read as a family.  Don’t even ask how this amazing (and heavy!) bed made it out into the middle of a field.  Thats a determined mom (and suckered-in dad) for you!  Now if only we could have arranged for some snow instead of the 70 degree FL “winter” weather. Warning: you will be tempted to put this video on repeat just to keep listening to the fun Sufjan Stevens Christmas song! enjoy!

Fennig Christmas: Tampa Family Photographer from Shay Cochrane on Vimeo.

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