I was inspired by Wandering Aimfully to share a recap of 2018 with you. They have a simple framework of just four questions, but once I got started, I just couldn’t stop!
It has been a massive year for me personally and professionally and after writing it all out, it was kind of delightful to remember how far I have come.
What went well in 2018?
So much personal growth!
In January, I signed up for a few life coaching sessions with Katie Seaver, a lovely, warm human being. It gave me new perspective and created a massive, beautiful shift in me. It took speaking with her to realize how terrible I used to be at recognizing my emotions and needs. And I was even worse about advocating for them. I have been working really hard to change that this year and I’m feeling solid about where I have landed.
I also started following Jess Lively’s podcast. While I don’t share all of her beliefs, listening to her has taught me that it’s okay to have ease and joy in your work, rather than feeling the need to hustle and strain. It has given me some “how-to” steps for achieving that ease and feeling more confident in my decisions.
This year involved some major personal evolutions and these paragraphs just skim the surface. Overall, I’m so much more attuned to self care, moments of joy and gratitude, embracing flow in my work, and speaking my needs aloud and it is seeping into every area of my life in the best possible way.
Reading and writing
I also made a commitment to write more and to share my writing more often. I journaled more consistently than I have in past years. I also shared 53 blog posts this year, which I feel pretty good about.
Celebrating one year of self-employment
I quit my job exactly one year ago today, which seems completely insane! There was a huge learning curve – learning to work for myself and care for myself and feel confident in my ability to do both – but it’s definitely the new normal and I love it.
Making business connections
One of my big business priorities this year was to connect with local wedding vendors. I met some amazing planners, videographers, florists, and more! I joined a local networking group and hosted my own styled shoot, which turned out even more beautifully than I could have imagined.
I redesigned my website and I freaking love it! This has been a long slog with many failed designs, dollars wasted, and templates abandoned. Finally, after an incredibly helpful conversation with my friend Donaji, I felt like I had the permission to let go of the most recent dud template and find something that really worked. After less than a week of non-stop web design using a ProPhoto, template, the new GDP site was born. Isn’t she purdy?
Attracting the right clients for me
When I started shooting weddings, I took whatever came my way. Over time, I have figured out who I love to serve and how to speak to them. That’s why this year, I shot weddings in backyards and flower gardens and beer gardens. That’s why there were food trucks and pig roasts and swing bands and funk DJs. That’s why there were many different kinds of celebrations, but all were thoughtful, intentional, beautiful, and deeply reflective of the humans who made them. That’s why my weddings this year felt so damn right.
What didn’t go well in 2018?
Hitting the gym
I joined a group training gym this fall, which was awesome for a few months. But then, when travel and business ramped up, I fell out of my routine. I would really love to get back to running because I love the independence, the simplicity, the slow growth… I would love to work my way up to another half marathon in late 2019 or 2020.
My income is growing, but I haven’t yet replaced my full time salary. While we can live with where I’m at, I have big financial goals and I’m positive that they are possible. I don’t know if I need to change my tactics or just be patient and let things grow. On the plus side, I have been able to confidently increase my prices this year and keep booking clients. Plus I found a third income stream to supplement my business in the interim. (More on that in the “surprises” section.)
Juggling two jobs
I spend two days a week doing freelance digital marketing work. Two days doesn’t feel like enough, but it’s all I have to give. Trying to grow two businesses at once is a challenging line for me to walk, especially since I have a tendency to get laser focused on the things I’m most passionate about. But I have a deep connection to the company and I am learning to use the time that I have more strategically.
Biggest surprises of 2018:
I traveled so much this year and it was amazing! Here’s a quick rundown:
- January: California
- Feb/March: India – 30th birthday trip with my mom & sister
- May: NOLA – our 7th wedding anniversary!
- June: Connecticut
- July: Maine; New York; California
- September: Rhode Island. (I shot a wedding there. Does that count?)
- October: Vermont; Ontario
- November: California; Vermont
- December: Japan; Vermont
Our families live in California and Vermont, but we got to both places a little more than usual this year. While we were in California in November, B and I took a relaxing trip up to Lake Arrowhead, which ended up being wonderfully nostalgic and romantic.
Initially, I was skeptical about going up to Canada for Imperfect Boss Camp in October, but it ended up being a totally formative event. There were amazing values reflected, relationships formed and strengthened, and even a spiritual experience. Plus it was so damn beautiful up there! Being in nature, being with myself, being so present for others to connect and dive deeper – it was the perfect opportunity to cohesively live all the personal experiences and goals I’ve been striving for this year.
I’m incredibly pleased at the state of my relationship right now. Why is that a surprise? Well, I’m going to be very honest and raw here for a minute: Over the past few years, I had built up some subtle resentments about some of my emotional needs that weren’t being met in my relationship. It took a lot of introspection to realize that I had never actually made those needs explicitly clear! (Incredibly unfair of me, right?)
There was a lot of growing and stretching in my marriage this year and several very uncomfortable conversations. But I finally feel like I’m taking responsibility for the things I should be and recognizing the things that I can’t take responsibility for.
Traveling together + reinstating weekly date nights + lots of long conversations have helped me feel so much more connected to my partner and cared for in the ways that feel satisfying and soul filling to me.
This is a strange one, but apparently I have shifted from an introvert to an extrovert this year. I don’t know if this is 100% true (or if the introvert/extrovert dichotomy is even one I need to be making), but B noticed that these days, I come home from social activities super hyped up. And he’s totally right!
Now that I spend 85% of my time alone, people fuel me, so I need to regularly get out into the world and be with them. This is new for me, but it’s definitely interesting to keep an eye on…
After Imperfect Boss Camp (mostly inspired by Caroline Zook), I started painting for the first time ever. I absolutely love it! It’s really hard for me to create purely for its own sake and not try to be good at the thing. But even when my painting isn’t interesting or good, it’s super relaxing and I want to keep doing it.
Working as an affiliate photographer
I never thought I would want to be an affiliate photographer for someone else because I was so focused on growing my own business, but I am super excited about the role I fell into and all of our plans and weddings for next year! I am excited about the person I have chosen to work with and I believe this decision is perfect for my business right now. It will supplement my income, give me a broader reach with the type of weddings I shoot, allow me to meet other wedding professionals, and keep doing more of the work I love. I am looking forward to doing it for as long as it feels like positivity and growth!
Finding a rich online community
Earlier this year, when I badly needed accountability, I joined several online communities. I think the surprise is that these connections have become true, deep friendships. At first, we were accountability buddies, checking in on work and goals. But at some point, I (miraculously) stopped needing the accountability and started just desiring their friendship. I have even had the chance to meet many of them in real life! I used to suck at making friends online, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I even wrote a blog post about it.
Paying other people to do stuff & feeling like a boss!
People have been telling me to outsource my least favorite tasks from day one, but it took a while for me to be emotionally and financially ready. The biggest surprise was that outsourcing my rebrand to an incredibly talented designer was not only exciting and effective, but also hugely gratifying to my identity as a boss in a way that nothing else has been. The process taught me how to communicate my vision clearly and trust that I am the only one who knows what’s best for my business.
Other things that helped? Caroline Jensen’s Visual Voice workshop helped me to combat comparison syndrome and feel confident in the unique voice and message that I bring to my work. So much “real talk” during a round of Workshops for Water with Jess Eley also helped me grow leaps and bounds in this area.
I’m super excited about the prospect of outsourcing some of my editing in 2019. My new editing partner has tons of experience and will do an incredible job, allowing me to return images to clients faster and giving me a massive amount of time back!
It’s pretty trendy these days to pick a focus word for the year. I’ve never done this before, but this year, I want my word to be “listen.”
I’m going to give away a huge business secret right now: In the past few months, I have completely changed my tactic during client calls. I have stopped trying to “pitch.” I have stopped trying to “paint a picture of the wedding day” or make them answer a bunch of questions from a form. Instead, before the call I commit to this one thing: being present so I can truly listen to what they are telling me and connect with the person behind the words. I have found that this is the best way to book a client and fall in love with them simultaneously. And loving on the people who book me is everything I want from this work.
On the personal side, the biggest gift I’ve given myself this year is self-respect, but it’s also the area that I still see as my biggest area of growth. Stopping all the constant doing to just listen to myself and my needs is so freaking hard, but it leads to my most sound and satisfying decisions.
Making the space to be present and listen deeply to myself and others feels like the perfect concept to lean into in 2019.
I want to keep more small commitments to myself. Take up running again. Start my day with creativity – writing and painting. Eat regularly and mindfully. Feed the cat at the same time every day.
Home office reno?
I would love to partially finish our basement and turn it into my office. Not only is the darker space ideal for editing, but I need a bigger monitor and a desk to put it on. (Right now I use a laptop, a lap desk, and a very comfy chair.) It would also be lovely to have more space for my overflowing art supplies and a place to paint that isn’t the bedroom floor.
The fall crush is over and it’s time to reprioritize humans besides myself and my husband. It’s time for long chats over tea or cocktails (or tea-infused cocktails). My old friends deserve some love and attention and every new industry friend I make becomes an incredible resource for both myself and my clients.
Loving on my clients
Speaking of my clients, I’m always trying to come up with new ways to serve my people better. Do I need cooler client gifts? More blogs and resources? Should I leave galleries online for longer? Is there a course or retreat that would take my photography to another level?
This is always spinning in my mind, so I’d love your suggestions about what’s working for you and what you wish you were getting from me!
Do you intentionally reflect on your year? Do you have questions you ask yourself or a focus word for 2019? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!