Here we are again! My end-of-the-year blog post! Every year this post turns out to be my favorite of the whole year. (Want to take a stroll down memory lane? Check out Lessons From 2019 and Lessons From 2018.)
My years always seem to be super eventful, but I think this one takes the cake. Let’s do a little recap…
Plus this year was also filled with racial injustice being brought to light, the election, tragedy, natural disasters, literally all the things. It’s safe to say this year was an emotional roller coaster. SOOOO many ups and downs. Through it all, I learned so much. I’m honestly still processing it all (as I’m sure many of you are, too), but I couldn’t let the end of the year go by without pausing to write some of my lessons down.
As I mention every year, if you don’t make it all the way to the bottom of this post, it’s ok. I know it’s long! I write this mostly for myself to be able to look back on in the future. But if you do read it through, I’m confident you’ll be able to take something away, too.
This year has been filled with so many things. Heightened emotions. Disagreement. Hatred. Conflict. There have been clear sides to everything we’ve faced this year. Elections, quarantines, racial inequality…the list really could go on and on! Everyone seems to be on-edge and super vocal about their opinions. It can be easy to get sucked into the cloud of it all. This year one of the biggest lessons I learned was to put myself in the shoes of others. Those I agree with, and those I don’t. Doing so showed me something: no matter what side you’re on, most people are just trying to do the right thing. Sure, there are always the total crazies who truly want to hurt people, but most have pure intentions.
Empathy looks like actively trying to understand how someone else is feeling, whether you agree with them or not. You may not understand their why behind those feelings, but at least you can try to see what they’re feeling. I still have a ways to go with this because we aren’t wired with empathy as a first response, but I’m proud to say that I’m more empathetic now than I was at the beginning of 2020. And it’s all about progress!
As a small business, 2020 brought some scary times. When I was told I couldn’t shoot at all during the Spring, I knew I was losing out on about $15k of income I was relying on. At the end of last year, I had a goal to start building up a cash reserves for my business. We are huge Dave Ramsey fans, and already follow the Baby Steps in our personal lives. But for whatever reason, I hadn’t followed them in the first 2 years of running my business. Thankfully we weren’t in any debt, but we had ZERO emergency fund. No 3-6 months of expenses in savings. Nothing.
The plan for 2020 was to get through the first couple of slow months, then use my Spring income to build up some business savings…then that Spring income never came. I barely made it through taking almost no paycheck for myself and with a little bit of Small Business PPP assistance.
Because I couldn’t shoot, I had to get creative to make ends meet. For Easter, I ended up doing some Easter Bunny Composite photos. I also started doing Portrait Vector Drawings on my iPad (you know, the trendy ones on TikTok). The two of those things brought in about $600 when I really needed it.
My biggest takeaway from all of that was to JUST KEEP GOING. I had to be flexible, pivot at the last minute, and get super creative to stay afloat. Thankfully it all worked out. But man it wasn’t fun!
When everything shut down in March, my bosses at the church gave us the option to work from home. At the time we didn’t know much about COVID-19. My kids were enrolled in daycare full-time. I had no idea how susceptible kids were (or weren’t) to the virus. All I knew was I was given the opportunity to stay home, and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t accept it.
To give a little context, I always said I’d never be a stay-at-home mom. I truly love working, and I didn’t think I had the patience to be with my kids all the time. But around February, God started whispering to my heart that I’d soon be staying home with my kids full-time. Of course I was upset because I did NOT want that, but I got to test-run it when I worked from home. And let me tell you, I LOVED every minute of it!!!
Being able to test-run being home with my kids gave me the confidence and peace to take the leap when God told us to move to Nashville. God’s so good like that. He always knows just what our hearts need. I’ll always be grateful for that month I worked from home. It was a gift I didn’t know I needed.
You hear stories of people diving into the unknown, trusting God to handle it all, but Daniel and I had never truly experienced that. Until this year, our lives have been great. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of twists, turns, and surprises, but we had never been put in the place where our faith would be tested like it was this year.
Daniel has been wanting to move to Nashville ever since we got married. So much so that it became a running joke. We both knew it wasn’t the right time, but he never stopped talking about it. I always told him I wouldn’t leave Texas unless the Lord screamed that it was time. I LOVED my job, both of our families are in TX, and there was just no need to move. I was a HARD NO, and would happily live in TX the rest of my life. Imagine my surprise when the Lord started nudging ME about moving!!
When God said “GO,” there were SOOO many things that had to work out for it to happen. We had to tell both sets of our parents that we were moving their grandkids out of state. I had to quit the job I loved and had been at for the past 9 years. We had to sell our house. (Yes, the one we just built at the beginning of 2019.) We were told it was impossible to close on our new house in TN using our business income only because we’d have to bring in a RIDICULOUS amount of money in the last 6 months of 2020 – more than I had ever made in a whole year in the business…so Daniel HAD to find a job in Nashville to make up the difference. (More on that later.) We had to save up for another down payment because we weren’t getting much from the sale of our house. Oh, and all of that had to be worked out before the end of the year.
Talk about pressure!
But we KNEW that this was what God was asking us to do. So we leapt! It was terrifying, but we had peace knowing we were walking in God’s will.
And in typical God fashion, He worked every little detail out in perfect timing. I’ll have to tell this full story later because this little bit doesn’t do it justice, but it was the craziest, coolest thing I’ve ever seen God do in our lives.
This one was a hard lesson for me this year. I never wanted to go full-time in my photography business. I’m called to ministry. There’s no question about it. But when God told us to move and that I’d be staying home with my kids, I knew that meant my business was my avenue to be able to stay home with them.
For a long time, I wouldn’t even say out loud that I was “full-time” in my business. I felt like I was betraying my calling to ministry. I feared what my students and fellow pastors would think. I never wanted it to look like I was leaving to chase money, because I wasn’t. I was simply following God and this is the way He was taking us.
I had to realize a couple of things. First, YES I’m called to ministry. But doing ministry doesn’t have to mean working at a church. Running a business can be a ministry. In this season, it IS my ministry. And if I never work at a church again, I’m ok with that. (Sometimes I have to repeat this to myself daily with tears in my eyes, but I’ll get there.) As long as I’m where God wants me, that’s good enough for me.
I also had to be ok with people thinking less of me. (No one has vocalized this at all to me, it’s just a fear I have in my head.) Even if people feel I am abandoning my calling, I am ok with it. I know in my heart that I’m not. And I know I’m pleasing God. He’s made it ABUNDANTLY clear that we’re right where He wants us. And I have peace in that.
Remember when I said we were told it was impossible to close on our new house on just our business income? HAH! (That’s God laughing.)
In June, things were looking grim. The business took a HUGE hit with the COVID shut-downs. We were told we had to bring in 6-figures in 6 months, and we truly believed it was impossible. We had never done it in a YEAR, let alone 6 months! So Daniel started applying to jobs in Nashville.
Well, God said, “WATCH THIS!”
In July when I went full-time in the business, things started booming! Out of nowhere I hit my biggest month of revenue EVER…and it was an off-season month!! Then the next month I made $10k MORE than in July! I said, “Ok, God. I see you!” Before we knew it, that impossible idea of using only the business income to close on the house started looking more and more doable.
At this point, Daniel had been rejected from EVERY. SINGLE. JOB. he had applied for. You’d think we’d get the hint that God didn’t want him to walk through those doors. Eventually we started to see what God was doing, and we laid out a fleece. Daniel had one last job interview lined up. We said if he didn’t get this job, he’d join me in the business full-time and trust that God would bring in the business income we still needed to hit the goal for closing. Sure enough, the job fell through. So we took the leap!
And in true God fashion, He blew the goal out of the water!! Not only did we HIT that 6-figure goal, but we brought in WAY more than we needed! This year after taking a massive hit in the Spring, we ended up making almost 2.5x more than what we did in 2019!
People started noticing my business taking off. They asked me what I was doing differently. The answer? I was trusting God to do the impossible! I can’t take credit for it. All I can do is point you to our Provider. Because He is faithful, and still does the impossible.
Even though this season was crazy, unexpected, and scary, it has been SO rewarding. The extra revenue was great, but in addition to that we received so much more.
First, we’re building the house of our dreams! Daniel has dreamt of owning a basement studio for so long. (In case you didn’t know, he’s a musician and audio engineer.) Well the new house has a full finished basement with more space than he could ever need! The kids also have an entire floor to themselves, AND I have my first ever home office! It feels so surreal knowing it’s ours!
We also get to live near our best friends again! You know those friends that are family? That’s them. They’re our kids’ godparents. Last year they unexpectedly moved to Nashville. (Yes, OUR Nashville. The one we had talked about for so long.) It was super hard not having them around all the time. Well God is so good. Now we’re living in the same city again, and our hearts are SO full! They make leaving our families behind in Texas a little easier.
Plus, we found the BEST church home! The Belonging Co. was exactly what we needed. The first time we set foot in the building, we felt like we were home. If you’re in the Nashville area, definitely check it out!!
And my favorite reward we received through this season was an incredible testimony of God’s faithfulness. Back in June when we knew we’d be moving, I told people this would be the ULTIMATE story of God’s faithfulness. We had so many things that had to line up, but I knew He’d work it all out in His perfect timing. And He DID! Now we get to tell that story, encourage others, and point people to Jesus.
Ok, now for some practical business lessons. Spending money is hard for me because I’ve always been a saver, but this year I learned that a good business investment will pay for itself over and over again.
This year I invested in 2 masterminds, and they were GAME-CHANGERS for my business!! I was at the place where I had a mini-sessions course that I knew worked and people loved, but I didn’t know how to scale it and get it out to more people. Hope and Kat helped me do that, and I’ll be forever grateful for their knowledge and wisdom!
If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that I can’t do it all by myself. Growing my team really helped my business continue to grow and thrive. This year I brought on myself and my husband full-time, 2 part-time Associate Photographers, several seasonal contracted Associate Photographers, a new Virtual Assistant to help out with my blogs and SEO, a FB Ad Agency to run all of our ads, and now my first part-time assistant!
Without my team, we would have plateaued quickly. I’m already anticipating growing my team again next year as we continue to expand! Hiring help doesn’t equal lost revenue. It actually frees up hours to make more with the hours you’re putting in.
PHEW. If you’re still with me, you’re the real MVP. Even though this year didn’t end up how anyone expected, I’m so grateful for it all. For the highs and the lows, the lessons learned, and for God’s faithfulness and provision through it all.
If any of this resonated with you, let me know! Your kind words and encouragement keeps me going. I’m also open to any questions you may have! Feel free to DM me on Instagram (@rebeccaricephotography) and I’d love to chat about it!!
Wishing you the best in 2021!
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