This time of year is so special because everyone’s looking back on the year and reflecting about what’s happened in the past 12 months. And so are we! For the next two episodes of the Business Journey Podcast, I’m doing a case study of my business in 2021. These episodes will be a little bit different than what we’ve discussed before, but I hope it inspires you to take a look back at your own year and celebrate how far you’ve come!
Before we dive into all of that though, I want to share my new FREE guide with you: My $3K Mini Sessions Blueprint. It’s a step-by-step guide of what to do to make $3,000 on your next mini sessions. Whether you’ve hit that goal before or just want to see if there’s other ideas to try, grab this free guide. It’s jam packed with tons of great information for you!
One of my team members suggested this case study and I have to admit I think it’s a fun idea. 2021 has been a huge year for us personally and professionally, so I think it will be fun to reflect on it all. Perhaps the biggest change for our family was moving to Nashville last November. This has been our first full year living in Nashville and being away from our families. We’ve grown our business living here. I know so many of you wonder about starting your business, or growing your business, when you’re living somewhere new. So I hope this breakdown is helpful for you!
So my family and I moved to Nashville in November, while we built a house that wouldn’t be done until March. So in between, we were living in a townhouse. The first part of the year definitely felt cramped for space. It was an interesting season for us: two working adults and two toddlers in a small house. But we made it work. This was also the first season I was away from my long-standing clients in Dallas, so I had to figure that out at the same time. We managed to make two trips back to Dallas to capture mini sessions. It was kind of scary because when you book tickets like that, you can’t really change dates easily! So we had to commit to those big trips. It was around this time that I realized despite wanting to serve these clients, I couldn’t physically do it myself. That’s when our associate team came into play.
I didn’t want to turn families away who wanted photos! So, we discussed building an associate team in Dallas. If you’re not familiar with what an associate photographer is, basically it’s somebody that you hire and train as a photographer to shoot under your brand. The main photograph handles the marketing and client communication, editing, and delivery but the photographer is a team member. It was super helpful in the busy seasons to have more “me’s” running around taking portraits. Around this time, I also hired my first full-time employee, Bonnie. She’s in Dallas and I knew I wanted to teach her to shoot like me, so she became my first associate photographer. We quickly realized that we were going to have a super busy spring and were going to need more photographers, so in March, I actually separated my associate shooters into their own brand: Wisp & Willow Photography.
In literally 24 hours, we put together their online pages, CRM systems, pricing, and brand. It was crazy. I just showed up on Monday and told the rest of my team we had a new brand. It was seriously a whirlwind but it worked out in the best way possible. Because we separated the brands, we could clearly market to families in the areas we had associates for – and it was such a good decision. Before long, we had the entire spring booked out for our small team. And that’s when I started to realize that this accidental discovery was one of the best things I could have done for my business.
We fully expected things to slow in the summer, but they didn’t. Clients were booking the associate team for full sessions – maternity, newborns, extended family sessions… and it never stopped. When the fall came, we knew we wanted to offer fall mini sessions for the team, too. It was around this time that we realized that we may want to consider expanding the team into other cities. We began building a team in Nashville, in Houston, and just kept booking. With more Facebook ads, we were able to reach new audiences easily and keep our schedules full! In the height of the busy season, we had 12 photographers going. I mean, how crazy is that?! All from this accidental team. What a happy accident!
Building an associate team – creating more of ME – has been such a blessing. But I want to be clear: we aren’t doing it alone. One of the other things we did right away for the associates was outsource their editing, too. Because of the extra help, we’ve been able to keep up with demand. It’s been incredible to be able to serve these clients who I wouldn’t be able to physically serve otherwise! Although building this associate team has been a whirlwind, we’ve learned so much and I wouldn’t have learned any other way!
Going into next year, we’re excited to help our associate team grow with more intention. We’ve learned from the mistakes we’ve made this year and can’t wait to implement better workflows, communication, and team experiences. It’s exciting – we have no idea what the future will look like but, we know it’s going to be great! Tune in next week to hear more about my transition to full time in 2021 and how that looked with my family at home, too!
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