A Year In Review: Lessons Learned From 2017

2017 has been a whirlwind year to say the least. I hopped off a plane from Germany with "a dream and a cardigan"...sort of.

In 2016, much had gone down: I graduated with my bachelors in counseling, I photographed four weddings, and moved to Germany to nanny from September to December. Returning to Maryland just in time for 2017, I was unsure of the future and questioned my entire photography business.

Then they came. The inquires. The texts, emails, calls...the bookings.

And suddenly, l went from 4 weddings in 2016 to 16 weddings in 2017. SIXTEEN. SIXTEEN! Oh my. It doesn't even feel real saying that.

...But that's just weddings. This year, I have photographed over 40 different sessions.

After a crazy year, I sat down and contemplated my top lessons from 2017. They're lessons that have taken time to recognize, and I'm very much still on the path learning and growing every day. Maybe you'll take a thing or two from them as well.

  1. Your success should be noted and compared to your previous successes- not other's successes. This year I set a financial goal. Initially, I wrote it down on an old envelope, looked at it, and laughed. There's no way I would make that much in one year. As the months passed, I worked hard with the goal always in the back of my mind. Slowly, it grew apparent that I would in fact reach that goal. I was shocked. I was...impressed? Then came the other photographer. I assisted in several photo sessions and she informed me what she was being paid for just one wedding. Her one wedding was my ENTIRE YEAR GOAL. I felt silly. I felt small. I felt like next to nothing. But you know what? I stopped feeling silly. I stopped feeling like nothing. I remembered all the time and effort I had thrown into achieving my financial goal and I felt satisfied. I earned every single penny. And you know what? It felt good. And today, I'm proud to say I went $1,500 over that goal. Maybe that's you. Maybe you've been comparing your yearly results to others rather than your past years. Let me save you some heartache: stop. We are each on our own roads. You can't jump ships and compare your harbor to another's harbor. That's not how success grows- that's how jealousy grows. Got it?

2. Just because your business isn't set up or has the same outline as others doesn't mean it's a bad business.

I work closely with another photographer who is very dear to me. On one certain occasion, we were discussing our initial process when a couple books us for a wedding. Let me tell you- this woman has it down to a science. She has an entire paperwork process and every detail is recorded and complied in a folder which she brings along to every wedding.

My process: and now I want to laugh. I call or email correspond with my couples, draft a wedding timeline, and save it to my phone. That's about it.

But you know? My system works for me, and her system works for her. And it all. Works. Out.

Just because you take different trails to the same destination isn't bad. It's how you process, organize, and prioritize, and if it's achieving the desired results, it's okay.

3. If you didn't go to school for business, take a deep breath and recognize this.

This has been a hard one for me. My degree is in counseling. I can talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere. But business? I've had to start from the ground up.

Just because you don't have a degree or experience in a certain field does not mean it's unattainable. Repeat that out loud. It just takes time and learning.

Whenever I don't understand how to do something, I do one of two things: I research online, or I pick a day to live at my local library and read all the books devoted to that certain area. I listen to webinars, read others' personal experiences, and then I do it. I try it. I begin.

I've used this process for website development, posing techniques, lighting lessons, taxes, creating a business bank account, and post-processing skills. It takes time and devotion; but, if I can do it, you can certainly do it.

"I can't" and, "I don't know how" are two separate ideas. If you think it's possible, teach yourself. Rent out the entire business section at the library. Go the extra mile. "I can't" ends the venture right then and there, but "I don't know" begins a new adventure.

4. Create a list of goals you want and watch them become completed

I mentioned this earlier regarding financial goals, but try it with other aspects too. For me, I had a goal on lighting and posing. I wanted to train my eye to see the best possible light situation and understand what makes certain poses flattering.

At the end of the year, compare notes. See where you've grown, and determine what needs to stay on the New Year's List.

5. Remember why you started a business.

For flexibility? Be your own boss? Possible income source? Let this energize you and set your business to run a course that will ultimately allow you to attain those dreams.

I know this was long. Thanks for reading all that- I can be a lot to handle sometimes.

2017 only has hours left. 2018 is about to begin. New adventures, new goals, and new lessons.

I posted my top nine photos of 2017 in the beginning of this post. It's amazing how far you can go in a year.

I believe in you!

Hailey Rae

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