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One Year of “Full-Time” Photography

Well, it has officially been a little over 12 months since I (Jeremy) quit my old job and went “full-time” with photography. Incase you missed it, last year I wrote a blog post about Why and How I Quit My Job! This is a great blog post to read if you feel you are on the brink of changing careers and want a few practical steps on how to make it happen. Today, however, I wanted to really focus on what this past year has taught me. Being that I’m in grad school (for the second time! haha) I link to “list” things out, so bear with me…

1 – Trust. The past 12 months would not have been possible without trusting in God that He would provide. As a business owner the emotions run high and low from day to day. We eagerly check the mailbox to see if anyone mailed in an old contract with a check enclosed, and we frantically refreshed our email praying for the next inquiring bride. But, when it all comes down to it, God taught me to trust Him. However, I am big advocate that God rewards hard work.

2 – Work Hard. I hear a lot of photographers out there on FB saying “just trust God, just trust God” yet they sit at home and don’t do anything. It is a delicate balance. Without God, I know I am nothing, but how can I expect God’s blessing without showing Him diligence? If you aren’t getting any inquiries, it doesn’t mean you lack trust, it means you aren’t marketing your services! Go out there are and spread your name and then trust the results to God!

3 – If it ain’t workin, don’t do it! We learned this the hard way. The 6-9 months before I quit my job we relied heavily upon online advertisements to bring in the inquiries. We paid a STEEP price-tag for this. Well, as we raised the price for our services, the inquiries from online advertising slowed, and eventually stopped. We wasted so much money just thinking they would pick up again. It was scary to stop advertising considering over 50% of our inquiries came from there, but it was not a smart decision to throw hundreds of dollars down the drain every month for nothing. So we quit advertising online.

4 – Find new ways to market. In my opinion, there is no “right or wrong way” to market. A lot of newbie photographers are afraid of “traditional” marketing because it is often labeled as bad in our industry. I honestly believe that any form of marketing that brings in the right kind of bride at the right ROI (return on investment) is a perfectly healthy form of marketing. For us, there are 3 forms of marketing that we utilize and get our brides from. First is google. We pour a lot of time and energy into SEO and blogging. These two things have sent a TON of traffic to our websites and probably 1/3 of our bookings come from google. Second is bridal shows. Again, this is usually considered a traditional form of marketing, but with 1000 brides walking past your booth (and make sure it’s a killer booth design!) you are bound to book somebody! Click Here to view our booth ;) At our last show we booked 5 brides at our highest price point ever. And all 5 are our ideal clients. Sure, there were scores of brides that were not ideal for us, but they didn’t book us, we were only looking for those 3-8 girls who we knew would be excited about us, our images, and our service. Third is referrals. Of course, this is the ideal form of marking as referrals usually have a higher booking percentage. Again, we pour a lot of time, money, and energy into providing our clients with the BEST wedding photography EXPERIENCE they could image. Their experience has little to do with the images. We want people to love us, love what we stand for, and then talk about us. Our referrals come from brides, friends, fellow vendors, and wedding venues.

These 3 forms of marketing have enabled us book more weddings for 2013 , at a price point nearly 300% higher than 2012!

5 – Plan Financially. In the blog post I wrote last year I talked about having a savings account when you quit your job, and that is very important. Unfortunately, we weren’t the best last year about planning for the slow months. Last year there were months where we earned 3 months income in only 3 weeks, and there were other months where we made zilcho! Plan accordingly. Write out a budget and stick to it. We started a cash budget in January and the last 4 months have been SO much easier and less stressful because of this. Dave Ramsey says that children know how to spend money, adults know how to save money (paraphrase, but you get the point!).

6 – Time. Don’t over work. It’s SO SO SO very easy to get consumed in your business. It’s your life, it’s your everything, it’s your “baby.” But in reality, it is not. Jesus is my everything and my family is my life. Everything I do should either be a blessing to God, Kristin, or Stella. Me staying up til midnight every night working on editing is not a blessing to my family. In January we wrote out our work schedule and I’m happy to say that most (90%+) days we stick to it. Our goal is to be “done” with work at 6:00 PM and have “us” time. Because, really, the whole point of us running our own business, is to have the lifestyle we want. And the lifestyle we want, is together.

7 – Raise Your Price – As photographers, we are always afraid to raise our prices. I remember thinking “nobody would EVER pay us that much to shoot their wedding!” So what was the problem? ME! I had convinced myself we weren’t worth it. It was humbling this year to do our taxes. Most people don’t realize how many expenses there are in owning your own business. Well this past year our AGI (adjusted gross income) from the business was only about 25% of our total gross receipts.  Eek! That’s not much. We have bills to pay and need to run a profitable business. Raise Your Price.

If y’all have ANY questions at all about what was written above or something I didn’t cover, please leave a comment I would love to help everyone out there achieve their dreams by running a successful, and profitable business.

Dallas Fort Worth Wedding Photographers Photo

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AWESOME!!! So happy for you 2! This is so where Heather and I want to be. Congrats and keep up the great work!!

Caitie Sheppard

Good job, Jer! I’m working now to quit at the end of the day and have set working hours… tough, but I’m doing better! :) Enjoyed your post and excited for what the Lord has done and will do for y’all… xoxo

Kwenje Beda Banda

Dude, this was an excellent blog. I’m thinking you need to be invited to PCC to speak at the business/ commercial arts forum. *Where’s Mr. Gregory’s number. Well done. Praise the LORD for all He has taught you.

Stefanie Sjostrom

This is so encouraging. Love everything!

Jeremy Schmucker

Get me an invite and I’m there!!! Haha ;)

Katie Hardee

I am SO happy that Michael and I will have the two of you documenting our most precious day. I feel so blessed to have crossed your path and love you both as people!

Marilyn Schmucker

So very proud of you both for so many reasons but most of all for the step of faith it takes to start your own business and rely on it to support you. So proud of the lessons you’ve learned from the Lord through this process. I believe it’s a gift back to Him when you use your gifts and talents in your work to honor Him and that’s exactly what you both do.

This is an amazing blog post!!! I love it!

Dawn May

Awesome post to read as a fellow photographer. :) Thanks for sharing!

Fab advice!! And this is definitely something every new or budding photographer should read. Congrats on reaching a year!

Psalms | God is Good

I began reading through the Psalms at the beginning of February, and just finished up this week. A few months ago when I began journalling, I wanted to read through books of the Bible in their entirety, instead of jumping from book to book. I completed several smaller books before I decided to tackle the Psalms. It seemed like such a large undertaking, but it turned out to be something that changed my heart. Especially with such a large book, I felt like reading the whole thing together gave me such an amazing “big picture” perspective about what the Psalms are all about.

Since I have been journalling as well as using the #lampandlight hashtag each day, I was especially aware of what my “take away” was each day, and throughout these two months I have noticed a theme as so many days I would be impressed with the same thing…God is Good. I hear a message while I was in college preached on Psalm 73. It was one of those “so good I still remember the Pastor’s outline years later” kind of messages. It was about God’s goodness and the fact that the goodness of God is an eternal fact, no matter how bad things look or how I am feeling at the moment, I can know that God is good, and because I know that, I can’t help but praise Him.

Your kindness leads me to repentance
Your goodness draws me to Your side
Your mercy calls me to be like You
Your favor is my delight
Every day, I’ll awaken my praise
And pour out a song from my heart

You are good, You are good
You are good, and Your mercy is forever
You are good, You are good
You are good, and Your mercy is forever
You are good, and Your mercy is forever

I created this as a reminder to me that God is Good. Feel free to use it as a background for your iPhone. Here is how you can make it your background. If you have any questions let me know!

1. From your computer drag the image to your desktop, or right click and save as.
2. Email the file to yourself.
3. Open the email from your iphone and save the image. Once it is saved in your pictures you will be able to make it your wallpaper.

 

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Jeremy Schmucker

One my favorite sermons to date! Eternal Fact = God is good!

Lora Grady

Love!

Taking the Family Formals Outside

So this may seem a bit untraditional…but we love when couples choose to take their family formal photos outside! Of course, lots of couples really want their family photos taken inside the church and of course we have done that many times and it is definitely an option. But there are a few reasons that we love taking the family photos outside!

1. Better Lighting – You probably already know that we LOVE natural light! It is so pretty and flattering  and makes your family formals look more like a family portrait then just a snapshot in the church.

2. Relaxed Images – Everyone tends to feel a bit stiff when standing at the front of the church, but when everyone steps outside things just feel a bit more relaxed. Instead of tense shoulders and forced smiles we get more natural posture and genuine smiles.

3. The Backdrop – When we take things outside we can find the perfect backdrop for your images, and make them more cohesive with the portraits of the two of you. There is also going to be more space outside which gives us the opportunity to get a bit creative.

Here are a few examples of how pretty outdoor family photos can be.

The Orchard Azle Wedding PhotoBoone North Carolina Wedding Photographer PhotoVintage Wildflower Wedding Inspiration PhotoRobert Carr Chapel Wedding Photographer PhotoFort Worth Botanical Gardens Wedding Photographer PhotoThe Magnolia Dallas Wedding Photographer Photo

 

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Bethany McDonnell

What a great reminder! I plan to push harder for this our next wedding…and make sure there is definite shade available in case the family photos get delayed to the sunniest part of the day :)

Our Random Life #27

Writing these posts makes me so aware of another week that has passed. I started typing about how I haven’t had Jamba Juice at all this week, and then I remembered that one morning trip when Jeremy got out of class. Oops…I got a small though…so that has to count for something…right?

We had a mid-week date at Olive Garden and it wore Miss Stella out…she just had to lay her head right down on the table for a bit of rest. We decided that she was in a breadstick coma. On the topic of carbohydrate goodness are my Biscoff cookies…it is an addiction…and now that I think about it I think they would go perfectly with some Jamba Juice. You may have had these amazing cinnamon cookies without realizing it if you have been on a plane anytime recently. That is where I was first introduced to these little British cookies…and now that they are available in America…I am addicted.

I did a lot of reading this past week. I started and finished Seven by Jen Hatmaker in less than three days. This book is a game changer…I laughed and I cried and I am not exaggerating. If you have ever felt like your life has become consumed with excess…you must read it. When I finished that off I began Weird by Craig Groeschel, and it is awesome already. I am hoping to review my April booklist soon!

 

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Lauren Marie

I really liked 7, it was an eye opener for me. I haven’t yet read a Craig Groeschel book yet, but he’s been on my radar for quite awhile! Thank you for sharing your reading material! I’m an avid reader!

Simplified Life | One at a Time

If you are anything like me you have a list of things that you want accomplish and be better about in your life. More organized, spend time reading the Bible, read books, blog more, have more dinner parties, exercise more, cook more meals, spend more time with your kids, make your dreams happen…is this registering with anyone? I should preface this post with saying that I have not always done things this way. But, when I made a shift and began thinking this way I started to see myself accomplishing goals and making things happen.

So, what is this magical secret I am going to tell you??? Well, it isn’t magical and it isn’t a secret so I hope that you are not disappointed! It is simple…one thing at a time. I have had many times when I have just felt stuck so I decided that starting Monday (I would always start Monday, or on the first of the month because I am OCD like that) things were going to change. I was magically going to turn into super-woman whose house was as organized as the Container Store, who blogged every day, while cooking gourmet meals, reading my Bible and of course vacuuming my house in high heels with a baby on my hip. But guess what happened…nothing, I would be so overwhelmed with the expectations I had made for myself that I would end up feeling like I was failing at everything. And, that just wasn’t a good feeling.

Then I had this thought, “What if I pick one thing, and devote my energy to it”. I am only telling you this because I know it works, instead of trying to do it all pick one thing and once that thing is a habit in your life than move to the next thing. You know that I am a big believer at setting goals, and I blog about my goals each month. I think the problem comes in when too many big goals are set, there are so many things that it is hard to focus on what you are trying to accomplish. Blogging was a big one for me…I enjoy blogging, but I was always a here and there blogger. I blogged when we had a wedding, or a session and then if I had some brilliant thought I would blog it, but I couldn’t get consistent. When I devoted time to blogging, took time to plan things out, brainstorm topics and make it normal part of my day…it happened.

Time in Scripture has been this way for a long time. Trying to add it to my list of things I need to do better never worked, but when I said this is important and I am going to make it happen, and I focused on it, it became a normal part of my day.

Taking time to read has been another big one for me. I love to learn and feel good after reading a good book. Two things came in the way here. The first was that I just wasn’t making the time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I didn’t have the time. In actuality, I was spending time that could have been spent reading good books scrolling through Facebook and probably stalking someones pictures (but not commenting, because everyone knows you are Facebook stalking if you comment on old pictures). The other problem was that I would start five books and six months later I would be halfway through all of them, but not finished with any of them. Had I picked one I would have finished it and moved to the next.

I guess I just feel like we live our life with a lot of “somedays”. We think that someday we will have time for the things we want to accomplish. In reality, we accomplish the things that we make time for…so make time for things that matter!

What are you going to make happen in your life?

Make Time for What Matters Photo

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What a sweet quote, beautiful post!