Years ago when I first officially started this little business, my dad said: “You have to have goals. You have to dream big. You have to bring them to life. And then you have to make new goals. Continue to dream big. And then bring those to life. Keep going.”
So rather than start small like some self-help business books tell you to do, I started really, really big. I wrote down goals that, if I’m being honest, felt super unattainable and quite ridiculous to even consider. Things like: “shoot for Free People and Anthropologie, get my work published in a magazine, book a wedding in another country, shoot for lifestyle blogs that I believe in.” These right here were my top 5 “big, lofty goals”
And do you know what happened? I achieved them. All 5 of them. In under one year.
This is not a blog post to brag. Ew. Not in the slightest. This is a blog post to tell you how I did it, how I couldn’t have done it without other people, and how NOT writing down “big, lofty goals” could hinder you in your business. So below you’ll find my Top 5 Tips for reaching your professional goals. They worked for me, and I really believe (and truly hope) that they’ll work for you, too.
Okay, lets get started.
WRITE THEM DOWN.
Sit somewhere without distraction, and think of your biggest goals. (I think 5 is a good, solid number) If it scares you or makes you laugh out loud, you’re doing it right. These goals, as I mentioned before, should feel so uncomfortable in the best possible way. The act of writing them down makes them feel more real and more attainable, and having them within view is equally as important to the process.
MARKET YOURSELF PROPERLY. DO THE WORK.
For example: If you want to shoot destination weddings, talk about it on your blog or social media. (SEO, keywords! Take them seriously!) Let people know that it’s of interest to you and that you’re actively seeking it. It’s also helpful to get something, anything, in your portfolio that potential clients can see. This would be the perfect reason to set up a styled shoot to reflect the kind of wedding you’d love to photograph.
Another example: I remember when I first met Martiza, we started talking about our dreams and who we’d love to collaborate with. Fortunately for both of us, we had similar dreams in mind :) Still do! So from there, we’d mock up plans for shoots – and market it accordingly with the hopeful collaboration in mind. (i.e: We both had dreams of being published by Darling Magazine. We brainstormed location, wardrobe and hair/makeup style meticulously to ensure it matched the brand and vision of Darling. When we pitched the idea, they were thrilled.) It takes a lot of work – but I truly believe that companies can see when you’ve created something special for them, and only them, in mind. Do the work.
If you hear no, keep going. I’ve heard no so many times I think I’ve become numb to the word. It’s funny, since I really only showcase those "yes" responses. I don’t want anyone to be mistaken in thinking that I’m made of unicorn dust and anytime I submit something or ask for a collaboration, that it all just magically falls together and everything is roses. Thats just not how it works, I’m afraid. When I hear no, depending on the answer, I adjust accordingly. (and take a long, hot humbling bubble bath)
Here are a couple examples:
1. I email “such and such” elite wedding website to see if they’d be interested in featuring __’s wedding.
They respond with: “as much as we’d love to – unfortunately we just don’t have the opening in our editorial calendar.” OR, “thank you so much, unfortunately we just don’t feel like this particular wedding is a good fit.” That one usually requires a band-aid.
2. I draft up a proposal for “such and such” company to be considered for a cover story photo.
I think I’m getting closer when they send me a layout for what they’re looking for. Yes! They like my website enough to put me into round 2! I send them the outcome, and they don’t respond to my emails. Any of them. Like, ever. That’s a no. Anyone have a tissue?
3. I reach out to a big time fashion blogger in another major city asking if they’d be interested in using me for some of their looks while I’m in town.
They say: “No thanks! I’m covered.” and I immediately lick my wounds, assuming they most definitely meant they hated my work. All of it.
So you see, the act of reaching your lofty, professional goals isn’t all glamorous. But if you can take the no’s to get to the yes’ (what’s that cliche saying? You have to deal with a few storms to get the rainbow? Did I just botch that?) – anyway, if you can take the no’s to get to the yes’ – really beautiful things will happen. The no’s wont matter so much anymore, because you know a yes might be coming. (and don’t be afraid to reach out again to those who have rejected you. People's needs and interests change. Especially for submissions and collaborations. Just remember to “do the work” See: #2)
Even when you reach said goal(s), keep going. Shooting Free People’s &/or Anthro’s lookbook would be a good place to start for this next round of lofty goals ;) Or getting into Darling Magazine’s print issue and having one of my images grace the cover of a magazine. Keep going and keep pushing forward to see what else you can do. You just may surprise yourself. (and yes, I definitely laughed at myself when I typed those three goals just now. See: #1)
MAKE A VISION BOARD.
You know this trick. “If you can see it, you can achieve it.” I really do find this to be true. While I may not have a huge cork board in my office or tape things all over my walls, I do keep my Anthropologie catalogs on display on a visible shelf, and browse through them when I need to feel inspired. Even just seeing them out of the corner of my eye ignites the fire. And little things like posting positive words of affirmation throughout my home and office shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Try scribbling down inspiring quotes to leave next to your computer, or putting them in your iPhone alarm so it’s the first thing you read when you wake up. It’s so easy to pass on our goals or just assume they’ll happen “one day” – why not leave yourself little reminders that today is as good as any to get just a little bit closer?
ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL.
I mentioned this above, but I could not have reached any of my top professional goals without other people. I’m going to do some shoutouts here, so get ready. Maritza of Beauty for Bloggers introduced me to the team over at Free People as “her photographer” – the one she works with on all her beauty tutorials. They agreed to hire me to come on board, and what do you know? They asked me to come back. The same happened with Darling Magazine, Lauren Conrad, and Camille Styles. Without Maritza, these goals may have taken me way longer to achieve.
Without out Jess of The Golden Girl reaching out to me to take some style photos for her fashion/lifestyle blog and The Everygirl where she is a style editor, I wouldn’t have gotten the intimate introduction that I did to the TEG team – which has opened me up to photographing several other shoots for them in the past.
Without Mary of Sportsanista hiring me on a regular basis to photograph her for her style blog, I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much experience shooting editorial-like sessions. Therefore I don’t think that I would have felt confident enough in my experience to vouch for myself and my business within these amazing opportunities. (Uhh.. and did I mention she’s the reason I got to photograph inside an empty Soldier Field? That was insane.)
Without my nearest and dearest friends vouching for me, or my clients spreading the kindest word-of-mouth, many of my wedding opportunities could have been missed. My Italy wedding? The bride and groom are close friends of one of my best friends. Just like that, Jamie threw my name in the hat- and I was hired. If Jamie hadn’t vouched for me, I may have missed the chance to photograph a wedding in Florence this fall. Or if one of my past bride’s hadn’t mentioned her experience with me to the recently engaged owner of a bridal shop in Chicago, I may not have booked my wedding in Greece.
You get the idea. I didn’t reach my 5 “lofty” professional goals on my own. And I’m so thankful for all of the people that helped me along the way. I’ll be thanking them forever. ;)
*this does not, by any means, list every single person that’s helped me along my journey or within my professional goals. If I left you out, its not due to lack of appreciation! I love you!
I hope you find these tips helpful to you and your business (or even your personal life!) We are all so much stronger than we think, and have way more gusto than we give ourselves credit for. Remember:
“You have to have goals. You have to dream big. You have to bring them to life, and then you have to make new goals. Continue to dream big, and then bring those to life. Keep going.” – my Dad
Photographer. Stylist. Writer.