It feels like it was ages ago. The moment you decide to “go into business” and put it all out there. You have NO CLUE what lies ahead. What you are doing. Where to start. You simply, just jump. When I decided to become a professional photographer, it wasn’t because I had had years of schooling or training. It wasn’t because I was looking to make a quick buck. And it certainly wasn’t because I thought I could be the best at it. I started because once I picked up a camera with my hands, Im not sure my heart or soul has ever put it down. It is literally an extension of both, and I wonder how I ever thought I could do something OTHER than this before.
So ex law student, new wife, new mom, new camera. Its how it all started.
It came time to create a website….because that made you official right?! I tried WIX first (I think thats what it was called), bought a pre-made logo for 6.00 on Etsy, and I was off. I knew next to nothing about what a website should look like or include, so I stalked about 10 different SUCCESSFUL photographers and grabbed a bit of what each was offering and put it on mine. YIKES! I took from their wording, textures, colors, and fonts.
Here was one of my first websites: (FACE PALM!)
I apparently was a self proclaimed Destination photographer BEFORE even shooting a destination wedding. I had wood paneling as a background and lace doilies as borders. My lovely 6.00 logo rested LARGELY at the top in a lace frame….and it was A DISASTER!
I even made an about me page…..hehehehe! Granted…these things are among my favorites….it was just a hot mess to look at!
After a few months of shooting and a bit more collateral, I invested in a custom website, again by an Etsy designer. I loved working with her and she did great work. Though this site still holds a place in my heart, it still wasn’t IT. You know…that feeling where you are like….THIS IS 100% ME! The process was really organic. She asked mewhat I was going for and was able to take the vision in myhead and make it a reality. There are still SO MANY aspects of this design that I love and got quite a few compliments….but it still just wasn’t IT!
So then SHOWIT happened. Becoming a Showiteer at the time didn’t seem like a huge deal. I thought of it more as a customer service group of people all using the same program and were there to be of assistance in the building stages. BOY WAS I WRONG. SHOWIT changed my life. It changed my career. Hell….IT HELPED GIVEEEE ME a leg to stand on and CREATE a career. SHOWIT CHANGED EVERYTHING! The community I now belong too is the most talented, inspiring, motivating, selfless group of people. Its not a cult, a clique or anything negative anyone has ever said….its a family. Simple as that. And for me…I LOVE being part of a huge family that spans the entire globe!
When it came time for a new website, I worked with the amazing Melissa Love and was able to use a BOXFRESH template. It was amazing. Easy to work with, professional and perfect. I felt instantly that things we coming together! Instead of having a professional take over the design, I decided I was going to put my own personal touches on it to make it ME!
Here is what I came up with:
A new logo, a new site, a new start. This website/branding can not be bashed entirely, however. It did take me from 1 wedding to 7 in one year, and also helped be meet over 40 new families. It was SOOOO MEEEE…..or at least I thought it was. But something was STILL MISSING.
I invested in a coaching session with Katelyn James. You can read all about it here. Much like joining SHOWIT, it was a life changing experience! She, in her ever sweet manner and soft southern accent told me….well in basically one word….”NO”. She spent so much time helping me narrow down 2 fonts, as opposed to the 6 I was using on one site. She helped me narrow down 4 or 5 shades of pink, to two. (This was around the time my website became dubbed, the “PEPTO BISMAL” site…lol) She really was rooting for me and saw the struggle I was facing.
My struggle wasn’t the website. It was me.
I had NO IDEA who I was as a person, let alone a photographer. Everyone knows I love starbucks, aviators and pink. But did those things define me? Were they a part of my soul? Was that website I created, 100% and authentically me….or what I wanted everyone to see? Or know?
I spent the next 6 months soul searching. I made a promo video I adore. You can see it here. I invested in more photography conferences, classes and workshops. I saved and saved and invested in new gear. AND THEN….I took the biggest jump of all…I hired a professional designer to create a website from a blank page. This was NOT THE CHEAPEST decision, but it was one I had to make. I chose a blank page start because that is exactly what I was. I was a blank page. I was a Kaitlin that was ready to identify herself and explore a more mature side I suppressed for too long. If I wanted people to invest in my and my business, I HAD to invest in myself first. So Meg Long…my personal heroine in my “story” hit the ground running. After a 2 hour skype call where I rambled on an on about who I was and what I wanted, she gave me some SOUL SEARCHING homework.
After turning all my homework in….this is the branding board she came back to me with:
And this is my current website:
Wow. Just wow. Its like she climbed into my soul and brought out a vision I had but could’t articulate. It was chic, femine, bold, classy, sassy, fun, sparkly, radiant, and 110% me! This website has served to be one of the best decisions I have ever made in this short career. From 7 to 30 weddings in 1 year, blessed doesn’t even begin to cover it. I think the most touching part of this, is that people are finally seeing the REAL ME and THEY LIKE IT. I was trying SO HARD to be like the OTHER photographers I followed. I tried to use THEIR BRANDING to sell myself. I tried to be what I thought others wanted to see, than whom I really was.
I am excited to report that I am even taking this one step further….though SO MANY and I am obsessed with my promo video…I am stepping it up again this year. I am creating one that is A BIT more in tune with my current branding (the promo video was done before I decided to rebrand to this current website) and one that a bit more focused on ME and my story. My current promo video will always serve to show the fun side of me…the one that desperately wants to be your best friend…laugh and dance. It will serve to show my clients how much I love to gift and spoil them….and of course, everyone now fully grasps my love for pink and sparkles. But I swear that beneath all that…there is a lot more…and I so hope the next video shows that off! : P
But for the purpose of this LONG blog post and visit to the past, I encourage you to STOP BEING WHAT OTHERS WANT YOU TO BE. Don’t try to do what someone else is doing just because it works for them. THAT DOES NOT MEAN IT WILL WORK FOR YOU! Don’t sell anything but you OR the truth. Faking it until you make it does not mean lying to yourself to get there. It is terrifying to put it all out there….the real you. The FEAR is paralyzing….thinking that “well….if I put it all out there….and no one likes it….then what? Where do I go from there?”
YOU GO NO WHERE! YOU STAY PUT! There are so many different kinds of people out there. There are enough clients for everyone that appreciates different styles of photography. Can you imagine if we ALL shot the same way…same angles…same branding….HOW BORING! The right people for you and your business WILL find you. Its going to take a lot of hustle on your part. You can no just sit back and wait for them to find you…you have to let them know you are out there and READY TO BE FOUND!
Hard work, passion, authenticity, and support….all things that got me here today…and all are going to get you there too. NOW GO! : P
XOXO, Kaitlin Noel