There is nothing quite like the fresh start of a new year. I look forward to the renewed energy and perspective that January brings with increased enthusiasm each year. It's a chance like no other to reflect and refine, plan and dream. This New Year-ing has become even more important to me since I became a mother and started running my own business. And to be honest, I love this stuff.
In reality, I'm setting goals and reflecting all year, but since January tends to be a slower time for my work it's a great opportunity to deep dive into what has been working, what hasn't, and what I want the next year to look like for my business, my family, and myself. Here, in Part I, I share more about my reflections and goals in my business. In Part II, I'll take more about my personal goals and dreams for the year ahead.
I’m really blown away by the amazing clients I had the opportunity to work with in 2016. I photographed several new restaurants that opened in Portland, as well as established favorites. I worked with national brands and publications, as well as local producers and businesses. Overall, I worked on more than 50 projects, some one-off projects and others ongoing, and saw a substantial business revenue increase over 2015. And I took tens of thousands of photos.
I also streamlined my invoicing and accounting systems, invested in new equipment, hired contractors to support with several projects, and updated contracts, license agreements, and my project management workflow. This side of owning a business probably only excites me, but does give a much better sense of how I can increase my efficiency and deliver better service to clients. It also saves me a lot of stress when I have strong systems in place and gives me more time for the work I love most.
Aiming to give my business more visibility, I recently set up a Facebook page and Bloglovin' and updated my Instagram and Pinterest to business accounts. And, as you have probably noticed, I've invested more time in sharing on this blog.
Being self-employed can be unpredictable and fluctuating. Some periods were slower than others, while the summer was crazy busy, but I am grateful that overall 2016 held a steady flow of inquiries and work with incredible clients. I’m especially thankful to the handful of retainer clients who believe in the power of photography to tell the story of their work. It’s so rewarding to be able to work and grow together over time.
During the summer, I read the incredible book Minimalism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, which was the perfect reminder (at the perfect time) that more for the sake of more is not a viable business (or life) strategy. Yes, when you're growing and hoping to pay yourself a steady paycheck, it's hard to turn away business, but I'm starting to learn that, in the long run, it's better to have the right clients than the wrong ones. And refining what I can offer to ensure that it is my strongest work will serve me, the clients, and the industry best over time. In the coming year, I'm hoping to continue on this path of confidently saying no when a project or client isn't a good fit in order to be able to have the time, space, and creativity to deliver my best for those that are.
The last two years have seen a significant investment in building my business: time, money, energy, and much more. I love what I do, but I also need to invest in the support system that will keep me going for years to come. Namely, myself (physically and mentally), my family, and my community.
One of the best lessons of 2016 was a positive one: peer mentors and community support is incredible. Early in 2016, Sarah Moore, a fellow photographer and good friend from Amsterdam, and I decided to start a peer mentorship. We traded tips when pitching for work, shared insight into contracts and staying inspired, talked shop about equipment and process, and held each other accountable to specific goals that we set on a monthly basis. It was so inspiring and motivated me to keep pushing to the next level. I also had the opportunity to have candid conversations with other photographers, entrepreneurs, and business owners which were insightful, and also help build trust and support between us. It was so well timed and I can't wait to see how these relationships grow over the next year.
Looking at the year ahead - which starts in less than 2 days! - my main goal is to continue the path of growth that I am currently on, but do so a little more gracefully. Less frenetic and at a pace that is sustainable. I'd love to work with one more retainer client and continue to collaborate with the local food community and national brands that believe in quality. Working on a project in Amsterdam last summer was an experience I'm planning to repeat in other countries.
In addition, I’m determined to dive into a few personal projects. The mantras of one of my favorite photographers, Penny de los Santos, is to self-assign your dream assignment. My love of food comes from my years living and traveling overseas, where food was a way to connect to and experience local cultures, as well as a connection to my home and family that I had left behind. Through personal projects, I plan to turn a documentary lens on subjects of food and culture, here and beyond. This is, of course, inspired by my years working at World Press Photo, but also motivated by Lynsey Addario's fantastic book It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War. This year I will take a step ahead with a few personal projects that are close to my heart.
Investing more in this space is another top priority. When I relocated from the Netherlands, my blog lost a bit of its voice and I've slowly been redefining what I want this space to be. It's finally coming into its own, just like I feel I am with my business and being an Oregonian once again. The last year was a wild one and I'm excited to embrace 2017 with arms wide open. Stay tuned for Part II!