If you follow my Instagram, you were able to count down my top 31 favorite moments of 2016. Some had to do with my business, some had to do with my personal life - almost all of them had to do with connection.
Connection is so much. In life. And in business. I'm a firm believer that genuine connection with others should be a priority in business. 2016 has taught me this well.
2016 has also taught me some other incredible and rewarding lessons. This year was technically my 7th year in business. Although I wish I had learned all of these lessons sooner, I have made my peace with the idea that I am a late business bloomer. And late is better than never. And God's timing is always perfect.
The Top Eight Things I Learned in Business in 2016:
1. Treat your clients the way you would want to be treated as a client. Befriend them. Love them. Want the best for them. Don't treat them like a paycheck. It's ok to run your business as a heart-centered individual. You can be compassionate and loving while still running a successful business. Client payments should feel like a perk rather than the sole reason you work with them. Send them welcome gifts. Send them Christmas cards. Text them just to say hi. Schedule coffee dates with no business agendas. Wish them well in everything they do. Encourage them. Call them friend. And do all of this with a genuine heart and the best of intentions. They can feel it. You would feel it, too, if the roles were reversed.
2. Be confident in what you bring to the table. Stop saying you do this as a hobby...on the weekends...on the side. Call yourself what you are. Introduce yourself as a photographer, an artist, a calligrapher, a business owner. And let this confidence lead you to an ever-present desire for learning. Don't let your confidence keep you in one place. You can always move forward. Be confident that you can. And, then, go do it.
3. Invest, and have faith. Every cent you put into your business will come back to you tenfold. Don't be cheap with important investments, but be careful not to fall into the trap of feeling like you need more than you actually do. Research, and invest in the best products to propel you forward. Buy what you need to provide your clients the best experience possible while also being able to streamline your processes.
4. Be consistent, and show up online every. single. day. Consistency is key when running a small business. When others see that you are invested in posting items online every day, they will know that you are (1) serious about your work, and (2) will be consistent in your work with them. YOU can know that you are a consistent individual, but if you only show up on social media once every few days, you look pretty much dead to the world. Plan your social media posts in advance so that you aren't constantly tied to your phone or computer; although you won't physically be online, you are showing that you are dedicated to your presence and availability, and that pays back big dividends. Also, be intentional in what you post. Don't be salesy. Foster connection. Tell stories. Share memories. There are reasons why certain clients have been put in your life - their stories are meant to be told to the world. And, in telling their stories online, you will draw in even more incredible people with even more beautiful stories.
5. Foster a sense of community. Be open, available, and (dare I say it) vulnerable in your interactions online. Does this mean you have to air all of your dirty laundry? No. But you can share your struggles. You can ask for advice. You can share some of your personal stories. This opens the door for others to see you, and say, "Me too." There's power in the "Me too." And that will draw others to you.
6. Be intentional with what you create. If you're a photographer, don't whip out your camera and just trust that it will do you and your clients justice. It needs some intention behind the lens. Do your research. Know your settings. Determine which lenses are best for which kind of shoot. Take the time to learn about lighting. Invest in posing courses. Show up to your sessions, and be completely present. Turn off your phone. Don't rush. Art takes time. People take time. And time filled with art and souls backed up by intentional research creates a beautiful, beautiful catalyst.
7. Take care of yourself. Take the time to rest. Take the time to exercise. Take the time to eat properly. Take the time to make memories with your family and friends. Allowing yourself these things enables you to show up as your best for your clients, and makes you a happier person in general.
8. Live your life by the sentiments offered in Tim McGraw's 'Humble and Kind.' Listen to the words of this song, and tuck them in your heart. Always be gracious. Always be aware. Always choose to see the best in others. And realize that all you have been given comes from above, and bring all of your praises and successes back to Him. They were always His anyway.
What did you learn in 2016? What do you hope to learn in this new year?