I’ve been dreaming about writing this email for over a year, but really, the words have been unfolding since 2009.
2009 is the year I registered my business, Heidi Hope Photography. I took an unpaid year off from my teaching career to stay home with my new daughter, Giuliana. Money was tight for my husband Shaun and me. We had one income, huge bills and very little savings.I borrowed the money from my mom to buy a full-frame digital SLR and hoped to make some extra money on the side to get us through my maternity leave.
I had a 6 month old playing at my feet as I built my website, practiced Photoshop, and read every book I could on photography. There were no workshops or business resources that I knew of at the time. I was passionate and I worked hard.
There was a fire inside of me. I ate, breathed and slept photography. I loved the challenge, the rush, the possibility.
6 months into my business I started feeling overwhelmed. The fire was burning out. I was doing everything myself. I was learning anything I could, juggling clients, over-shooting, editing inefficiently, fulfilling orders and trying to advance my business, all while chasing after my 1 year old.
I had no business plan. I was disorganized and inexperienced. I had no direction and no resources.
I couldn’t afford childcare so I would drive Giuliana to my mother’s house in Rhode Island before driving to Boston for my shoots. I remember locking her in our small condo in Worcester while I made trips back and forth to my car to load it with newborn session props. When the car was finally loaded, we would set off on the hour drive. Giuliana would usually cry the whole way. My guilt as a mother was weighing heavily on me. I felt that I was spread so thin. I felt like I was failing on every front.
One rainy day, on the last trip to my car, with Giuliana in my arms, I dropped my bean bag into a giant, slushy puddle. It was soaked and I was defeated. She was crying. I was crying. In that moment, I began to hate photography.
What was I doing?!
I was in over my head. I felt like I was drowning.
Things needed to change. Shaun and I decided to move out of the city and revamp my young business so that I could at least afford childcare while I was away on shoots. I restructured my pricing. I cut out shooting on weekends. Our income steadily increased. My marketing began paying off.
By the end of our first year in business I was booked 6 months in advance and we were making a solid income. We took the leap and opened a small studio space to save on commuting time. We hired an employee to help with my workload. Shaun left his job in banking and came over to help run Heidi Hope Photography full time.
That’s when everything changed.
Heidi Hope Photography became our only source of income. If we didn’t market effectively, price ourselves correctly and make our business sustainable, we wouldn’t be able to pay or mortgage or put food on the table.
What started as a fun way to earn some extra money became essential to our livelihood. Something I once loved became something I couldn’t help but resent.
Where was the passion? Where was the excitement?
I felt an enormous pressure to make our business succeed. If I had to shoot 12 sessions and work 60 hours per week, I did. If I had to edit into the early morning, I did. There were no sick days. Work never went away.
Competition was popping up everywhere, undercutting our prices and not playing by the rules. I saw my work, my words, and images of my daughters stolen and spread around the internet. Didn’t anyone understand everything I was sacrificing to create it all? Our lawyer was sending out cease and desist notices every other week.
The lifestyle became hard on our marriage and hard on our daughter. We missed out on our family and friends. Most regrettably, we missed out on Giuliana. We thought we would never be able to have more children.
Every working parent experiences the guilt of leaving their kids behind, especially for a 12 hour day, but there is something about choosing that lifestyle that makes it especially painful. There was no corporation to blame, no boss to pin it on. We were doing it to ourselves.
Wasn’t this what we wanted?
Wasn’t this the business we built ourselves?
Weren’t we living the American Dream?
Isn’t this what success looked like?
I hated photography.
And I was afraid. I feared we made the wrong choice. I feared that success meant we would have to sacrifice all of the things I truly valued. I feared I would never get my life back. I was afraid we would lose everything if we tried to change. I was afraid of failure, but mostly, I was afraid I lost myself.
The burden of our business began to take a toll on my health. All of the worry, the long days, the sleepless nights, and the physical demands of the job left me exhausted, overwhelmed and physically ill. If we didn’t make a change, I wanted out.
Having a thriving business and amazing customers is certainly a fortune that I don’t take for granted. But money and success are not the only measurements of living a good life. And they certainly don’t buy happiness.
Through our struggles I realized that building a business had to be balanced with taking care of myself, listening to my intuition and honoring my own creative voice.
Shaun and I were able to change our business so that it would support our family without consuming our lives or compromising our health. We were able to face the challenges of our industry head on and find a way that works.
Now, I know there is a better way to build a profitable business.
I decided to teach because I know I’m not alone in what I felt. Those that I once perceived as my competition, I began to see my own self in. Looking around I realized that most photographers are facing the same uphill battle Shaun and I once faced.
We are all facing those challenges.
It seems every business owner I know is overworked, overstressed and over-committed. We sacrifice our happiness, our families and our heath all in the name of our businesses. We are never “unplugged”.
Arianna Huffington, in her book “Thrive” says:
“The way we’ve defined success is not enough. And it’s no longer sustainable: It’s no longer sustainable for human beings or for societies. To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a third metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.”
This philosophy is the foundation of The Photographer Rising Online Workshop.
You truly can “have it all” when you make a plan and work with purpose.
With today’s over-committed lifestyle, your success rests on your ability to focus on what is most important to the growth of your business while tuning out the rest. If you choose to be an entrepreneur, you must learn to listen to your intuition, honor your unique artistic voice and develop a business that supports your dream. And you must do this all while maintaining your own well-being and balance.
This story does have a happy ending.
These days Shaun and I are running one of the most successful boutique portrait studios in the country. We have amazing clients who value what we do and keep our business thriving. We are on track to do 1 million dollars in sales this year despite our competitive market, the tough economy and the state of our industry. Our competition has seemingly disappeared. We are saving for the future and take vacation time with our family. Our time at the studio is down to 40 hours per week or less. We take time off for our children’s activities and events.
We are finally living our life.
And I love photography again. More than ever!
This Online Workshop is my entire business blueprint. In 5 days of live online learning I will teach you not just how I did it, but how you can do it for yourself in a way that honors your own vision, your unique artistic voice, and your goals for the future.
Whether your business goals are similar to mine or completely different, we will make a plan to get you there.
In our Online Workshop we build a business plan, establish profitable pricing and make a marketing strategy to get clients who will pay the prices necessary to maintain your business, whatever model you choose to pursue. Each day join me for live Q&A to interact and answer more in depth questions.
I’m not just a teacher. I’m walking this path along with you. I’m implementing these same strategies in my own studio, which boasts 6 figure monthly portrait sales, a healthy client list and a full schedule. I know your challenges. I know the sleepless nights and the feeling of overwhelm. And I know the way through it.
Let’s turn those struggles into the fuel that will propel your business to the next level.
Are you ready to make 2015 your year?
Thank you to everyone who has chosen to learn with me. You have inspired me to continue on this path of teaching with dedication and purpose. I have learned more from you then you will ever know!
Here’s what photographers are saying about learning with us:
“I can tell you this, Heidi. Hands down, going to your workshop was the best thing I’ve ever done for my business (and yes, you can quote me on that!). I’ve sung your praises to whoever will listen and even now, I’m applying the principles I’ve learned and keep going back to your workbook, the business plan, and all the millions of notes I took. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was floundering and ya’ll set my feet on the path and pointed me in the right direction, and for that I will love you forever!” ~ Megan M. April 2014 Workshop Attendee.
“The best workshop I’ve ever had!!! Absolutely amazing… Changed my life!”~Carlos Cunha, October 2013 Workshop Attendee.
“A few years ago, when I first came across Heidi’s work on flickr, it inspired me. I truly mean that. She *is* the sole reason why i decided to get into newborn photography. When I saw she was hosting her first workshop, I knew I HAD to attend. I didn’t care what the cost was going to be, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to put a price on the things she was going to share. And I was right, the workshop was so much more than what I thought it was going to be. Heidi and Shaun were complete open books- i can’t stress that enough. I loved how honest and open they were about what they do, how they work, and ultimately how to be successful at this baby business. I walked away with so much more than I thought I would that day: *amazing* knowledge that has helped my work, my business and my self esteem. It also gave me an eye for how to improve my photography, and what I love most, a very dear friend who I feel privileged to have. In the current world of photography there are so many workshops to choose from, I’ve taken several, and I will say that Heidi’s is by far the best investment I have made. She’s an amazing teacher, one of the sweetest people I know and such an incredible photographer. You will never regret learning from one of the most talented photographers there is in the field today.” ~ Melissa Fogg, In-person After-the-shoot Workshop Attendee.
“I cannot say enough good things about the Heidi Hope Workshop. It was the first full workshop I have taken and I have since held every workshop up to it in comparison – and none of them have topped – or even come close to – my experience at Heidi’s. What caused the HH workshop to stand so high above the others was a combination of the breadth of material covered (posing, shooting, creative but also marketing, business, and pricing), the organizational and planning that went into it to create the best experience for the participants, the friendliness of the team, and the information communicated to the participants both leading up to the workshop and all throughout the workshop. Everyone was an open book, very welcoming, incredibly knowledgeable and more than happy to share whatever they could with us. It was hands down the best workshop I’ve ever taken which I have continued to tell attendees at every other workshop I’ve been to! The others have been very good, with some of the other top photographers in the industry, but your workshop was truly amazing. It has been four months since I attended and I still think about it, and the things I learned in it, on a daily basis. I left more inspired that I thought I could ever possibly be. Seriously changed my life. Thank you!!!” October 2013 Workshop Attendee
“Heidi did a fantastic job of relaying material and introducing new topics during her “After the Shoot” Webinar. She was patient and concerned about everyone involved (ie. sound checks, walking through webinar interface, answering questions, etc.) I loved the tour of the studio, introduction to Adobe Bridge and seeing how a professional photographer manipulates Photoshop to their advantage. At first, I hesitated at the cost of the webinar because struggling artists are simply that, “struggling”. I took the plunge and decided to sign up for the course. That same evening I began utilizing the techniques into my own work and was blown away! I have already received rave reviews of otherwise “good shots” that are now “AMAZING” and “STUNNING”! Well worth the price!!! Heidi is truly a one in a million when it comes to her profession. Not only would I HIGHLY recommend this course, but I myself am signing up for every webinar she offers in the future!” ~ Christy Manis, Editing Webinar Attendee
“I participated in your first online workshop and it was amazing! I didn’t want it to end! I learned SO much about Photoshop and editing in general. I was using Photoshop Elements at the time and realized there were too many things I couldn’t do, so I ordered CS5. Once it came in, I spent hours and hours using the techniques you went over during the webinar. I re-edited so many sessions and couldn’t believe the difference. There were so many methods and ways of doing things that I didn’t even know existed. I also paid closer attention to my settings in future sessions and learned how to do a composite image (amazing). My workshop was in 2011 and to this day, I still pull out my “Heidi File” and refer back to my notes. You are so incredibly talented. Taking your workshop changed my photography completely. I am ALWAYS striving to be better and am VERY interested in what you might be offering in the future. Thank you so much for sharing your talent with the rest of us. ” ~ Teri Long Webinar Attendee