Have you ever felt alone in the industry and not sure where to start making friends and building a community? We are going to cover all of the ins and outs of how to create your community and all the steps you need to know.
Beba Vowels is an expert at bringing people together and fostering a community. When she isn’t taking beautiful wedding photos, she’s taking the time to encourage business owners to build a community around themselves. She’s a jack of all trades, a photographer, and a content creator. She shoots weddings, works with brands, and has a huge passion for the community. She also hosts workshops, where she focuses on building a community and helping other small businesses as well.
So if you have been finding it very hard to build a community, with Beba Vowels you will understand better the steps on how to create your community. She is going to share her story with us and how building connections have helped her create the business where she’s at today.
A background on Beba Vowels
Beba Vowels lives in Southern California but is originally from Kansas, which is why she is so big about communities. When she first moved out to the area, she had no community. She was 18 when she moved out and got married. She was young and didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life.
Beba was following a girl on Instagram because she was doing a lot of military homecoming photography, and her husband is a Marine. The girl went on this trip to Iceland for a wedding, which she thought was the coolest thing. She started following the other photographer that went along on the trip, Olivia Markle, also and two days later they posted that they were hosting a workshop. She thought this sounded like a fun opportunity and wanted to go.
Beba signed up for it even without a camera, and the workshop was life-changing for her! She proceeded to buy a camera two weeks after that. After the workshop, she was so motivated and inspired that she quit her job at Starbucks the next day and just threw herself into it and four years later she’s here now. Her husband’s employment, really helped her take the leap into photography!
What does finding a supportive community means?
Everything for Beba started at the workshop. She was one of the only girls who lived in California that attended the workshop, so she offered to pick up a bunch of the girls from the airport. During that drive, they all got very close to each other and then once they got to the Airbnb, they all wanted a room together and now are close friends.
She learned helpful tips at the workshop but learned more in those four-hour drives by talking to people and learning their stories: what they do, and how they’ve grown. All of them were from different parts of the country, which made everyone’s story unique.
Beba wanted to make as many connections as she could and she wasn’t doing that on purpose. She just wanted to be fully immersed in the community. Being the youngest girl there, she didn’t quite know how to work her camera and was shy and reserved at that time. It was hard to throw herself into that without knowing anything. Listening to people talk and tell their stories helped build her confidence.
After that, she just connected with people on Instagram because she came back to her tiny spot in Southern California. She watched on Instagram and saw what other people were doing and started reaching out, in a very genuine way.
To connect with people on Instagram, you need to cultivate real friendships, pay attention to what they are doing, and be interested in their life outside of photography. Reach out to other photographers and go out of your way to reach out to other vendors and brands. When you focus on connection and building a solid relationship with people, that’s a better foundation.
Having a real connection and relationship with people, helps you grow in so many ways that you would have never expected.
How to start making connections with people
In the first two to three years of Beba’s business, she was looking up to certain people and aspired to be like them. But she was hyper-focused on one person at a time.
It’s important first to be your person and make your art. Do not seek to imitate another’s work and do not reach out to people to tell you how to make your work as theirs. We are all artists and creatives, and you need to be creative in every aspect of your business.
Think about somebody you admire and figure out what you like about them. Just let them know, reply to their stories and engage in their posts; comment, like, and share. It takes a lot of work to cultivate a connection so give it time.
Genuine relationships like friendship take work. Even with your friends from high school, you still have to put in the work to be friends with them. And that’s the same in the photography community. Commenting on their Instagram posts, replying to their stories, joining their lives, and talking to them are important.
Those people that Beba looked up to, the ones she hyper-focused on, she would usually sign up for their workshops. She would meet them in person and let them know she lives in California. There are so many big photographers who shoot weddings, so she would just throw in a request that if they had weddings in California she would be happy to help out in any way possible.
If you are trying to make a connection with a wedding photographer, it’s not just reaching out. Show them how you can be of service to them, rather than how you can take from them.
Be genuine, use common sense, and don’t come off as a “creepy stalker.” Don’t come off like someone who wants to just take from them. Genuinely want to build a connection with them and let it be mutually beneficial.
How community factors in business
At the first workshop Beba had, she looked back at the information she learned. The first thing she learned was that you need to have a good pricing guide. She didn’t have any so when she got home, she made her website, and other than that it was mostly about connection shooting.
In the beginning, she shot for free all the time, like three to four times a week since she lived in California and was able to find the opportunities. She started networking on Facebook because she didn’t have her hometown friends to hop on that.
She started creating content that she wanted to be shooting, so she was setting up shoots all the time. Reaching out to people dating for 5 years and more as a wedding photographer, where they might remember her as an option when they decide to get married. It’s just all about the connections. Reach out to people who might be getting married, for example, seniors in college, and communicate with them to set up shoots.
One sure way of growing your clientele is just by creating the content that you want to be shooting and getting paid for. Outside of that, it all goes back to all the connections Beba made at the workshop. That took her from having no clients to being booked out for the whole year.
Reaching out to fellow photographers
Let photographers who live around you know if you could help out. Beba told all the girls at the workshop that she lived in southern California, and one of them was a very good photographer that Beba felt was too good. She didn’t feel she was advanced enough to be her second shooter.
So she just told her that if she ever needed a hand she would be available. She talked to her two to three times after that. She referred Beba to many of her friends and that’s how her business started to grow.
Beba had been doing photography for five months and she felt she didn’t know that much. Her friends referred to her, even though they hadn’t talked since the workshop, she was still referring to her because she put herself out there. She was just trying to make as many connections as she could. Even though they didn’t need her as a second shooter, she was still being referred to people.
Beba wanted to dive into travel and shooting weddings. So Olivia, the girl who hosted the workshop, lived in Arizona then and so she asked her directly if she could come to stay with her and set up shoots and she agreed! Now they are best friends and talk almost every day.
It’s just the little things you do to keep in touch. Cultivate relationships. Keep growing your connections and that will lead you in ways that you don’t expect. Because of Beba’s friend from China or her friend from Hawaii, she got many of her first weddings in Hawaii. She never expected that picking up this girl from Hawaii from the airport would lead her to host a workshop in Hawaii.
Put yourself out there and make connections. It doesn’t matter if you make connections with somebody who has 500 followers or make connections with somebody who has 100,000 followers. It doesn’t matter. Somebody with 2000 followers is probably going to give you more opportunities than somebody with 100,000 followers.
You can also work with vendors similar to your field, you can get in good with a planner, a florist, or a hair or makeup artist. You can all refer to each other, making the wedding day more fun. Connect and work with vendors you love and just make connections in every way possible. You can never over-network!
What connecting looks like
When 2020 happened, all the weddings got pushed to 2021. Beba had shot 5 weddings at the beginning of 2020 between January and February. It wasn’t bad and she was feeling ready for the year.
During a trip, the photographers she was traveling with were shooting for a couple of different brands. Beba thought that this was cool, the relaxed feel of just being with fellow photographers and taking random pictures. It doesn’t have to be some huge production, like engagement, chat sessions, weddings, or the normal things you’re used to as a photographer. So she just started reaching out to brands and making connections!
Utilize your connections and do something different. Reach out to brands and put yourself out there. Nine times out of 10 either they’re not going to reply or you’re going to get a no and sometimes it’s a bummer. For one company that says no, there are 50 other companies that you can reach out to.
Change your thinking first, then you’ll be able to successfully reason for the shift. Also, put the boundaries on yourself and know your limits.
Reaching out to brands
Utilizing connections and reaching out to brands or vendors can be crazy. If you know anybody who you know uses something or sees something that they use and you like, just make it more personal. Beba basically looks on social media and will see brands that may be an opportunity to reach out to. She looks for brands that utilize mobile photos vs. professional photos, to know which brand may be best to reach out for.
But what should you say to these opportunities? Don’t go “Hey I’m a photographer can I shoot this, this, and this?” Instead say, “Hey, I’m a photographer who lives in Southern California, I’m friends with Taylor and I saw that she was shooting with your product. I loved it!” Tell them why you love their product, especially businesses because they are like their babies.
Brag on your past collaborations with brands and successes. If you work with a brand and find that your images helped them crush a launch or make more sales, brag on that! Businesses will want to know this!
Also, make sure it’s a mutually beneficial thing. You are letting them know how you can serve them as well!
Showing up for your Community
Beba has something called Roamers, which are her retreats that she runs. A few years ago, before Covid was a thing in 2020, she asked a guest speaker to come to speak to her retreat, where she talked about all kinds of communities and giving back to your community, and the real purpose behind your business. This guest speaker was phasing out of weddings and into brands and that was super inspiring to Beba.
Thus came her idea to have a workshop that’s weddings and brands because she felt nobody out there was doing that. Most people are either brand photographers or wedding photographers but you can definitely do both.
For Beba, showing up for her community is fostering, and creating a community for people to come in and be a part of, which is what she tried to do with Roamers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a family photographer, wedding photographer, or brand photographer, you can get an opportunity from anybody that you meet. Just put yourself out there and be a part of something.
On social media
Showing up for her Instagram audience has been a struggle for Beba, but she has transitioned over time and just keeps being herself on her Instagram stories. She’s also big about trying to reply to every DM that she gets because you never know the opportunities that are going to come in.
Followers don’t matter, so treat everyone with respect. In 2020 Beba went viral on TikTok for moms. So although having two different audiences, she still gets collaborations and brand deals. It didn’t translate to her Instagram because then people would see that she’s a photographer and business coach for photographers.
Having different audiences can be challenging if you don’t have a strong foundation but it’s best to tie it all up together. Instagram is hard because it is one of those things where you want people to come across what you do, who you are, who you serve, how you serve them, and what they’re going to benefit from you when you’re all these different things. So just find your content pillars and make them make sense under one.
Beba’s biggest piece of advice
Make it your priority to create and foster a community and just focus on making connections. Know what that can do for your business. Coming from a girl who was 19 years old, new, with nobody, no connections, also kind of nervous about what people would think that she got married at 18 years and from a small town. Just put yourself out there!
It is hard. But once you do it, it can be the most rewarding thing and really help your business. Personally, it helped Beba grow so much, especially with interacting with people in the military community.
These skills help if you’re more of a shy person because putting yourself out there will help your business and also help you personally. You grow and become more confident. Once you’re confident it can make your life easier! You are sure that you are a good person who’s going to bring value to people’s lives and let people know without telling them exactly but also showing them.
If you’re wanting to learn, don’t just show up to things just because oh well, they said you need to. You need to figure out why you’re doing things. What are you doing it to grow? Are you doing it by connections? Are you doing it to help them? And are you doing it to hopefully become somebody’s assistant someday?
Beba did a free event a few weeks ago and the girl there doesn’t even do photography. She’s just a VA and she felt this would be a good opportunity as there are a lot of photographers there who probably need a VA. She saw an opportunity and she seized it to come and make connections and put herself out there.
When you put yourself out there, it’s so rewarding. It’s an experience you need to have and you just have to do it and see for yourself.
Think outside the box or outside of your industry in your niche; there are opportunities everywhere!
It’s almost like you hit a point where you are just confident in the fact that you are just going to show up. There will be insecurities, but by showing up you’ve just gained more confidence. The more you will put yourself out there and make connections, the more confident you’ll be.
You don’t have to just be extroverted, you can be introverted also. Just be 100% yourself. You can be a reserved person, you can be the person who isn’t the center of attention all the time. And still, be so successful, as long as you’re confident in who you are! Figure out who you are rather than trying to be somebody that does not exist.
Beba Vowels can be found on Instagram. She also has her Roamers business which is an amazing space for photographers, with free zoom calls, free events, and content day retreats. She has an online shop, her presets, and a bunch of other fun things. But Roamers are her favorite because it’s a community. Check it out!
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