Figuring out your footing in business can be challenging. Things can change, you can decide to pivot into a different niche and you have to deal with the dreaded thing of setting boundaries and saying no. We are covering what it entails to create your success, build boundaries, and avoid being emotionally drained. This means what to do, what not to do, and how to navigate social media in a time that feels like we need to be married to it every minute of the day.
About Ashtyn Brooke
Ashtyn Brooke is a wedding photographer and entrepreneur educator. She was a case manager in social work who was underpaid and emotionally drained. She’s originally from the Midwest and she went to school, got a degree in social work, and picked up a camera on the side.
About a year after she and her husband got married, they moved to Florida and she wanted to pursue photography as opposed to a degree. So six months into moving to a completely new market, she took the plunge, as scary as that is and was just going to go full-time and see where this takes her.
She had been shooting a few weddings back in Ohio and sessions in between just figuring out what she loved shooting. Ashtyn felt the need in the beginning to kind of just feel it out and try to shoot sessions for families and couples. She was totally in that same lane and six months into moving to Florida she went full time, it just went full-blown. She decided she was going to do whatever it takes to be her boss and have her schedule, have her freedom, and flexibility and she never looked back since then.
She’s been full-time since 2017 shooting weddings. Ashtyn built her business in Florida but she did travel for like three years since she had weddings internationally and now her husband is moving back to the Midwest. So she’s now a Michigan wedding photographer, which she’s excited about.
Transitioning and change
Transitioning was terrifying for Ashtyn; she didn’t have a plan. She knew she could fall back on her degree but her heart wasn’t in it, so she went in full-time. She felt scared, not sure who to lean on as a friend. Also, she hadn’t replaced her salary at the time of going full time.
Even though her husband was working then, it wasn’t easy to lean on. Going full-time into a business requires full-time energy. Even though you don’t necessarily see the income, you believe that it’s going to work out. So you just dedicate every single day to the business.
Everyone’s situation is different if you have a full-time job, and you’re transitioning into your business. It isn’t necessary to quit your work when you haven’t replaced your full-time income yet and the situation varies greatly.
Replacing your income
If you are living alone, and single, and the income that you have to replace isn’t very much, like a part-time teaching position, know that you’re going to replace that income so much sooner if you set your mind to it.
There’s just the fear that’s holding you back, you get a paycheck every two weeks, and that comfortability is often what freaks people out. But in reality when it is your plan A and you are dedicating every day every week of the year to that job as you do.
Make it work and get creative. You might get kind of scrappy, but let that passion and that fire for running a successful business drive you.
You probably will never feel ready as far as replacing a salary because if you have another job that’s taking so much of your time and energy, your business isn’t going to feel full-time, it’s not going to feel the effects of your full-time energy. So just trust the process, when you lean in and you are so dedicated you will find the ways, the resources, and the education to be full-time and stay full-time.
Investing in education before going full time or after?
Ashtyn didn’t think getting an education was an option back then when she was going full-time. The only thing she did was a workshop. She won a seat at a workshop she wanted to retake and it worked out well.
So this workshop is the only kind of education she invested in at that time after quitting her job. But after she went full time she invested in a ton of education and it was fine. Trying to build the foundation and the building blocks for her going full-time by herself, she had to invest in education. So she builds her foundation the right way.
How to handle rejection
Take the emotion out of it. The sooner you will feel more stable like literally, mentally, and emotionally stable about your business. Creatives are just naturally more emotional about how their work is received or booked. They attach a lot of emotion to what they do, and that’s understandable because we’ve all been there as creatives.
Do not see rejection as a failure but know that if you don’t book out weddings there’s something more important for you to do. Sometimes what’s more important for you could be just resting and not be overbooked because so much goes into just shooting on a Saturday in a busy season.
You have to learn how to be fluid to know that the right things will come and the wrong things will not be on your calendar. Know that what’s going to happen will happen. What’s meant to happen will happen and then you’re not distraught and you don’t feel like a failure.
So just stay open, keep an open mind about what’s meant to be for your schedule. It is not a reflection of who you are as a person or as a creative person. Look at everything as a growth opportunity. Learn how to communicate your value better to your client, and other things you could develop in yourself to be better. That’s success if you can change the way you view rejection. Expect to not get everything and you will generally be a happier business owner.
How to say no
It’s hard in the beginning, especially when you’re so focused on making a full-time income that you will take any job that comes your way. Ashytn remembered once she called a car dealership asking if she could take photos for them.
She doesn’t remember what they needed. But she remembered briefly considering it as another job and she was like, wait a minute, she wasn’t even qualified to take car photos and it was so out of her lane. It wasn’t what she wanted to do.
So her advice for people in those earlier years or early stages is to know what you want to do if you know for sure you love weddings. That is what you want to focus on and become an expert in. Then you have to keep the end goal in mind because these side shoots that just don’t feel your passion will burn you out.
Ashtyn was resentful towards herself in a season where she was overbooked and did shoots she didn’t like. She did some family mini sessions because she thought she had to do family mini sessions and they were horrible, she hated them! She knew this was not what she wanted to spend her time doing.
Why you should niche down
To be an expert the more you can niche down, the more value you’re able to market yourself with and you know specifically in weddings, people are paying a lot of money for a wedding. If they have the budget that you want for your bookings, you have to be an expert in or present yourself as a wedding photographer. Not a jack of all trades, not that you can do everything.
People who are looking for wedding photographers want to see that you know what you’re doing and you are ready to handle whatever your wedding might bring. So to market yourself, specifically as a wedding photographer is going to bring you the most success and more conversions because people will trust you more when they see that that’s your niche.
You wouldn’t necessarily market them on your website. Or maybe even on your Instagram if that’s where you’re getting a lot of leads. To niche down as much as possible in the end will create more profitability for you. You’ll also like yourself better.
It’s hard to turn down money, but know that your time and growth are valuable. And a ton of people get so burnt out because they fill their calendar with just money opportunities instead of remembering what is their end goal.
Ashtyn likes couples and weddings and that’s what she’s only going to take on, that’s what fuels her passion. Also, It comes back to you to fuel your artistic self when you stay in your lane.
Setting boundaries with your business
No one can tell you what your boundaries should be. You need to figure out what those boundaries are for yourself. Someone might be able to handle 30 weddings, some might only be able to handle 10. Also think about the type of client, the number of sessions, or what times or what days of the week you’ll like to shoot.
Ashytn remembered shooting every day of the week, anytime, doing all these sessions and was gone every night. She was gone on weekends for sessions and didn’t want to do that anymore. She readjusted her time and now only does sessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
You have to figure out your threshold. What your boundary is around work hours, and how many shoots a month can you do. Your boundaries are for your health and for you to stay excited and balanced as much as possible in your business and your schedule.
Create an income goal
Having an income goal helps you a lot. Ask yourself what do you want to make? What do you want to profit this year? And how can you disperse that income goal amongst weddings and sessions? As opposed to just setting yourself up to feel bad about yourself because you didn’t book that many weddings.
People miss the mark on having an income goal as opposed to just throwing out some weddings or sessions that they’d like to take on. A lot of people say, I want to make X amount of money. But it’s like why do you want to make that amount?
What’s that amount of money going to do for you? What’s the goal with the deeper meaning to hit that number or to hit that number of bookings? There’s always a deeper meaning. It’s like when you can come from that place instead of just coming from a goal to hit a certain number. You feel your mission is a lot stronger, you can put more heart behind it.
Offering value to your audience
It helps to have a much more balanced mindset right now where, if you don’t have value to offer in posts, it’s not necessary to post every day for the sake of consistency or algorithm, or engagement. Posting daily as opposed to having a healthy relationship with social media where you’re posting with value and intention is best. Not just for the sake of adding to the noise and adding to the online content. And that also abounds.
Look at the content you’re putting out and ask is it valuable to other people? Is it helpful for my audience? Is it helping my audience engage with me? And if it’s not checking all those boxes then maybe you might not have a healthy relationship with social media marketing.
People can post for fun, just share their life which is fine and different from this. Social media marketing is a big lead generator for Ashtyn so she’s fairly consistent on it. It is more valuable to post when there is a reason and intention behind it. Rather than just for the sake of putting something out.
If you’re going to do this for years, it is going to take and require you to not really get into the rush. You have more integrity in yourself when you show up in that way. You have more integrity in your business. And you like yourself better for the hard decision boundaries you’ll make.
So whether it’s the way you price yourself, the number of bookings that you have, the sessions you take on the amount of travel you have per month, make sure to never resent last year’s version of you. And that’s been a good motivator to consider being intentional about the choices you make in business.
Ashtyn created this kind of exhaustive business course specifically for the people who are in that place in their business. Whether they are going to go full time and they’re on the cusp. Or they’re new to running a business full time.
She wanted to cover several topics and all the topics that are useful to business. Topics like support, sustainability, and profitability in your business, which are the things that are required of entrepreneurs. Ashtyn created this course in 2020 and just poured everything that she does for her business, from client experience to social media marketing, to how she organizes her business, and how she does pricing and sales. She truly tried to cover everything that she did.
The way that she views her business, her mindset around business, just all the things that kind of trickle out to what it takes to be successful and put it in a self-paced video cord for people. She poured her heart and soul into it. It’s everything she could offer advice-wise to people and honestly what she wished she would have had for herself from the get-go of becoming a full-time photographer.
Ashyn Brooke can be found on Instagram, which is where she typically hangs out. Her courses are available on her website and she has tons of information on her Instagram highlights. She’d love for listeners to say hi and tell her where they found her so she can follow them back and be Instagram friends!
If you want some more helpful content like this, be sure to check out the Gold Biz Podcast!