Nice To Meet Me Monday Series | Lynchburg Wedding Photographer
James and I had an interested start to our business a few years ago. We started out as a newbies in the wedding world together under James’ name. James had been into photography since middle school and started second shooting weddings before I was even into photography. He brought me along to shoots and I would hold the camera bag and make posing suggestions for the couple. A shoot or two later and I decided I would give this “photography thing” a try. I quickly fell in love with photographing our couples, all the wedding details, meeting all the families and friends, and capturing the wedding day! I remember being so proud of my images from my first shoot. The feeling of accomplishment and happiness for capturing our couple’s love story was life changing for me.
After 4 years of searching for the right career I finally felt like I had found what God had planned for my life! This really meant a lot coming from this girl who was determined that math & science was her future. After all, for years I never considered myself to be artistic or have any artist skills. So realizing this life was meant for me was incredible and immediately,
I had an incredible feeling of doubt in myself and that I wouldn’t make it.
Running a business is NOT for the faint of heart and we were just “faking it until we made it”! I knew that we needed education to stay in business, elevate our brand, grow our business, and find our purpose. This is where Katelyn comes in. For those who don’t know who Katelyn James is, HERE is her site that shares her story. I found Katelyn in 2015 as I was planning my wedding and when we started getting serious about wedding photography. I loved that Katelyn James Photography is based in Richmond, VA (a local VA girl) and that her work is known all over the world. I wanted quality education that was tested and showed results for students.
After following her story for a little bit I was hooked. She is a God fearing woman and a huge role model for not just my business but my life! I took a several of her online courses to learn more about light, editing, posing, etc. After each course, my skills grew and my work started to attract clients that I dreamed of having. Her education was exactly what I needed to push my business forward.
So about this time last year (November 2018), James and I went through some BIG life changing decisions. We left stable jobs that would no longer allow us to pursue this business and had to take the largest leap of faith in our married lives. I’m not gonna lie, those first few months were hard. We seriously contemplated closing up shop, moving back to our home town, and basically start our life over. The day I was going to announce on social media we were closing our business three things happened:
A friend of a friend inquired for wedding photography
Katelyn James released an exclusive Business Journey
That wedding deposit was just what I needed to enter in the Roanoke Bridal Show (where I booked most of my weddings for 2019) and pay my way to start the Katelyn James Business Journey!
Now how is that for a sign from God?!
It still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes. So you know what I did?? I booked that wedding and I made the financial commitment to join the Katelyn James Business Journey that only a certain number of students could take (now called the Katelyn James Business Collection). We decided to leave our comfort zones and quite literally take a leap of faith into the unknown during our most unstable months in our married life. And this leap of faith is what changed it all for us.
What is the Katelyn James Business Journey? (aka Katelyn James Business Collection)
This unique business journey is unlike any other education I have ever invested in. Each month Katelyn would send us hours of video content teaching us LITERALLY EVERYTHING she has done over her 10+ years in business. Each month we would tackle a new topic. She told us the good, the bad, the ugly, EVERYTHING. On top of the monthly videos she committed to Facebook Lives and active involvement in our exclusive Facebook group! I have truly learned so much not just from her but fellow students in the exclusive Facebook community!
In fact, I have some students that I cannot wait to meet in person! I am sharing this post today because TOMORROW is the live event!! I will also be sharing our experience meeting Katelyn and her team along with our mini vacay in Richmond! So make sure to follow along on Instagram!!
Check out the Katelyn James Business Collection HERE
What changed for us?
So each month we took a deep look into different parts of owning a photography business. Katelyn went into detail on why she does things the way she does, how she did it, and ways she made it unique for her team. One of the biggest concerns I had was I didn’t want to be a direct copy of Katelyn when implementing her teachings. I think she said it best:
“Even if you did everything the exact same as me, you can never be Katelyn James”
So with that in mind I worked through the homework each month and really committed to keep my brand true to who I am. Ever since I have implemented her teachings I have seen such a HUGE improvement in my business and personal life. Here are some different categories of changes that happened for us!
Personal Growth: James’ and my personality are so unique and have found ways to implement her teachings into our own workflow that is unique to us! I have seen my husband and business partner grow in ways I never even imagined. I have actually gained confidence in myself and my abilities to run a successful business! I used to hide behind the scenes through that “oh so perfect social media posts” when in real life I was falling a part . Over a year ago I definitely struggled behind the scenes making things work and on social media it looked like things were never better. Katelyn helped me realize that it is OK to not be ok. The sooner I realize my struggles and problem areas the better off my life, marriage, and business would be. I had to swallow A LOT of pride and bring some much needed help into my life.
I could tell a huge change in James as well! He started coming out of his shell more and because of this he even booked us a DREAM engagement session in Charleston, SC. Check that session out HERE. We met Rachel and Chris in the lobby area and learned they lived in Charleston, SC aka our favorite place on earth!! James stepped out of his comfort zone and asked them if they would like some engagement photos. A few months later we are in CHS photographing our first Charleston Engagement Session!! So if it were not for this course we would never have met these two amazing FRIENDS in Charleston.
Personal Branding: A more visible change I made in my business is sharing more personal things such as this very vulnerable post. I have shared some very personal things and have had so many people reach out loving these posts. I was so surprised to meet some followers that have LOVED getting to know James and I more for the past 2 years! I never realized how many people actually read my blogs and followed along until strangers started coming up excited to meet me!! I mean talk about an eye opening experience!! Katelyn’s education WORKS!! I have slowly but surely started gaining more and more followers and have been connected with the coolest people from around the world!
Our Unique Wedding Experience: We have personalized our wedding experience to represent who James and I are as business owners and people. We have taken Katelyn’s teachings and added to our experience for our couples. We are constantly trying to improve our skills, service, and products but we feel that after this Business Journey we have created a fun and unique wedding photography package. I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on behind the scenes!! There is so much more to come in 2020!!
Facebook Group: This was a scary step for me but I’ve loved it! I created an exclusive Emily Hancock Bride Facebook group! This group is only for my past, present, and future EHP brides. I have so enjoyed getting to know my girls more and keep up with them as life goes on. I know it can be a scary thought to have all of your past clients in one group but I can already see friendships forming and am so glad I did this!
In-Person Event: For the first time EVER I am planning my first in person event. This is going to be a girls day full of conversation and fun for my Emily Hancock Brides! I am still forming all those details but I am so excited to get together with 30+ brides in February!! Stay tuned for that post!
Bookings: So the first few years of business we consistently booked between 5-10 weddings a year. If we had booked those weddings at $5,000+ that would be all we would need to book but that was not the case. This year we booked 11 weddings and after almost a year of implementing Katelyn’s teachings I am already halfway booked!! My goal of 25 weddings may be increasing because booking season is about to be in full swing! It is just amazing to me to see the drastic change in bookings in just a matter of months! My goal of going full time in this business is closer than I thought it would be and I couldn’t have done it with out Katelyn.
Specializing: I made the very hard decision to niche down to only offer weddings! Up until this point I included family sessions, maternity sessions, senior sessions, etc. After learning all about how improve our wedding photography experience James and I decided to give up our “Lifestyle” portraits. We just finished our last lifestyle a few weeks ago and are so excited about our decision to specialize! We now refer all our families to talented friends of ours that specialize in Lifestyle sessions. Lastly, we have seen a drastic change in our inquiries for weddings since we made the switch!
Outsourcing: I never imagined I could afford to outsource anything!! I invested in a wonderful human being that edits most of my photos so that I don’t drawn in work. This also allows me to not only be present for family and have a social life but deliver wedding day galleries to my couples so much faster! This has been a HUGE burden lifted off of me and I couldn’t be where I am today without Sarah. Another huge pain point for me was the numbers. Taxes, legal stuff, and budgets are not my strong suit. Isn’t that the case for most people?? Well I decided this year to outsource my books and taxes to professiona
ls! WHOA!!! What a huge difference this made! It is also an immediate feeling of confidence in yourself and for your business doing this. I feel so much more secure when purchasing gear, saving for taxes, and being able to PAY myself!
Networking: I have also stepped out of my comfort zone with fellow vendors and our local wedding world. We have met and bonded with some INCREDIBLE vendors in the Roanoke and Lynchburg area. We are so fortunate to have a good support system with local planners, photographers, florists, and videographers. We have really embraced the Rising Tide Society quote: “a rising tide lifts all boats” and have seen the rewards of this attitude. Instead of hiding in the shadows of the comparison game, we stand beside our photographer friends and cheer them on!
Overcoming Doubt: James and I had a unique start in this industry. I will spare the details but let’s just say that after being told “My business will fail and I shouldn’t have a business because I have no talent” by local wedding professionals it made me even more determined to succeed! As someone who struggles with self confidence this really crushed me. But just seeing how God has used our skills to His glory and seeing how far has He taken this business in just one year is humbling. I wouldn’t trade those dark days for anything because they help me remember where I started and just how far we’ve come in our marriage, our life, and our business.
If you skipped all of that I totally understand, that was a lot of text. I hope you can tell just how passionate I am about this education! I have been a fan of Katelyn for years so when she announced her Business Journey (now called Business Collection) I knew that I had to take this journey with her and 600+ students. I cannot recommend her course enough and consider it an honor to be a part of the exclusive KJ Business Journey. I grouped my “changes” by topic for those skimming through to see what changed in my life and business for those who don’t have time to read this entire book of a post! 🙂
As our class has come to a bittersweet end (tomorrow) I wanted to share my journey with you. The good, the bad, and everything in between. Our weekly talks with KJ may come to end now (I’m trying not to cry!!) but I will forever be changed by this content. The investment I made in this journey has given me so much more than I ever expected and if I needed to, I would pay for this exact course over and over again. Follow along on Instagram to see our adventure in Richmond today and tomorrow!
PS: If you are considering starting a photography business then I would say the first things you need to buy would be: A camera and the Katelyn James Business Collection (really all of her courses).
A Note To Katelyn
(if this post ever finds her haha)
I am forever changed by this year with you. Your real stories, kind spirit, and heart for the Lord are truly inspiring and I so blessed that God has used you in such a way to inspire not just me but millions of other people. If I “grow up” to be half the woman you are I will be so lucky and blessed. You have saved my future family from so many struggles through your business and life experiences. The amount of content in this course makes my detailed heart happy. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute and felt like a kid on Christmas morning on the 3rd of every month! I had to buy the LARGEST notebook I’ve ever owned to keep all the printed pages of slides, homework, and my notes.
Even my husband, James, has enjoyed this content and being a part of the journey. We are a young couple that started out much like you and Micheal and your stories have saved so many nights of fights and arguments. I feel such a deeper connection with James which is something I never expected when signing up for a photography course. I have big plans for my business and I owe it to you and your team. I can’t wait to see what lies in store for your business and family and will forever be one of your die hard KJ Students (& fangirl!)!
Until next time,
Emily (& James)
Watch the recap of this event on Katelyn’s Youtube Channel here!
Hey there, I’m Emily! James, and I are a husband and wife wedding photography team based in Lynchburg, Virginia. We specialize in weddings and engagements and serve Virginia, DC Area, South Carolina, and beyond!
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