A couple (okay maybe a few… maybe several…) weeks ago I popped on Instagram Live to share what’s-a-been-a-happenin’ in CGP/Harbour Affair Land in the last year. What was supposed to be a sub-10 minute update turned into a 20+ min hashing while friends popped on and off (Instagram Live is HARD, y’all!)… and I’m finally getting to the recap, in case you missed it… or the the thought of watching-Celia-for-freaking-20-min stressed you out (don’t worry, it would for me, too).
So here’s the recap… with only mild soliloquy.
2018: The Good, the Ehhhh, and the Fugly (with Bonus Game-Changers)
- Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems: I was hit with a massive and very unexpected tax bill early in the year (problems of doing better than expected last year!), despite paying quarterly taxes and having set-aside cash to cover additional tax liability. My gear also experienced significant equipment issues, despite regular maintenance – it required major repairs or total replacements of a few pricey pieces. It nearly wiped out every dollar I had in my business. (Silver lining? Never went into debt or put anything on a credit card. But it was still REALLY tough.)
- Hustle Blindness: Having experienced said cash-flow probs, I let the scarcity mindset and emotions dictate a few too many choices – and I said “Yes” to a few things I knew I shouldn’t, knowing FULL well I wasn’t the right person or it wasn’t the right time, and ended up regretting it too little too late. Lots of learnings here. (Biggest ones? Trust your gut. Be honest. Know it’s okay to WAIT. Stay focused, you blonde buffoon.)
- Entrepreneurial Implosions: Having let fear, perfectionism, and wanting to do-all-the-things guide my choices, I spread myself insanely thin. While I prayed for a change in my business still using my skill set and clarity in that process, I didn’t know exactly what I was aiming at… so I shot at it ALL. More on that below.
- The Burn Out: After months without replenishing the tank — super early mornings, late nights, caffeinating all day and not being able to ‘calm down’ without a giant glass of wine at night, harder workouts to ‘burn off’ the ‘bad stuff,’ going weeks without taking an actual day off, 10+ hour wedding days, etc. — my body was pleading for a change. Back in June, the bottom fell out. I ignored all the signs of exhaustion and anxiety and kept trudging forward, even when there was no real end in sight. One morning after waking up with a nagging pelvic pain (for the 4th day in a row), I barely made it through the end of a morning photo shoot before the pain completely took over. I called my doctor, holding back tears, and asked what to do – “Get to the ER.” Hours of painful poking and prodding later, I was told I had ovarian cysts, signs of endometriosis (to be confirmed later by my lady doctor), and had ultimately suffered a panic attack on top of it. Should John and I ever decide to have a family, our chances will be that much harder now. I felt beat up and sore and defeated the next two days after coming home from the hospital, knowing something had to give…
- Delayed Travels: Within about a week of my ER visit, most inconveniently, John underwent unexpected emergency surgery for an eye-condition that he’d been dealing with for a while and had taken a gnarly turn for the worst. By the time we had gotten my business out of the hole, our personal finances were impacted with significant medical bills. Just as we were getting ready to pull the trigger on taking our belated honeymoon trip for our 6th anniversary, we had to make the decision to turn those funds towards more productive financing. So, we decided it would have to wait one more year. Again.
- Hard Work Wasn’t Enough: Despite using every waking hour I had to get everything done and take on MORE, I just felt we weren’t accomplishing other financial goals we wanted to make; and it was my fault. I let myself ‘be’ small and ‘grateful’ for opportunities from ‘friends’ and ultimately these experiences left me drained without much to show for it. I undercut and over-delivered myself… and it not only brought me more non-‘dream’ clients, but it practically encouraged others to ask for their piece of the Harbour Affair pie at a reduced price.
- The Comparison Beast: Because I found myself in the constant state of “do,” I didn’t leave time to grow, create, and put out the vibes I wanted TO catch my ‘dream’ clients. My website and social pages were a MESS, and I spent WAY too much time thinking I’ll never ‘get’ where ‘they’ are with my dumpster of an online presence.
- Ready for a Change, but Not Sure What: Despite all the chaos of all-the-things, I knew I needed a change but wasn’t ready to leave the entrepreneurial space – although I was tempted more than I’d like to admit. I finally found a little space to breathe and get honest with myself – and a few opportunities that felt REALLY good to get involved with presented themselves. I started moving my skill set to a more grounded space, and it felt right as it blended several of my favorite things. Though it wasn’t easy – it required serious hustle and presented its own self-doubts and challenges… but it was exciting in the process.
- Letting Go, Cutting My Losses: I tried really, REALLY hard to make a few things happen this year that just didn’t get traction – and painfully had to call them a loss and move on… to find a way to explain to people they just can’t work in this time and this space… and, maybe, not with me. A few features in my business, a few investments, a few community opportunities. While ultimately they did become ‘good’ things in weird ways after the fact, it was SO hard not seeing things through or learning that not all great ideas are going to be received well.
- Letting Big Goals Fall to the Wayside: Similarly, I fell “short” (and y’all know there’s not much ‘short’ about me) on a few goals this year. The kind of goals that were “THIS is the YEAR!” kind of goals, and it kind of stinks I just didn’t get ‘there.’ Not to say they can’t happen this coming year… and not to say they didn’t at least get started… so, there’s that.
- It’s Biznazz Time: I hired a business coach, Brooke Olsen (thank you for the recommendation, Lauren Carnes!), and she set. me. STRAIGHT on pricing, dealing with clients, and off-loading or out-sourcing the things holding me back. She also put a real puff in my chest and gave me the confidence, tools, and support to stand a little taller and learn the value of “No” as I refined my business. She also was basically a therapist as I remember calling her in a panic and close to tears when got a project offer for something I felt I ‘had’ to take and honestly just couldn’t stomach saying yes to: “If you’re looking for permission to NOT do it, for what it’s worth, I’m giving it to you.” To feel free and empowered in my business for the first time in a LONG time was worth every penny I invested in her – and myself. I can’t recommend her enough.
- Claiming My Space on the Interwebs: New website in the works and it’s becoming a serious labor of love… and I’m so glad patience is teaching me to love the process in this one. Y’all, Megan Martin is a whiz on the ‘puter machines (and another Lauren Carnes rec’!) – and she’s forever patient with my detailed list and bizarre requests. I’ve been working behind the scenes to add some serious Harbour Affair pieces to enhance the overall experience, and I almost feel like I’m about to birth a digital baby after months of progress and development. OH she will be beautiful, y’all.
- Growing the Harbour Affair Team: Did y’all know YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS BUSINESS THING ALONE? After getting super clear on my brand with Megan, re-organizing the nuts and bolts of my business with Brooke, and taking time to get back to a healthy place both personally and financially, I felt ready to onboard an assistant.
- Ally was a “let’s be BFF’s on Instagram” kind of friend then a client and NOW is the beautiful magical fairy behind some of the day-to-day things with Harbour Affair, speaking the same love language of analytics and organization and FUN that make the next steps and goals feel solid and exciting. She’s patient with all my goings-on and quick to get the job done!
- I also have the lovely Sabrina who I brought on last year to assist with my wedding editing workflow, and she’s helped SO MUCH in maintaining the look and consistency of my photography for my wedding clients while helping me stay on task and get hours back in my day.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t give endless love to my core 2nd shooters who put up with my obsessive detailing and loud-mouth during long and often CRAZY wedding days, making them fun and working their tails off: Alex Leaphart, Todd Barnett, and Kristen Brown.
- Through Sickness & Health, Richer or Poorer: Friends, John and I were tested this year – both personally and as a team. Having to find the strength and joy we needed while both of us were feeling pretty craptastic and still be each other’s ‘person’ was hard and at times exhausting. We’ve been through enough to know we were going to make it through and not let one another wallow or fall on bad habits to do it, but it took a LOT of discussions and getting clear to not fall in that trap. It took getting clear on what it’s all for… it took a few conversations and deeper diving with the Big Guy. It took closing ourselves off from the fray for a while to spend a little more quality time together – and not feel guilty for it.
- Let’s Talk About It: Y’all, I started seeing a therapist. And BOY I wish I had started sooner. I just started a couple of months ago (ironically my first session was the DAY they announced the evacuation for Hurricane Florence – talk about anxiety). We’re still working through the big feelings and emotional gunk of anxiety/depression/perfectionism, but it feels good to come to terms with my thoughts and emotions and get some guidance on how to work through them on the daily.
- Shifting the Business Focus: This is the cornerstone of 2018. As much as I love weddings and portrait work (and don’t worry, I’m still holding a select space for that in my business next year), there were too many moments and signs and gut-feelings around other opportunities to take my business towards something different. I missed writing. I missed working with and in the community. I missed the chance to connect people with missions and businesses and events. I love creating and designing and using photos to tell the bigger story. I love getting to know those stories on a deeper level. I found a way to make it all work in a new way of content development and coaching others on how to use social media in their businesses…. and only did so with the constant support of clients, friends, and colleagues who made sure I succeeded. YOU GUYS I found my ‘dream’ clients and feel constantly inspired and excited to work with them… and the work feels GOOD.
- Other Game-Changers and Survival Tools:
- The Book ‘Essentialism‘: For any other people-pleasing, “yes” saying, over-achieving Type A-ers out there, this book is a MUST. I finished it in 3 days via audiobook, listening during every minute I had. I’m listening to it again. For those of you who aren’t into the whole book, there’s an abbreviated version on the Tim Ferriss podcast.
- Ashlyn Writes “The Art of Efficiency” Course: While I feel I can’t review the whole thing entirely as I’ve only gotten through half the modules, I’m already employing fantastically practical business workflows that make my days and weeks feel less daunting. The course is closed for now but get on the list to see when Ashlyn does it again (she’s about to have a bay-bay so be patient!).
- Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University: Yep, we’ve become those people. As a closet “I like being creative but preferably within defined parameters” person, I’m loving the easy to follow guides and the –permission– to say “no” to things that don’t fall in-line with our goals. With student loan debt and health care bills, making a choice to live in a highly-sought after area (even our little neighborhood comes with the ‘Hilton Head tax’), and the overwhelming feeling of ‘having to keep up’ with everyone else, we needed something to help us get back in control and feel empowered to accomplish our goals – and be okay with knowing it may take a little while, but we’re. gonna. DO IT.
So. Uh. YEAH.
There it is, folks.
With just over a month left in the year, I’ve decided I’m ready to let go. Roll with it. Do my best and feel accomplished with that. Feel okay to say “No.” Stop feeling guilty about not doing-all-the-things. Start smiling like an idiot if I do and remind myself what’s coming instead….
… and OH YES, friends, there is definitely more coming in 2019.
And I’ll enjoy it… after a freaking joy and merriment filled Christmas holiday season.
Hugs & High Fives,