Oh man y'all, today is the last work day of 2016! What a truly crazy thought. I feel like today should be completely magical or light and airy, but I'll honestly be following a regular routine - finishing details on this blog post, creating design proofs for a client, creating price proposals, and following up on emails.
My friend Lara Casey likes to remind us that there's nothing magical about January 1st, and while I do believe that is true, I am excited for a breath of fresh air that will come with Sunday. While this year was so so incredibly wonderful in many aspects - we got married (yay!), we traveled to Italy for our honeymoon, which was Zack's first time out of the country (so glad I got to be the one to experience that with him!), went to a handful of other friends' weddings, got to see my little sister graduate and start college (even joining the same sorority as me!), I became a Blue Ribbon Vendor with Southern Weddings and went to their fun SWV9 Launch Party in Chapel Hill, the list could go on and on.
While there were so many of those fun life events that made 2016 truly wonderful and a year I'll never forget, I can't help but feel overwhelmed at the end of this year. Overwhelmed from taking on too much work, overwhelmed from not sticking to structure which translated into working into the late hours of the night and during weekends, overwhelmed from the thought that I haven't saved enough money to begin the savings accounts I want to begin, etc. I could let these overwhelming feelings cripple me and keep me up at night (I am an ENFP after all!), but instead I am going to learn from what went well and what didn't go well in 2016 to create actionable plans for 2017 to ensure I won't feel this way throughout the upcoming months and years!
Y'all have probably heard me mention PowerSheets before, and I am excited to say that I have completed the first goal setting section of my PowerSheets to prepare for 2017! I met with another local creative to go through our goals together and help answer each others questions, which I highly recommend if you can.
My favorite part of this section of the PowerSheets is the Good Things, aka what worked in the last year, and the Challenges, aka what didn't work in the last year, section. It really did help prepare me for thinking through the lessons I learned from both the good and challenging things, and helped me to make my list of what I am saying no and yes to in 2017! In full transparency and for accountability, I wanted to share my lists with y'all here today! Hopefully these might help you in some way too, friend.
GOOD THINGS | WHAT WORKED IN 2016
photo by A.J. Dunlap
Cultivating friendships with planners, photographers and other vendors! | This was a big goal of mine for 2016, and will continue to be one for the upcoming years! Connecting with planners and photographers who share the same mindset of community over competition, the same love of what they do and care for their sweet clients, and share a similar artistic style as me allowed me to then meet so many wonderful brides and grooms who I may have never connected with otherwise! I do want to say that I have loved meeting and growing friendships with planners and photographers purely for the sake of getting to know them better and having fun chats with them through Insta stories (Lauren Carnes, I'm talking about you friend!). No pressure on the need to work together, simply forming a friendship through mutual interests - and if we happen to have a couple who would be a great fit to work together, that's exciting too! But if not, I am so thankful to simply have their friendships since working from home can get lonely from time to time!
Using Instagram Stories | This one might seem silly, but it has been so transformative! I love thinking about using Instagram Stories in a few ways - to expand on what I posted on my feed that day, to educate others on my artistic process, to showcase my real life (baking, watching football with Zack, etc.), and most importantly - connecting with others. Stories are such a great way to have more full-length conversations with others aside from simple comments on photos. You can carry on daily conversations (as I do with Lauren and a few other friends!) that help develop real relationships. I have also found that potential clients love interacting with me in this way! They have a chance to ask questions prior to reaching out officially via email. And, I have had countless potential clients say they love getting to know me better through my stories, even if we don't chat through the messages! Becoming more "real" through allowing them to hear my voice, see my face more frequently, and showcase my life to them creates a sense of trust that isn't as easily developed simply through posting photos on Instagram!
photo by the SC Stockshop
Using SC Stockshop Photos | Y'all know I love SC Stockshop photos, and my love for them really blossomed this year. In 2015, I was still styling many of my own photos. I love the art of photo styling, but quickly found it to be draining and costly. Taking the time to scour Anthro and West Elm for the best props, picking up flowers from the local market (or Whole Foods or Trader Joe's haha!), choosing a date that worked best with my photographer, spending hours styling and having her photograph the various images, waiting a couple of weeks for her to edit and send me my images, and then taking the time to crop and scale them appropriately for my blog, shop, and social media. Oof! I'm tired and getting a headache just thinking about what I used to do! Now, I have simply selected a handful of photos from the SC Stockshop that align with the colors and aesthetic of my brand and showcase my various design projects beautifully. All I have to do is pop my designs into her photos, add drop shadows, and I'm good to go! So much more streamlined! While you might see the price of her photos and have initial sticker shock (which you shouldn't friend, because they truly are so high res and professionally styled!), just think about how much I spent both time and money wise styling my own. Shay's photos end up being more affordable, and you can get so much more use out of them! Win win in my book!
Saying YES to a few fun passion projects like the Cash wedding | While I admit that I said yes to too many free "opportunities" and styled shoots this year, there are a few I look back on and am so happy I agreed to do simply because they were once in a lifetime opportunities that allowed me to stretch my creative muscles and have fun! Designing the "just married" sign for the Cash wedding (photographed by our own wedding photographer, Perry Vaile) was an example of one of those fun passion projects I'll never forget!
photo by Callie Davis of Nancy Ray Photography
Partnering with Southern Weddings | In 2015, I tried a variety of partnerships and advertising avenues that never amounted to anything. So, in 2016 I decided to be more intentional about my partnerships. Thinking through my ideal client profile, and really envisioning how her heart relates to and connects best with which blogs and magazines. Southern Weddings was a natural fit! I had a handful of brides contact me throughout my time as a bride blogger with them, and consistently get new orders based on our fun Custom Calligraphy Vows collaboration with Framebridge. So, requesting to become a Blue Ribbon Vendor was such a natural fit! I would recommend doing the same - really thinking through which brands your ideal client loves most, and reaching out to one, maybe two, of them to form partnerships that you pour yourself into fully!
Implementing HoneyBook | HoneyBook has truly been a game changer for me! If you haven't heard of it, it is a wonderful client management system. While I love the fact that it is designed beautifully and you can incorporate your own branded images, my favorite aspect is the streamlined process I have created within it. You can create amazing automated emails that are specific to each stage of your design process, and set up templates for invoices, agreements, questionnaires, and timelines. Those have saved me so much time, and present my work in a more professional way. I also love the activity section of HoneyBook that allows me, my bride, and even her planner to communicate and keep all of the pertinent details in the activity feed rather than in our email inboxes. Everything is in one place, making it so much easier to find than having to comb through dozens of emails to find that one inspiration image!
photo by Amy Nicole Photography
Continuing to teach | While I began my SJM Workshops in 2015, I continued to teach brush calligraphy and watercolor floral workshops throughout 2016! I feel as though I had a healthy mix of workshops I hosted this year, and honestly loved teaching all of these in-person workshops! The best part of teaching in-person workshops has been getting to meet my students and seeing their progress as we go through the class. While I loved being able to host so many workshops these past couple of years, I have been thinking a lot about both my work balance and about my ability to reach as many of y'all as possible who are eager to learn. So, I will be focusing my attention mostly on my SJM Art School for 2017! My Art School will have both of my core classes, Intro to Brush Calligraphy and Intro to Watercolor Florals, along with two new wonderful classes, Intro to Watercolors and Digitizing Watercolors. They will be in a lifetime access to a self-study, go-at-your-own-pace course with an online community and step-by-step PDF worksheets and homework to help guide you through your artistic journey. I am SO excited about them! My goal is to launch them for y'all in March, and I will be sharing more in early 2017! So what does this mean for my in-person workshops? Honestly, I'm not sure! I do hope to host more in 2017, but likely only a few. I can't wait to pour myself fully into those few, and will share more as I determine dates for them!
Sharing my story and how it relates to my art | For most of 2016, I was truly anxious to share about my past with Anorexia, and how the way I felt and the lessons I learned from my eating disorder impact the way I now communicate with my friends, potential and current clients, vendors, and audience on social media, as well as how it has transformed the way I create art. I was nervous that the topic was too taboo and too dark for my bright and cheery brand. But y'all, people crave getting to know the real you, rather than the pretty surface level you. Allowing y'all to learn more about my past and how it influences my art and my communication only helps you understand and appreciate my art on a more pure level, which truly is the goal of any artist. I will say that I have to thank my friend Rachel Tenny so much for being brave enough to share her own story and encourage others to do so through her My Body is Enough campaign. If it wasn't for Rachel, I'm not sure I would have made the leap to share, but I am so thankful that I did. I hope to share and connect with y'all even more in 2017, and can't wait to get to know you on a deeper level, friend.
photo by Audra Wrisley
Refining my design style and connecting with brides who are ideal clients turned friends! | Throughout much of 2015 into early 2016, I wasn't accurately portraying my real artistic style. I would take on too many styled shoots and design projects outside the scope of my aesthetic - many with a more simplistic organic or bohemian style. Sharing the images from those shoots would then only attract more requests for the same type of style. It wasn't until I sat down and did some exercises to create the wording behind what my signature style truly is that I was able to articulate both to vendors and brides what my style is, and why I will only design in that way. My artistic style is best portrayed when I am able to truly infuse the personalities and unique love stories of my couple into their designs in a way that visually portrays their love for one another and therefore creates heirloom pieces that will be cherished for years to come and kept as keepsakes alongside their wedding photographs and bridal accessories. I am able to best do so through intricate designs infused into each inch of their suites - from icons representative of their relationship in their custom watercolor wedding crests to a painted portrait of the two of them on the back of their invitations for their loved ones to keep and frame to a line art illustration of the bride's lace veil that has been passed down through generations as a border on their response cards. Designing in this way and using this wording to communicate in all of my social media posts, blog posts, and website copy has allowed me to connect with potential brides who truly appreciate visual storytelling and heirlooms! I love love love all of my sweet SJM Brides, and cannot wait to meet even more brides in 2017 to welcome into our family!
Phew! Y'all, I love writing posts like this. It really does help to allow you to appreciate everything that went well in business in the past year, doesn't it? I had initially envisioned combining this post with my post about the challenges from 2016, but that would have made it a novel - more so than it is already! That post will be coming shortly, and I can't wait to delve into the lessons I learned from these challenges with y'all.
Are you working through your PowerSheets in preparation for 2017? A little birdie told me that the full year PowerSheets are sold out, but you can still grab your 6 Month PowerSheets here! I'd love to be accountability buddies, leave a comment if you want to do so!