2018 in Review and My Goals for 2019
February 2018 was the first time I wrote a blog post about my intentions and dreams for the year ahead. It was also the first time I really tried to set goals for the year ahead that were other than “work & keep working” or “finish school and get into a university”. Those kind of goals are just expected, they’re simply what you ought to do. There’s not a lot of soul-digging that’s required to set those sort of goals. Last year was only the second time in general that I allowed myself to sit down with a big piece of paper and map out where I wanted my life to go, without worrying about how long it would take to get there or how far away from my current reality it would be. The first time I did this kind of envisioning a few years back was just for play, but it led me to realise I really craved living closer to the countryside and it was a catalyst for me putting those dreams in action, leaving London and moving to a small town in East Sussex. That experience allowed me to see the power of setting goals, however wild they may seem. Because sometimes through that process of actually admitting to yourself that you have those dreams you might just realise that they’re not as wild as you think they are. And you might even just get enough courage to go after them.
Last year I simply put my dreams down on paper and decided that they were my goals for the year. It was ambitious. But it was also necessary. By doing that, I allowed myself to dream without boundaries, to envision the bigger picture, to aim beyond my own self-imposed limits. I didn’t achieve all the goals I wrote down then. But what I realised at the end of 2018 is that I achieved all but a couple of those that actually mattered. And had I not set them down as goals at the start of the year, I don’t know if they would have actually happened. I believe that writing down my dreams helped me find ways to actually achieve them. I spent the year working towards them and keeping my eyes out for opportunities. But the thing I chose to do differently this year is that I decided to get more specific with my goals. Last time I simply set the goals, but I didn’t even try to work out how realistic they were or how I will go about achieving them all. I worked it out with some more specific goals as time went on and I am sure that’s a huge part of why I managed to achieve them. But as to the rest of them, I just wrote them down and let them be. It’s no shock they didn’t come about in the end.
This year I chose to be more focused with my goals. I still allowed myself to dream big and set some huge goals, but I tried to think more about what is actually possible to achieve within a year and however big or small the goals is to figure out how I would get there step by step as the year goes. I do believe it’s important to stay flexible with your goals and remember that life will happen regardless of how you make your plans, and there’s always a need for some juggle room to accommodate all the unexpected challenges and changes on the way. I would also, in hindsight, make a distinction between my goal setting this year as opposed to 2018. I feel that in 2018 I wrote a list of dreams rather than goals per se. They had a different quality to them and were things I would have loved to happen, but didn’t actually have the drive to put in the work towards. Whereas this year I aimed to write down goals. And break them down into bite-size steps so I could see clearly a way to achieve those goals one step at a time. And I know that even if things don’t pan out exactly as I’ve mapped them on my yearly calendar, even if I get 70% or 30% of work done that would get me closer to accomplishing my goal, it would still count as a success, because that’s a heck of a lot more progress than simply writing a dream on paper and not taking a single step to make it happen. It’s an exciting and new terrirory for me to plan so clearly and so far ahead. It’s giving me a sense of direction and purpose that I’ve been craving for years and I am excited to get to December 2019 and reflect on how this has worked in terms of my sense of fulfilment, happiness and success of my goals. Who knows, it might all turn out to be another learning experience and a flop, or a huge success. I will keep you posted and update you at the end of year, I am sure!
Now before I share my goals for 2019 with you all, I decided to do a review of how 2018 has gone. I allowed myself some time here and there all through December to reflect back upon the year and to envision what I wanted my 2019 to be, look and feel like. What I didn’t expect to realise through this process is just how much further ahead I had gotten than where I was a year ago. When you live in the future, as I too often do, it’s so easy to miss out on seeing all the growth and progress that you’re actually experiencing. My mind often relentlessly analyses all the ways I am not yet enough, rather than appreciate the ways I have grown stronger and more capable. I have to make a conscious effort to stop myself and look back to remind myself just how far I, or my business have actually come.
Personally, I find other people’s yearly review blogs incredibly insightful and revealing of the reality of running a business and working towards your dreams. The key lesson I take away in reading these sort of blogs is always that growth takes time. But it is also that we can and do achieve more in retrospect, than we think we have whilst we’re still in the midst of all the chaos. The metaphor that comes to mind when I think of this is always that of cleaning a home. Each room becomes a bigger mess in the process of getting it organised and clean. It is only once you finish up that you realise how much impact you actually made. I try to remind myself of that principle when I work on different areas of my business. I hope that my sharing of the messy stages of my year and the clarity that each stage has brought to my life and business in the end will help you in reflecting upon yours and give you an honest insight into the work & mess that is just a natural part of gaining clarity and achieving our goals.
2018 in Review
The highlight of my year has definitely been the work that I have created. Hence the post of my Best Work of 2018 I shared last week. I got to work with some amazing people & brands this year and I am immensely grateful for each of these opportunities and connections.
I want to celebrate the good that this year has brought to me, but I will also go into the trials and challenges I faced this year in the quarterly review in the latter part of this blog.
Some of my highlights of the year were:
I got a desk in December 2018 and we rearranged our bedroom to create a dedicated work-scpae for my business. I finally started to feel like I could take myself seriously. It was a huge level-up from working at my coffee table or couch.
I went part-time for a month and then full-time with my business for 6 months. I’ve had to pick up some part-time work again as the financial side of things was not as consistent as I needed it to be, but in those months where photography was all I could focus on I made some huge leaps forward and I don’t regret trying to make it work. I only feel like I’ve grown and learnt lots from this.
Working with Paper Boat Documentaries on creating a video for my brand. Their story-telling skills are incredible and I am so grateful to have been able to work with them this year.
I created my logo & rebranded my website. It has led to a lot of clarity about my brand, my vision, my why, niche and my voice.
I worked with Olivia Bossert as a coach and took some steps forward I really don’t think I would have done without her support.
I started a monthly newsletter & stayed committed to it each month. That’s my most consistent content to date!
I really grew my community on Instagram and made real life friendships through this little app. Through convenient circumstances and thanks to this little app I got to maintain in-person friendships with other creative & soulful women despite us living in different countries. I also met lots more people locally and made friends where I live. My aim for this year is to deepen those friendships and to connect with even more people in these parts and further afield.
I was on Grow With Soul Podcast run by Kayte Ferris. This interview brought me a lot of clarity in terms of my content & online presence. But most of all - it brought a lot of awesome people my way.
I went to Lithuania and spent time with my family after 2 and a half years! It was incredibly nourishing for my soul and I cannot wait to go again this summer.
Quarter 1: January to March
In February I quit my job & went full time. In the first half of the year I was excited to up my game and my mind was full of ideas about what I wanted to shoot. In these first quarter I got to work with some awesome clients and created a lot of my favourite work to date. I felt creatively fulfilled and saw myself create work I had been dreaming of creating. I filled my calendar up with as many creative and client sessions as I could fit in and learnt and improved so much with each one. This did mean that I was challenging myself, pushing my work load, but I felt energised and excited to give it a good go. For the first time I started pitching to potential clients and it did lead to some great client work. As to the business side of things, when I initially went full-time I struggled with having any boundaries between work and life and worked too late into the nights on some days and then felt completely run down on others, unable to get anything productive done. But in this time I also relaunched my website, got clear on my branding and created my logo. And that helped to see the business as a more coherent entity and was hugely instrumental in attracting the right kind of clients.
Quarter 2: April to June
In the second quarter I was doing yet more photoshoots and booking more clients. Each month would start with a lot of worry over whether I will book enough work to pay the rent at the end of the month, but I felt brave & learnt to relax into the discomfort of that insecurity. I booked just enough work each month and had some returning clients which helped to pay the bills and carry on creating, serving my people and developing my business full-time. I felt very fulfilled. However, once I had launched my website in April and it had really sunk it that I was now working full time, I felt really demotivated all of the sudden. I had spent over a year dreaming about one day working as a full-time photographer and building the foundations of my business and marketing efforts, and once I had gone full-time I felt suddenly lost. Going full-time was my goal, the thing that kept me going for over a year. I needed a new direction. Simply working towards making rent each month didn’t feel like a sufficient long-term goal. It also wasn’t a fulfilling goal as whilst I made enough money to cover most of the basics, it was still a very tight budget and I struggled to have anything left to reinvest in the business or the non-essentials of my life. I didn’t want to just dream about surviving. I needed to have some big picture dreams. This is where reading Simon Sinek’s Starting With Why made a real impact in my business.
I dug deep and figured out the why of my passion for running a photography business. That helped to crystallise who my dream clients truly were, develop my brand voice, message and online presence with more purpose, clarity and consistency. It has really changed the way I create day-to-day too as it gave me a clear idea of what worked for my brand and what didn’t in terms of my content. Allowing me to be more consistent with social media and my written content. Knowing my why gave me clear guidelines by which to create, post and show up online. That saved tons of time I used to spend questioning every idea, every photo or grid combination and allowed me to make decisions quickly, but with a lot of purpose and a bigger mission in mind. This is when I started to feel that I was really gathering a community online too. People were engaging with my content more and I was expanding my network of connections and Instagram friendships. That sense of community is one of the most fulfilling aspects of running this creative business for me.
Q3: July to September
August was a month I felt creatively burnt out. I had overfilled my schedule at the start of the summer and started to feel like I was shooting the same thing over and over again. I felt a lack of inspiration. I still felt really good about the work I was creating for the most part, but I felt under such pressure and money worries that it affected my work too. I wasn’t enjoying it so much and I didn’t feel like I was creating what I wished to create. I felt disconnected from what was around me and unable to enjoy it. It taught me many good lessons about the conditions I need to create my best work and how to schedule my time more wisely and the need to step away from always shooting and editing. Whilst I was shooting sufficient amount of work in the first half of the year to support myself full time (not without my partner’s help, but together we were making the ends meet), in August work dried up and I wasn’t receiving inquiries either. It put me under huge pressure and stress. I left me really unhappy and I lost a sense of fulfilment in the business or my life. I missed my family and a life outside of work. I was working tons and yet the work wasn’t enough to support even the basic financial needs. This led to some really big revelations about the business I was attempting to build. And clarity around the necessary changes I needed to make, if I was to build a business that was sustainable and had a future.
But firstly, I took a couple of weeks of and went to Lithuania with John, so I could spend some time reconnecting with my family. Missing them had creating a gaping hole in my chest and I was really struggling with that lack of connection to my family. It was the first holiday in a very long time and I mostly let my camera be for awhile. I felt this deep need to just be in the moment and connect to the world around me and to my family. Giving myself that space proved to be just the thing I needed. I reevaluated not what I was creating, but how I was approaching, planning and creating my schedule. I really understood the value of time for creativity and reassessed my pricing and client experience, so I could create the business I wanted to run. I wanted a business that is set up to foster connection with my clients, my work and allow me to create from my zone of genius, rather than leave me burnt-out and uninspired. I also got more clarity about how I wanted to niche down what work I was taking on. I realised that whilst I enjoyed working with brands, it wasn’t where my heart was and I chose to pivot the business towards working with more personal brands, who have a face & a story to tell, as well as a service or product. As well as working with couples and shooting those intimate, personal stories. I started September excited about creating new work and applying new ideas and principles. The result was obvious to me and I began to not just believe, but really see why having the right process matters so much.
It was in this quarter that I finally reached my goal of over a 1000 followers on Instagram and it brought completely different results than I thought that number would. I knew numbers weren’t that important, but in interestingly, after I gathered over a 1000 people on my little account, it didn’t lead to more work or faster growth. But it did leave me feeling a lot less concerned with the number. I felt like it gave my business more legitimacy and it helped me relax more about numbers and remember that community & connection is the real purpose of this app for my business. Numbers on an app we don’t own don’t translate into money & business success that simply. Community, on the other hand, helps build a long-term foundation for a business to flourish.
Q4: October to December
In autumn I still had little client work, but I embraced the opportunity to use my camera for fun again. In October I sought my inspiration in nature and found myself excited about photography again. I love photographing nature and when you’re shooting a lot of client work it can be so easy not to give yourself time to use the camera just for pure enjoyment and capture personal moments of life, too. It replenishes my soul to spend time simply painting with the colours and patterns of nature. It is soothing and reminds you of all the magic that is in the moments and places all around you. All seasons have their own unique beauty, light and subjects to offer. Making time to embrace that for me has always been a way to enjoy life more fully. Sometimes it’s not about creating your best work, but purely enjoying the process. It is because of that joy that those are still some of my favourite photographs of the year.
Whilst online my business may have looked to some people as a success and as if it was constantly growing, the reality of numbers showed to me that it wasn’t. Something was off and I needed to fix it. I did a lot of this digging and figuring stuff out in the 3rd quarter. But now I needed to find a way to start really applying these lessons in the way my business was built. But above all, I needed to do a lot of personal growth. So whilst I look back on the second half of 2018 and my work seems like a failure, I know that this is really the time I was solidifying the foundations and the walls of my business, so I could, in time, put a roof over a solid structure. And it was a time of huge personal growth. In October I celebrated my 26th birthday. I was broke and feeling like a complete failure. I was doing my best to embrace the persistent challenges and face everything head-on. But feelings of being inadequate, being a failure in my career and a general let-down crept up on me and swallowed me up for a few weeks. I really struggled to see any hope. But as I picked up some part-time work again and started to see some money coming into my bank account again, which eased a huge amount of worry and pressure, I turned my mindset around. I stopped looking at the lack of money my business was bringing in as a complete failure on my part. And I started looking at myself as someone who is willing to work hard, and do what is necessary to make things work. I stopped telling myself that working a bar job again meant I was a loser and kept reminding myself that successful people do what needs to be done, and as long as I did that - I wasn’t a failure.
I wasn’t sugarcoating the situation and I learn a lot from the financial failure of the business. I learnt that I wasn’t pricing for profit and delved into more marketing and business education. For most of October to December I let my business remain quiet. I was settling back into part-time work, picking up some extra hours where needed and tried to make time to enjoy the festive season. I love both Halloween and Christmas. And the need to bring more joy into my day to day meant that I was leaving myself breathing space between all the worry and work to simply enjoy the season, feel festive and spend time with people I love. As the year came to an end, we hosted our first Christmas & made time for family and friends. In the quiet hours I had left between all the festivities and pub work, I did more groundwork, planning and preparations for a kick-ass 2019.
I am starting this year with excitement and passion for photography truly reignited. I am looking forward to all the work I will create in 2019. I honestly cannot wait to start putting those ideas I have to action and seeing what amazing clients 2019 will bring to me. I am also planning to begin sharing more of my knowledge of photography and understanding what really sparks passion in me as an educator. I want to create more educational content through blog posts and ebooks, and have a dream to try my hand at some 1 on 1 mentoring this year, too. I can’t wait to help others learn, practice and grow. And do so myself, too. Here’s to a year of so much more learning and growth! I feel it’s going to be a good one.
My goals and intentions for 2019
My intentions & Dreams for 2019:
Continue to establish clear boundaries between work and time off.
Reach out to and connect with family and friends more.
Continue taking care of my health, emotional & mental wellbeing. To always remind myself to be kind and gentle to myself and find times for self-care even in the busiest of periods.
Get outside once a day!
To create white space in my calendar for creativity. To explore more writing, illustration & photography passion projects. As well as try out other crafts and mediums (for example - practice learning guitar again) purely for fun!
Create & release educational photography ebooks.
Launch a podcast.
Be earning a consistent income from photography by the end of the year. My minimal goal is to earn enough consistently to take it full-time again by mid-summer. And to begin putting chunks of money aside to start paying off some personal and university debts. This is a big goal and one that is perhaps too ambitious, but I’ve created clear financial goals for each quarter to keep me motivated. And even if I simply earn more than I did last year, I want to celebrate any progress on that as a success.
To invest in more education and coaching in 2019.
To try my hand at and eventually launch a service of 1 on 1 photography mentoring for complete beginners, for people wanting to take this passion and turn it into a serious career pursuit, and for those who want to get clear on their brand, style & niche.