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Balancing Your Business with Life

Lesson 69 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Balancing Your Business with Life

Lesson 69 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

69. Balancing Your Business with Life


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Balancing Your Business with Life

We're finally going to talk about that balancing of your business and your life now balancing business and your life is not something that I'm doing very well right at this absolute second, because I'm here with you guys instead of at home, balancing my business and my life, but I really do live by all of the principals that I'm going to talk about today. This really is how I govern my entire being and my entire business, and hopefully something that I will say here today will resonate with you in some way, shape or form, and if not, hopefully, just because you are so well balanced already that there's nothing else that I can do to help you. So when I was in creative live in seattle on day one, and I alluded to the things that I was going to talk about on this day when we talked about managing your business and balancing it with your life, talking about how the fact that I work from home kind of, and for those of you who have not been with me, this entire route may take just a brief se...

cond to explain what that means. I have an apartment in brooklyn, new york, my husband has a studio in a home in haddonfield, new jersey. My children my ex husband, his wife and their dog ah hall live here with me in brooklyn not with me that is a level of weird I cannot yet aspire to but we all live in brooklyn my husband, his wife their kids ex wife, their kids all of their multiple cats they live out in new jersey I am in brooklyn during the week with my children I am in hadn't field on the weekend with my husband he is in haddonfield during the week with his children our lives are a little complicated we've been doing this for a long time we are doing fine thank you for your concern but that makes that that means life a little bit weirder than your average everyday you know couple that owns wedding photography businesses but not the same businesses but we don't work together and sometimes we compete and that it's not weird at all so needless to say we have a little bit of things to balance but I do work from home I don't have a studio when I'm in brooklyn during the week I'm working out of a spare bedroom in my apartment I do have a dedicated room for it I do have a door that I can close and get away from the world when I'm working but conversely I also have a door that I can close and get work away from me at the end of the night when I'm in haddonfield with my husband, he has an incredible old converted church. It is where we live. It is also where his studio is and where his studio manager works and I worked from there as well. That does mean, as I've said many times, I have two identical workstations so that if I'm at home, I could get work done, and if I'm in haddonfield at home there, I can also get work done, so I don't view that is being entirely all that different from a cz I've mentioned before someone who works at home but also has a studio somewhere else, I just have to places where I work. They just happen to be an hour and forty minutes apart. It also allows me to service my new york clients in new york and my philadelphia clients out there. So while it might seem a little bit complicated were a weird, messy, strange family, it seems to pretty much work ok for us. So this is my vague schedule, and again, we talked about this a little bit in the very we beginnings of this thirty days, but it does bear repeating again on mondays, I generally work from four to six. That's, because when I wake up on monday morning, I have a wedding hangover like nobody's business. There is no way and listen, that doesn't mean I got drunk at somebody's wedding. That means that I am feel like I'm going to die no one, no one of pallotti's hen yoga and running and stressing and massage and care of your own body can prepare you from that I've been hit by a mack truck feeling that you have the morning after a wedding. Imagine if you have two weddings on a weekend that that feeling is not only doubled, but it's tripled and it's compounded and crammed into your lower back. Now, listen, I try very hard to stay in good shape, but I try to eat. I try to take care of myself, but nothing is going to prepare you for the marathon of what a wedding is like, and nothing is going to prepare you for the god awful way that you're going to feel the next morning. So because I don't get to take a weekend like a normal person takes a weekend, I take most of monday. Monday morning is usually spent driving from new jersey to new york are driving from new york to new jersey or coming home for wherever I've been are going somewhere else monday is usually a travel day for me. That means when I get home, I don't try to pound out eight hours of work when I get home from traveling. All I want to do on monday is really make sure things were downloaded and back up and sink tup from the weekend prior. I want to make sure that I've gotten any e mails or phone calls I need to get out the door done, and then I need to get back to living my life. The bulk of my work week is tuesday, wednesday and thursday from nine to five my youngest daughter leaves are my oldest daughter leaves for school at about eight fifteen in the morning, she takes the bus herself. My baby daughter baby she's, nine my youngest daughter goes to school at about eight forty five I walk her to school it's right around the corner, I come back and make myself a nice breakfast. I make the same breakfast every morning because I'm boring and then I sit down at my desk and I get to work, I get up and I have snacks, I get up and I have dinner, but otherwise I'm atwork I'm not doing the laundry, I'm not running a stupid errand I'm I'm treating my day exactly the same way I would if I went to an office and I work for somebody else. This is my work day except that my boss is awesome and if I'm really tired she lets me have a nap sometimes I also try to get some fresh air at some point in time and there I try to take a walk around the block I try to just take a phone call outside I try to go breathe real air at some point because I get really depressed if I just sit inside at a desk all day try to get some exercise in there usually I exercise at night, but the bulk of my work week is tuesday, wednesday and thursday from nine to five I pick up my youngest daughter from her after school program a little bit after five o'clock my kids come home, the office door gets closed and I go back to my real life just the same as if I was at a day job every single day and I went home at the end of the day I've got to go home at the end of the day, both mentally and physically I need to get out of that office, closed the door and be back to being a wife and a mother friday changes weekly sometimes I have to travel for a wedding sometimes I'm going from brooklyn hadn't fielder haddonfield brooklyn that's a variable day like monday I also like to leave friday as a changeable day in case I haven't gotten a day off all week I need to give myself friday well I answer emails sure well I take the occasional phone call okay but that's a day that I'm not chained to my desk getting work done and without forcing my raw production with streamlining my work flows in all the ways that you guys have seen the streamlining everything that means that I can get the bulk of what I need to get done tuesday wednesday and thursday from nine to five even in the busy season on the weekends I shoot weddings if I don't shoot weddings I don't do anything I'm not doing a work day on the weekend it's not happening there's did there's just only so much I can give sometimes at night after ten o'clock at night when my kids have gone to bed sometimes I need to sit down and bust out another couple of hours of work but it's really only in an emergency situations and I would rather do work tuesday wednesday or thursday night that haven't eaten to my monday morning or eat into my potential friday a day off and while I'm making exceptions not really not a lot there's only so much free time that we have in this world and if I don't take it when I can get it, I'm not going to get it at all I don't have vacation days accruing somewhere that I could just put in for intake and walk away from work to have vacation days after build them myself, so I have to stay on top of everything any questions at all about weekly schedule day today, schedule anything like that? No, we're feeling good. Yes, our pleas of um you know, when thursday comes around and know that you've got a lot of stuff going on, which is to say, I'm gonna shut that door and we know it's awesome, I have to and I'm gonna talk about later on today, there's always something more that you could be doing, but if you do not walk out of the door and close the door, you're never walking out of that door ever both mentally and physically, ever if I were at home and I didn't have any kids and I didn't have a husband, I could actually work twenty four hours a day every single day and still never feel like I'm done. You've got to set a time to just say, listen, I gotta walk out of here er season at what point in your career did you develop this kind of structure or did it exist from day? Well, you mean before or after I got divorced listen, I'd never was good at this at the very beginning I'm still not good at this now I'm not up here saying I live a perfect life and you should too this stuff is hard I screw up all the time and I make bad decisions and I think about work way too much but I've got to distance myself and I'm not saying that I got divorced because I worked too much or I work too much because I got divorced but at some point in time in there I had a marriage that didn't go so great and I know that my obsession with working and being on top of my job all the time didn't help it it didn't cause it but he didn't fix it either and I've got friends that I've lost touch with and because I've been too busy and sometimes you have to kind of drive the car down the hill a little bit before you realize that you need to stay on the road do you want I mean that was like literally a crappy metaphor but if you don't go a little too far you don't know how to pull yourself back sometimes I wish I'd set all of these guidelines from the very beginning but I would say that since I moved up to new york since the day that I set foot in my first new york apartment said I'm not going to do that again this life is not going to be like that anymore. I don't care if I end up in a cubicle working for the man for the rest of my life, I'm not going to live like that. I will walk away, but I will literally will walk away from my business now before I let it hurt my life again, I'll figure out another way I'm a smart person I could find another job somewhere. So wedding season and managing the year right january is not the same is june and january in new york is not the same is january in miami? January in miami is wedding season january in new york. We're all just snuggling were shoveling way too much snow to shoot weddings. So you have your busy months and then you have your months that are dead. And yes, you have some months that are variable. Sometimes april is awesome sometimes april is a wasteland sometimes july is awesome sometimes it's a wasteland. But I can generally tell that every single year in may, june, september, october that's the bulk of wedding season, those air my busy months, other months are busy ish and some months are guaranteed to be dead. January february are almost always dead, the weather's bad everyone's depressed. And they don't want to schedule a wedding with the chance that they might have a snow storm and have their wedding cancelled or their guest stranded or something like that. So it's not busy time. So what I do to get around this as I said, time intensive projects in my off season is no it's it's, not an accident that I'm here teaching this to you guys in february. It's february, right, this is it's a thirty days of not knowing where I am. I am not going to attempt to do a thirty day teaching project in the middle of october. This just about killed me that would have rendered me just useless that's a dumb thing to do re brand your website, don't do it in october, do it when you're not busy, so in time management speak, I'm always looking throughout the year, these big projects that are coming, I'm working on an educational website, I'm working on something else entirely. I am not going to be doing that when I'm busy with my client. So these time intensive projects doing a bunch of sample albums, doing this big marketing push of this way or that way, you need to time those things throughout the year so that they happen in the off season. I figured out the next book I want to write I know exactly what I wanted to be. You think I'm gonna start it now? No, no, my friend, I'm gonna start writing it in july when I have a second to breathe, because if I start taking on these time intensive projects, then I'm not gonna have time to do the actual work that I have to do when I'm busy it's enough for me to keep up with my work flow in those busy months if I start adding some ridiculous project on top of it, it's never going to happen or it's gonna happen, but I'm not gonna give it my all and I don't want to do that either, and learn to balance your projects with your weddings that goes hand in hand with what I just said, if you're going to rebrand, if you're going to do some new marketing endeavor, if you're going to do some big push where you go out and visit vendors, you need to time that with your wedding's so that you're not buried in the workflow of all of those things at the same time. And then you have to set specific downtime you have to I don't care if you've been in business for five minutes, I don't care if you've been in business for fifteen years, you have to set time tow walk away and if you think it's my first year in business I can't take a vacation oh yeah you can you don't care if you stay at home in your pajamas and you watch tv all week long you have to give yourself a break or else you will become miserable I say that from experience and I say that from repeated repeated experience you have to walk away more than just a night more than just a day you've got to go on vacation you have to even if you don't leave your house even if you don't spend a dime even if it is your pajama cation you have to do something or else you're going to drown in this because as I've mentioned before this is a rat race and it never stops and it's never over and it will eat you alive there is a reason not only financially and business wise why the life span of an average photography studio is six years you're going to burn out like a crazy person anything you do for too long is going to burn you out this is no different especially because it is your business and and you take it very personally it's like you feel like you're ignoring your child if you walk away from it your business is not your child I can't imagine a single person on their deathbed saying wow I really wish I'd spent more time at work ha! Get your finances in order and say your prices for profit so that you can manage the off season, manage the off season. The off season is not the time that you build up credit card debt it's not the time that you take out a loan, it shouldn't be the time that you panic when I look at my finances coming in throughout the year. I know the months that I'm very busy now I have a already set savings plan. We've talked about this on the pricing days. Every single month, a certain amount of money kicks from account to account money goes from my business account into my savings account, so that I'm ready to pay my taxes every quarter. Money goes from my business count into my savings account so that I have I have money for the off season. Money goes from my personal business account into my personal savings account, so I have my dave ramsey six month buffer in case something happens to me that's, not winter money, that's emergency money, and then money goes out of my personal account every single month for my step ira, my investment accounts, my children's college funds, these air automatic deductions every single month, no matter what, I don't have to think about it, the money just goes so when I get that that disgusting, horrible twenty something thousand dollar tax bill every single quarter and I have to pay it. I've been putting money away every single month so I can take it out and I can pay it it's there don't have to worry about it, but when I have a busy month, may, june, october, september and the money and my business checking account starts getting higher and higher because I'm booking a lot of weddings and everything is really busy, I'm going to look at that. I'm going to say, wow, this I'm making a lot of money this month and I know it because it's busy season, I know what cause I've looked in either shoot cure at my spreadsheet or at my delivery bols for the year, I know when I've got big money coming in, I'm going to make sure that that month I just take a little bit of that and I set it aside, they take a little bit more and I set it aside so that I've got money to live off of in the months when instead of shooting four weddings, five winning six weddings, I'm shooting one wedding. I can't live and run my business off of one wedding a month, so I need to make sure that I've put money away and then I'm not losing money every time I shoot a wedding that I'm priced for profit so that I can get through those weak winter months that's something that's very important to me I shot this year I shot two weddings in january of two weddings in february one wedding in march and I think two or three weddings in april that's not a lot so I need to have money set aside so that I can take care of myself during those months so that if my daughter say hey I have a hole in my boots and I need a new pair of boots I can say okay instead of can you wait another month? I don't live off of credit cards I don't put things on credit ever I use an amex that's not the same thing because it gets paid off every month but I don't want credit card debt to roll on out so I would rather set money aside during the busy time so that I that I know that I can live off of it during the not busy times uh any questions will I drink something? Do you use the off season to do any kind of personal work that isn't for you know something that you want to sell or market but it's just bully for you you mean to tell you that I don't tell you what I think everyone wants to hear or do you want me to tell you the truth the truth? I don't do any personal work at all at all I don't want tio I don't feel cold to like I don't feel like I need to go out and do street photography or this project or that project to be a photographer my personal work is the weddings that I d'oh and I shoot pictures of my kids to be perfectly honest if we're being dead on honest, the thought of putting together a personal project kind of makes me feel like puke because it's just more work so there are a lot of people that need those personal projects to keep going they need that's their outlet that's how they stay motivated and I'm jealous of that I don't have that, but I just I'm not wired to need something like that and that's not to say that if you are that's wrong, but I just don't have never done a single personal project ever it's just I guess this side get the cold dead heart and me just doesn't care no, I don't know I've just never felt like I really want to do this other thing. Yeah, but that's when I would if I did that's definitely when I would would be in the off season or I would just make sure that I scheduled it into my time line of the year so that it didn't affect the rest of the work that I was doing any other questions so far no good so talk about the busy time with your friends, your family and your spouse before the busy times smacked you right in the face and blind sides, everybody hey, honey, um, mais coming at thirty two weddings to shoot just like, listen, that was an exaggeration. You know, I've got eight weddings this month it's really busy? I'm gonna be doing a lot of traveling, I just want you to know that so when it rolls around and I don't respond to your facebook messages or I'm not responding to your textural quick it's not that I don't love you, it's, because I'm married. Listen, not everybody has a spouse it's a photographer, right? Like I am a weird, rare case he totally gets what I'm doing. He knows in busy season is busy because he's busy himself, but I have friends who I think I have friends who aren't photographers crap, I don't have any friends who aren't photographers never mind scratch that I need to make some friends who aren't photographers. This is getting really sad here, but if you've got people who aren't in your industry, if they're busy with work, if they're swamped under a project, they're going to let you know, like god, this month is absolutely crazy, I totally can't go to dinner this month, I'm buried in work you've gotta prep people for the times that when you're going to be super super busy so that they understand that a crazy time is coming and if they want to have coffee with you you can have coffee in january I'm not saying don't be so busy that you don't have a life but don't let your friends think that you're alienating them or your husband or wife think that you're ignoring then when all it really means is it's busy season and if you're married to you know if your spouse is not a photographer as the seasons go by they'll start to know when the busy season is just prep on just give him a heads up it's it's a kind public service announcement to all of your family and friends so you know there are some things you should probably dio if you just I mean I want to stay alive for one thing but the only way that you're going to be productive in business the only way you're going to keep your business balance in your life moving along is if you take care of yourself you have to care for yourself and I'm not just talking about you know make sure you eat your vegetables he got it gets an exercise like we gotta get out of the house, get up from the computer, walk around do the seven minute daily exercise take a jog around the block do something move your body, otherwise you're going to fall apart like I know that when I sit down at the computer for way too long, my lower back starts to hurt. I mean, my lower back starts to hurt my upper back starts to hurt when my upper back starts to hurt, I get a headache and I get angry and then I'm a crab to be around, and if I get up, I get some exercise every single day that doesn't happen. I'm not saying you need to go and saying, I'm not saying you need to, like, join a crossfit gym and work out like ten times a day, but be reasonable, you got to take care of yourself, you need to eat a vegetable every once in a while, please eat a vegetable, you need to get some sleep in my sleep. I don't mean the three hours that you get when you finally pass out on your desk at the end of the night, you need to actually try to get a decent night's sleep. And again, I should be really practicing what I'm preaching, because in the days leading up to this thirty days, I was averaging about four hours of sleep a night, which went about as well as you could imagine that it went there was some crying involved. And you need to get help when you need it you need to know when to reach out and be like hey I'm kind of drowning and work and I'm not saying get help outsourcing but call a friend hey I'm having a really hard day I'm having a really hard time I'm really stressed out to me go to dinner go to a movie or just get out of here for a few minutes you can't live in this insular little bubble because it gets to be a really lonely place after a while and having friends on the internet is not the same thing as having friends in real life it's just not if you don't have time for something it means that you don't prioritize it if you really want it you'll find the time I don't have time to exercise I'm too busy really I really can't get up thirty minutes earlier you can't find thirty minutes in your day to exercise yeah you can you can if I can you can if going out to lunch with a friend is not a priority you're not going to do it you have to prioritize it and find the time for it and I'm not sitting here saying that you can have it all I don't think you can have it all I think that having an un reelect spect ation unrealistic expectation of what all means is really just setting yourself up for total failure just absolute failure but you need to prioritize things like eating good food and taking care of your body and occasionally king out of her house like I know we have the tendency is to sit around like little hermits on our computers we do it's just it's just is how we are but you've gotta prioritize caring for yourself because if you don't nobody's going to do it for you and this is the hard won you have to know what you're getting into and what you'll miss when you signed those wedding day contracts moms and dads of the world you know I'm talking to you these are my girls a couple of years ago this is emma in the pink shirt that's liv e with her tongue hanging out and granted this was four years ago but I know that there are things in their life I am going to miss by being a wedding photographer and I don't say that to get pity or sympathy or a hug I just know that's how it works I know that every april they haven't answers idol now what I'm going to do block off all of april until I know they're dance recital dates they don't give me their dance recital dates until like february so I just book april april is business as usual sometimes I get to go to the dance recital sometimes I don't but if I block off an entire month for a dancer silent I don't know when it is I'm leaving tons and tons of income on the table this is not me telling you to prioritize your business over your children it's not it's just to realize that with any job you take there are going to be things you're gonna miss if you have a strict nine to five job and you have to be there nine to five every single day it's gonna be hard for you to be the class parent on family fridays it just is if you are a surgeon, it's going to be hard for you to not get those calls in the middle of the night to go out and save somebody's life on christmas and I'm not saying that we're surgeons and I'm not saying that it's anything like that, but when you sign a legally binding contract with somebody to shoot their wedding, you can't call them up in vail because your kid has a dance recital. So you have to understand that when you sign these contracts to work on a saturday and you sign these contracts to work on a sunday there's this really funny quote from down abbey in like against, like the first season where the dowager countess is like a weekend, what is a weekend? And I was like, that is right I mean, she wasn't talking about wedding photography, but I know what's a weekend every once in a while when I get to go do something on a saturday night I'm I look around I'm like is this what people like do on a saturday like they put on nice clothes and they were out in public and none of them are at a wedding that's weird you have to know I mean I listen I'm not saying you're like gene va on in prison like singing the sad songs, but you have to know what you're getting into and you start signing away your weekends to people and you've got to be okay with that and if you're not okay with that, maybe this isn't the photography career that's for you I have to know that listen every so odd many years my daughter's birthday is going to be on a saturday do I work on her birthday or do I not? Does she care? Does she not? My kids don't care they know I work on the weekends they're like my birthday's today we'll party tomorrow ok spend this day with your dad's been this day with me I'm not saying again none of this is to be heartless. None of this is to say prioritize work over your family, but if you're taking a job that necessitates working saturdays and sundays, you've got to be okay with those occasional compromises you just have to be so man up, I don't know I mean that's what this is a hard one, right? Like you have to figure out how do you balance the number of weddings I take per year with the number of days on the weekend that I want to spend with my family, my family humorously enough is that I'm not working on a saturday he's at work on a saturday so we're very fortunate in that respect but that also makes it hard to because then we have the juggle of weekdays so nobody's life is better than anybody else's life and if anybody on the internet looks like they've got it all down, they don't have it all down period have a specific place to work and I don't care where that place is whether it's at your kitchen table whether it's in your spare bedroom whether it's in a corner of your bedroom you've gotta have somewhere to work this is where I work that's my office that is exactly what it looks like over here on the left you have wall to wall I ke a cabinets because it is brooklyn and they don't give us closet so I had to build the myself I don't like a ton of stuff out in plain view, so behind me in the cabinets are everything hard drives old hard draws stationery it's where I keep the think books it's where I keep sample albums everything is stuffed in there and I close the door everything else in my office the chair the floor the rug the curtains that's just all the stuff that isn't in the other rooms in my house and I don't have clients in my office I don't want to spend a ton of money decorating my office this isn't some fancy showroom this is just this place where I sit down and I work there are two computers in this picture because I was working on the thirty days when I took it and I was working like a maniac normally there is one computer and one additional monitor uh the additional monitor I like to say is for productivity but let's be real it's for hu lu come on it's the net folks computer I can get so much work done when tv's playing next to me I am so happy I bought it to put all put my pallets over here I'll put my email over there it's a browser running hu lu twenty four seven like let's let's just be totally honest but this is where I work it's not fancy it's a room in my house so if you think that you have to have this big miraculously amazing studio to get stuff done you don't at all I know it's kind of a let down it's just a room right? Well you have to walk away from work the reason why my room my office is in a spare room is because that spare room has a door, and at the end of the day I can close it whether it means shutting down your laptop, turning off your computer, whatever it takes, you need a point in time in the day when you walk away from work, just get away and out do your best to set specific time off a day, a week, a week, a year, you need to walk away. I've mentioned this again, I will continue to mention it. You've just gotta schedule downtime, because if you don't schedule down time, you're not going to take it limit your time on social media and the internet who's bad about that on that about that? I mean, listen, I put lincoln on there, I don't really think any of us are fairly losing fast amounts of time for weak on linkedin, but where I really get lost is feed lee. This is that little round thing down there, this is my rs s blah grader I will fall into the hole of feed lee and I will never come out suddenly I'm on perez hilton, and I'm reading about lindsay lohan being in rehab, and then I'm on design sponge and I suddenly want to redo my office. And then I'm down here and I'm reading about somebody who's parenting their kid then I'm on a photography bog and then I'm gonna fashion blogger and then the next thing I know I don't know where I am on the internet I'm down the rabbit hole and I'm never going to get out so that is my huge times besides the obvious is a facebook and twitter and I've literally not lost a second on google plus but I needed an extra icon the r s s reader is where I really fall in tow like my dark playground if I can't get out of here so if you don't walk away from these things, you're never going to walk away from these things and it's so easy to float around on the internet and the next thing you know my caught have lost an entire hour looking at my ex boyfriend's pictures on facebook right? Like we all do it like you get lost in there but if you don't mentally smack your hand and move away you're just gonna lose your whole day just because you work from home doesn't mean the use your working hours on home stuff a bunch of people were like I'm not making eye contact anymore I am not going to start editing a wedding and throw laundry in and then go back to the laundry and then do this and then do that I talked about this earlier work time his work time home time, his home time I try really hard not to cross pollinate at all set boundaries and stick to them going to lunch isn't work it's just not it isn't so it's not thinking it isthe kenya working sweatbands as a personal question I don't look like this every day I do not put on leather pants and knee high boots to goto work I work in my sweat pants some days sweat pants or too fancy and I work in torrance wet pants like who's going to see me seriously nobody's going to see me at all all day long I'm at home on by myself, you know, maybe I have a skype call then I just change my shirt, right? Like let's be honest, I'm not standing up, but no, I work at home every single day and a tank top and sweat pants with my hair in a bun and I go to pick my kids up and I put on hugs and they're like, oh my god, you've been wearing that all day, haven't you? And yes, yes, I have what are you gonna do with that? Some people can't work like that some people need to get up in the morning and put on clothes and establish a routine, and when they walk into their office they are at work I'm not that type of person working at home in my sweat pants doesn't kill my productivity I don't it just doesn't matter but if you're the kind of person needs to put on shoes and where a real pants do it do that thing that separates home life and work life for me it's a literal closing of the door for some people it's just getting dressed like they're going to work set measurable expectations and a workflow you can handle I shouldn't have to explain this one any further whatsoever if you don't have a handle on your day to day work flow of your business you won't be able to have a handle on your business in your life and if you don't have a handle on your business workflow you're not going to able to set any sort of expectations how can you set time off if you don't know how long it takes you to do things so that's why all of the data that I've been talking about for thirty days all of these numbers and all of these spreadsheets and all of these thailand's and all of these questionnaires and all of these work flows that's why all of these things were really really important because it lets you figure out how long it takes you to do things then it lets you manage your weak in that way and then it lets you manage your life in that way as well. What is the bane of your productivity existence? Is it housecleaning? Is it walking the dog or grocery shopping? That's mine right there. Hate it. Outsource it beyond outsourcing your raw production. Having someone do your albums for you. You know what, ideo? I don't go to the grocery store. I buy my groceries on fresh direct and I have them brought to me. I will save more time than it's. Not that expensive. I will save a ton of time. I have a standing order every single week. I am not that imaginative in the kitchen. So I have freshdirect bring me my groceries every monday does walking your dog every single day kill you will maybe have somebody walk your dog for you. Taskrabbit. Has anybody ever heard of taskrabbit? Yes. You can have taskrabbit do anything you want for you. As long as you're willing to pay for it. A couple of weeks ago, I really needed to go into manhattan to pick up something for a wedding coordinator. It was a gift that I wanted to give. I couldn't buy it online. I couldn't call and have it delivered. I had to go to the store and get it and I thought, great here goes my day. It's an hour on the train it's gonna be another forty five minutes to get into the store to get the thing and bring it home then it's another hour on the train of lost three hours going to get a present that's ridiculous I don't have three hours to spare I got on task rabbit and I said I'll give somebody twenty five bucks to bring me some macaroons from this specific store on the upper west side and somebody was like I'll do it so I paid twenty five dollars and I got three hours back little things like that I've hired a taskrabbit to build furniture for me I've hired someone help me move furniture to the basement it's listen I'm not saying that I sit at home on a gold throne throwing dollars in the air and making people do my biddings but if I have to figure out is my time worth more than this task that I have to dio sometimes yes sometimes no I do my own laundry don't send out my laundry I have someone help clean my house but they don't come every single day like you don't have to just rely on outsourcing in your business to get stuff done you can outsource other areas of your life as well is it going and picking up and dropping off your kids every single day at school does it take forever well can you car carpool with another parent can you pick up their kids one day and they pick up your kids the next day? Maybe, you know, look at the other areas in your life and see where maybe somebody else could help you out there to it's kind of important learning to delegate means that you can switch off entirely every now and then it will keep you fresh for other challenges. Richard branson pretty sure richard branson knows what he's talking about, and if you don't set manageable expectations and follow them, your life will implode during busy season. No, it will it really, really, really will, and I don't think that there's any explanation either if you you can't push a boulder down a hill and stop it when it reaches a certain speed it's just going to crush you in its path and work is exactly the same way you have to care for your clients and keep up with your delivery, bols, even if you're having a bad day or cold or your kid is puking or you had a break up, your clients don't care if you have the flu, they don't they don't care if you're having a bad day, you still need to take care of them, so there is a certain element of day to day life that guys listen, you chose this for yourself man up and return the email like you just have to keep on going and if you go into your bat cave and you start ignoring work because you're having a bad day then you essentially push that rock down the hill that's going to turn into the avalanche that's going across you I am all about the metaphors today oh look it's my kids again thiss job will never be finished it will never be finished ever there will always be something else to tweak there will always be something else to edit there will always be another project that's right around the corner another sample album to design there will always be something else you can do you've got to be okay with the fact that the job's not finished if you're gonna attempt to finish every single thing in your business before you go to bed tonight you were set up to fail so you have to have manageable expectations I've been talking to you for almost thirty days about how to manage the expectations of your clients. You will also have to manage the expectations with yourself and if you don't you're just done for and most importantly do not let your job define you and I have talked about this before I will talk about it until I'm blue in the face I'm not a rock star I don't care that whole living large photography lifestyle means literally less than nothing to me it doesn't I'm not aspiring to be like some famous photographer that doesn't mean jack to me it doesn't what matters to me is being a wife to my husband and being a mom to my kids and my step kids and being a good friend to my friends and I'm not my work and my work is not me and that is really important and that's not be me standing up here and being ungrateful because this thirty days has given me something that I never expected it to give me it's given me a fresh or understanding of my business ah fresh or understanding of where I've come from and where I'm going but also and even more solid stance on my convictions that this is not going to take over my life it's not and I'm honored to be here and I'm floored that any of you would possibly want to listen to me for the twenty some odd days that you've been listening to me so far but to think that I'm defining my existence is being a teacher on creative live would be ridiculous and getting a platform at w p p ay hasn't made me a better person. My family makes me a better person and my my friends make me a better person, so while I'm fortunate for this, I'm fortunate for it in the same way that anyone would be fortunate with their business successor thankful for their business success and I don't want to let it define me so at the end of the day when I'm on my deathbed what do I want? Do I want the pictures that I've put out there in the world to mean something to my clients do and do I want maybe somebody out they're in business to say this woman changed my business life and help me I do but I don't want those people next to me when I when I'm sick or when I'm hurt or when I'm having a bad day I want my husband and that's what really matters to me in the end so that's why I'm so so vigilant about keeping my work separate and keeping my job separate and managing that these expectations and taking care of myself because without doing all of those things I don't have a home life to go home to so that's really important to me any questions at all about any of this? So I definitely have a question susan would you have changed anything looking back today and your sex is that you've had would you change anything in your early years not a single thing? I mean, I really think that we are not only the sum of our successes but the sum of our mistakes and if I hadn't had some of these terrible, weird things happen to me maybe I wouldn't be where I am right now maybe I wouldn't have met my husband and my children wouldn't be my children like it life wouldn't be this exactly however weird and bizarre and gorgeous it is I wouldn't be here I wish it had been a little faster sometimes maybe I wish it life had been a little calmer sometimes but if me having a tumultuous couple of first years in business help somebody else not I wouldn't change that for the world at all I love what you said about how, um creating this course kind of help do you really reflect on your business? Look down your successes reflect on everything in kind of your core commitments yes. How often do you take time to revision your business and your life? Yeah, I try to look at it at least once or twice a year like to really just look at everything and say okay how like how are things going here like a my staying true to the values that I believe in am I running a business that I feel good about him? I seen my kids today it like it just kind of tried to take stop but doing what I did for this thirty days going back through nearly thirteen years of being in business I really think every couple of years you got to go all the way back to the beginning and look att whoa this is where I came from and all of a sudden the growth that you've been having that seems really small all of a sudden it seems massive when you look at it in a tin your perspective or a thirteen or a twenty year retrospective so pull out the old work and look at your old calendars and see how far you've come and makes you feel a little bit better about kind of the journey that you're on for sure it's like your own biography you have ah do you have a person in your life maybe it's cliff maybe it's someone else that you bounce your ideas off of as your play envisioning yeah definitely for sure not only because he's another photographer but I mean listen he's not cliff mountain or photographer to me he's my husband so when I'm having a bad day or I'm having a problem yeah we run the same type of business and it's great to bounce it off of him but I've bounced off of him because I love him you know because he's my best friend so and he's smart ish he's pretty okay that's so great susan and you know as your as you're balancing your life and you're balancing you've got you've got so much going on when you wake up in the morning what's that first thing what's that first thing that you do what's that what do you do that what's that first moment that I'd like to know when you wake up what because there's so much can't think of one that doesn't have a four letter word in it usually it gets start saw something like oh god why is it so early shut up shut up shut up because my alarm goes off every single morning at seven in the morning when my daughter wakes it's up and when I wake up my first thing is girls let's go it's my daughters and it's getting them out of bed and it's and listen it's not getting them out of bed skipping in the living room pouring them the world's healthiest breakfast and you know starting my day full of unicorns it's no you have to wash your hands and you have to wash your teeth don't hit your sister you have to comb your hair you can't wear that to school like fine eat a waffle I really don't care like it's it's real life and it's when I get my girls out the door and when I get back home and I make my breakfast and you know I checked facebook for the day I mean then I just sit down at my desk and I think okay let's go let's just do it thank you yes ma'am what would you say because you talked about kind of giving your family heads up of when it's gonna get really busy eyes but for someone like me who's married to someone who's not creative I feel like I keep having the same conversations over and over about this is why this is so serious there's contracts involved all right need toe this is my work low, and I also have a three year old daughter who doesn't quite understand a lot of those things yet. So what advice do you have for kind of communicating that in a way? That's? Good for you, like, honey? I gotta go to work like I signed a contract it's a legally binding document like I have to, you just have to keep telling them and keep showing them. And as time goes by like mommy book's weddings, mommy goes on saturdays mommies gone every once in a while on a saturday, it's not any different from you taking like a nine to five job and being like mommy's gone during the day. It's just now you're your own boss. Um, you just have to keep explaining and you know, the man that I was married to before he's a tremendous human being is a fantastic father on a single bad thing to say about him. He still don't think he gets what I do for a living. I have people in my life that have been in my life for years that I still don't think get what I do for a living at all, and some people just won't but continually explaining continually showing like this is what it is this is what it entails. This's the amount of hours like here's my spreadsheet sometimes I find that showing people the hard data really helps and instead of talking about my feelings it's boom here's my number spreadsheet here's my day today spreadsheet this is how it goes, here's the money that's coming in that tends to make people sit up and listen just a little bit. You just kind of have to stick out it and it's frustrating talking to non creatives about a creative job it really is. There is no way that that is not not enjoyable. I'm curious, susan. Yes, you're a schedule and you talking about your work life? Yes, how justo put it very honestly and frankly, what percentage of your work are you excited about and passionate about when you wake up in the morning? Or is there a very small percentage that's creative? Just curious this's a horrible, horrible, horrible question. What person? It's, no it's actually really good question what percentage of my work am I excited and passionate about? Versus what percentage of my work my grateful about? I'm grateful for one hundred percent of the work that I have but that get up and go like your first couple of years in business where every time you get up you're like wedding wedding. Tio tio yeah, like none like that's that's gone, but do I wake up in the morning? And I like my job. Yeah, I do. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't be doing and I'd be doing something else, but I look atyou, no photographers in twitter feeds and they're like it is a saturday and I am going to rock it and I can't wait I didn't have the best wedding I've ever had, and I'm like god, seriously way because I wake up on a saturday and I'm like, okay, let's, go to work and I'm not nervous and I'm not crazy and I'm not my god, I'm gonna rock it, but um I'm gonna go to work and have a really good day. Yeah, and did this thirty days project nearly break me in half? Yes, but am I grateful for it? Did I enjoy it? Of course I did so there's a love hate going on at all points in time, but I don't like wake up every single morning, bright eyed and ready to like, jump into the day and get going, but what I rather be doing that than anything else I mean yeah of course so I'd love my job one hundred percent I also despise my job one hundred percent I feel like that's the only way to really answer it it I love what I do I do very very very much that's still my job sometimes I would just like to read books for a living but I can't find a way to for someone to pay me to do that well and I think that that's equally as inspiring and helpful for our creative live audience that that it's not always oh my gosh you're on a rock so kind of like the cult of motherhood where if you ever admit for one second that being a parent kind of sucks you're a bad mom and so right there's this whole like I can't I can't really say that today I did not enjoy being a mother and that today I kind of wanted to clunk their heads together and run screaming into the streets with like a bottle of wine like you can't you can't say that because people don't say that but that's what makes me really angry is that if you don't every once in a while say being a parent really kind of socks you're not being honest does being a business owner suck yeah is it also awesome yeah so there's that love hate all of it and if I were to stand up here and I were to say I've been doing this for thirteen years, and I loved every second of every day. I would be lying, tio, I don't it's a grind, it's, exhausting. You have to keep going. What other job do you have to interview for your own job, over and over and over again, right. Every single job, you have to go out there and have to sell yourself. You have to do it again for the next year. You have to do it again for the next year, right? So I hate, and I love it exactly at the same time.

Class Materials

bonus material

Quicksheet Inside Guide (one large PDF file)
Quicksheet Inside Guide (zip file of individual PDF pages)
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Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

Student Work