I have a scar on my ring finger in the shape of a Nike swoosh. In a particularly bad episode of one of our childhood arguments, my little brother had smashed a glass panel in one of our internal doors in a rage and I had cut myself on the glass.
As a child, I remember almost continually fighting with my little brother. We were a hugely argumentative pair, both competitive and driven in nature. I guess we were always competing to make our voices heard.
Little has changed since going into adulthood! We still argue, wanting to show the other it is OUR opinion that matters most, and wanting to get the last word in. We are both passionate people and very definitely have latino blood in there somewhere along the line! We also both have a gigantic amount of love, loyalty, and respect for one another too, yet we seem unable to communicate that; instead we get too often get caught up in the nitty-gritty of who is right and wrong.
My little brother about to walk me down the aisle…
Yet as an adult I can see how this relationship as truly enabled me to become the person that I am today. Over the past few years in particular I have found myself more and more likely to stand back from an antagoniser, or someone who wants to argue. I love peace, solitude, and reflection. My friendships have become more tightly woven, imbued with loyalty and love. Because I have found through my relationships with my brother, and others, that there are some things in life worth fighting for, and some that are definitely not. The struggle begins when you forget how to tell the difference.
Running your own business, you will continually have to decide which battles to fight and which to turn away from. As it is Easter, the story of the Resurrection is playing through my mind right now. Having heard the story of the resurrection so many times, I was always in awe of Jesus’ determination to fight up until his very last breath. He stuck to his destiny, to his life’s work; and the most important thing’ he stayed true to himself, to everything he stood for, desired, and was.
And this is the hardest part and the biggest part of what I wanted to tell you today. Being good at business is about being good at fighting.
Are you just starting out in business? The people you feel you are closest to may doubt you and your abilities. They may argue against your self-belief, they may doubt you can truly make it. (When I told my Mum I was going to set up my own business, her reply was ‘but darling, what will you do for a job?’) Their arguments are grounded in love, and occasionally fear, but even if you know the reasons behind it, hearing it doesn’t get any easier.
If you are already in business, you might feel battle from various individuals- perhaps still family who might not believe that your business can fully support you/ your family, the competition, even colleagues perhaps.
People might not ever understand your path or calling, no matter what it is. Most of my family, bless them, don’t even really understand what a blog is, let alone how a living can be made from it!
And often, attack doesn’t just come from people, but from within too; as a business owner you will be continually called to put on your armour and wrestle against your own fears, insecurities, lack of knowledge, shaky trading periods; you may be called to defend your creativity, ways of working, methods, beliefs, originality, and approach. You will have to guard against procrastination, apathy, laziness. Above all there will be many times when you need to fight to keep your passion alive.
But the thing is, when you love what you do from your very core, so much so it that it is an intrinsic part of you and you cannot imagine life without it; it is all worth it. It is worth defending, guarding, protecting. Because it is who you are and it is your belief. Fighting for fighting’s sake is never worth it; fighting to stay true to yourself always is.
Channel your fight in the right direction. Ignore the petty arguments proposed by others; those about trends, competition, whether you are/ aren’t good enough. Let it sail right over your head. Instead work on battling against those daily business demons that threaten our businesses; the procrastination, laziness and apathy that creep in when we are busy doing battle with trivialities.
It is Wednesday evening and I am sat at my desk, having just replied to all of the comments I received on this post yesterday. I am not ashamed to tell you that as I type my eyes have filled with tears.
Yesterday the great Isabelle Hesselberg moved so many of you. We received an overwhelming number of messages of thanks, emotion, gratitude, all admiring Isabelle’s honesty and bravery. My blog post reached over 1000 readers, so many of you shared and liked it on social media. And with good cause; Isabelle is a true inspiration. To all of you who took the time to read the interview, to leave comments, and to send messages to Isabelle; thank you. There is nothing more that I can say than that.
My 3 Best Business Books
When someone asks me what the number one thing you can do to
grow your business is, my answer is always the same; make the commitment to investing in your business education.
Every course I’ve ever taken, every business book I’ve ever read, the online courses, workshops, and mentoring sessions I’ve undertaken have only served to grow and enhance my business. If you’re serious about growing your business then you need to invest in your education.
The benefits of educating yourself are twofold- You will not only learn invaluable lessons, you’ll prevent yourself from making costly mistakes.
I personally take a percentage of every client booking that I make and reinvest it into my business education; worthwhile books, courses, and training resources. There is always something new to learn that can help my business to grow. I know the lessons that I learn will be worth all that I spend on acquiring them- and more.
When I say ‘business education’ I obviously don’t mean stuffy old business manuals gathering dust on the bottom shelf of a library. I mean exciting, inspiring online courses, life-changing mentoring programs with passionate individuals, and books that challenge your thoughts and mindsets in a way that revolutionises your entire business model.
These three books are some my absolutely key business reads. They’ve not only excited, inspired, and empowered me, but I truly believe that they have changed my life. Do you want to start investing in your business, and see real returns? Then I suggest you start here with these books.
In my opinion, there is no better place to begin- they are quite literally the best business books that I have read.
This book is amazing. I’ve had it since I was sixteen years old (my copy is now entirely brown, very battered and dog eared) and I am entirely certain it has shaped who I am today, refining both me as a person and how I do business. It doesn’t give you specific business lessons as such, but will give you terrific doses of motivation and work to enhance your all-around skills, which then work to grow your business.
This book gave me that great a-haaaa! moment that you absolutely need when starting up in business. I’ve always known that I’ve loved photography, and more, that I wanted to help other to learn and grow, but didn’t really understand why I did- or why that was incredibly important in growing my entire business overall. Simon Sinek also does a great Ted Talk; watch it here if you haven’t already.
This book revolutionised my lifestyle recently. My husband now works from home with me, we finish work at 4 every day (except Thursdays when we finish at lunchtime) and we are currently planning our first six month ‘mini-retirement’ (aka great worldwide adventure). If that sounds good to you, and you are feeling even slightly overworked, you need to read this!
These are my words of wisdom for anyone wishing to grow their business; buy these books! Truly commit to spending time and money into investing in your business education; your profits will reap the rewards.
I have some exciting news! If you are interested in mentoring programs designed to grow your business, I will shortly be releasing the dates for my next mentoring program. These spaces sell out fast however, so please do register your interest here to be the first to know about the launch date!
Just a little warning; today’s inspirational interview is going to blow your mind.
Isabelle Hesselberg of 2 Brides Photography was born with only one arm and no legs. Yet Isabelle has gained outstanding recognition and success as a world class film photographer.
I just want to let that sink in for a second. Isabelle has overcome obstacles that most of us could never dream of. You will see her beautiful work scattered throughout this post, and you will see why not only have I included her as an incredibly gifted photographer, but as a personal inspiration that gives us all hope that we can achieve our dreams.
When I read Isabelle’s interview answers I actually cried, laughed, was humbled, blessed, and thankful all at the same time. This is the interview that will possibly make your own problems and worries seem trivial by comparison; that will uplift, inspire, and humble you too.
I can say nothing more, other than you must read on and meet Isabelle.
I first met Isabelle when we were both selected by the great UK Film Lab as part of their beta testing group last summer. Isabelle is one half of of the amazing photography duo 2 brides, based in Sweden, and although we have never met her incredible achievements never fail to inspire me.
Her work has been featured on blogs too many to mention including, of course, the fabulous Style Me Pretty; her name appears on ‘world’s best wedding photographer’ lists frequently, she is always jetsetting around Europe + beyond for wedding assignments; her first book assignment was just published and was such a success there is another in the pipeline- and not only this, but Isabelle is continually helpful and supportive of everyone elses’ success too.
She was one of the first to buy my Learn Film Photography book, even though there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that she doesn’t need it even one tiny bit!
I could talk more about Isabelle, but it’s time I let her do the talking.
Hi Isabelle! Welcome to EverydayHappy. Can you tell me a little about you and your business?
Hi Charlie! 2 Brides is based in Stockholm, Sweden, but we work all over Europe. Our clients are very much like us, travel buffs with an artsy eye. I’m Isabelle, one of the ladies behind 2 Brides Photography and I shoot almost all weddings with my co-shooter and partner in crime, Sabina. We met while studying photography at uni 12 years ago. With a mutual love for old abandoned houses, american folk music and Italy, we soon found each other and became best friends. We formed 2 Brides Photography in 2009 and have never looked back, this is the best job in the world.
Can you talk to me about your disability?
I was born with my handicap, I have one arm and no legs under the knees. I have been walking with prosthetic legs since I was two, so I can’t really imagine anything else.
How have you dealt with it in regards to your career?
I was brought up with the idea that I could do or become anything I wanted. My parents didn’t treat me any different from the rest of the kids. I was in an orphanage for the first 5-6 months of my life and then a very loving family took me in- they later adopted me when I was 5. They took care of a lot of children that needed a new home, as well as their biological son as well. I was the only one handicapped but I never felt handicapped, simply because they never let me. I’m eternally grateful for what they did for me, I could never wish for better parents. So as I was growing older and pursuing different crazy ideas they’d just let me! I’ve worked in a tattoo parlour, owned a horse ranch and worked as a makeup artist in classical theater. Choosing a career was never the problem, just knowing which one to choose!
Have you ever felt it holds you back in any way? How have you overcome it?
Yes of course, it would have been way easier to have two hands and legs when you are shooting, but I’m just so darn stubborn so when I put my mind to, there is no stopping me. But I’m also really black and white- when I’m not interested in something I give up right away. So I guess I am pretty lucky that I loved my hobby so much that I was able to make it my job, I guess!
Where do you get your motivation and persistence from?
Motivation comes from a true desire to create, I can not live without it. It’s like breathing to me. I constantly strive to better myself, to educate myself and to move forward, to learn. I wake up in the middle of the night and have something I need to scribble down not to forget to try out the next morning. I’ve been like that always, I think it’s just who I am. Ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you that I’m pretty driven and they’ll probably also say sometimes a bit manic, haha.
Where is your favourite place to photograph?
Anywhere that I have really good light.
What makes you happy?
Good food, family life, travels, good wine, a really good book, my husband, kids & parents.
What are your biggest achievements?
My biggest achievements are my gorgeous long haired hippie kids! They’re the best thing ever. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it is to be blessed with children and how they make my life eons better.
How have you made your business successful / have you ensured your business has grown?
By learning about all aspects of business, not only photography. I’ve had to learn how to design a website and SEO and all that stuff. Not because I wanted to necessarily, but because it is crucial these day to know about things like that. Not only to start a business but to grow it, let it evolve and to make it prosper.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration in life?
I have to say my mum. I know, I know, everyone says that. But my mum took me from the orphanage and taught me that it is ok to be different and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have any legs or just one arm. You are perfect just the way you are, and you can become anything your heart desires. That to me is priceless. I hope I can become half the woman my mum is, she is made of steel, cotton and cinnamon buns, all wrapped up in one.
Mum & Dad
Do you have a favourite quote?
Hmmmm, hard one! Has to be the quote I heard from photographer Ross Harvey at BodaF in Madrid in February. He said, (and Ross is SO smart); Trust your gut, the heart sends impulses to your brain, that’s a medical fact. So when they say follow your heart or gut, trust it because it is true.
What is your top tip for success?
Work hard and never stop believing in yourself, and you’ve got to work at it every day. If you honestly can’t see yourself doing anything else, well then you are on the right track. That’s how I feel. I simply can’t see myself doing anything else, at all. Ever.
What advice can you give other photographers and business owners who might be facing challenges?
Get a good mentor, best thing I ever did. Oh, and also have a very patient and understanding partner, because it is so easy to get lost. My husband holds me grounded and he is my best friend and an amazing business mentor (and lover of course).
I hope you’ll agree with me that Isabelle is a true inspiration? May this interview fill you with all of the hope and determination that you need today.Thank you for reading, and a big, big thank you to beautiful Isabelle for sharing her words here.
Truly Isabelle, I have been honoured to feature you.
I am constantly asked questions about pricing for business, in particular about how and when to increase your prices.
Pricing your work is a huge topic, and I could talk forever about this and the associated marketing that goes along with it. If you are struggling in this area, considering the following questions might help you think a bit more about how to raise your prices and how much to increase them by.
1. Can you afford not to raise your prices?
Everyone has to start somewhere; usually it is at the bottom if we know we need to gain more experience, or build a reputation, etc. (The exception to this is if we already have experience within our markets and are creating a new business using that experience -for example, I created my photography business after studying it at University). But even starting at the bottom you have to be able to afford all of your overheads and pay yourself a wage, no matter how small, because otherwise you don’t have a business; you have a hobby. If you’re a photographer or other business owner than requires large investments, into equipment then it’s not just a hobby either, but a very expensive hobby!
Take your business seriously and get serious about money; work out your pricing so that your business expenses are entirely covered at the bare minimum. If your costs aren’t being covered and a wage being paid you absolutely definitely need to raise your prices!
Have a look at the costs I take into consideration when figuring out my own pricing for my photography services. These might help you when listing your own expenses, and figuring out how much you need to be charging as a minimum.
2. Do you have the credentials necessary to be able to raise your prices?
Do you have press credits, mentions, interviews, qualifications, study, experience and a strong portfolio? The more these increase, the more you can increase your prices. If you don’t have any of the above, you probably are or should be in the ‘budget’ category when it comes to pricing, but don’t let this put you off- work to increase all of the above so that you can justify a price rise further down the line.
When I set up House of Istria I started making bespoke hair accessories with no experience other than my time at uni studying fashion journalism/pr. So nothing at all, basically. I started out with haircombs and clips based at £3.50, selling on Etsy. Within 2 years House of Istria was selling in 5 luxury bridal boutiques in the UK and Ireland and had pieces priced at over £500. My skills had dramatically increased as had my portfolio of work, press mentions, the standard of work and the quality of materials I was using, and I was not afraid to price my work appropriately.
You can definitely can take yourself from a small, aspiring business to a flourishing, successful brand too- if you’re prepared to put in the necessary work, and price yourself properly.
3. How much do you want to work?
It might surprise you to know that I only take an absolute maximum of 15 wedding bookings per year- just over one per month. It sounds great to say ‘I’m booked every weekend until 2020′ but the reality is for me, I would rather increase my prices and shoot 15 weddings than have cheaper prices and shoot 30. What’s the point of working more for the exact same amount of money?
You need to consider how much you really want to work. And although I only take 15 bookings per year this year, last year I took 20. I’ve been able to steadily raise my prices as my portfolio, press, and experience has increased and decrease the amount of bookings I take in return – but I was prepared to work more to get to this point. However if I had a full time job and had children and still wanted a life I might have taken less bookings. It would have then probably taken longer for me to raise my prices, but the payoff would have been a better quality of life. I’d have still got to the same point of being able to raise them, it just would have taken longer. How much would you ideally like to work- and how much are you prepared to work in order to be able to raise your prices?
4. Are you struggling with money-confidence?
A lot of photographers I work with and know often have trouble raising their prices because of a simple lack of confidence- though you might not feel as though you have any confidence issues. If you ever catch yourself saying ‘people won’t pay those prices’ or ‘I’m afraid I’ll lose work’ then what you’re telling me is that you have issues surrounding confidence in pricing your work.
Look at it this way- if you’ve been able to sell your work or services up until now, why wouldn’t people want it just because it’s priced higher? People will pay for something that they think is worth it, right? So continue to show them why your work is worth it! Never let fear be the reason you hold back from increasing your prices.
5. What do you want you and your brand to be known for?
Do you want to be that ‘I know a cheap photographer’ person? Or do you want to be the serious pro who – although is ‘expensive’- whose work is utterly amazing? I know which I’d rather be.
If you’ve found this post useful please do share it using the buttons below to help others! Don’t forget to bookmark my blog so that you can return- I have an absolutely inspiring, uplifting and motivating post to share with you tomorrow, when I interview one of my business heroines. Find out her secrets for success and why her story made me cry.