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I'm Ali Rae and I love building brands.
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2022 brought the five year milestone for Ali Rae Haney Photography!! ? I am incredibly proud of this milestone, especially considering all the major life changes we have encountered in those five years. It’s not been easy, but it sure has been fulfilling.
The fifth year of business looked a little different than the previous years. Previously I have been in the grow, grow, grow mindset. As many of you know, we tackled a new project this year–starting a wedding venue, which meant marketing the photography business was not the highest priority as it has been in year’s past. Unfortunately, we experienced some pretty major hurdles that led us to decide not to pursue the wedding venue at this time. Of course that meant switching gears back to focusing on ARHP. Phew, whiplash…I know.
Y’all know I love a good list, so let’s go over the most memorable moments of the year and the realizations they each brought to me!
I might be putting the cart before the horse on this one, but by far, the best thing to happen to us in 2022 was the birth of our third child, Emerson Scott Haney. He accompanied me to six of the seven weddings I shot this year! While we are keeping his complete birth story to ourselves, if you want to read more about our adjustment to being a family of five, read this blog post dedicated to him!
Realization: After processing his delivery, we feel even more grateful for the safety and health of our family.
I guess we are just in that season of life where I am pregnant every other wedding season. ? After it took us close to three years to have Huxley, we made the decision that we weren’t going to prevent having kids anymore (TMI? Probably…). So despite it being a bit more challenging to walk through wedding seasons with a belly, it’s worth it to grow our family. I like to think it keeps me young? Also probably flawed logic.
This year I photographed six weddings from March to June (all in Virginia) while expecting our third child. We now know I-64 from Lexington to Charlottesville very well, including all the best gas station stops (and where the Dunkin’ Donuts are). Let me tell you–that drive with two kids in the backseat is interesting. I have traveling with toddlers down to a science now though, so keep an eye for my mommy lifestyle blog. I am kidding. It’s always chaos.
Realization: You are capable of anything. But rest is also okay…encouraged, even.
Believe it or not, this pregnancy’s 7-week maternity leave was the longest I have ever had. After Hux and Jackson, I shot weddings less than a month after C-section delivery. So this one was a breeze (not to mention Jennie & Alex are incredibly supportive and thoughtful humans!).
Funny thing though–I forgot my breast pump amidst the photography equipment prep. Actually, it wasn’t funny. Not at all. Rather painful, actually. (TMI again? My bad.)
Realization: Taking time to rest and recover was so good for me. C-sections are no joke and it felt good to just sit on the couch and heal for once.
So I never really thought I liked doing mini-sessions before this year. Ugh, I was totally wrong! I offered them both in the spring and fall of this year back in Virginia, and it was like a breath of fresh air.
One of my favorite things about them: Reconnecting with a bunch of my previous clients. I intentionally scheduled extra time between each 15-minute session, so we could have to just catch up. So many families have grown since we have moved. How cool is it that I get to document memories for growing families for generations to come? Gosh, I just feel so lucky.
Realization: Of course I love the business/art aspect of running a photography business. But I equally love creating and maintaining relationships with my clients throughout different seasons of life.
This year, I did a few stellar branding sessions. Finding clients that are confident in their brand and know exactly where their trajectory is headed and who they are marketing to…I can’t get over how excited that gets me to shoot for them!
But this year, I pushed it a bit farther. I was able to design a couple websites for my branding clients! When I say web design, I mean template customization (so don’t @ me, all you custom web designers!). Still it was a great extension of a service I was already offering. Check out my two web design clients (they couldn’t be more different!)–one a Lexington Pilates studio, one a Bardstown construction company.
Realization: Sometimes the best, most logical ideas for new services are right under your nose.
Second realization: I need to practice what I preach and have a branding session myself.
My background in education drove me toward teaching other photographers begin their own businesses. This has really been a challenge though, if I am being honest. I feel like I have “failed” (which is devastating for this type A/straight A/all the A things kind of girl) with marketing and really selling this/these resources.
Probably where I went wrong first was that I didn’t dive deep into discussing what my potential students needed. Rookie mistake. I filmed an entire 10-module course. Like it’s just sitting on my hard drive. But it seems like potential students may not have time to sit down and consume the course that way. Instead, perhaps the resources are better sold as PDF resources that can be purchased individually so that students are able to meet the material where they currently are in their businesses.
This is where I am at with TPF currently! 2023 will bring more consistency in marketing specific resources in The Photography Framework shop.
Realization: Failure can teach you a lot, but that doesn’t mean it stings any less.
Education is something I am pretty passionate about. I love learning, always have.
This year I have read numerous business books, and they have become somewhat of an addiction. I actually begun reading these books with the wedding venue in mind. While I thought that it would be different applying the principles I was reading about to a brick-and-mortar business as opposed to a service-based business, there were plenty of ways to apply the strategies to both. I have quite a few book reviews on the TPF blog, if you are interested in any of the following:
Additionally, I went on my first business retreat at the beginning of this year, which was incredibly rewarding. The time was devoted mostly to the business plan for the venue prior to us deciding not to move forward with it, but it was still helpful to know that I was capable of the laser focus when given space to do so. Also, it helped me realize how much I truly love pouring into others’ businesses to help them grow. There is something special about building up other entrepreneurs.
Realization: It is equally, if not more, important to work on your business, rather than simply in your business.
The brutal truth: It was an incredibly humbling year. Both in business and in personal life. Vulnerability was thrust upon us and we have learned a lot from that.
But it was also incredibly rewarding. I was privileged to be part of seven wedding days as a primary photographer, and even more as a second photographer. That isn’t something I take lightly. I was also allowed an inside look into multiple other small businesses by way of the business retreat, branding sessions, and website design. Again, not something I take lightly!
I am excited for 2023 and all that it has to offer. Check back in a couple weeks for my business goals for 2023. Seriously, y’all hold me accountable. Lord knows I need it!
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