July 1, 2021
Today we’re back with another coaching episode with the lovely Polly Sellers, a wedding photographer from Columbus, Ohio.
Polly has been in business for 3 years now and went full time the week before our coaching call. When asked what she was struggling with most in her business she said:
“Stuck” is the perfect word for me right now. I feel overwhelmed with all the information out there. Sometimes I don’t know how to organize priorities in my business when there is so much you can do, and I don’t know what direction I should/want to be going in. I constantly feel like once I finally get something down, the next thing is popping up on Instagram or a new tool, etc, leaving me feeling like I’m behind. I also just hired my VA, and I LOVE how it’s going, but sometimes I don’t know what tasks I should be giving her, and organizing that can get time-consuming and confusing.”
Does anyone relate??? Today we’re chatting with Polly on organization, finances, outsourcing, goal setting, and navigating loss and tragedy as a business owner. PHEW. We covered a LOT in this hour coaching call, but I think this episode is going to be SO valuable for you to listen in on. If you’re currently feeling overwhelmed with everything you could be doing in your business, keep listening. If you’re wondering what the heck to outsource to a virtual assistant, we got you, keep listening. And if you don’t know how to structure your goals and priorities in your business, then buckle up cause we’re tackling that with Polly too.
Lindsey: Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell everyone who Polly is.
Polly: I am a wedding photographer from Columbus, Ohio. I have lived in Columbus my entire life and love it here. I grew up as an athlete, I played soccer my entire life with every weekend was soccer games and tournaments. That led me to my University in Westerville, Ohio. I got into the wedding world by second shooting and have fallen in love with taking pictures of couples in love.
Other things about me, I love to go rollerblading, drawing, and doodling. Anything kind of 3D art. I love to be outside and hang out with my boyfriend and I get competitive playing board games.
Evie: What are you struggling with and what would you like to get from this coaching podcast?
Polly: I just quit my other job, I was serving at a restaurant. I worked there for four years and loved serving. It was something that also gave me life but it was time that I needed to spend more time in my business and the only way to do that is to dedicate all my time to it.
I just hired a VA this year and I feel overwhelmed with a lot of things that are being thrown at me at once. I want to tackle everything. Finances, organizational things, Instagram, and shooting and editing. I know it is easier to take one thing and dive into it but then I feel like I am missing out on all the other stuff flying by. I feel stuck with kind of everything and would love to talk about hiring people and what that looks like long-term projects, and financial resources.
Lindsey: I love Polly that you said you are feeling overwhelmed, I am not happy you feel that, but I like it in the sense that it is very relatable. I have been overwhelmed a lot in business. I know so many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed, have been, or will be in the future. So you are not alone in that.
Polly: What is the list of people you have hired for your business, including people that are currently on your team? (ie. editor, financial advisor, associate shooter, coach, etc.). I am not afraid of outsourcing, give me all the help I can get. How do you find out about these people sooner rather than later king of thing?
Evie: It is huge that you are not afraid to outsourcing, that is one of the pitfalls solopreneurs fall into. Is that we tighten our grip so hard and tight on what we are passionate about and our businesses become our babies. The fact you are saying you are not afraid to outsource is not super normal and puts you several steps ahead of where a lot of people start when building a business.
Polly: I had nine weddings in October, one was not one of my own (I was attending) so I had eight hired weddings. Right before October started I was like there is no way I can do this, I hit a breaking point. It’s time to get some help with other things and that’s when I hired my assistant.
Evie: I am going to focus on my photography business because that will be the most relatable to you and to the people who are listening who want to learn alongside you. My team currently consists of an outsource editor, my virtual assistant, any second shooters that I have consistently, not necessarily employees but people that I have built up that I can trust to handle something. I have a financial advisor and people who I would consider be filling the coaching roll although most of them are close friends. I was talking to somebody recently who asked if I have a coach right now. I don’t, I am actively looking for someone that can fill that position. They asked if I wished I had hired a coach and I sat through thinking through friends and family that act in that position for me. After I realized I do have the coaching role filled with friendships who are already deep into business, few steps ahead of me, or in a different industry so they can give a different perspective.
Lindsey: I would agree. My hiring is very similar in my photography to what Evie was. I would say coaching for me I haven’t had a traditional business coach where I get one on one coaching. I have done a little coaching that was for social media content specific and I have taken a lot of courses. That is a form of education and a form of outsourcing a skill to improve. I would say I have had friends in my life that have come alongside me. I would say as a recommendation to you Polly, whether you do hire a business coach to meet with you monthly or bi-weekly, or you start networking. I don’t think friends can completely replace a coach if they are not also in business.
Polly: I have ADHD and it definitely affects me differently at times. There are people out there who are actually ADHD coaches and specify for business as well and I feel like that is something as my next step. That and financial because now that I am going full time I need some structure and ADHD can be a lot of bad structure. Learning from someone else and giving me specific tools.
Lindsey: You said right now you only have an editor and a VA?
Polly: And I have a second shooter, well I have a couple but I have one that I will use for all my weddings this year.
Lindsey: Is there any need in your business right now that you are feeling stretched thin or is it a situation where you don’t know who to hire next. It’s not necessarily you always have to be looking to hire someone else, you could be stable in your business and thriving with your VA, editor, and second shooter. That’s my question: is there a need in your business that is continually having balls dropped, continually getting left behind that doesn’t need your focus?
Polly: Mostly I feel disorganized with financials. I am great at saving, thanks to my other job, but I feel like I don’t know where everything is going or when it’s coming in. Trying to organize it that way and be pickier about a budget. Right now I feel pretty steady, I don’t necessarily need a coach and I want to see what I can do by myself first. But when it comes to taxes and all that stuff I get so overwhelmed.
Evie: I want to clarify from you Polly, do you feel like you are struggling with setting up the organizational structure of finances in your businesses, or do you feel like you have goals you want to reach financially and need help knowing how much you should reinvest versus how much should you spend versus how much should you save? Or are you sitting there and being like taxes. Is it all the above or one of those?
Polly: I would probably say more the first one, but I reviewed The Phot Major episode for financials and you need to figure out how much you need to make and go backward. That outlook helped me but I am spending stuff on VA and then editors and I know that is fine, but do I have extra to spend, or do I not have extra to spend?
Lindsey: I think a financial advisor would be super helpful for you if you don’t already have one. Someone who is not in your business, who can look at your numbers and not only help you with that part of your business but also with taxes and structuring your retirement. Those things don’t need to be your brian space or skill set. I would also read the book Profit First. That book revolutionized how I look at the finances of my business and how to be profitable.
Evie: The book will walk you step by step on how to set up the backend of your business. That is a great first start.
Lindsey: It is prioritizing profit before you prioritize all your expenses. Sometimes you might have to look at your expenses and be like “Do I really need to spend this?”.
Evie: The one thing I will say about a financial advisor is that it might take you a while to find somebody who is the right fit. It seems like you are not just wanting somebody to advise you on what to invest in this mutual fund or retirement account, you’re going to want to find somebody who specializes in finances for small business owners. Who can help you figure out all the numbers in your business as well.
Polly: What organizational tips with your virtual assistant do you have? We really click personality-wise but would love any tips with getting everything organized with her. Sometimes we miscommunicate or are not sure when things need to get done by and what goes to who and expectations on response times.
Lindsey: It’s that sticky onboarding period when you are hiring someone because it does initially require a little bit of work from you as the entrepreneur. What I would focus on now, is one have weekly meetings if you don’t already. Even before that, I would nail down some absolutes, expectations-wise. Think of every single thing she is covering in your business and I want you to write it all down and brainstorm that. If you have a stipulation, tell her, you’re the boss. For me what I do I have created templates for inquiries so my assistant goes in and responds to the initial inquiry and if the client or potential client responds that is when I take over. That is the structure that we have made and I know at that point I take over because I don’t want my assistant emailing my clients. It feels impersonal to me at that point.
Polly: I had a couple of inquiries comes through and they were almost ready to book and I was like wait I don’t know anything about these people even though they had filled out a ton of questions. I had to go back and inquire about who they were. I want to be more a part of the process in a way but wanting to find that perfect balance.
Evie: That also comes down to what areas you want her to take over. Lindsey and I both have our assistant respond to our initial inquiry and then later down the process they might send out the questionnaire before the wedding. Certain things like that we might have them send out but as far as the in-between chatting, answering questions, working together, we both want to keep our hands-on. That is fine if you don’t like having Fran answer emails for you besides the first one. That is very connection-based and relationship-based and you want to make sure that you are the person reading those emails and connecting with the client. Don’t ever feel guilty for handing off something else to Fran and keep something else on your plate.
Lindsey: The next thing I was going to say for organizational is do you have a Trello, Monday, or Asana. My thought was with organizing tasks and making sure she does them on time. One, have a weekly check-in meeting, especially with an assistant to get on the same page and cover what you’ve done in the last week and what needs to get done this week. Every time you have a task that you give her, give her a deadline. The more you can communicate your expectations. The easier that will be.
Evie: First of all do you use Slack with your assistant or team.
Polly: No I don’t.
Lindsey: How do you communicate with her?
Polly: Through Voxer.
Lindsey: So voice message?
Polly: It’s kind of like that, it’s a separate app. We were using iMessage and we realized it was too much. We got Voxer, it’s like a walkie-talkie, you can send voice messages or text messages. It’s similar to a messaging app.
Lindsey: I like the idea of being able to speak to them, however, if you have a task that is being spoken and not written down on a message or email. Unless she is good at listening to messages and writing them down. That is my only issue.
Evie: The in-between of voice messaging if she has a question about the task and you respond with a voice message, I think that is fine, but assigning tasks I would recommend either doing it in a meeting or sending it in a written text form. Make sure that it is not getting lost in a voice message and she can scroll back. I would say maybe down the line look into Slack because you can send files, you can search through it, you can respond in a certain thread. You can have different channels so it’s not all in one spot and not getting super jumbled.
Polly: Are there other tasks that you assign to your VA besides email, and if you do what are they?
Lindsey: This is a question for you and knowing your VA. Is she strictly an admin or does she have a creative side? Sometimes you hit that jackpot and sometimes a VA can do both. A good VA is more admin-focused and not creative-focused. We both have our admin executive assistant and then we both separately have someone for social media and content creation. Knowing the difference if your VA is very admin-focused or has a creative side as well.
Polly: She graduated with graphic design and web design this past year. She has a creative side but I think she wants to move towards system automation and handling clients. But she has the creative side.
Lindsey: Does she have the capacity to work more for you/do you want her to work more hours for you?
Polly: This has been a conversation we’ve had back and forth. She works three hours a week for me, but in October was working 10 hours. After that, we went back down because I was slowing down and would love to have her for every hour of the week but she stopped taking on clients and has a solid 3-4 clients. She still wants to work together and be my VA.
Lindsey: I would have that conversation with her and ask her point-blank if she would be willing to take on more for you. Sitting here thinking she could take over Pinterest and if she is not skilled in Pinterest you could buy a Pinterest Course and have her take it instead of you. That’s what we’ve done before. The fact that you have a VA that is skilled in graphic and web design means you are sitting on a gold mine!
Evie: I would sit down and go through and track a week or more of your work life. Especially now as you are transitioning to going full time with your work. Start paying attention to the things that you are dreading, keep pushing off, taking a ton of time, and are struggling with. Keep track of what is taking the most time, what do you hate doing, and start putting that into a list of things Fran could do. Create a list and tell her you are doing that and have the conversation that Lindsey suggested with adding more hours. Keep track of that list and sit down with her and be like “I hate X, I don’t like Y” and it might take some time to train her into it but it sounds like she is well rounded in her skill-set so you can hand her stuff that is both admin and creative.
Polly: Do you ever feel like you give Rachel a task and she’s like I don’t want to do this? I don’t like doing this task?
Lindsey: I think it is less about liking and more about is she skilled. At the same time, if she doesn’t want to do that, I would focus on hiring a content creator.
Evie: Or I would just say pay attention to the skill set of your VA and see if you need to hire another person. Rachel never says I don’t want to do that or can’t. She’ll either say she doesn’t have the capacity or it doesn’t get done on time because she can’t get to it.
Lindsey: You said that she is only working three hours a week for you. That to me is not a lot of time.
Polly: That is me, she has offered five. I know she would be willing to take on more. That is more me going full time and adjusting.
Lindsey: If she is only working three hours and you are trying to give her things and she says she doesn’t like that, then I would think that is a red flag.
Polly: Transitioning to associates. I have a girl working for me for twenty of my weddings last year. I was thinking that if this is something she was interested in, but not sure how to approach the subject of her being an associate. Or even for myself, if it would be something that I would truly enjoy being someone else’s associate and finding someone that is hiring an associate or how to introduce that conversation.
Lindsey: When you say that you are wanting to be someone else’s associate is that to get more work?
Polly: No not necessarily, I like shooting weddings and the idea of working together with someone else. It looks fun and I like the shooting aspect and being a part of a team.
Lindsey: You are the owner of your own photography business, not to say you can’t associate with other people, that comes more with networking. With associates for yourself. There are two different routes. The public associate team, they are on your website, and when people inquiry they can choose. Or there is a private view, which is the way I did it. I was so involved with my brand I didn’t want to expand Lindsey Roman Photography to be a team publicly but I still felt that issue was hitting my capacity. I needed someone who needed and wanted work. Sunny came on as a private associate shooter, she wasn’t public but I did make a page on my website and a pricing guide. Whenever I got an inquiry that I couldn’t do I responded with a template of not being able to do it but here is my associate Sunny, here is a little about her, her pricing, and how this works. That’s how I navigated it but that is different than having a public team where you are marketing and advertising your team to clients.
Do you know what avenue you would want to go down?
Polly: The girl that is second shooting for me she is so talented and has similar editing styles. I think I would be interested in the route you went down with Sunny.
Lindsey: The reason those are the two avenues is when you have people that are on your team and are marketing them publicly, to me you need a contract that is locking them into your business. If they are publicly able to book under your brand, you don’t want them to have their photography business booking on the outside. Have them under a contract or find someone just getting into it. The reason I didn’t advertise Sunny was that she had her own business on Oahu as a photographer. It would almost be pulling work from her organically. You either train someone up and they are under contract to work solely under you for X amount of years or you have a couple of associates that have their own business and are willing to shoot for you.
Evie: I know you talked about being an associate for someone else, but your plate is already really full. So get clear on that goal. Get clear on what you want to do. Pick one clear thing and then move towards that goal.
Polly: I think you said it perfectly, that is what I am struggling with. Clarity on goals. What direction do I choose or go in? I have felt spread thin in the last few years.
Evie: Let’s talk about it. Want to share with us what confusion there is with you right now.
Polly: I feel like some of the confusion is I love weddings, I adore weddings but I am looking ten years down the road. What does that look like? That’s not realistic, let’s look five years down the road, more specific to what I am doing. Ten years I want to have a family and kids, but also business goals I feel stuck.
Lindsey: Looking ten years down the road is not unrealistic or stupid. I think it is smart. You can’t make your five years goals or your one-year goal if you don’t have the ten-year goal. I think that is where a lot of people fall short, they are only looking at a year or maybe three years down the road. They are not looking at the long term and building their life or business for their three-year goal and then they get there and don’t like it anymore or their life is different. It is smart to look that far ahead.
Polly: It’s hard to make definitive decisions.
Evie: Goals do change and shift. They are never going to be 1000% exactly how you had pictured them when you dreamed them. Either they will be bigger or better or completely different, or they will be shifted. While Lindsey and I believe so firmly in setting long-term goals, it can be kind of cloudy. You can set a goal of the picture of what the life you would like, it will help make decisions down the road towards that goal. Which is getting you closer to that goal. That can bring clarity to decisions now when making them. It doesn’t have to be super clear and does not have to be rigid and unmoveable. I would set some sort of vision now that can help you make decisions.
Lindsey: Do you have any idea of what a goal would be?
Polly: Honestly, a goal of mine was to go full time and I am doing that now. I said that at the start of the pandemic I wanted to go full time. I looked down the road and wanted to raise my prices so I could shoot fewer weddings and not be shooting 25-30 weddings. So that would be a goal to have less and be able to focus on my couples more.
Lindsey: A lot of people don’t recognize what we accomplish. We need to normalize celebrating our wins and when we hit those goals. That is just as important as striving for more.
Polly: It was a long time coming but I felt celebrated by my friends and family. It’s emotional and for anybody that loves their other job. I realized it was time for a change. You can love things and don’t have to hate them to let them go.
Lindsey: We always think that when people become entrepreneurs they hate their 9-5 but that’s not always true. You’re almost giving up something good for the potential of something greater down the road.
Polly: How to show up on social media after a loss or emotional season? This last year my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer, he had surgery to remove his tumor and is okay now, but it was an emotional couple of months. How do I tell my clients but don’t tell them?
Lindsey: I had a miscarriage back in October 2020. I was very vocal about it immediately. When something like that happens to you, you lose a loved one, or any tragedy a lot of our mindsets are F the world. When you are showing up on social media as a business owner, the part that gets tricky is you are normalizing showing up every day and being authentic. Then something tragic happens and you don’t almost want to hide it but at the same time, you need to protect that time in your life where it’s maybe not the best time for you to show up. I don’t regret sharing that about my life, but I think I should have set a little more boundaries with social media for myself because I was raw and had that F-it mindset. I didn’t care what I said and who I said it to.
Polly: I think a lot of people related to that.
Lindsey: That is the hard part. The reason you show up in social media for a personal brand is in a sense for marketing but it’s also to leave a legacy and leave people inspired. So it is twofold. It is hard when something tragic happens. You try to balance that line of being authentic, letting people in, but protecting the bubble. Have a little bit of victory in your mental capacity before you share about it. If something has happened to you don’t immediately go to your phone to share. Even if you don’t have a solution, you are still giving people hope by sharing. So many people are dealing with cancer or have loved ones, if you feel like God is pulling on your heart to share it then share it.
Polly: Thank you and thank you for sharing that.
Lindsey: Logistically with business, the fact that you are building a team right now is great. That is the best asset to have when crap hits the fan, is to outsource. Maybe that means putting an auto-responder on your email. You could indicate that it was a personal family matter, so you are still showing up professionally but you are putting that boundary. If you have an assistant I would utilize her when you are in those seasons of not feeling good.
Polly: What is one thing you each wish you knew sooner or earlier in your career?
Lindsey: I wish I knew that everybody doesn’t know what they are doing. Everyone learns along the way. When you are first starting a business you look at Beyonce or Taylor Swift and they just made it. Anybody in life that you look up to and is killing it, you think they hit some magic luck. But I think knowing you are smarter than you think you are, stronger than you think you are, and have what it takes to do what God created you to do. A lot of people discredit themselves when they think they couldn’t.
Evie: Building a team, done that sooner and faster. I wish earlier I knew how unhelpful people’s opinions are. People are always going to have opinions and be upset about something, there is always something that people have something negative to say. I wish I had built up a tougher skin. People are always going to be a critique and that needs to not be a voice guiding your decisions.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
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