Hi friends! It is FRIDAY, and I’m feeling really jazzed about it. It is snowing here in DC… and while I’m not the biggest fan of the winter, if it is going to be THIS cold, we might as well have a little snow to go along with it too! This week felt like one of those pedal to the metal weeks with lots of craziness. Luckily, I’m feeling pretty good with what got done, and I’m heading into a weekend where I’ll be hanging with my sis!
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been diving into the big topic of marketing right here on Friday Chatter… specifically marketing a business when you are CRAZY busy with #allthethings. To get you caught up, you can find The Busy Girl’s Guide to Marketing Like a Boss HERE and What do I post when I have nothing to share? HERE! Part One centered on repurposing content that you already have on your hard drives. We discussed tactful ways to repost different images from the same session or wedding and easy ways to quickly pull images in a pinch! (Get in on the goodness here!)
Part Two is going to get really specific, real quick. What do you do when you are starting from scratch? When you don’t have any work to share that is aligned with your vision for the future? How do you create content that aligns with your goals and future vision? Yes… we’re talking all about creating your OWN content to share! We’ll start with when you may want to think about creating your own content, and we’ll wrap things up with a few concrete ideas to get your creative juices going!
Let’s get started with one of my favorite things: Planning Ahead.
- Look ahead… literally, look at your calendar:
- If you know you are going into a season where content production may be on the back burner… maybe you are about to start back at school… maybe you are growing your family… maybe it is the traditional wedding season “off season” and you are nervous about not having a ton of new work… maybe you are about to head into a busy season at your full time job… make a game plan.
- If you are in a busy season within your business where written content production (like the blog and social media captions!) may be on the back burner because you are producing so much new work that you can’t keep up, make a game plan.
- The point is: whatever season you are in… you need to be thinking ahead. People like schedules. Audiences like schedules. Set your posting dates, times, and targets, and then stick to them! Formulate realistic plans to push you towards where you want to be. See what content you have and what you may need to create on your own. If I can offer one piece of advice, it is this: In a busy season, it is vital to prep content before the time comes… if that means CREATING your own content, you should know that you’ll need it before the time comes.
- Once you have a plan and have an idea of how much content you’ll need, decide if you’ll need to produce your own content to support your posting plan:
- We’ll dive more into this point in just a second… but producing beautiful and unique content is not that hard and it is a GREAT way to stay in feeds when you may be wishing you had more work that fuels you on your plate. I hate to use the phrase: “Fake it ’til you make it” because that isn’t necessarily entirely accurate, but you DO have to get a bit creative with content creation and the way that you are sharing it, especially when you aren’t doing a lot of the work that fires you up.
- When I was working my full time job, I didn’t have a lot of photography related work on my plate. I was new to the city, was just getting my footing, and was second shooting a bit here and there. When I decided to get serious about growing this biz of mine, I set a goal to publish something on my blog one day a week… it didn’t matter what the topic was, but I had to blog each Friday! I was really surprised at the ideas that I came up with to keep the series going! (And I was even more surprised when I learned that people were actually tuning in!)
- Now, to put this into more recent terms… I’m in my off season right now! Yes, I’ve had some weddings and sessions here and there, but for the most part, I’m sharing content that I have created outside of sessions and weddings. This post you’re reading now? It was an idea that I had that I wanted to share. It has since turned into a mini series (and a mini novel today… oops) that I’ve gotten about three Friday’s worth of content from. (That is almost one full month of Fridays!) The image you see there as the header? It was taken at my desk with my camera propped up on a bookshelf and a 10 second timer. Seriously, y’all! This post was created from practically NOTHING, and you are reading it right now! Producing creative content doesn’t have to be rocket science, it can can be a lot of fun, and you CAN do it!
- Now… if you are short on time, take the time (when you have it!) to build out a bank of posts to draw from during a week when your head feels like it is spinning. I’m talking social media captions, blog, email copy, etc. I’m working on my bank of blog posts now for when my busy season starts, and I know that I will be SO thankful to have a few “backup” posts during crazy months! (PS on that note, if there are any topics you want to read about or questions you have, send yo’ girl an email)
Fighting through mental blocks:
Now… before we get onto the topic of HOW to produce content for each platform, I wanted to talk about something. If you are in a season where you are feeling so mentally drained… stumped… frustrated… and maybe like the last thing you want to do is broadcast yourself online… first, I want you to know that if I could reach through my computer screen to give you a hug, I would. Being in this season… it sucks. There is no eloquent way to put it. I think we may all experience this as content creators, and I want you to know that it is normal to feel frustrated every now and then, especially at the beginning. I have been there, and I know that it really is not fun. It takes a lot of hard work to move on. BUT, moving on is possible, and it is so worth it. Don’t give up! Your story… your work… your business… it is all worth being shared.
Maybe you’ve thought one of the following things…
- Well, no one is reading/engaging/liking this anyways… is it even worth my time?
- Friend, you have to trust. I’m sorry to say… this process happens slowly… so slowly. I know that isn’t encouraging, but think about it: you won’t be able to build a dedicated following overnight, but you also won’t be able to build a following by not posting at all. Which would you prefer? The hope that someday you’ll have the audience of your dreams (and taking baby steps weekly to get there) or wishing that you had started six months prior? Take the baby steps. Keep things simple at first and then let them blossom as your confidence grows. You won’t regret it!
- PS as a random note on blog posts and search engine optimization: it takes almost six months to a YEAR for posts to start ranking in Google searches. Give it time, friends!
- I’m so busy these days outside of my business, I don’t have time to meet the deadlines I’ve set for myself.
- We’ve all been there! This is when it comes back to planning ahead and setting a realistic schedule for yourself. This may not look like posting 3-5 times a week on social media! This may look like posting once a week on social and once a month on your blog! That is okay! You’ve got to decide what works for you. If you have a rare free evening, free Sunday afternoon, free 30 minutes at lunch, take some time to fit in some content planning and prep. It isn’t glamorous to post up with your laptop in a random spot in between meetings, but don’t give up! Sometimes, it does take a little bit of sacrifice and flexibility to fit it all in!
- I’m feeling so burnt out that the thought of posting one more thing on social media makes me feel like I want to cry!
- Raise you hand if you’ve said this before 🙋🏼♀️I get it! Being a business owner is hard. Being a business owner in a season when you are also working a full time job? That feels near impossible. We wear a ton of hats, and oftentimes, we are our own worst critics. If you are in a season where your burnout is feeling like a giant hurdle to overcome, breathe. Don’t quit, but do take a break. You see… there is a HUGE difference between quitting and taking a break. Give yourself permission to take a break or back off on your content schedule just a bit! Set aside some post-free time. Maybe a week? Maybe two? Delete social media apps off your phone and resist the urge to log into Facebook on your computer. Cold turkey quit that social media stuff. While you’re away, evaluate why you may be feeling so burnt out… what changes you need to make in the future to keep this from happening again. Maybe it is adjusting your frequency of posts? Maybe it is tailoring the type of content you are sharing? Maybe it is something else? When you come back to the platforms, you already have a post there waiting for you! What was it that you learned while taking a break from social media?
I can’t emphasize how important it is to check in with yourself from time to time. When it comes to planning content, thinking ahead and dreaming big is a must… but so are the heart checks.
Now… you have your schedule, you’re feeling fired up, you’re ready to go… what the heck do you post?!
We are going to be diving into ways to build content for the platforms that I use the most often! (My blog and social media!)
- I think of my blog as a direct communication channel to my audience… because it is! What is it that I want them to know? What do I want them to think about? What might they not be thinking about that they should know? For clarity, this point is going to focus on creating content, not sharing work you recently produced in blog posts!
- I recommend selecting 4-5 big categories to organize your blog posts. Set your categories and then brainstorm different posts to fall under each category! (Example: If you had a “Personal” category, you could do a post all about how you started your business!). Keep a note on your phone, a notebook in your bag or a text thread with yourself to write down ideas when they come to you! After you blog regularly for a while, you’ll notice that blog posts tend come to you at the most random times. Have a system in place to record your ideas and then put them into action. When I was working three jobs, I kept a small notebook on me at all times! When I had an idea, I wrote it down so I could dive into it later. It was that simple!
- If you are looking for content inspiration, here are a few topic ideas that you can pull from on a rainy day!
- Publish the answer to a question that you get via email often! Think of your blog as an index of all the things you could ever want a client to know. This was actually how Friday Chatter was originally born! Way back when I started this blog series, it was called FAQ Friday, and I used the day to address the questions that I got again and again. Of course, you do this without calling anyone out. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to be able to send a blog link to a client when they have the same question.
- Breakdown your client experience— lift the veil, and walk through your client experience from start to finish! What can people expect when working with you? If you want to get even DEEPER, you could detail one part of your client experience! (Example: What do potential clients have to do to officially book you as their photographer? This is an older post, but you can see an example of where I did this here!)
- What do you want your clients to know? This is a HUGE category and very closely related to the first point above! When you think about your wedding days or portrait sessions, where are the holes? What aren’t people asking that you wish you could tell them? Do you wish people took more time to curate their details? Planned a more organized timeline? Do you wish people would wear something other than jeans and a white t-shirt for family photos or didn’t show up 20 minutes late to a sunset session? (See posts HERE, HERE & HERE!) These are ALL topics that you could do a full blog posts on! Recognize the issues, write them down, and then publish the solution! Again… do this without specifically singling anyone out 😉
- Your audience wants to get to know YOU! Don’t be shy… include personal posts from time to time! Think vacation recaps, home tours, hometown tips, your business story… the opportunities are limitless!
- Start a continuing stories and series (like this one!). If you have an idea that just keeps giving, don’t hesitate to make it a mini or regular series!
Instagram and Facebook
- Social media is a BIG topic… I could probably do an entire series on social media alone. SO, I’m going to try my best to keep this short by focusing on creating IMAGES for Instagram and Facebook. Let me preface this by saying that there are SO many social media platforms that you can dive into these days. I recommend selecting platforms to focus on, based on where your ideal client is located. Run with it! My personal focus is on Instagram and Facebook right now. I use my social media channels to be a daily touch point with my audience. I typically post on Instagram daily (content ranging from fun facts, new work, older work with a repurposed caption, and blog post pushes), and with Facebook, I find this is best for pushing sneak peeks, blog posts, important updates and content with links. Now… this isn’t to say that this will be the same for your social media! You should definitely analyze what works best on each platform for you! You may not want or need to post daily, and that is okay! Now… after you have your plan in place, how do you create images to push your personal goals?!
- Batch build content… This is similar to the point up top about stock piling blog posts! Schedule (as in write it down on your calendar!!!) a time to build content for your social media platforms if you are running low on content. This could be through styling flat lays near a window in your bedroom, setting up your camera for self portraits, styling details, or exploring a spot that you’ve always wanted to explore with a camera in hand. Take plenty of photos (think close up details, wider shots, landscapes… maybe even get crazy and get in front of the camera yourself), and then stick the photos in a folder where you can easily access them! When you have something to say, these images are great to pull from!
- Use test shots to your advantage… when you are out on a session, wedding, etc. use your test shots to your advantage! When you are testing your settings, instead of taking a quick picture to see if everything is properly exposed, what if you took an intentional shot, focused in on the landscape or a detail in the area where you are shooting? (while still checking on your settings!) Chances are, the location where you are is beautiful, and these images will make great blog headers and beautiful feed fillers for the days when you have something to say and not a whole lot to go along with it! These images are ALSO a great way to tell the story of where you are located or where you are interested in working! (You better bet that I am photographing alllll the dreamy white columns and DC landscapes when I get to work at an iconic location!)
- Host your own styled session or wedding shoot… this one is definitely a little more time intensive, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t done this one myself. However, I know a lot of people that have loved doing this themselves and have had some success with it too! Styled shoots and sessions are a great way to have beautiful images for publication, social media, blog posts, etc. that are consistent and in line with what you hope to shoot! I’m not able to offer much advice here, but I did want to remind you that it IS an option!
- I’m about to use the dreaded F word y’all… Offer to shoot for free… OK now that I said it, let me back up. Please don’t just offer to photograph just anyone for free because I told you to do it. Sit down, identify your goals, your ideal client, and where it is you want to take this business of yours. If you have a friend or a few friends that you think would be, not only great spokespeople for your business, but also fill the position of your “ideal client,” reach out and see if they would be interested in modeling for you! It is okay to be selective! When shooting for free, DO set rules, boundaries and expectations. DO be clear about what you will be using these images for. DO sign a contract and a model release, detailing your agreement! DO set a dates and deadlines. Don’t shy away from shooting for free just because it has become somewhat of a dirty phrase in the industry. Experience is experience, and content aligned with your goals is gold! If you have a vision, make it happen… even if it means offering to shoot for free.
- Head shot swaps or the good old self timer… I mention this a lot, but your audience DOES want to get to know you. Even though it can feel really scary, you should be showing your face every now and then! If I am getting REALLY technical, I’ll let you in on my secret: I try to show my face in my Instagram feed every 6 to 9 images! If you go and scroll through my feed, it may give you a little giggle! When someone finds my account for the very first time, I instantly want them to be able to identify who it is they will be working with! Yes, that does mean getting in front of the camera, but after a while, it really isn’t all that scary! I promise! Believe it or not, your clients can relate to YOU so much better than they can relate to a pretty picture you have taken. If you have a photo friend with a similar style to you, offer to do a head shot swap OR set up a paid branding session! No friends available or near you? Set up the good old self timer OR get a remote to trigger your camera. (You can also have a significant other, roommate, friend, etc. snap a few photos for you too! Simply set up the shot and let them know what to do.) The point? Using YOU to fill your feed is a great way to build engagement.
- They’re a thing, they can be intimidating, and if you want to use them but don’t know how, I’m here to help! Admittedly, I don’t have a huge strategy for Instagram stories, but I do use them almost daily in my business. Instagram stories are a great place to post when you aren’t posting in your feed that day… they’re also a great place to showcase personal things, the everyday or things that you don’t deem “pretty enough” for your feed. They’re here and gone in about 24 hours, but during that time, stories serve as a powerful tool to connect you to your audience! How many times do you find yourself mindlessly getting caught in binge watching Instagram stories? It can’t just be me! Keep that in mind as a bit of encouragement as you start to dive into tackling stories! You’ll here may varying schools of thought on Instagram stories, and this is simply my opinion. We all do things differently, and that is the beautiful thing about the creative industry!
- Let’s talk about one thing really quick: you don’t have to talk into your phone… if this isn’t your thing, you can get SO creative with how to use your Instagram stories. Try posting text over a plain background or share a boomerang or video of what you are doing that day. Personally, I try to “talk to my audience” about something once or twice a week, but other days, I’m usually sharing my environment or everyday adventures. If you do want to talk to your screen and are trying to get used to it, practice! I would talk to my Snapchat friends (much to my friends’ annoyance 🙈), but it helped! Also… this is me giving you permission: you do not have to be done up, looking your best when you hop on stories! I work from home and also work in the fitness world! I don’t wear makeup or real clothes everyday, and I still do hop on stories when I may not be feeling like I look like a million bucks. You have my permission to do the same! Showcase the #reallife.
- Think simple here… Instagram stories are here and gone in 24 hours. If you are spending a ton of time on them, you are probably wasting precious time. Don’t over think it. If I am being honest, one of my MOST engaged with story in the last two weeks or so was of a Boomerang I took on the Dupont Metro escalator… simply asking if anyone else was also terrified of them like I am! (If you live in DC, you know what I’m talking about… it is a 175+ foot long escalator that is absolutely terrifying. Yes I may or may not have looked that stat.) Yup… it can be that simple! I heard from SO many people about how we share the same fear! Share your everyday, your funny quirks, and easy ways for your audience to connect with you!
- Share your feed posts… this one is easy! Whenever I have a new post go live, I typically share it on over to my IG story too as a teaser! This is a really easy way to have content on your story when you may not have the energy or time to produce anything new! (and it also gets your post in front of people’s faces— shoutout Instagram algorithm for making that feel almost impossible these days!)
Build Content through Networking
- Ok this is my last and final point! I always try to keep blog posts short but… oops. I had a lot of things that I wanted to share, so I couldn’t help myself. A HUGE way that I grew was building content through networking. Now… before we dive into this too far, networking takes time and could also require a financial commitment. With that being said, it is also a really beautiful way to learn and grow which is why I felt it was a vital point in today’s post!
- Second Shooting… I’ve been gifted with an amazing and supportive community that truly believes in community over competition. A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to meet and learn from many photographers that I admire, while building my portfolio! At the time, I was second shooting a lot, and to this day, I still second shoot often! I was able to use a lot of the images that I created during this time to share my message on social media and as supporting images in blog posts, and that was SO valuable. Now… it is important to note that not every photographer has the same second shooting sharing policy. DO respect the person that you are working with and their wishes. DO sign contracts with photographers before second shooting with them. And DO help them out to the very best of your ability when you are working together! Sometimes that means taking on some of the not so fun parts of the day (like wrangling family members during family portraits or taking grip and grins during cocktail hour!). I was able to connect with a lot of photographers through the Honeybook Community! I definitely recommend commenting on threads where other photographers are asking for second photographers. I’ve found that the threads advertising your services as a second photographer tend to get lost in the post flow.
- Attend Workshops… this is where the financial commitment comes into play. I am a self proclaimed education junky. I love learning from others, I always leave educational events and workshops feeling inspired, and I truly believe that continuing education is an amazing way to grow as an entrepreneur. If you are looking for a way to improve as a photographer and are also hoping to have some beautiful images to include in your online presence, consider looking into a workshop with an educational component and a styled shoot! I have left quite a few workshops with new industry friends, invaluable knowledge, AND beautiful images that I have then been able to pepper through my portfolio. I can’t tell you how empowering this is! With this being said though, DO make sure you love and identify with the workshop leader and that you are more excited about the content you will be learning than you’ll be about the styled shoot.
PHEW. If you made it to this point, I’m going to need you to wrap yourself up into one BIG hug for me! I hope today’s post was encouraging and practical! Can we have a moment of real talk though? That was A LOT of information. You should feel absolutely zero pressure to implement #allthethings today, tomorrow, or next month. Take small bites. Find what works for you and resonates with your goals. Take notes, put them aside and consider pulling from these tips on a rainy day (or when your feed may need some love!).
Do you have any content production tips and tricks? Let me know in a comment on this post!
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