The messy, anxious, fun first year of business

April 25, 2017

WELL FRIENDS…here we go

People warned me about the first couple years of starting your own business. I come from a long line of small and large business owners. From top three printers in the nation,to small town water bed sellers, to home therapy jewelry makers. My family has a thing for entrepreneurship. I was bound to follow in my family legacy whether I planned it or not. Business is in our blood. And my first experience of selling a product was in 4th grade, the classic middle school obsession, hemp bracelets. You know the ones where you get to create a pattern and add beads or color string. Whatever you wanted, I could make. They were all the rage and the kids at my school actually bought them! Sooner to later the rage died down so I was on to my next business endeavor, selling newspapers. In the middle of my 5th grade year I run with a new dream, to be a journalist. Me and a friend made the entire 20 page newspaper called “the Fifth Grade Times” filled with interviews about why the boys wouldn’t let the girls play football on the playground, crossword puzzles with our recent words from the spelling test , and cartoons made by up in coming 5th grade artists. But the best of them all was my 6th grade knitting company called “the Yaya Knitters”. Where I got that name to this day I don’t know but, I sold my scarves and hats in an actual store in town. At that age I had no idea  fifteen years later I would run a small business based on my talent of photography. Truly I thought I would be on some boat I built myself in the middle of the ocean going to the next country to preach the gospel. Literally – my dream starting at age 10.

But business is in my blood and work has always come to me without me searching out for it. Somewhere deep down I knew I couldn’t run from something so good and natural but I struggled all of high school, college, and the last three years post grad trying to figure out what the heck I want to do with my life.

I had one of those “oh my gosh I’m gonna remember this forever” moments when I realized, why am I constantly trying to search for a job or calling instead of looking to see what I’m already naturally gifted at and giving 110% to it?

So that I did last year!

Welcome to my first (messy, anxious driven, pretty fun) year of going full time freelance wedding photography. If you have interacted with me this last year, I’m sorry if I was tired, stressed, or anxious every time.. I am really working on it. That’s why I went to Hawaii, for two months. Although this job is fun and the lifestyle is ideal, it’s not easy. And I was turning into this woman I didn’t enjoy being around. If I may be so vulnerable to share I struggled with anxiety in ways I’ve never experienced in my life. I saw a therapist regularly and got put on anti- anxiety meds which I’m no longer struggling with due to…. well Hawaii. (I’m not kidding read this blog here ) In general Hawaii did good things for me and my brain! This last year was the first time I searched out help for my ADD, a condition my doctors were shocked how I made it through college without help. After brain scans we learned my brain waves work at a rate 80% of my day in dream land. Let’s just say it takes me twice, sometimes three times, as long to get anything done. I either zone out, get bored and move on to the next task without finishing the first, and mostly zone out into dream land. If you need help talking about your dreams, goals, or what makes you come alive I’m your girl. But if you need help with taxes, insurance, website design, client emails, or editing, you may need to go see someone else cause i’m still working on it.

I didn’t have boundaries between business and personal life. I felt guilty if I took a day off. I was able to attend church once within a five month span, so saw my friends very very minimal. And I had so many meltdowns, I felt like I was back in Junior year of college juggling 6 classes and a job. Let’s call a spade a spade here, I was unhealthy and wasn’t taking care of myself.

I never said I was good at business, I just said it was in my blood.

So heres to a year of new learnings, of being determined, of being self disciplined. Here is to a year of dream setting and achieving, to figuring out small business taxes, of shooting 18 weddings, 90 sessions and editing them all myself. Here is to a year of progress because that is all I can ask of myself. If you are hard on yourself for not achieving enough, doing enough, being enough, I urge you to do what you are good at not what others are doing. I picked that one up from Katelyn James ( a professional wedding photographer and educator). What if we all did what we were naturally talented at, where our gifting lie, or our dreams come true? Instead of comparing ourselves because we don’t look like all the other instagramers on social media or our dreams aren’t “big enough” like what you perceive everyone else to be?

It’s ok to dream small. No one has ever told me that! But I tell that to myself. It’s within the small dreams that the big ones arise. I believe my small dreams are just as important and will lead me to my big ones:

1.Owning three goats and making goats milk lotion and soap to give to my friends as gifts

2. Making everyone I interact with feel incredibly important by looking them in the eye not looking at my phone

3. Hosting weekly dinners where I get to cook for my friends

Guys, REALLY simple/ small dreams.

Sure they might not make a big difference like my other dreams to start a nonprofit after school where kids who underwent or undergoing trauma can come learn how to cook, build things, grow food, play with animals, and make art but…they are helping me to get there to the big ones.

YOUR SMALL DREAMS MATTER. Dreaming is good for the brain.

All of that to say, it’s ok if you don’t have it all figured out. If you don’t have all the answers. If you like business but you don’t know what the heck you are doing with yours. I hope I can be a useful resource for others starting out their business, not just wedding photography. I don’t know where I would be without the encouraging voices from across the country through books, podcasts, and blogs. Here are a few I TRUST and are obsessed with.

These are the books that influenced me:

  • The Essentialist -Greg McKeown (literally my bible this last year)
  • Daring Greatly- Brene Brown (anything by her honestly.amazing)
  • Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert (
  • Walking on Water-  ( I have read it over and over and over again)
  • Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
  • Tribe- Seth Godin
  • The School of Greatness- Lewis Howes

These are the podcast that helped me gain knowledge :

  • The Goal Digger– Jenna Kutcher
  • Creative Empire
  • The Tim Ferriss Show
  • Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller
  • The Robcast– his interviews with people! so good
  • Tedd Radio Hour-NPR

 And these are the blogs I read:

At the end of the first year these are a few things I learned + tips:

  • Routine routine routine
  • Keep it as simple as possible
  • Do what you are gifted at ,not what others are doing
  • Get yourself a business coach or advisor
  • Be personal with your clients, no one wants a distant photographer to photograph the most important day of their life
  • Don’t do too much research and Pinteresting. Trust your creativity.
  • Learn to say no
  • Have a vision of what you want the end of your life to look like
  • Above all else: love people 110%
  • Take a nap
  • Community over competition, trust others
  • Be your competitors biggest cheerleaders
  • There’s always more you can learn, don’t act like you know everything. CAUSE YOU    DON’T.
  • Be humble enough to learn from anyone not just the big wig somebodies
  • Put your body and heart first above work
  • Laugh at yourself
  • Ask as many questions as possible
  • Do what you love
  • Don’t sacrifice your relationships for your business, it’s not worth it.. it’s just business.
  • Use social media wisely. Don’t let it take over your life. The people in front of you matter more than the ones online (if you disagree I would love to discuss it, in person)

Photography specifically:

  • Get photo mechanic (for calling and staring) it will save YOU SO MUCH TIME
  • Honey book and Dubsado are great online organizational managing tools (get paid, calendar, emailing, price guides etc.)
  • Quick books is a lifesaver, especially the app on your phone tracks milage
  • Read reviews before you buy ANYTHING. Read a lot of them
  • Design Aglow – great for albums, USB’s, prints
  • WHCC- high quality prints and USB packaging
  • Kiss Wedding Books- amazing albums
  • BlogStomp- easy great tool to resize images for the web. SUPER easy and simple
  • Hashtag on Instagram, it actually works and gets you clients. (hence booked a Singapore wedding because of instagram! )
  • Get your camera sensors cleaned once a year! Send it in to canon or take it to a store in town. Worth having a clean sensor!!!!


Thanks friends. 🙂


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Meet the HRG Team

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The Hannah Rose Gray Team is a boutique photography team aimed on documenting your family legacy with authenticity, fun, and passion! We believe in making friends over clients, creating an unique experience for each friend that comes our way, and creating art that will last generations.


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