Hi there, I'm Manali! A wedding photographer & educator serving Charlottesville VA & DC. Click through for all my favorites from recent sessions, adventures and travels, as well as tips & tricks for clients! Grab a cup of coffee, relax, and feel free to connect with me elsewhere as well! Cheers to you!
Manali is a wedding photographer & educator based out of Charlottesville, VA. When she's not making couples laugh or teaching other photographers how to save time & grow their business, you can find her at a vineyard with wine & cheese in hand with her friends & fam!
Two years ago, investing in anything photography education related was a terrifying decision to make. When you’re first starting a business, you’re not quite rolling in the cash quite yet and you have to be selective with your business purchases and a lot of money goes into initially building up your photography gear, creating a website, and the likes.
One of the biggest fears I had was investing in something that wouldn’t eventually have a return on the investment so putting money towards a course or a workshop seemed really daunting! As you start out, you’re scrappy, the master of Googling and DIY-ing your approach and this definitely serves people for a time. But I think only for a time.
There is an advantage to learning with information in a consolidated and organized manner and the ability to ask the presenter questions that pertain directly to your OWN business. No two businesses are alike and a strategy that works for one creative may not necessarily fit your personal strengths, your brand or your business well.
My Results from Learning & Implementing
I think it’s incredibly easy to fall into a scarcity mindset like that and be hesitant to invest in photography education initially. I’m saying this as the number one person who did this!
After almost two years I finally caved and bought Katelyn James’ consistency course and although a lot of what was in the course were things I had learned by binge-reading through blogs, the content came together in a way that made it easier to understand and to actually apply to my business to make a change! Plus there were a couple of editing tricks that completely changed the game for me, helped increase the quality of images and the consistency of them making my portfolio stronger. On top of that all, it gave me a solid workflow to follow that helped the overall consistency and efficiency in my client experience that was a total game-changer.
Over the next few months, I booked more portrait sessions and weddings than I ever had before and made the initial investment for the course back five-fold!! Talk about a GREAT business decision! From having a system in place, being confident in my portfolio, this changed the confidence I had both in myself as a photographer and a business owner that provided an exemplary experience for my clients.
Think you’re ready to invest in education for your photography business? Read along, friend!
WHEN TO KNOW TO INVEST
In today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up in the next big thing. We are constantly flooded by what people around us are doing. It’s easy to see person A over here doing X, person B over there doing Y and person C doing Z and then think that we need to DO it all. And believe that we need to HAVE everything that everyone else has!
But I’d really challenge you to think about what you absolutely NEED to do a great job and provide quality images to your clients that will preserve their images. Within my first few years of photographing portrait sessions and second shooting at weddings, I had a camera body, two lenses and a flash! That was it!
As I’ve continued to photograph more weddings, I have built up more of an arsenal of lenses but I think starting with 2 lenses & a flash will get you up and running really well! It really does come down to being able to use your camera well and edit well to create quality images that your clients will love!
That being said, I’d really encourage those looking to grow their business to start investing in education once they have a basic set of gear that they’ve purchased. It helps skip a LOT of growing pains and helps you build a strong foundation without a lot of guessing, trial and error and frustration.
Of course, every business is different and has different financial needs but I’d encourage newer photographers to start investing in education within their first two years if they’re interested in growing their business!
A mentor, workshop or online course will be able to show you what you’re doing well and also point out what you can improve to grow as a photographer and business owner. Learning from someone who’s been in your position and has gotten to where you want to go provides a lot of clarity, confidence, and peace of mind.
I truly believe that it’s so much harder to go at it alone rather than alongside other creative entrepreneurs who understand your pain points, have experienced them themselves and have figured out solutions to help alleviate those issues. They can truly help you see where you can make life and business a little easier for you and sometimes provide the encouragement to help you make it happen!
WHERE TO INVEST IN
If you’re reading this and you feel like it might be time to invest in your photography business, I am SO proud of you!! It’s not an easy mindset shift to see the value in investing. It can be difficult to figure out exactly what should be the first big investment that you will see results from. I recommend thinking through the following questions, brainstorming away for each one, and then reading back through your answers and highlighting or circling common themes:
What are areas of your photography or business that you feel you are struggling in? What isn’t going quite as you have envisioned? What doesn’t come naturally to you? This could be anything from technically shooting well in-camera, editing, having a consistent client workflow, a data management strategy, a project management strategy, emails, staying on top of business tasks, the list goes on. This is judgment-free, the goal here is to take some time to get a birds-eye view, to remove yourself from the day to day hustle of running your business and step back to objectively evaluate where you stand to improve!
What tasks you the longest to do? A mentor or course can teach you a new way, provide a framework and an efficient way to get through tasks that normally take you a very long time to do. This might seem strange that there are workflows for tasks like writing a blog post, but trust me, there are SO many tips that can help make this such a smooth process and the same can be said for all the tasks that your business must accomplish to stay up and running!
What skills do you want to learn or better master? Are there any new parts of your business that you’d like to introduce that you need help or guidance on? Is there a skill like utilizing Instagram or Pinterest that you’re not sure you’re using correctly to authentically create or convert leads? Education on those specific topics can help ensure that you’re not just completing tasks in your business for productivity’s sake but that these tasks are being done in a way that is effective and actually increase your bottom line.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
Once you figure out exactly which areas of business that you’d like to get help with, I recommend that you dig in and do a little bit of research before deciding to purchase a course, mentoring session or any other educational product or experience.
So many educators put out a TON of free content that can help you decide whether or not they’d be the right fit for you! Here are a couple of things to think through as you decide who the best fit for your business will be:
Do you align with their brand values?
Are they an expert in a topic you need help with? This means that they have consistently posted about topics you’re interested in and have provided valuable insight with their free content!
Do you enjoy learning from them? Not everyone has the same teaching style and not everyone has the same learning style. If you’re a visual learner, are they someone who will provide visuals to help you better understand a concept?
Are they able to break down concepts in an easily digestible way? We are not looking to get overwhelmed by a course or mentoring session. The goal is to get actionable advice that you can easily implement into your own business either during the course itself or within the next month to start seeing growth & a return on your investment!
Going along with the last point, they show examples of HOW you can implement their advice so that it goes from being a concept to a tactic or strategy that’s sustainable and will actually work for you!
They’re an open book!! Ok, I think this is the biggest criteria of all. I want to hear it straight and know exactly how and why their method or strategy is going to be beneficial and a good fit! I also find it incredibly helpful to know exactly how someone is implementing a strategy that I’m considering adopting for my own business and appreciate getting to hear about all aspects of it and how it ties into the bigger picture of their business.
A FEW QUICK TIPS!
Set aside a yearly or monthly budget! This is a big one! Personally once I started seeing the value of investing in education, I wanted to go to ALL the conferences and invest in mentoring sessions with a bunch of other photographers and other creative boss ladies that I look up to! Sticking to a budget is so key in making sure that you’re investing equally in different parts of your business like your equipment, systems, and your education. It will also help you be more selective with what you choose to put your dollars towards and I think that helps you get in the mindset to get as much out of your investment as possible.
Take things one at a time! Also speaking from personal experience here. I definitely made the mistake of taking on learning from multiple courses at the same time over this year. I found it overwhelming to keep up with everything that I was learning, implement new ideas and serve my clients well all at the same time! Take it slow!! There’s no harm in purchasing a course but waiting after your fall busy season to get started so you can really devote all of your time and attention towards learning from it and making changes to better serve your business in the future.
Make a wish list of what you’re considering investing in and include how much each is worth AND a game plan of how you could utilize the knowledge you’ve learned to make a return on that money! This is SO key and I wish I had started doing this earlier. This helps you outline exactly what you need to learn from each investment. It also helps you plan out how you will actually implement the knowledge and ultimately gain more profit from doing so! Knowledge for knowledge’s sake will only get you so far, implementing and sustaining will help you see results.
Write out a list of questions that you want to have answered or gain more insight on! This can help guide how you go through a course or workshop to make sure you really get the most out of it.
READY TO START PUTTING SYSTEMS IN PLACE IN YOUR BUSINESS?
If you’re wondering what the inside of a successful & streamlined photography business looks like the Resources Vault is for you! It includes everything from email templates, client questionnaires, workflows for portraits & questionnaires, a breakdown of a profitable marketing strategy & how to streamline and organize each and every part of your business. More of a visual learner? Be sure to watch the totally-free masterclass!