What is Your Purpose?

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You are not how many Twitter followers you have, Facebook likes you’ve gained or the emails sitting in your inbox. You are not more important when you’re busy or in-demand. You are not the money in your bank, the expensive clothes in your wardrobe, the house in the right area or the fancy car in the driveway.

The people you help, the lives you touch, and the gifts you give back to the world, that is what matters.

For a long while I thought that my purpose was just to help share wedding ideas… which felt quite superficial and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But more recently I’ve started to realise that what I really, truly, want to do is to be able to inspire people to be themselves. I want my readers to feel empowered and to be proud of who they are after reading my site. I want to show people that they can have the wedding, life and career that they really want. I want to write things that help people to get there.

Finding your purpose is about using your skills, whatever they might be, and seeing each day as an opportunity to improve the lives of others.

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Digital Detox

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Feeling overwhelmed because of your dependence to all things digital is, undoubtedly, the curse of the modern era. And we’re all guilty of it. I don’t know about you, but when I look at my personal dependency it’s particularly scary.

The first thing I do when I wake up is grab my phone and start scrolling through emails, twitter, facebook, instagram… I then get up, go to my office, turn on my computer and work on it for at least eight hours straight. At around 6pm I log off, head downstairs, watch TV, fire up my laptop and browse pinterest, youtube, buzzfeed. I always keep my phone very close by.

I am constantly connected, constantly contactable, constantly on stand-by.

It’s not that I think I’m going to miss something oh so very important if I switch off… it’s that I actually can not switch off. Without some kind of digital stimulation I’m quickly bored, fidgety and grumpy. I am unable to just… be. I need things to continually occupy my mind, and most of the time that thing is the internet.

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How To Land your Dream Job

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The Blogcademy, the blogging and business workshop I co-run, recently advertised for an events coordinator. I’ve never hired anyone before (I don’t think my husband counts, he was a bit of a shoo-in!) or had to go through job applications, so this was actually a massive learning experience for me too.

We had over 100 applications (!) and going through so many in short succession really did show me – quickly – the mistakes people were making over and over again. I hope some of the things I realised can also help you if you’re planning to apply for a new job soon.

Be short and concise… but not too brief

As I said, we had over 100 applications to go through and anyone who rambled on for too long in their initial email or covering letter instantly started getting on my nerves (harsh, I know..!) While you certainly should include a letter which lays out why you want the job and what you can bring to the role, be sure to make everything relevant and get to your points quickly!

Use your covering letter to really sell yourself to your potential employer but don’t tell your life story. We don’t need to hear about your childhood nicknames or the fact that you make the best god-damn brownies in the world. Show that you’re passionate and well-versed in the company ethos and that you are qualified for the role, but if something isn’t relevant, take it out!

On the flip side there were some people who literally just sent in their CV and an email that said “You should check me out!” To an employer that looks like you don’t really care about the specific job you’re applying for and you haven’t put any effort into your application.

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Five Simple Strategies to Keep on Top of your Small Business Finances

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I’m about as un-mathematically minded as they come. Just the thought of balance sheets, invoices and bookkeeping brings me out in a cold sweat. So no-one is more surprised than me that today I’m writing an article about managing small business finances!

However, ever since starting the Green Room I’ve been emailed constantly by folks asking me if I could help them with their various money organisational woes.  Well, all I can really say is that thank goodness I married a man who understands how all this stuff works because without him I’d probably be sobbing into a spreadsheet right about now.

Surprisingly though, I have actually learnt a few little titbits about managing the money side of things over the years. These tips are pretty simple and easy to implement, but I hope some of you will find them helpful.

1. Work out how much you need to survive

Figuring out how much you need to live on is lesson number one when it comes to setting your rates. You need a final number in mind to enable you to work backwards and calculate how much you need to charge for your product or services.

To do this, add up all your expenses. This should include everything from food, entertainment, clothes, rent and travel for yourself and the things you’ll need to keep your business ticking over like equipment, your website, marketing and insurance. You should also include a few luxuries like eating out every so often, because it’s not really going to be much fun being sat at home eating beans on toast every night because you’re not charging enough.

If you needed £30,000 a year to live on and run your business effectively. Next, work out how many clients you’d ideally like to work with annually and then divide the second number by the first. Say you wanted to work with 30 clients per year, that would mean you’d need each client to bring in £1000 each.

2. Pay yourself a wage

Something I realised quite early on is that I needed some boundaries which how much I was allowed to spend on myself each month. Before Rock n Roll Bride I was very much living payday to payday and was literally spending everything I earned (I’ve never been much of a saver!) So I knew that if I didn’t pay myself a wage that I’d probably end up having no money left to pay any business costs.

The other thing with paying yourself a consistent wage is that you’re less likely to go crazy in Topshop if you have an unusually lucrative month. Doing this is dangerous because if for some reason the following month is a bit leaner, then that extra money could have really come in handy.

This is especially important for people with very seasonal businesses, like those of us in the wedding industry. In the summer you might be working on lots of weddings which means lots of money coming in, but over the winter you’re going to struggle if you’ve spent all of that extra income and nobody is getting married!

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Does Your Business Have A Secret Recipe?

kat and gareth williamsby emma case

Do you ever wonder what it is that makes one blog memorable and recognisable and another seem like they’re going through an identity crisis every other week?  Do you ever look at a photograph and instantly know who took it? Or see a dress and immediately know who the designer was?

The reason for this is consistency. If you can look at something and without delving any deeper know who the creator was, then they have not only managed to hone a strong and identifiable brand, but have carved out a consistent formula, or secret recipe, for their work.

Having a secret recipe and being consistent isn’t about being boring, repetitious or uncreative. It’s about having some parameters in place in which you create your best, and most recognisable, work. Monet was known for his landscapes and impressionist style. You didn’t see him painting the Water Lilies one day and a fire-breathing dragon the next. Being consistent will help you to fortify and solidify your brand. That’s not to say that your style can’t naturally evolve over time though. In fact it most certainly should or you’ll end up getting bored and your work stagnant.

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What I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Business

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One of my first ever shoots for Rock n Roll Bride with Emma CaseMay 2010

I was lying in bed one Saturday night, mulling over everything I had to get done that coming week, and my thoughts suddenly shifted to how different my life was when I was just starting my blog and business. I pondered, if I knew then what I know now, would I have ever even registered my domain? Or would it have all just felt too big, too scary and too unattainable to even try? I didn’t really have a plan or any goals for my blog when I started out, I simply wanted to write about weddings, but if I did, would it have made a difference to how things panned out?

Then I wondered if some of my industry friends had thought about this too. So I woke up the next morning and decided to ask them! I wanted to know if they felt that their businesses had a ‘tipping point’ or if things just slowly started to happen. I wanted to hear if they’d made any mistakes but most of all I really wanted to know if there was anything they wish they’d known before starting their businesses.

Full disclosure: this article is huge (6000 words!) so you might want to grab a cup of tea before you dig in. Not only did almost every single person I asked reply, but they all did so at length and with a bucket load of incredible advice. What a bunch o’ babes.

Jasmine Star, photographer

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There wasn’t a single tipping point for my business, but, rather, a series of tipping points pushing me closer to where I needed to be (learning how engage with clients, finding my blogging voice, learning how to file taxes, launching a branded website, etc).  I wish it was as easy as a single moment of success, but I think that exists only in Disney movies with talking animals.

Here’s a sample blog post from when I first started my business, in February 2006:

“Why am I such a chicken? I swear I should just lay an egg to complete this metamorphosis. I mean, the chicken and I both share entities like feet, breasts, and pointed breathing orifices, so if I sprouted feathers tonight I wouldn’t be surprised. 

I need–need–to be willing to go out on a limb and ask people if I could take their pictures. I mean, I know couples who are engaged, so why can’t I bring myself to ask them if I could snap their engagement photos? For crying out loud, I wouldn’t charge them, so what’s stopping me? My fear. Of rejection. Of incompetence. Of embarrassment.

I need to do this. Just need to.”

It took about three years to get my business to a place where I didn’t fear it was on the precipice of failure. Does that sound dramatic? Well, I’m sure it does, but small business owners live in fear of their dreams dying and we’re willing to fight for every last breath.

One thing I want to clarify though…as a wedding photographer, every year I have new clients. That means I’m, essentially, trying to run a new business every 12 months. The hustle, the worry, and the chutzpah doesn’t disappear, but you simply learn how to thrust and throttle when needed.

There were so many failures along the way, but I don’t look at them as missteps as much as I look at them as ways to help push my business where it needs to be.

Here are a few thing I wish I knew before starting my business:

It might sound terribly pessimistic, but expect the worst. If you can imagine just how bad things could be–and you’re okay with the outcome–then you know exactly what you’re risking. Knowing the worst, but hoping for the best tempered my emotions when I first started. The worst case scenario (for me) was: failing at photography, going back to law school, and owning a really nice DSLR camera. Once I realized what life looked like if I failed, I was ready to succeed.

Although you don’t want to make mistakes, they’ll happen. It’s part of the growing process, but it’s important to know not all mistakes are bad. A misstep that allows you to learn, correct, or grow is actually beneficial and the more you make in the beginning, the less you’ll make later. Instead of trying to avoid mistakes, embrace each challenge optimistically and know you’re learning along the way.

Go with your gut. I’d like to think I carefully weighed all the factors before starting my business (consciously), but actual decision making is made in primarily in an unconscious way. This doesn’t mean this is bad or faulty, there’s simply just too much to digest, too many unknowns (I had never started a business before, could I really compete in a saturated market?) Innately, we want to make educated decisions, but it’s important to know actual reasons are hardly enough to cover reality. Do as much research as you can, then take a jump!

When you start a business, you want to know all your options… at least I did. Little did I realize this would only lead to the inability to actually make a decision. The more you research, the more you’ll find. This may lead to a rabbit hole of choices (been there, done that), so try to set parameters before you dive too deep.

Finally, let’s be real for a second: the daily grind of what I do isn’t glamorous. I sit in yoga pants for hours in front of my computer…I sing for my dog…I occasionally wear mismatched socks around the house. I work a ton and I photograph (professionally) on good days. Before I built my business, I looked forward to working from home with positive emotions (probably because I had never done so), but once things got going, I realized it wasn’t all pixie dust and kazoos. The emotions I place leading to or at the conclusion of an event are often the strongest because they’re idealized…it was important for me to take my perfected ideas of being self-employed and juxtapose it with reality. I wish I had done so earlier because it would have lessened the blow of sitting in solitude for hours, not having a water cooler to congregate around, and only having a co-worker with four legs.

Emma Case, photographer


I find it difficult to really talk about how or when we found ‘business success’ because for me, there are three very different strands to it. First there’s your success in building your business (in terms of your brand, your reputation, your product, your experience, your audience, your enquiry stream, your industry community etc) and then there’s financial success (supporting yourself and the business, and making it a viable living in the eyes of yourself, your family and your accountant). Then there’s the strand of how all of these things effect your overall happiness.

You could have a wonderfully successful business, financially, but you can still be unhappy. Or you could be working 24/7 to achieve success in terms of your reputation but again, this doesn’t guarantee happiness. We’ve had various points in the business where all three strands have flourished but now we realise that our goal is to simply be happy so we’re working on the balance we need in every part of our business to achieve that.

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