Since this past February, a lot has changed for me and my (still new) business, and it all changed because of Inspire. So, I wanted to share with you guys the impact attending this conference has had on my (photography) life. When I first heard about Inspire, in one of the CT photography Facebook groups, it sounded, well...affordable. So many workshops and conferences have these incredible lineups, filled with intensive workshops, hands-on classes and speakers you just want to stuff in your pocket and take home with you, and all of them have a hefty (read: big ass) price tag attached to them. Now, I am NOT saying that that price tag isn't worth it, in fact, I just came back myself from a workshop where I dipped into my shoe shopping money in order to soak up savvy from one of 'the greats' and I understand the spending of the dollar bills in return for knowledge (it's called paying for your education). But I perused Inspire's website and schedule and was amazed at the amount of awesomeness I'd be surrounded by for a relatively smaller fee. Inspire's fees make it possible for newbies to be able to attend and justify spending this money on their infant businesses.
The other thing that struck me as pretty freaking rad was the one-on-one mentoring opportunities every speaker was offering. Not gonna lie, I had my husband sit in front of the computer at 7pm that night the mentors were 'going live' so I could get my thirty minutes with one specific person; and of course I didn't get that person. Instead, I signed up with someone who may have had the biggest impact on my business to-date (more on her later), so all that worked out in my favor.
I (first convinced to attend and then) roomed up with Mary Beth from Capture Photography, and I think she was as nervous as I was, walking into a three-day conference, really only knowing a handful of people attending. I don't do well being all social butterfly around strangers, so I may or may not have cheated that first (and second) night and found two origami thingamajigs with the same table number on 'em so we could sit together. In any case, it became apparent real quick that one of the main goals of the Inspire team was to make everyone feel at home, because by the end of night one, people had shared their fears, dreams, hopes and lives with one another, Amy Deputy opened up her heart to us all and I had been hugged by a bunch of random strangers. "For those of you who don't know me"...that last one is a no-no.
Over the next few days, I sat in on some very interesting workshops and presentations, the most impactful for me being Beth (from Blush Imagery) Fitzgerald's (she's ba-ack for 2014; I'm stoked to see her speak again). I filled ten pages in my notebook with excerpts of her spiel on branding yourself and standing out. The following day, I also got to sit down with her for a little bit and show her some of my work. Now, I know that the only person I should try to impress with my photos is myself. But it was still a huge confidence booster to hear Beth say that one of my photos was 'f.....g amazing', just sayin'.
The 'after hours' of Inspire are as much a part of why this retreat works so well as the stellar lineup. On night two, I gave my best karaoke rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody with Mike from Pictage. That should sum up the evening hours pretty well. Even the location of the retreat adds immensely to the marvelousness of it. Everything is under one roof at The Sturbridge Host Hotel, giving the entire shindig a real intimate feel. Plus, if you're like me and forget your crap all the time, running back to your room takes less than five minutes. ;)
I ended up signing up for a mentoring session with Nicole Taylor from Nicole Taylor Photography. I was about ready to call it quits on doing portrait sessions, because they just didn't bring in enough money for me to want to do them and miss out on family time anymore, and my one question to her was, how do I make portrait work worth it? • Dude. Nicole went through everything, my structure from start to finish, my print costs and pricing, what I gave the client, where I shot the client, pointed out all the ways I was doing it wrong and then gave me a laundry list of things to change to make it right. She told me to value my work, and take pride in it so that other people (clients) would too, and to market myself as someone people WANTED to hire for ME, NOT my PRICES. Then she warned me too, that it would take a while to make that transition, that switching gears is never an easy thing to do, but to stick with it, because the end result would be worth it.
(Weeeee for Nicole, because so far, she's been right. So if you are reading this, Jackie O, meeting you at Inspire was my own personal highlight, somewhere in your words was my 'aha!' moment, thank you. ♥)
All in all, some of the most 'inspiring' moments that week happened outside of the classrooms, in the hallways, at the bar, in the lobby and while walking to and from our rooms. I met people I used to admire from afar, and heard them speak about their own insecurities and failures. They shared how to rise above it and carry on. On our drive home, Mary Beth and I were talking over each other, raising our voices in excitement, both armed with a notebook full of shit to change, alter, keep the same and apply to our businesses. That feeling of elation stayed with me a looong time post-Inspire (it might still be there). This is what I would say to anyone who is on the fence about coming to Inspire 2014: This group of (CT, MA, NH, ME, RI, NY) photographers I am a part of is known for being inclusive. We don't fight, backstab, talk trash, or turn our backs when someone needs help. We plow through historic amounts of snow to cover for our 'competition' when they can't get to where they need to be. We borrow each other's memory cards, lights, Vagabonds and Pocket Wizards. We teach each other without condescension. We drop everything around us to come together to be there and do literally ANYTHING to help out. We laugh together, we cry together, we mourn together. And we heal together. We are the anomaly. And it's pretty brilliant. • So if you want to come experience said anomaly and get your learn on in the process, Inspire is the way to go. =)
Thank you Laura DeCarlo for spilling your heart... we love you too!!!