What Will You Do Differently | Quad Cities Photographer

What will you do differently?  I hear this all the time around year end.  It’s something we challenge ourselves with as each year comes to an end.  It’s time for a fresh start, a new beginning.  It’s time to set goals and time to reflect on previous ones.  It’s time to be grateful for the things we’ve accomplished, and time to dive in on the ones that didn’t quite come to fruition.

Before I can think about the things I’d like to do differently in 2019, I want to take the time to digest all of 2018.  It’s hard to remember every single detail as this year was a total whirlwind of emotions and events that have taken place.  We’ve had tragic losses in our family that make you realize just how precious life is and how fast it can be taken away, major business purchases that we’ve lost sleep over while dreaming about them and freaking out about them all at the same time, milestones in our children’s lives that are so amazing and tough on the heart at the same time, celebrated my husband and my 10 year wedding anniversary, won championship travel baseball games that left us on the edge of our seats, taken trips across this beautiful country, and experienced many other crazy moments/events that no one ever imagines nor dreams would be part of life’s plan.  2018 truly feels like it’s been a roller coaster of experiences and emotions mixed in with an insanely fast paced lifestyle.

2018 started with hesitation and a bit of uneasiness as I only had 8 more months before my younger son was going to head off to kindergarten.  I slowed down on the number of sessions I accepted because I just knew how fast those days were going to go by, and I’d never get them back.  Even though he was more than ready to go to school, I wasn’t ready for him to go.  I just kept holding my breath and wishing the day would never come.  I had stayed home with the boys for the last 8 years or so, and it was really hard to think that there wouldn’t be a little one at home with me to go to the grocery store and walk up and down every aisle with a million questions.  There wouldn’t be someone asking for help getting their shoes tied.  There wouldn’t be someone to be my breakfast partner nor lunch date.  There wouldn’t be someone asking me for a snack or a drink or to play with them every two seconds.  I literally dreaded the thought of the quietness during the day.

We made the very most of our days that led up to school starting and especially over the summer when his brother was home.  Both boys played baseball, went to summer camps, took our yearly summer vacation, went fishing, and we went swam a lot.  We made the most of every single waking moment, and while it was exhausting to cram so much into so little time, it was awesome and so worth it!

And then summer break came to an end, and the dreaded day arrived.  He was smiling ear to ear getting on that bus for his very first day of school, and while I was so happy that he was excited, I nearly died inside when he climbed on and waived goodbye.  As soon as the bus drove away, I fell apart.  The silence at home was super awkward and so foreign, but at the same time I knew this was great for him and for me, too.  In my heart, I knew this was now MY time.  It was MY time to set new goals and move my business forward.  And if you know me at all, you know that if I get a little down time to reflect on life, that’s when big (aka crazy) ideas happen!  Just ask my husband…he just LOVES when these “ideas” come up (insert sarcastic laugh)!

Sooooo….With that little bit of down time to reflect, that led to the idea of purchasing a commercial building and moving the studio out of our home at the very busiest time of the year.  We were in peak wedding season and fall family sessions, but I knew it was the right time to grow the business and really make it something amazing for our clients.  (This is that ‘major purchase that we lost sleep over while dreaming about it and freaking out about it all at the same time’ situation I referred to above – lol.)  This was something that was always in the back of my mind, but never in my wildest dreams did I think this would be possible.  I’m so incredibly grateful it has happened though!  The studio is my happy place, and it offers so much more opportunity for both myself and my clients.  It’s a space that my family and I have poured our hearts and souls into fixing up and making it the very best for clients.  You see, my clients aren’t just “clients”…they become like family to me.  I LOVE the phone calls, messages, Facebook posts that allows me to be a part of their family and them part of mine.  It’s really something special, and I’m forever grateful for it.

That basically leads us to the last quarter of the year that was a complete whirlwind of family sessions, new client bookings, prints + products, Christmas minis, wedding consultations, newborn sessions, Grow With Me collections wrapping up, gallery viewings, client walls being decorated with wall art, and so many other wonderful things that just made the last 3 months remarkable.  We’ve had some incredible opportunities to photograph at some of the very best venues in the Quad Cities and surrounding areas.  My work is now displayed in two doctor’s offices (Dr. Mary Tjarks and Dr. Sarah Hartman (Hartman Pediatrics).  We’ve photographed a countless number of families, newborns, weddings, milestones, holiday pictures, family groupings, and everything in between.  It’s truly been such an honor because as we all know, there’s a ton of photographers to select from.  You all trusting in me, believing in me, and spending your hard earned money with me is truly humbling.

I’m a firm believer in everything that happens in life is a teachable moment and an opportunity for growth.  Amanda Oakes Photography celebrated 5 years in business back in July, and it still seems so crazy to me that this whole concept even exists.  Every session, conversation and class that has happened because of this photography journey have been some of the most amazing teaching moments and growing opportunities both professionally and individually.  This was never in MY game plan, but apparently the good Lord had other ideas for me which I’m beyond thrilled and thankful for.

And with that, let’s loop back to the beginning question.  What will you do differently?

In 2019 I will:

  • Focus more on family and being present.  Life is short, so I want to make the very most of it each day.
  • Spend far less time on social media (basically my phone that’s like my 3rd child).  I swear that phone has taken over my life, and it’s time to decompress and shift my time into more important places.
  • Grow this business even further by implementing processes to enhance the experience for clients.  Customer service is, and has always been, my #1 focus since the very beginning.  I’m ecstatic to dive into a few more exciting things that are in the works to make the experience EVEN better!
  • Education.  You can never stop learning and growing with photography, and that’s what is so fun about this business.  Education is the key to providing clients the very best portraits possible, and I’m looking forward to taking more time to learn new things to bring back to sessions.
  • BONUS – Actually learn to play the guitar that I purchased about 8 months ago.  This beautiful piece of art has literally sat next to my bed after my fingers felt tortured from attempting to learn play for only a few days.  I truly think if you can play the guitar, it just puts you on a whole new level of coolness – lol!  So I’m making it my goal for the new year to learn to play at least one song!

While 2018 was truly amazing for both my family and my business, I believe it was the foundation and set the pace to expand everything even further in 2019.  I am incredibly humbled and grateful for every single second, and I thank all of you for your continued support and encouragement.  My heart is truly full.

Cheers to 2018, and bring on 2019!  We’re ready for you!

Feel free to drop a comment below on what you will do differently in 2019!  I’d love to hear from you!

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