Tough Love Tuesday: What I Am Doing Is Enough
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I am the COO of a non-profit called The Lady Project. Our mission is to connect, inspire, and showcase remarkable women. We’ve been going on for well over six years. We have chapters in 15 cities across this country. And at the end of this year, we are sunsetting. It was a hard decision to make, but we knew it was the best course of action. Ever since we announced our sunsetting, people have asked me what I am doing next. “So what is your next project?” “Are you going to start a new thing?” The short answer to that is OH GOD NO. The slightly longer answer is what I am currently doing is more than enough.

First off, I am a photographer. You already knew that. I also am a co-founder of The Branding Edit, where we help small business owners craft their brand story visually. I am on the executive board for RI NOW, the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women. In my personal life, I recently moved in with my boyfriend, and I have turned into my own personal HGTV show. I already have plenty on my plate. Why would I want to add on more?

I recently told an overwhelmed friend there is a person out there with 12 responsibilities and they just took on a 13th and they are ok with that. There is another person out there who has one responsibility, and that is all they can handle. Both of those situations are A-OK. We live in a culture when we are supposed to be able to handle it all, at once, and look good while doing it. People are getting overworked spreading themselves way too thin, and they are blaming themselves when they eventually crack.

My friends and I are professionals at doing the absolute most. All it takes is for one person to give us an idea, and we will run to the hills with it. Oh, we should have a workshop for crafters and makers? Ok, let's do it two weeks from now. Let's beat ourselves into submission trying to write a whole new class plus market it on social media plus find a location to have the workshop plus oh hey, did you eat anything today plus oh my god, we haven't sold enough tickets plus this is an excellent time to have an existential crisis. I’m sure I am not the only person who has felt like this.

Instead, why not write the idea down or put it in your Asana future projects list and revisit it when you have the time? Or, not do it at all. Not all things are worth pursuing, and I shouldn't beat up on myself when I don't have the bandwidth for anything more. When people asked me what I was going to do next, at first, I thought "wait, should I be planning something?" I quickly realized that everything I am doing right now at this moment is enough. I don't need an excuse. I don't need to say "well, maybe down the line I will do something else." Where I am and what I am doing right now is excellent, and later on, if I want to do something new, that will be cool too. But I am just fine where I am right now.

How To Ask A Stranger To Model For You Without Sounding Like A Creep
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Have you ever been out at the mall or walking down the street and you see someone with an awesome look, and you really want to take their photo? If you’re a photographer, you have most likely been in this situation. If you’re not a photographer, that is a little suspect, but this blog post is not about that. You chicken out because you don’t want to look like a creeper. I’ve been there. I’ve been in the mall and seen Lil Naomi Campbells and Karlie Klosses walk past me, and I say nothing. But after watching them sashay away too many times, I started talking to them. One day a few years ago I was shopping at H&M, and a girl who was practically a foot taller than me walked by. I gathered up my nerves and introduced myself. She was confused at first but I told her she had a great look and I would love to take her photos. I didn’t have any business cards on me, but I showed her my Instagram. She immediately seemed interested, and I gave her my contact info. We ended up doing a photoshoot a few days later.

Here are my tips to not sound like a creep (hopefully)

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Warm up talking to strangers

The best way to get used to asking strangers to pose for you is at street festivals. I got way more confident at this by approaching people at PVDFest and Rhode Island Pride. I would walk around with my camera, and if someone had a fresh look, I would ask to take their photo. Nine times out of ten they would say yes. You could also get your extrovert friend to walk around with you and have them ask. I remember one PVDFest I made my friend Olivia ask people at first until I got up the nerve to do it myself (which is funny in itself because I’m an extrovert and Olivia is an introvert). Soon enough you’ll be confident to approach anyone to ask to take their photo.

Acknowledge the creep factor first

I will admit as a woman; my approaching someone will initially come off less creepy than a 50-year-old man approaching a 20-year-old girl. Even with that, it will throw someone off that a stranger just started talking to them asking if they ever modeled before. The guy in the photo at the beginning of the blog post is Tyler. He was working at a restaurant my boyfriend and I were at a few weeks ago. I saw him and thought he would be good for a test shoot since I haven’t done one in a long time. I waited for the right opportunity and waved him over. I acknowledged that this sounds wicked weird but I’m a photographer and wondered if he had ever modeled before. I gave him a business card and told him to check out my website and if he was interested in doing a test shoot to email me. I never ask for their contact info. It was entirely on him if he wanted to contact me. I kept it short to respect his time and not make the whole thing about me.

Simplify the process

Tyler emailed me the next day to schedule a test shoot. Most likely the person you asked is not a model, so you have to give them direction on how to style themselves and photo inspiration. I sent Tyler photos on the clothing style I thought would suit the session. I also showed him pictures on my phone right before shooting on how I wanted him to pose. I gave him lots of direction and encouragement throughout our test shoot. The most important part of the session was that it was QUICK. We finished in 15 minutes. That was on purpose because again, he has never modeled before, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible on him. If you love how the photos turned out, you can always ask to work together again.

Do you have any tips on how to approach strangers? Have you ever been in this situation? Let me know in the comments.

Tough Love Tuesday: Don’t Ask To Pick Someone’s Brain

When I first started this series back in August, I was suggested by a number of folks to write about people asking to pick their brains. Aside from the horror movie visuals of someone literally picking your brain, the concept is just as scary for people who specialize in a certain subject. It’s great that you consider someone a thought leader in their industry but when you ask someone if you can pick their brain, it can be extremely frustrating to whom you are asking. It sends the message that you value that person’s thoughts and wisdom but not enough to pay for it. You’re asking them to work for free when other people pay for that exact same service. So what do you do when you want to “pick someone’s brain”?

Pay them

I started off with this because if you want someone to do a service for you, you should pay them to do it. You get paid to do your job so expect the same for others. Unless they are specifically volunteering to do their job for no pay, don’t expect them to work for free.

Research on your own

Most likely there is information online about the subject you’re inquiring. Check Google first to see if there are any thought leaders sharing their information online before asking someone to meet in person.

Don’t offer coffee or lunch

You may think that a quick coffee meeting isn’t much of a bother but it’s taking valuable time out of someone’s day. What you think will be a 15-minute meeting can go past an hour with commuting to the cafe, to ordering the drink, to small talk, to then finally getting to the point of the meeting, and then leaving to go back to your office. Instead, ask for a phone call. Many people offer 15-minute consultation call for free (you can schedule one with me here!). It will be scheduled into the pickee’s schedule and you won’t be taking them away from their workday.

Have a point to the conversation

If someone agrees to meet with you, know exactly what your questions are. If you don’t know what you want to talk about, the pickee will feel like their time is being wasted. Have a structure for the meeting and again, keep it brief.

Be grateful

Show gratitude for the time they’ve taken to meet with you. If you did ask for coffee or lunch, actually pay for it. Send them a handwritten note or a small gift. Hit up your social media and tell your friends to HIRE them. Showing your gratitude goes a long way and helps the pickee know you appreciate that their time is valuable.

Tough Love Tuesday: Use Your Influence and Vote
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Next Tuesday, November 6th is election day. I cannot stress how important it is as a business owner or entrepreneur or just anyone with influence to use your platform and tell people to vote. It is imperative. And, it’s ok to not be into politics. What’s not ok is to sit blindly by and not care about what is happening around us.

I watch other small business owners be too scared to say anything in fear of losing customers. I have some news for you. If those people have values that don’t align with yours, most likely they were never gonna hire you anyway and that is ok. I would much rather turn away someone that does not believe in basic human rights and being a decent person then take that money. That’s money I don’t want. When I talk about social justice issues and Black Lives Matter on social media, for the most part, people are on board with what I’m saying but every once in a while there is pushback and that pushback is typically from a white woman. I bring this up because 90% of my clients are white women. I’ve been told that me bringing it up is making more divisions “because they want us divided!” I am very tired of white people not acknowledging the lived experiences of black people and people of color in this country and by saying that you’re putting the onus on the black person to fix what white supremacy started and continues to do to this very minute and I share all of that online. I probably have turned off some of those white women, my highest demographic of customers, from working with me. You know what? That is just fine by me. If that person is done with me after that, they were never my person and I am happy to not work with them. 

If you have any type of platform online and that could even be 100k followers on Instagram to maybe 50 people follow your Facebook page, those people are there because they wanna hear your voice. They believe in you and what you stand for. Use that platform for good. Inform people to vote and most importantly know what and who they’re voting for and know what those people stand for. It may be of no surprise that I’m voting Democrat down the ticket but I wanna know what these people stand for still. Inform your followers to do the same. Tell them to go out and vote and bring a friend. This is not the time to sit this one out.

This isn’t over on Tuesday, November 6th. We have to keep fighting. We have to keep giving a shit. We have to be better as a collective.

As small business owners, we can do what we want. We don’t work for a company with a long list of rules and conducts. We create our own rules so why are we so scared to say what we want to say? We have the luxury and privilege to do whatever we want. If people don’t want to fall along with that, that’s their problem. It’s not mine and it’s not yours. I will gladly lose a customer or potential customer because they don’t align with my values. That’s not a person I want to work with. Yes, we need to make money but think about the energy of that money. Do you want money that has the energy of I’ll do anything to make a buck? Do you want money that has the energy of I set aside my values just so I can make a few more dollars? I want money that I know I am 100% myself at all times and that the person who hired me is on board with what I am saying and my values. They don’t need to agree with me 100%. We don’t need to live in a vacuum. It is important to make a point to be educated on all sides but to make the right choice.

In the past week, three different terrorist attacks happened. So many people have died and so many more people could have died. This is beyond politics. This is basic human rights and decency so I encourage all of you entrepreneurs and business owners to use your platform, use your voice, and get out the vote. In one week, we can change the trajectory of this country. Make sure you are on the right side of history.