February 29, 2012
The day I first attended a Making Things Happen Intensive was very literally the day my life changed. I’ve been cryptic about my experience up until late and, it’s true, I can admit that I am the queen of exaggeration (see?) but please believe me when I say this needs no inflation because it is 100% true.
To be truthful, I wasn’t even sure if Making Things Happen was the right thing for me. In late 2009 / early 2010, there was a lot of chatter among my friends and in the industry about the Making Things Happen movement. I had seen the blogpost and I had half-heartedly answered the questions and I still felt unconvinced and, if I am being honest, a little bit jaded about the whole thing.
I feel deeply but by nature, I’m a thinker more than a feeler. It’s hard for me to shut off the logical side of me that wants to use my strengths to fix things and, instead, focus on my fears. Prior to my MTH experience, if I could have gone my whole life without talking out loud about my fears, I probably would have and thought it an accomplishment. As extroverted as I am, I will avoid being vulnerable at most costs and talking about fears and making hard changes in the public view is not something I’m good at. Especially as I have gotten older and been hurt and wounded along life’s path, it has been exceedingly difficult for me to really open up beyond the surface level and tell someone all the things that are happening in my brain. So when Makings Things Happen started to move from a blogpost to an entire movement, I purposefully plugged my ears and looked away and said it wasn’t my thing.
But I had a friend. A friend who I will never be able to repay for her persistence and the love she showed to me. A friend who emailed me the blogpost multiple times and told me to just do it. A friend who never gave up when I told her that it just wasn’t for me.
And somehow, through a series of I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening moments, in November of 2010 I ended up in Phoenix, Arizona in a very silent and very nervous room of 12 women, praying that I had made the right decision in being there. In those 10 hours, my heart completely, totally, irrevocably changed. I admitted to this room of near strangers the things I had been holding in, fears I had never addressed, self-sabotaging I didn’t even realize I was doing, dreams I dreamt that I never allowed myself to admit… I did the hard, emotional work. I truly committed to being open and honest with myself and with the women in that room and I am here to tell you my life CHANGED. The way I thought shifted entirely and instead of things just happening to me, I realized that I could and absolutely should be the most active participant in my own life. The end of that day was the most empowered I had ever felt in my entire life and I never wanted to NOT feel that way.
I can tell you from experience, you will likely meet opposition the moment you step out into the real world; it’s not easy to come back into your reality that did not change while your entire mind & heart were transforming. You might have some of the closest people in your life roll their eyes when you tell them your life changed. Your old friend self doubt will rear its ugly head and tell you that these changes are hard and the way life was before wasn’t that bad; you go back to old habits, you stop doing the exercises, you start letting the clutter and noise take over again. But the thing that is most beautiful about the Making Things Happen movement is that is truly is, just that, a movement. It is a community. And it is there for you should you choose to get over your insecurities and pride and become a part of this community. Making radical life changes can one of the most isolating things in life, but it doesn’t have to be and it certainly is not when you open yourself up to the MTH community.
When I tell you my life changed, I really was not kidding. I have made some big, huge, monstrous strides in my life since my first Making Things Happen Intensive. My business is more successful than it ever has been. I’ve been published multiple times. My relationship with God has been transformed in major, life changing ways. I have created the most amazing and inspiration filled work space. I’ve made true, beautiful, lifelong friends who truly know the real me and love me for that. I’ve found my voice in my business and my place in this industry. I have cut out the clutter and then recut it out once I found myself slipping into old habits. I quit my day job. I have a 10 year plan that scares the pants off of me but gives me such hope and encouragement. I have a life that I LOVE. I have a community. And I have a clear view of the dreams that every day I work to make happen for myself.
I can’t tell you that every one of those things is attributed solely to MTH but I can honestly say that without it? I’m not sure I would have had the courage or have been able to be honest with myself enough to make those things happen for myself. The work I did at the two amazing Making Things Happen Intensives I have attended has been the ground work for so much of how I make decisions and the mindset I use to reach my goals so that leads me to believe that the things I have made happen in my life ARE a an integral part of my MTH journey. This transformation is not one to take lightly and is something that truly requires a willingness to be changed in the first place. But I promise you that it will change you if you let it.
The MTH ladies are offering 50% off the registration fee if you register for the East Coast Tour by March 1 (which is tomorrow); if you feel - at all - a pull to be a part of Making Things Happen, you owe it to yourself to become a part of the family. I know it is a big commitment and I know it is a lot of money but how much are you willing to pay for an entire life transformation? Today is Leap Day and as Gina pointed out, there is no better time to make the leap. If not now, when?
If you have any questions about my Making Things Happen journey or just need that little push to sign up? Email me. I would love to tell you more.
i’m yours, melissa
February 27, 2012
“Today you are you!
That is truer than true!
There is no one alive…
…who is you-er than you!
Shout loud, “I am lucky
to be what I am!
Thank goodness I’m not
just a clam or a ham
Or a dusty old jar of
sour gooseberry jam!
I am what I am! That’s a
great thing to be!
If I say so myself,
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!”
Happy birthday Finny Boy. You are the most loved little boy in the world.
i’m yours, melissa
February 25, 2012
Hey you. Yeah, you.
I see you sitting on your couch with your Saturday morning cup of coffee. You know what would really be fun? Shopping. You know what would be even more fun? Shopping with a 20% discount and tapas to feed your hunger. You know what would be the most fun ever? Shopping with a 20% discount, tapas and the most hilarious redheaded photographer in the world there to capture your shopping bliss.
Text your friends to meet you at Parc Boutique’s 3rd Annual Spring Jewelry Trunk Show today (only!) from 12pm to 5pm. And shop until your heart’s delight. And say hi to me. And then let me take your picture.
You know you want to.
i’m yours, melissa
February 21, 2012
This girl = diehard wedding magazine addict.
If I have one vice in this world (besides finding the most perfect gluten-free chocolate chip cookie) it would be my addiction to wedding magazines. You can ask my husband but even before we were engaged – come on, I knew it was coming! – I had a collection that would put most magazine collectors to shame. So, it is no surprise how utterly honored I am to have my very first wedding print feature EVER published in the latest issue of Minnesota Bride. Seeing my name in physical print among friends and vendors I admire has been such a huge blessing and something that I vow to never take for granted.
Big, hug-you-until-you-cry-uncle thanks to my wonderful friends at Minnesota Bride for publishing Alyssa & Matt’s stunning Nicollet Island Pavilion wedding in their Spring/Summer 2012 Issue (on stands now – hint, hint!) and even bigger thanks to Alyssa & Matt for hosting such a beautiful and special day and trusting me to document it!
Oh, Minnesota Bride. I just can’t quit you.
You can see the original blogpost from their gorgeous wedding here!
i’m yours, melissa
February 14, 2012
Ok. I’ll admit it. I’m a huge Valentine’s Day nut. Put two of the things I love most in this world together (love and paper products) and you have the world’s most perfect holiday.
Matt Oholendt? Decidedly not the world’s biggest Valentine’s fan. In fact, I believe I’ve heard the words “hallmark holiday” come out of his mouth in recent history but when you are married to a girl who still gives out Valentine’s every year (a slight upgrade from elementary school’s Disney Valentines) and whose Love Language is indeed “Receiving Gifts”? Ignoring the holiday isn’t really an option.
So last year, when February 14th came and went in the Oho household with nary a card, flower or chocolate in sight, I lost it. A full blown, complete Melissa Oholendt melt down in the passenger seat on the way home from our Valentine’s meal of Chipotle burrito bowls (take-out, no less). I cried. I shook my fist. I told Matt we needed to do better. We needed to infuse some romance back into our lives. We needed to exchange gifts because MY LOVE LANGUAGE WAS RECEIVING GIFTS AFTER ALL. I needed this. And after five years of marriage and not even a Valentine’s Day card or a romantic dinner out, WE needed this. It is a day about showing people how much you love them and what is not to LOVE about that? And for the record, we were not going become that couple that ignores Valentine’s Day.
The next morning a box showed up on my desk with the iPad I had been lusting after for months. With an order date of February 10. And a card that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Love, Your Husband.”
I will never, ever live the Valentine’s Day of 2011 down.
i’m yours, melissa
February 10, 2012
I am having a hard time attracting the type of clients I want to serve in my business. How do you find clients you love and who love you?
If you missed Part One last week, I talked a lot about branding and why I branded the way I did. But this second half is about that unique client experience that only you can provide because I believe it is arguably the most important thing you can do for your business. So grab your second latte of the day; this is a long one.
One of the first photography books I ever read was Fast Track Photographer. In it the (awesome) author, Dane Sanders, spoke about building a business based on who you are because there is only one you in this world and no one can duplicate you. It sounds elementary but trust me when I say it took me two excruciating years and a lot of self-doubt to get to the point where I actually was building a business based on me.
That little idea, the little nugget of goodness, that no one can duplicate ME is a thread that runs through my entire business. It’s been repeated one million times in different words, but this is a crucial key of what I have built my client experiences out of.
From the time I first meet with my clients, I want them to feel special. Because they are. After a contract is signed, I want them to know how thankful I am to be their wedding vendor and how excited I am to get to work with them. I want them to love me and not just for vanity sake but because a great working relationship can only mean good things for everyone. I want them to be so pleased from the very beginning of their experience that before they even see an image for their wedding, they are referring me to their friends. After their wedding, I want to photograph their anniversaries, their births, their special moments and even their hard times. This is my goal in my business and everything I do from when I first meet a client to months after I’ve delivered a final product is to get to this end goal.
If this is not your goal, your client experience will look different than mine. But even if your end goal is exactly the same? Your client experience will still look different. And it should.
In Part One, I talked a little bit about how I struggled with looking at what my colleagues and friends were doing and trying to implement those same ideas into my business and how when I finally looked at my business, I didn’t recognize it. There were small parts of me in there – somewhere – but mostly it was a patchwork of ideas and concepts that didn’t reflect me AT ALL. And that terrified me because my business was headed down a path that I couldn’t control because I had so, so little to do with it. (That seems dramatic right? Hello. Welcome to MelissaOholendt.com. You’ve arrived.)
The reality is that the photography industry is saturated and if you are not doing anything to set yourself apart from the crowd in having a solid brand and exemplary client experience that only you can deliver, you will end up competing on price alone and more often than not, you will always lose that war. This is a tough industry to be in just based on the ease of entry and although it’s easy to get sucked into the “what everyone else is doing” bubble, there is nothing more dangerous.
In so many ways, branding and your client experience go hand in hand but they are also vastly different concepts. A brand is a creation; a visual representation to attract your target client and to tell your target client who you are. A client experience is almost always based purely on emotion and the age old customer service question, “At the end of the transaction, how did you make your client feel?”
Have I ever told you the story of the one time, three and a half years ago, I purchased a pair of the most gorgeous pair of blue, ombre, 5 inch, peep-toe Christian Louboutins on impulse? No? Well, I did. An eight hundred dollar pair of shoes for no good reason other than the sales assistant made me feel special on a day where I really needed to feel that way.
How is this experience any different than when we are approached by potential clients? I truly believe it’s not.
My client experience starts, literally, from the moment someone happens upon my website. Is my website fast enough so that this busy bride won’t give-up before the site has loaded and click out of the browser and onto the next photographer? Are my online galleries just pretty pictures or do they tell stories and evoke emotion? Is my client contact form easy to use and understand? If they prefer to email vs. use a contact form, can they do that? These branding items tend to evoke emotional responses (happiness vs. frustration that a website loads fast, pictures that evoke an heart emotion, ease of contact methods, etc) and can add or detract from your (potential) client’s experience and interpretation of your brand.
And even beyond my website “experience”, what about my client communication? I can’t tell you how many potential clients I meet with who tell me that over half of the wedding vendors they contact never email them back. If getting myself in front of a potential client is as simple as returning an email? I’m going to return that email. I know inquiries get lost and junk mail folders eat emails, those things cannot be helped, but if you are not returning phone calls and emails within a reasonable amount of time (and most times for me, that means 24 to 48 hours) you are risking losing that inquiry to someone who does.
Past that, to the first in-person client experience, my preferred way to meet people is over a bottle of wine because the majority of my most memorable dinners and greatest conversations with friends have been over a bottle of wine. Some of my favorite movies are about wine (Bottle Shock, anyone?). And because, quite frankly, I just really love wine. This is a side of my personality that has been integrated so solidly into my brand and client experience but it’s not the only way to do it. I have a great friend who meets potential clients at a tea shop because she adores tea. I have another friend who brings clients into her home and surrounds them with her family’s photos because her home is such a wonderful representation of her life. Just like my friends utilize locations that show who they are, I want these potential clients to remember the good time we had that evening over a bottle of wine getting to know each other because that is how my life actually is.
So now that I’ve attracted my wonderful target clients with my brand and initial client experience and they have just signed a contract (over wine); now what? Would it sound too simplistic to say, “just take really good care of them”?
Return their emails within 24 hours. If you promise, over deliver. Always. Make an effort to not be an added stress in their already stressful lives. Be on time. Keep in contact with them. Create wonderful photos for them. Deliver their files or prints in a well thought out and beautiful way. Be a really wonderful addition to their lives.
You will hear and read the phrase “adding value to your client’s lives” from branding experts and people at the top of their game. The first time I heard this, I mistook the phrase to mean adding a physical value for your client in ways of extra prints or products but I’ve come to realize that for me and my clients it’s more about emotional value. Yes, I do give little gifts but even those gifts are purposed to make my clients feel special, taken care of and really loved. Because that really is a representation of who I am.
You can do this. Think about the things that make you tick. What is your Love Language? What are your Strengths? Implement these things into your business. Utilize your strengths and make them a part of your client experience. If you love coffee and attract couples who love coffee? Include a 1lb bag of beans in your final file delivery. Make an effort to meet at a different local coffee shop every time you meet. Give them a gift card a month prior to their wedding to share a coffee date; just the two of them. There are a hundred million bajillion ways to do this, but it all starts with you.
A client who raves about their experience with you is more valuable than gold. The ability to hire a photographer to document a moment or time in a person’s life is a luxury so give them the best client experience of their lives and I promise, 9 times out of 10, you will have past clients who will tell anyone who will listen how great you are.
Which is kind of amazing if you ask me.
As always, if you have any questions you would like answered, feel free to email me at email@example.com anytime. Night or day. Day or night. Preferably day though.
i’m yours, melissa
February 6, 2012
It’s not a secret that my ultimate photography goal is to shoot an editorial for J.Crew and while that goal is safely on my 10-year plan, over the last year, I’ve had the privilege of stretching my photographing wings and photographing lifestyle based portfolio shots for some really wonderful local actors and models.
Not even going to lie, I have the best job in the world.
More than a year ago I had the opportunity to have Thomas Sellwood in front of my camera and let me tell you something. From thigh high snow drifts to icy walkways to frigid temperatures (and an evil photographer who made him go without a coat), this guy is exceptionally talented, hilarious and kind. Hire him. Immediately.
i’m yours, melissa
February 2, 2012
In an oh-so-tardy blogpost, I am so honored to tell you that two weddings from the 2011 season were featured on the Minnesota Bride Magazine’s website as Real Weddings! Both Kim & Nate’s gorgeous Sculpture Garden Wedding and Kristine & Brian’s stunning Legends Golf Club Wedding were posted in the Real Weddings Gallery and I could not be more excited about it!
The amazing folks at Minnesota Bride have always been such encouraging supporters and I could not be more grateful to be associated with such a wonderful and respected industry publication! Much love Minnesota Bride!
And, always, a huge thank you to my amazing clients who plan, coordinate and execute such spectacular wedding days and allow me to be a part in them. xoxo
i’m yours, melissa