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Ep. #63 – How to stay in the game and keep showing up in your business with Ben Hartley

June 28, 2022

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Introduction

Hello, and welcome to this episode of The She Calls Her Shots Podcast. I am excited for this episode. Today I am joined by Ben Hartley. And if you’re not familiar with Ben, he helps photographers get out of their own way and design the life that they want to live without wasting years of your life trying. He is a seasoned photographer, he built his own very successful photography business and now helps other photographers grow their business as well. His photography business is based in Tampa, Florida and was named one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the country in 2017 and 2020. And you can find it at Style and Story is the name of the business. But now Ben spends a lot of his time focusing on, like I said, building up other entrepreneurs. So he has a private Facebook Mastermind community, he provides free coaching to his members. And you can find him on his podcast, the Six Figure Photography Podcast as well, to help you win more bookings, maximize your profits, and break through limiting beliefs. 

But the thing that I’m really excited about today in our conversation is we’re talking through, really how we can, as business owners, whether you’re a photographer, just a creative business owner, or even thinking about starting a business is it’s this idea around how to continuously stay in the game and keep showing up not only for yourself, but also for your business. Because your personal life and your business life, everything kind of blends together. And so really figuring out how we can continue showing up for ourselves throughout the entire journey. And so some of the topics that we’re covering today is, you know, making sure that our stories and the things that we tell ourselves that we’re not making them mean something about us as a person, and how we can keep our standards high, but also our expectations low. So that way we can build discipline and not get frustrated if things don’t happen as quickly as we want. And we’re also just chatting through who we’re going to be in this stage of our life and in our business and how we want to show up for ourselves and for those around us. So I’m really excited about this conversation. I know that, like I said, no matter what you do, whether you’re a photographer or a creative business owner, I know that you’re going to pull so many pieces of knowledge from Ben. 

Before we dive into the episode, I just want to give a quick shout out to a recent person that reviewed the podcast and her name is Sydney. She just said, I’m so glad I found this podcast during my first year in my business. There’s so many things you don’t realize you’re doing that are deterring from your goals. I love how Krista addresses these things, and gives advice on how to avoid them. So thank you so much Sydney. I appreciate reviews so much. It not only helps other business owners find the podcast but it also just honestly truthfully brings me so much joy every single time that I see one come through. So thank you Sydney for taking the time to share the review. If you haven’t left a review yet, I would be absolutely honored if you took a couple of minutes today after the episode. There’ll be a link in the show notes for you there. But without further ado, let’s go ahead and dive into my conversation with Ben. 

Getting to Know Ben Hartley

Krista Marie:

Hi, Ben, welcome to the podcast today. I’m so excited to have you here.

Ben Hartley:

Hey, Krista. Thanks for having me.

Krista Marie:

Yeah, I’m so excited. I have been watching your energy and watching your reels on Instagram. So I already know this conversation today is gonna be great.

Ben Hartley:

Let’s just talk about Instagram reels.

Krista Marie:

You can teach me so much. I love how much you can just show up on it. And every single one that I’m watching I’m like, wow, this is so good and so relevant. So you probably could teach us a whole lot about it. But I am excited for what we’re going to be talking about today. Because obviously marketing and going into strategies is something that every business owner thinks about. So I think we’ll have some really great and honest conversations about what that looks like to grow business. But first, just tell us a little bit more about who you are, what you do and all the good stuff.

Ben Hartley:

Oh mercy. I’m a ball of energy. I’m super creative. I’m incredibly passionate about what I do. Some of the things that I do, I’m a father, I have three kiddos. Two of them happened to be twins. Husband going on 11 years now. 12 Oh, God. We’ll edit that. 

Krista Marie:

That’s fine. That’s like when people ask me how my dogs are, it’s the same. It’s the same answer where I know this is something I should know, but I don’t know these things.

Ben Hartley:

Yeah, I love people, I love making things look good and having that produce an income for myself. And it’s made me the happiest person in the world. It’s so fun when you get to wake up and do what you love and make art, and then people pay you for it, mind blowing. And then I started helping other people to do that for themselves. The exponential growth, the rippling of that that created in the world. So for me, it’s my kids, my family and my clients. That’s who is impacted. But once I started to help other photographers do that in their own lives, the rippling effect was mind blowing of the lives that could be impacted. And that is really created purpose. So that’s where all my energy is spent, just seeing other people win.

Krista Marie:

It’s so unique too. Each person has their own journey, and when you can help them figure out what it is that’s right for them. It’s so fulfilling and rewarding. 

Ben Hartley:

Now the things that I make look good are other people’s numbers. It’s fun because it still is creative. As long as I’m always doing something creative, I’m so fulfilled, and I’m so happy. And it takes so much creativity to sit down and hear a photographer’s situation. Their life and their experiences, the stories that they have to share of what they’ve been through, and where they would like to move towards. Their client base and their location, and then to creatively map through how we get from point A to point B. And so it’s a lot of fun to get to do that.

Ben’s Intriguing Entrepreneurial Journey 

Krista Marie:

Yeah, I love that. How long have you had your business for?

Ben Hartley: 

Okay, let’s see. I believe I’ve been again, this is like how old are my kids, this whole thing, every time. It’s been 13 years of being a full time photographer. 2010 was when I started. So it’s past 12, moving into 13, it’s right around there.

Krista Marie:

Did you work full time and grow it or how did you get started in that?

Ben Hartley:

Yeah, so let’s rewind then. My background is in oil painting. That’s what I studied in college. And I’m a classically trained old master, like the dead guys and the way that they painted. That’s how I’m trained. I was doing that for a while and I was in Ohio but I didn’t have the same mindset that I currently hold today. Back then, I was resigned to the fact that I couldn’t make it as a classically trained oil painter in Ohio. So I married my wife, the week she graduated college. And then we were just up against it, because no one was buying oil paintings. We had two cases of student debt and I was also in ministry. And it turns out when you do ministry right, it’s not the most lucrative thing.

Krista Marie:

It’s very rewarding, very fulfilling but not super lucrative.

Ben Hartley:

Yeah, right. So, it was actually Leslie’s idea. Leslie was like, Ben, you love people. You’re decent at making things look good. What about wedding photography? And I said, okay, let’s try that out. Now, here’s the thing, I’m a newly married person, I’m not about to throw everything at that. I had a few other plans. So I had my plan ABC. Plan A was wedding photography that started in a studio. Plan B was, if that doesn’t work, I’m gonna go get a job waiting tables. So I got a job waiting tables, started the business idea, that plan of being a photography studio. And then also there was an internship that opened up at a motion graphics studio. They were doing TV commercials and animation and motion graphics on top of them, really cool stuff. And so I applied for that job. It is a really funny story. I had just landed my serving job. So I had just got hired at this restaurant. I was there for a week, I just made it through the training, and then this internship opened up. Now again, I was only a week out of college. So I still had all of the access to the art building, and to all of the computers in the computer lab that had all of the Adobe suite on it, and all of this 3d animation software on it. Because I couldn’t afford that stuff. 

Krista Marie:

Yeah, it’s very expensive. 

Ben Hartley:

It is. So I heard about this job, and I heard it was for doing TV commercials and motion graphics. And so I decided I was gonna get it. And I told the people at my serving job. It was called Sam B’s. Sam B’s was the name of that restaurant. I’ve never been back. I told Sam B’s, I said, listen, I know I just got this job, and I know I just got through training. Here’s the thing though, I’m not going to show up for a week. That may mean I’m fired, I don’t know. It may just mean that I’m not going to show up for a week and then maybe I’ll still have a job when I come back. We will discover that when your time comes. But I need to go take a week and I need to teach myself motion graphics to try to get this internship. I hope you can respect that, I really want to try to get this internship and so we’ll talk in seven days. I then spent seven days in what they call the cave lab because the lights are all dark and all the computers are there. And it’s also a cave lab because people like to sleep in there. They’re just clicking at these computers nonstop or rendering things. And I taught myself a very terrible version of After Effects and I made a skateboarding commercial. I made a skateboard commercial promoting a board, a new skateboard. And it was garbage. Oh Krista, it was so bad and I brought it to the graphic design studio and I was like, this is all I have to share. I was sorting my pictures of oil paintings and they’re like, this does not help us. And I was like, but wait, I made this TV commercial for you. And they watched it and the next day they got back to me and they said,we want you to come on board not because it was worth a damn. It was terrible but the fact that you took the time and energy to actually teach yourself this, that speaks volumes. They were like, we can teach you the tactics, we can teach you how to run a camera and the buttons to click on After Effects and how to render properly. That’s easy.

Krista Marie: 

They can’t teach you the autonomy of all that.

Ben Hartley:

Yep. And so then I never went back to Sam B’s. Maybe they’re still waiting for me. Maybe they’re still there hanging on. Oh Sam B’s. Anyhow, I know it’s a long story, but it’s fun to share. So I was at that studio for three years and, mind you, I still hadn’t even picked up a camera at this point. And I actually learned photography at that design studio, that motion graphic studio. But I learned it from video first. So we were shooting, back then, it was when the 5D Mark 2 had come out and had changed what you could do with video. It changed the whole industry. And so I was shooting on a 5D Mark 2 video and I learned my whole exposure triangle there and composition and everything else and eventually built the photography business up until we were ready to move. That moving decision and going full time, we can have that conversation as well if you’d like.

How Ben Transitioned Full Time Into The Photography Business

Krista Marie:

Yeah, I would love that because, one, it is very different. I can’t even imagine diving into video, even when I work with videographers now I’m just like, I don’t know how. It’s similar. But to me in my head, it’s such an entirely different part of the industry. So I’d love to hear how you started there and then transitioned more into doing wedding photography.

Ben Hartley: 

Yeah, to me, it’s so much more complicated. It’s so much harder. When I say I’m thinking about the editing process of the delivery, with photographers, when we think of editing, we’re just thinking of color correction. With video, there’s editing and then there’s also color grading, like the color correction, you know. Cut it’s also the storytelling and the editing and the audio, that it just creates so much more layer of complexity to it. When I used to do wedding videography again, that’s where I started, it was in video. And you know, we’d have three cameras rolling on a 10 hour day and you’d have 24 hours of footage. And then the client says hey, I wanted to see if you have any more clips with my grandma.

Krista Marie:

You have to hire a whole team to go through all of that.

Ben Hartley:

Versus photography. You can just be scanning for granted, you can just slide through them. So the reality was, and this actually plays into coaching and where that even came from, the desire to start helping other photographers. Like I had mentioned, we were both involved in ministry. And it was a different experience than my wife. And so once I got the job working at the internship, things were good and I was happy. But my wife wasn’t, we were in a small town. And some of the experiences that she had, she just couldn’t get away from. Anybody relate to that, like you just grew up in a small town, you just feel like you always see the same damn people, the same places all the time, and you’re just in it.

Krista Marie:

And it’s just hard to grow from that, because you’re always in the same environment.

Ben Hartley: Yeah and so the job that I had at the design studio was awesome. Honestly, I loved it. I would have never left. I really wouldn’t. I had an incredible boss, I had amazing people, and I just got to make art, and it was so fun. It was really a tonne of fun. But we just couldn’t stay there anymore. So the photography business was built as a way to get out. Because to be honest, I was making 40,000 a year at the Design Suite, those motion graphics. And that was more money than I’d ever imagined coming out of college. To make 40,000 salary, it was just mind blowing, and this was in 2010.

Krista Marie:

And doing something that you enjoy too. 

Ben Hartley:

And I also felt trapped by it. I couldn’t move, we couldn’t leave. Because I was like, I don’t know how we’re going to make 40,000 anywhere else. I don’t know how to get another job. I don’t know what that looks like. And so I just felt like we were stuck. And so she was stuck in it, and I was right there with her. And so photography became a way to get unstuck. So for me, as I coach other photographers, maybe you’ll make more money. But that’s not necessarily the goal. It’s just a side effect. But the goal is to be able to say no to people that you no longer want to say yes to. The goal is to get out of relationships that are hurting you. Some people are literally stuck in abusive relationships, financially and to never have someone feel the way that my wife was feeling. And that looks like so many things. That’s why I wanted to build a business for myself that was sustainable, so we could get out. And that’s why I help other photographers so that no one else ever has to feel that same way. There’s so much power that you have when you get to design it. You get to choose where you want to live and who you want to live around. There’s so much freedom that comes from that. And the freedom that you receive is worth far more than any dollar amount could ever give.

Business Challenges Most Small Business Struggles With

Krista Marie: 

Yeah, it is hard because I feel like as business owners, we do get stuck on income, because obviously we need to make money. But I think sometimes we can get so stuck on it that we forget that we are in control of our business, we get to decide where do I want to take this? How do I want to grow, what is it that I want to do? Because I feel like I have that conversation a lot with people too, they feel stuck. And it’s sad when you feel stuck in your own business. Because there’s so many angles and ways that you can take this and it really does take getting to that mindset where you feel empowered enough to be able to do that in your business, because it’s hard. There is no one right answer. But it’s figuring out what that looks like for you. So I’d love to hear what are some of the things that you found, and I know we’re going to talk about this later, you have a mastermind and things that you’ll be able to invite everyone to. But what are some of the things that you hear most frequently that you find that you’re helping new business owners with kind of overcome or or see through.

Ben Hartley:

Three areas. And this is something I’ve gotten really clear on. At this point, I’ve coached 1000s of photographers. I was saying this the other day, you know how marketers have to throw out numbers of just random numbers. I’ve coached, you know, whatever. I was looking at it and it’s literally over 1,000 clients. I’ve coached over 1000 photographers and I have distilled it down to three key areas and there’s a lot of, you know, the gray stuff that always comes back up that are always the returning things where photographers are getting stuck. The last one is always the one that people don’t realize how big of a deal it is. And they treat the other two first. So, obviously one is they need clients. That’s the lifeblood of their business. How do I market this thing? How do I get people that contact me? So that’s probably one of the number one places that photographers are stuck. The second is, there’s a lot of photographers who have clients. It’s just they’re stuck on the hamster wheel of, I’ve got people, but if I raise my prices, I’m concerned I’m going to lose them all. So they’ve got gigs, but they’re 300 dollar portrait sessions. Or they’re $1,200 weddings, and they’re just working themselves to the bone, not making enough to leave their day job, not making enough to really sustainably be providing and they’re just stuck. And so it’s that pricing conversation of moving those numbers up and making more per client. And then the third and the last one, this is the one that it’s easy to ignore, because it’s not urgent. The first two that I just listed are very urgent. You feel them when you wake up every day. You look at the empty inbox, and you’re like, oh, man, you know. Or you look at the bank and so it’s direly urgent and I understand that. The rub is that the life that you say that you want, is found in the things that are not urgent, but are of the most importance. And most of our lives are run by the things that are urgent, whether or not they’re important or not, by the way. Whether or not it’s important, or it’s not important. You open your inbox, and you’re like, “Oh, I’ve got to put out all these fires. I’ve got to email this person. I’ve got to post on Instagram, I’ve got to make a reel, we’re coming back to reels. I’ve got to do something. It’s not that the stuff doesn’t need to get done. It just doesn’t make a difference to what you say that you want. And so the last one in that last category that I really do believe will make the difference in your life. It is not urgent. But it’s important. And it’s just your mindset. And the reason I know this is because again, this won’t be about my programme or anything. But I have a programme. It’s called Book Solid, and there are photographers who are enrolled in it. And it has literally step by step, exactly what to do, and how to do it. Screenshots of me doing everything so they can see there’s no confusion. And then they wake up, and if they’re like me, they mess it all up. It’s because that’s who I am, I just wake up and I’m in a bad mood. And so I don’t show up in my business. The way that I show up is kind of like a dick and it just ripples out. You know what I mean? How I’m showing up in my business is producing a certain set of results no matter what I do. Yeah. So you almost got to get clear about that, you know.

How to Silence and Overcome Negative Thinking

Krista Marie:

Oh that really is so important. Because you can outline something step by step for somebody, and obviously certain things that might work for certain people. But even if it was guaranteed to work for them, they still have to have the motivation and the ability to fight past all of those voices in their head. Because that’s the thing that really does hold us back. That voice is like, why bother, you’re still not going to do it, this isn’t gonna work for you. You can have it step by step, like you said, screenshots of do this, do this, do this. But if you wake up and you let that voice overcome all of your thoughts, it doesn’t matter. It’s gonna be so difficult to overcome that. So that’s so true.

Ben Hartley:

That is my daily experience. And the bad news is it never goes away. It never does. Ask me how I know.

Krista Marie:

It doesn’t matter how many clients you’ve booked, it’s still there.

Ben Hartley:

Yeah, but the thing that can change is how you relate to it. That’s all you’re in control of. You aren’t in control of your thoughts. Just try to stop thinking, just try to silence the chatter. It doesn’t stop. And you’re not in control of whatever comes into your mind. You can’t, all you can do is choose how you relate to whatever it is. And that’s the practice, and that’s why I choose to talk about that a lot because I need it. I need it every damn day. I’ve got to stay sharp. I’ve been trained as a transformational coach. And my transformational coach who trained me, he describes it as a gymnasium for the mind. And if you don’t exercise the muscle, they atrophy, it goes back. And so the mind is no different. The mindset is no different. I speak about it often as a way to get into the gym, and to practice and to exercise it just for my own sake. Because I know when I wake up tomorrow, I’m gonna be up against it, me right there again.

Krista Marie:

Yeah. And that’s the hard part. I found that that’s been one of the blessings of having a podcast is that it’s so important because, you know, and I’ll say this a lot when I’m doing episodes like, oh, I talked about this a lot. This is something I always refer back to, because these things are so important. But also, I’m not saying this from a place of oh, I’m an expert at this now. And this is why I talk about it so much. It’s that I need the reminder just as much as I’m sharing it with all of you. These things take so much work and like you said, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business, because we’re always going to be looking for that next level. We’re always going to be growing, we’re always going to want to learn more and take on more. So no matter what, it’s always going to be there and we always have to figure out, like you said, how we relate to it, and the story we’re letting it have about ourselves, whatever those thoughts are.

Ben Hartley:

Good and bad by the way. It’s not just like the negative self-talk. It’s not the comparison, or the four star review of the person who critiques your images, and you didn’t ask for a critique. It’s also letting all the compliments and the positivity and the likes and the follows mean something about you. We pump ourselves up with these stories of, now I’ve made it, now I’m someone. But you’re already someone. This didn’t mean anything about you. But it’s both stories. The good and the bad are both stories.

Krista Marie:

Yes. And I also find because sometimes when we let those things cloud our judgment, then we feel like, oh, man, I’m doing so well this week I’m gonna take a step back. Okay, I’m good for a little bit. But no, it’s the same with the mindset work. You might wake up one day and just be in a great mindset and that’s amazing. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll wake up tomorrow, and it’ll be the same thing. You still have to wake up and show up and put in the work. And I think sometimes it’s hard for us to remember that. It takes that constant vigilant action, and not just like, okay, things are going well in my business. I’m getting a lot of likes, all this is happening. You still have to keep showing up. Yes, that’s amazing. It might be a little bit easier. But you still have to keep showing up.

Keep Your Standards High and Expectations Low to Succeed

Ben Hartley:

Yeah, it’s discipline. And we can go off on that for a minute. A lot of times people ask me how I keep showing up. I do a reel five days a week, typically, most holidays, or my kids are sick or something like that, or my personal life demands something. I do free coaching every week in my mastermind group. For two years at a time I did a live video every single day of just free coaching. And so the question is, how do you stay motivated? How do you keep showing up? How do you keep doing this? And the conversation around discipline is this idea that I have learned to keep my expectations low. But my standards high. I’ve learned to keep my expectations low. But my standards high. Meaning when I say my standards, I will start with that. It is my word, I’m committed when I say that I’m going to show up and do a weekly live video. In the group, I do it. It’s a standard for myself. My expectations are low, it doesn’t matter if there’s only three people watching. Because when you first start, you got no one watching maybe one person and then maybe another one person. And then the next week, it’s drops back down to zero, and then it goes to three. So my expectations were low. And because of that, it allowed me to stay in the game, because I didn’t make up something about it. We overestimate what we can accomplish in a month, and we underestimate what we can accomplish in a year. And too often people are bailing because their expectations are high. They’ve seen someone like you or myself who have got 30,000 people on this, whatever. And so we create this expectation for ourselves, and we go and we try it and we don’t meet the expectation, and so we bow. We’re like, “Well, that didn’t work.” When I decide I’m going to do something, I’ve got a very long timeframe. A very long timeframe. My expectations are so low, but my standard for myself is extremely high. And it just keeps me showing up. Which then eventually, I’m willing to bet on myself that you give me 12 months. And I’ll see you at the finish line, we will compare them. But I’m showing up one way or the other.

Mindset Work and The Power of Showing Up Every Day 

Krista Marie:

Do you feel like a lot of the credit that you can give for that, is that around the mindset work around showing up every day?

Ben Hartley:

Yes, that’s all it is. And we could talk about it in terms of I truly believe that I am my word. That’s all that I have. And my mind, this chatter that we’ve been talking about, that we described it as the stories that we tell ourselves, the comparison, all the thoughts that are running through my head. They’re constantly trying to get me to evaluate my performance, my value, is this good. Is it bad? How do I feel about that? What do I make up? And that’s just nonstop running, and it’s never going away. We’ve already addressed that. And so I’m always evaluating. I’m always assessing how good I am. How successful am I? How unsuccessful am I? How successful are you? Well, Krista, you know, she’s really successful, and that’s good for her. But it’s bad for me. And it’s constantly going. So the evaluation never stops. What I’ve discovered is if the evaluation never stops, if the judgement never stops, I can control by which what I judge. I don’t know if I said that right. But I can’t control what this little brain of mind evaluates. So if I let it to its own devices, it’ll just nonstop evaluate everything in front of me. And what that means about my value and my abilities and my success or not. However, I could also decide to evaluate based off of my word. Did I do what I said I was going to do? Yes or no? Yes. Great. Cool. I’m just gonna keep doing that then. Did I not? Oh, shit. Okay. So first off, is breaking my word bad? Well, man, I broke my promise. I said I was gonna do something, I made a commitment, and I didn’t do it. Is that bad? Well, as soon as it’s bad, or it’s right, or it’s wrong, I’m now back to the evaluating. Back to the chatter, shaming myself, and I’m making myself a fool and oh, I’m a bad person, I should feel ashamed. And, I’m taking myself out of the game. Well, what if not keeping my word is just not keeping my word. And now there’s a consequence. It’s like raising kids. So there’s a consequence for not keeping my word. But it doesn’t have to be bad or right or wrong. And maybe the consequence is you need to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Maybe there’s a new commitment that you need to re-up. Maybe there is a consequence within that relationship that you brought the commitment in. All right. But now it just demands and requires a new commitment from me. And so when I decided to start living my life according to my commitments and my word, I discovered that I just stay in the game so much more. The shame doesn’t creep up on me nearly as much and the guilt and the self punishment and all of the unworthiness and the imposter syndrome, it’s not that it’s not there, I relate to it so differently now.

Krista Marie:

Yeah, I feel like we give it less to hold on to. If we’re not spending time judging and judging our thoughts in ourselves and comparing ourselves, the less time we’re spending on that, the less of a hold those things have over us. And like you said, it doesn’t mean they’re not there, they’re still going to be there. But we’re just not focusing on them or giving them the energy that we’re so used to giving them on a day to day basis. 

Ben Hartley:

I know we went off into the details a little bit.

Krista Marie: 

I think it’s really important because I think at the end of the day, I actually just had a conversation with another photographer, I was talking about how I’ve let go of some of my strategies. I think we can get so in the weeds of trying to strategically build something and all this stuff. And sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And I think we sometimes forget to just do what feels right for us in the moment. We get so caught up in strategy that we just forget what we enjoy doing and what feels. And I think this goes hand in hand with making sure that you’re looking back to your mindset, the things that you’re doing, the things that you’re focusing on, because if you’re just constantly building the business that you want, trying to get to the life that you want, you’re never really going to get there. It’s going to be so much harder to get there than if you start letting yourself be present in that moment, and going with your intuition of okay, what feels right for me right now? Not based necessarily on super strategy or anything like that. I just find that I know for me, it’s like really easy to get lost in like the person that maybe you don’t want to be, the person who’s just so focused on building a business that you forget why you’re even doing it in the first place. So I feel like the mindset just goes hand in hand with that. It’s so important.

Ben Hartley:

Yeah, it’s this paradox. It’s the pull of finding value in the present moment, here and now and, and yet pursuing future value. Pursuing something bigger, pursuing bettering yourself. It’s a really interesting tension that those two things hold. It’s a great little paradox. 

Tips and Advice For New Business Owners 

Krista Marie:

I like it. So for a lot of the listeners here will probably know, whether they’re in their first couple of years of building a business, or maybe they’re just starting off and this sounds like something they want to do. Are there any things that you have that you can share that you wish that someone had told you, when you were just starting off in business or something that you just think would be really helpful. Obviously, you’ve already shared so much, but any actionable tips or things that you feel like someone would be able to walk away with?

Ben Hartley:

Yeah, I would say it’s really alluring to jump into a tactic. We’re moving so quickly, and we see success that people are getting, we see tactics that people are implementing all up Instagram reels. Okay, I started a business. I’m gonna make Instagram reels. I started a business, I need to start blogging. I started a business, I need to build my SEO campaign. I started a business, I’ve got to network with other vendors. Whatever the tactic is, and part of it is our incessant need to feel like we’re progressing, we’re doing something. This is why photographers are notorious for like, I need a new logo. It’s like, No, you’re just looking for another distraction? You’re looking for something to do? I would say two things. And we’re going in this direction now with this episode, because it’s where our whole conversation has been about mindset. I would say two things. Number one, rather than focusing on all of the things that you want to do, they’re not going away. I promise you, you have plenty of things to do. Everyone’s got ideas of what to do, I would ask yourself to do two things. Number one is, before you do anything, if you could slow down enough to consider the not urgent, but direly important thing, which is what is the vision that I have for my life, and this business. Because I think you mentioned this earlier, Krista, the amount of photographers that I’ve coached, who’ve built a prison around themselves, they are on this hamster wheel, and it’s not what they wanted. But they just kept growing and kept building and kept doing and doing and doing and doing and doing. And they looked around themselves and now they’re doing it alone, because someone left them. Or they’re doing it to the point that they don’t have any sleep or their anxiety’s through the roof or they’ve taken on too much liability in the process of all the activity. So, if you could give yourself the space to just consider at the very least, it’s an idea even of what is it that I really want? And that way you could filter the different tactics and the strategies through their vision. Like, okay, how could this strategy get me closer to that or is it moving me further away. So that would be the first thing. And then the second is maybe you have an idea of what you’d like your life to look like, maybe you want your life to look like one where you’re photographing 20 weddings a year, maybe even 15 at $10,000 A piece. And you’re doing them in three locations. You’re doing them half in two locations, half the time you’re doing them in Hawaii, where you’ve got a rental property that you stay in, during that season. And then the other half, maybe you’re in Ohio, and so you come back home to Ohio in the summers, and you rent out that rental property in Ohio, and you say home in Ohio and you do the other half during that season. Maybe that’s a rough idea of what you’d like. So great, we’ve got this vision. Now, rather than going into all the activity immediately, all the doing. 

My question would begin to challenge myself to ask, okay, great. What kind of person would I need to be? The kind of person that would have that life, who would they be? Not what they would do, just yet. But when they’re doing those things? Who would they be while they’re doing those things? Well, maybe they wouldn’t be such an asshole. Maybe they’d actually be fun to be around. Maybe they’d be kind. Maybe they tell the truth. Maybe they would keep their promises to their friends and their family. There’s a lot of things that you might be, and if you can consider that… Sorry, I’m mostly speaking to myself as I’m thinking of all these things, right? That’s why they came so quickly. But everyone talks about everything to do, but if you could consider first, what would someone who finds success like that, what kind of person would they be? That oftentimes it has more impact than the do? Because, for example, I could do community outreach. I can create a local meetup group. That could be a strategy that I go and do. But who I am while I’m doing that would dramatically change the result that it gets. Like if I go into that overbearing and cocky and arrogant and I’m the guy who’s bringing everyone together, that would produce very different results than if I went into it considering I’m going to be humble. I’m going to be a servant, I’m going to be giving, I’m going to be looking to build competence into people who are just starting out. I’m going to be looking to elevate other people’s businesses. That is going to produce very different results. And it’s the B that oftentimes gets overlooked until it punches you in the face. Usually, because someone that you love tells you.

Krista Marie:

That’s so true. As you’re saying that, it makes so much sense. Because really, at the end of the day, let’s say that that was your life, that’s the vision that you want for yourself, who you’re going to show up as is going to be the thing that you do every single day. That life may not happen tomorrow, next week, next month, but you still have to be able to know and have enough clarity around who is this person that lives this life? Because if you don’t even know who that person is, it’s going to be so much harder to live in that moment. And like you just said too, you could go out and do all these things. But for example, if you get so caught up in chasing clients, chasing numbers, getting success, or notoriety or whatever it might be, you might go into those meetups, for example and I only had 10 people show up this week. This goes back to when you talked about expectations, you have to be so confident, go in there and be so grateful for every single person who showed up because you trust that if I show up with this attitude as this person, this will take me to where I wanted to go. But it’s so easy. Like you said, you could do all of the action steps but show up with that wrong attitude or the wrong way of looking at it, maybe you host it twice, you only get five people and you’re like, this isn’t what I wanted it to be and then you give up on the idea entirely.

The Goal is to Stay in the Game

Ben Hartley:

Yep. And then it’s what’s wrong with me, I’ll never get it right. And you know, all the chatter starts, all the judgment, all the assessment of my performance and value and everything, it all starts running and then we take ourselves out of the game. This is what I’m really on right now, staying in the game is the game. Yeah, that’s what I’m really on this year is helping photographers to keep showing up to stay in the game. As soon as you step out, nothing moves forward.

Krista Marie:

Yeah. It’s so important. And it doesn’t mean you have to show up in this way where you’re burnt out and over exhausted, and showing up in all of these ways. It really is finding the thing that works and that is sustainable, and just keep doing that. 

Ben Hartley:

It’s not a hustle culture thing that I’m even speaking to. It’s not like staying in the game means making a reel everyday. It’s not that it means going live every day. Staying in the game is really for me about taking ownership over my B. As in who I’m going to be every day. And not even just in business. But staying in the game with my family, staying in the game with my kids, staying in the game with my wife, staying in the game with my friends. It’s all the same game, by the way. In case anyone’s listening and they’re like, Well, that’s all your personal life. Yeah. It’s all just your life. It’s all one thing. It’s all the same. 

Before You Make Your To-Do List, Make a To-Be List

Krista Marie:

Yeah, totally. This was amazing. To wrap things up, is there anything, whether it’s a book or resource or something that you found that you just find yourself going back to where you feel like you love or that you love sharing with other people? And it can be strategy, it can be like more personal growth, like we said, it’s all related.

Ben Hartley:

We’ll just stay on the same theme. You know, a lot of people start their day off with a to-do list, or maybe they plan their day ahead. And so maybe they end their night thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow, right. And so to add to that concept, or even to potentially start with it, would be to consider making a to-be list. Who are you going to be tomorrow or going to be the rest of the day. Are you doing whatever it is that you say you’re going to do? And if you could take ownership over that, claim it. For example, I was at my daughter’s volleyball game. She’s seven years old, and everyone’s terrible. It’s the worst. It’s absolutely the worst. So I had a volleyball game, and so that’s on my to do list. Today I’m taking my daughter to volleyball. Great. Who am I going to be there? Maybe I’m going to be someone who is just a loving support. Maybe that’s who I’m committed to be, not I’m committed to be the coach, the driving challengers. Maybe there’s a time in life that’ll call for that type of motivation. But this isn’t that time, at least that’s why I’ve decided. So instead, I’m just going to be a loving supportive person. That’s what I’m committed to be at this terrible volleyball game. Shaun Gordon is a close friend of mine, his wife Jamie Gordon is also a transformational coach who’s been trained by the same gentleman that I’ve been trained as, and this is something that she really focuses in on is the to-be list. So I think that could be a great takeaway, very practical. It’s a very practical thing.

Krista Marie:

It’s very practical. And I really don’t think like, as people, we don’t think about that enough. We get so focused on the to-dos and we sometimes forget. And that’s crucial, because this is who we are every day, and it’s who we’re growing into being. 

Ben Hartley:

A lot of times we’re a victim, we believe we’re a victim to our B. We believe it’s just who I am. It’s my personality. This is how I woke up today. Well, yeah, the default version of you, which isn’t very attractive, is exactly what you woke up as. It’s just that you have ownership. You have agency here to actually shift who you’re going to continue to be. Believe me you, the default version of Ben is not attractive. When I say attractive, I mean from a personality standpoint It’s not fun to be around. The default version of me is looking to survive and to be safe and to be okay, and to prove myself, and he’s a real jerk. So I’ve got to actually claim who I’m gonna be instead. 

Parting Thoughts 

Krista Marie:

Yeah, that intentionality is so important. And I think it’s something that gets overlooked. So I love that this is what we’re focusing on today, because I think it’s so crucial. Well, this was so great. Thank you so much. Let us know, where can we find you? How can we connect with you? I know you also have a mastermind and people can join. So yeah, share all that information.

Ben Hartley:

Yeah, awesome. This is a podcast and I host a podcast called The Six Figure Photography Podcast. But the place that I get into these types of conversations, where I help coach photographers in their mindset, and in their business would be a mastermind group, I do free mindset and business coaching every single week. And if anyone would like to join, I’d love to have you. There’s over 24,000 other photographers there. Pull out your phone. And all you gotta do is text the word join to 614-714-1644. I’ll send you a direct invite to it. Again, your going to text the word join  to 614-714-1644. I’m really active in that space. It’s a space that I protect. And I’d love to have you come and be a part of it.

Krista Marie: 

That’s amazing. And I’ll share that number in the show notes too. So if anyone wants it again, you can find it there. But thank you so much, Ben, this is such a wonderful conversation. It was just a joy to have you on the podcast today.

Ben Hartley:

Thanks, Krista. I appreciate you.

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I'm Krista! Wedding and Personal Brand Photographer based in Northern California. I’ve been photographing weddings & women business owners since 2010, and I fall more in love with my job everyday. When we work together, I help create a stream-lined, easy and smooth process so you feel FULLY prepped, ready, and EXCITED to take your photos!

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