We got coffee with some great people this week and while we were chatting they asked what we had learned in 2022. I realized that while Jo and I spend a lot of time reflecting and learning about what we do, that doesn’t always translate to things we share. So with that in mind, here are my 4 biggest takeaways from last year (better late than never, lol):
Create more than you consume
As photographers, a large portion of our business comes from clients who find us on social media. Because of this, we spend lots of time on social media, which makes it really easy to get sucked into scrolling through content. Common justifications for this extra time consuming were “staying current”, “identifying trends”, or “engaging with potential clients”.
One of the things we found was the more we consumed the less creative we became in our creative process. What we made started to look similar to what everyone else was creating. And when we looked at some of our favorite accounts to follow they tended to follow similar *rules* of spending much less time consuming.
What does this mean for us moving forward? Paying attention to how we’re balancing creating vs consuming. This could mean spending time creating before logging onto social media for the day or even logging on just to post and check messages without getting sucked into consuming. It’s important to remember here that basically all social media apps are optimized to increase the amount of time on the app, so it takes conscious effort to consume less.
Fail fast by launching MVPs
Many tech start ups live by the mantra of “fail fast” or the idea of the quicker you can learn that something doesn’t work, the quicker you can transition to something better. It’s not about the failure, it’s about learning as quick as possible.
2022 for us was a year of trying new things. As creatives we have many passions and we took steps to try out some new things, and it turned out that some of them weren’t great fits for us (podcast on this coming soon over on The Jo Show). One of the interesting things that we did with some of these new launches is a concept that I learned back in grad school, using a MVP or Minimally Viable Product. The essence of this is what is the simplest version of what you’re trying to do, how can you launch that first before investing a ton of time before you get any feedback.
For us one of our interests was (and still is) launching a group program. Last year we sketched out a group program, started marketing it, gauged interest, had conversations, and then intended to use the feedback to guide us in building out the group program. It turns out that our MVP wasn’t a perfect fit for both us or our audience, and by getting that feedback early we were able to pivot away from it without having sunk months of work into something that would have gone to waste.
What does this mean moving forward? We’re leaning into what makes social media amazing – our community. How can we ask questions, put up polls/questions, and gather feedback early and often to make sure we’re delivering the best we can. And lastly we’re not scared of something failing, we’ve got some big dreams for the year, if they fail we’ll learn from it and do better the next time.
Align your passions
It seems obvious in three little words, but at times during the year we did things out of “obligation” to each others passions instead of finding a way to align our passions so that we both light up about what we’re working on.
Few people have the unique experience of being married to the person they go to work with each day. It’s not easy, it’s a constant work in communication, and it’s one of the greatest blessings for those that can make it work.
For anyone that doesn’t know both Jo and I, we’re very different people with incredibly different interests and many similar ones. Over the course of the year we started to have more conversations behind the motivations for why we were doing things and where our passions were. It turned out that by doubling down on having the meta conversations allowed us to shift the roles/responsibilities of what we were doing to much better align to what our passions were.
A perfect example of this is if you worked with us in the second half of 2022, you probably communicated almost exclusively with me. Client communication wasn’t something that Jo enjoyed doing, while making things run smoothly and coordinating logistics is something that’s almost second nature to me.
What does this mean moving forward? Before working on anything we spend more time talking about motives, interests, and skill sets. Once we’re aligned, we work much more efficiently and more than make up for the extra time discussing at the beginning.
Creativity is non-negotiable
For a lot of creatives if you do the same creative thing frequently enough as a job it can become routine.
I’ve followed Yes Theory on youtube for a few years now, their whole premise is to Seek Discomfort or put themselves (and others) in positions that make them uncomfortable in the name of new experiences and meeting new people. I watched an interview with them where one or two them pointed out that at this point they’ve become more comfortable being uncomfortable than doing “simple” comfortable things. So as they progress as a team their definition of seeking discomfort is starting to change, and their channel is evolving in the process.
Thats something that Jo and I ran into last year. We got pretty busy taking these amazing photos for our clients but at points it was pushing us towards burning out rather than being creatively fulfilled. By taking dedicated non “work” time to just create for the sake of creating we started to find more of that fulfillment and by extension got better at delivering for our clients at the same time.
What does this mean moving forward? We’re starting to take a pretty hard line on setting aside time for us to create for ourselves and what we’re passionate about. This keeps us excited about photography, but also how we can implement the new and cool things were doing with our clients.
What’d you learn?
This is just scratching the surface of all the things that Jo and I have talked about. But I’d love to hear either below or DM us on IG what did you learn last year? Just cause we’re in 2023 now, doesn’t mean that we can’t still learn from 2022, no matter how great (or terrible) it went.
One of my favorite phrases to use recently is “history is a teacher not a weapon”, cause it’s always easy to look back on something and beat yourself up for missing a clearly obvious thing in hindsight. Instead why not take that insight and put it in context of what does this mean moving forward?