Forget the Icky Sales Tactics: How 2 Midwestern Girls Built an Honest Business

You know when you have burning business questions that might come off as too personal, but you really want to ask someone? Yeah, we've been there. So we decided to lay it out all for you and share some thoughts, secrets and feelings on our growing business lives. If you want a peek behind the curtain then sit down with us for our latest Q & A Interview style.

Forget the Icky Sales Tactics: How Two Midwestern Girls Built an Honest Business  |  Think Creative Collective

Did you always want to be an Entrepreneur?

Abagail: I believe some people are born with an innate urge to just go about life differently. From the time I was very small I was a BIG thinker, always coming up with new ideas or inventing some new thing to make my life or someone else's better. Trust me I tried the corporate ladder jumping, and frankly I was pretty good at it. BUT I WAS MISERABLE. I hated when things went sour. I hated when people didn’t get along. I was frustrated with the politics of being in business. I knew things could be more focused on the good of the world and not on running an empire fully focused on making money. Sure I want to make a great living, but my number one goal every day is helping people. If what I am putting out into the world isn’t for the good, it isn’t worth my time. Long story short, that leadership quality yanked at my heart, and I didn’t think there was any other way to be happy than to pave my own path. 

Emylee: I think that I didn’t know I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but all the jobs I took or even some I made up were definitely based in being my own boss. I remember selling chalk colored rocks at the end of my parents driveway or playing Restaurant Owner in our kitchen. I would go as far as designing a menu, planning out the course, decorating the dining room and making them dress up - and I loved every bit. I have since worked for many people since those days, but I always found myself struggling with the hierarchy of big corporate businesses. If I had an idea for how to get something done or a new way of structuring something I had to run it by way too many channels for my liking. I also come from a family chock full of entrepreneurs - both of my parents, my nana, and many uncles of mine each have owned or do currently own and operate their own successful business. It’s equally dreamy and scary to have full control over your own success - I guess it’s in my blood. 

Is this actually your full-time job?

Abagail: Yes. Which just makes me bubble up with happiness inside. I dreamed of setting my own hours. Deciding who I would work with and what I would work on. It is far from rainbows and butterflies all the time. There is still lots of “business” to take care of, but the challenge makes the reward that much better. I feel pretty lucky to have built a solid foundation (with lots of hard work and planning) that allows me to do this as my primary source of income. Do I work twice as many hours? Probably. Would I have it any other way? Absolutely not.

Emylee: Whoa. Um. Yeah. I guess you could say I still have non-business related photography clients, but I love them too much to leave them. I think it scares me to say this is my full-time job because I don’t want to jinx it or give it up. This hasn’t always been my full-time job though. When I first started taking on photography clients I wasn’t making enough at the time so I had to take on odd jobs here and there mostly from family and friends. It wasn’t a transition for me from college to related job to running my own business. I actually never got the related job out of college - no one would hire me. After putting in loads of applications and not even getting called for a single interview I knew I was going to have to finagle this on my own. It took my about 2.5 years working my photography business before I started to see some good money come from it. It was this time last year that I transitioned more to what I do now in teaching other small business owners to be successful and styling for brand photography. 

How do you view the competition?

Abagail: I used to get all bummed out by the competition. Thought maybe the market was too saturated. Do too many people design? But I learned it isn’t about what you do, it is how you make it your own. Sure someone could hire any designer, but they pick me based on my skills, personality, expertise, etc. I truly believe there is room for everyone and I like to encourage community over competition.

Emylee: I am so amazed by the talent of everyone out there it blows me out of the water. I am incredibly proud to live in our society where we get to express so many things, try new things, and create what we want. You can only invent something once so I pull from what everyone around me is doing and see if there’s something about it that I can use. Maybe it’s how much that business pays attention to their social media or how this business owner thanks her clients. I then use my method of what I like to call “tweak and repeat”. Nothing that anyone else has done is going to come across for our business or in our style so we really just look at the basics of what inspires us and then see how it could fit for our message. 

What is one thing you would want to change about the Creative industry?

Abagail: I wish we all vowed to work together more. I used to be one of them. One who was scared to spill my secrets. One who would rather work alone. You know that girl in college who would much prefer the giant group project would be just hers for fear the rest would screw it up or not pull their weight. The moment I let people in, delegated in my weak areas and was willing to collaborate everything changed. Emylee was a BIG part of that for me. The idea of co-owning a business was NEVER something I would of considered. But she was absolutely the right decision at absolutely the right time. People surprise you. Be willing to work as a team even if it is just for one project, or one client.

Emylee: How secretive everyone is! I joined a private photography group back in 2013 and right off the bat the moderator said she was an open book. You could ask any question about editing steps, camera equipment, client relations, whatever and she would give you her honest answer. She had both national and local photographers in the group (theoretically her competition) and that still didn’t stop her. Because, like I said above, no one out there can do it like you can. You will always have your own spin, your own take, your own way of doing things. Once I saw that open-book people like her existed in the creative industry I vowed to always be one. So no matter if it’s a blog post we’re compiling, a workshop we’re hosting or a strategy session we’re on we are always sharing everything. 

How do you take your emotions out of your pricing?

Abagail: My mommy and daddy are engineers. As you would expect, engineers like things to work and like them to be logical. Numbers are no different. There may not be magic numbers, but they do add up. If you look at a car it is made up of parts and pieces, each of those parts and pieces cost money, there was labor in assembly and they all come together in a sum total. When working on a creative business hard goods aren’t necessarily always there so you have to work backwards. What is your big end goal? How much does that break down to be monthly or even bi-weekly? How much can you realistically work on at one time (products or services)? What does it take to fill the gap? Often that number is much higher than we imagined. And sometimes requires some tweaking, but it really isn’t about how long you have been in business or what you deserve. It is about charging fairly for your time and your real costs to make your business work.

Emylee: It’s simple. We rely on the formula. Abagail’s system of working backwards is the easiest way to get a true number for what you need to charge. At the beginning it’s really hard to pick a price and not consider that it’ll most likely be your family and friends paying you for it. When you’re “portfolio building” this isn’t the worst thing to do, but there is no magic level of “you made it” or a true ratio of how “good you are” that equals a certain number. I wish! So once you realize that those numbers aren’t going to fall from the sky you’ve got to put in the work and actually figure out what you want to make. Once you have that number then all the sudden you’re thinking about your mortgage payment, tuition, grocery store trips or paying for a vacation - you aren’t thinking about what the number means on its own anymore. My best advice is to give the number a bigger picture so you don’t feel attached to it individually anymore. 

Who inspires you to try harder and never give up?

Abagail: It wouldn’t be like me to name any names. It is honestly the industry as a whole. I am astounded daily by how many women are carving out a life that is INSANE! We are talking build a new house, go on crazy vacations, pay for your kids to go to private school and have a husband who works for you insane. My goals are HUGE and I grew up in an era when we were told we could do anything and be anyone. And I watch people do just that everyday, so why can’t I be the next big thing? It isn’t about fame people, it is about profitability. I have the power to carve the life I want out of my hard work and effort!

Emylee: Is this like my Academy speech? Should I thank my mom, my husband, my bestie and my puppies? If I’m done thanking them then I’d like to focus on the total boss babes in business that guide how I handle my own clients, business and systems. I’m inspired by Marie Forleo’s attitude and sass that she supplies in her emails. Her way of talking to her audience (even when she’s selling something) is so chill and funny that it doesn’t feel icky at all. I was just introduced to the amazingness that is Jill Donovan and all her business savviness. The way she gives back in tremendous ways to her community and how she’s gathered such a raving audience of supporters fascinates me. Her tribe of people are the nicest and most supportive women and I could only hope that “our people” can be known for how amazing they are one day (even though we already love you!). 

Are you still dreaming and scheming all the details of your own small business? Maybe you’re business isn’t off the ground yet and you want to be sure to dip your toes in the right way. Or maybe you’re a seasoned business owner who is still not been able to let out that breath you’ve been holding in since you started. No matter where you are in your “biz life” you need to focus on treating your business like a business and putting systems in place to allow it to reward you. The root of all those systems start with pricing. Having a strong game and plan of action for pricing, sales tactics, learning your buyer and more will up-level your business like no other.

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