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I'm Dolly — a Nashville based family and branding photographer & a business systems educator for small biz owners who want to be more streamlined. I'm here to help you look awesome (for your photos) & feel great about business systems!
If you’re reading this message, it’s because I have a major announcement to make: Dolly DeLong Photography & Dolly DeLong Education is launching with a whole new brand (January 25th, 2021 to be exact)!
Whew – just saying that out loud feels like a major weight lifted. And you know why that is? Because doing a rebrand is a lot of hard work. In the end, it’s totally worth it to have a consistent brand that tells your business story and allows you to serve your customers. But boy-oh-boy is it a long process from start to finish.
Before I dive into the “Dos’ and Don’ts of Branding” I wanted to get real with you and let you know that writing this blog post has been very nerve-wracking for me because I feel like I’m exposing a part of my embarrassing past! It has taken me a long time to “learn” more of my voice within my own business and it has been a lot of hard mistakes since 2006 when I first picked up my camera (which was when my entrepreneurial journey began). When I decided to establish my business full time to “Dolly DeLong Photography” in 2018 I decided to go all-in on a custom website (mistake #1), I had major shiny object syndrome (mistake #2), I did not know who exactly I was serving (mistake #3), I still was not yet shooting and editing consistently-which visually put me all over the map (mistake #4), and because I had graduated from Collge in 2007 I assumed I was “too old” to reinvest in myself for education to further my business (mistake #5).
Yes, I think it’s super-valuable to walk through seasons of learning to better know myself + know my business, but man oh man, why did it take me so long? And to be completely transparent, I bet in 10 years I will most likely be very different and my website will evolve and change with me, but just everything I have learned since first having a website (in 2013) to now has been such a wild ride and blessing for me!
I mean, does anyone else feel this way about their own brand and website? I know I’m not the only one!
Anyway, so I wanted to share just a little evolution of what Dolly DeLong Photography (back then I was Twelve16Photography) looked like to present day. I am so grateful for everything I have learned so far (and I am going to continue to push myself to continue to learn more about branding) so that I can continue to serve my clients more with my business!
When you start the branding process, it’s easy to think you need to have it all figured out from the get-go. Sure, there are certain parts of your business you need to have dialed-in before you get too far down the line. But overall, it’s much more important to give yourself grace and trust the process rather than try to have it all figured out right at the beginning.
Examples of this could be: don’t feel like you have to have your ideal client avatar (your ideal client/who you want to serve) figured out overnight this takes a lot of time (it took me over 5 years to hone in on my voice for photography).
One thing that is important to discover during your branding process is your business’s voice, and the best way to do that is to determine your ideal customer (as mentioned above). Ask yourself questions like “Who do I want to serve?” and “What parts of my business do I love?” Without answers to those questions, your branding is going to fall flat because you have no clear direction. On the other hand, once you take the time to figure out those key pillars, your business message and goals will become crystal clear.
I know I am not getting as deep as I should be, but there are full-on branding questionnaires you can take for your own business to determine more of your voice for your business! One of the best places to find your voice is by starting to see what your own strengths are so that you can apply them to your brand and business. To check out the Gallup Strength Test click here.
Branding is a long process and at times it can feel overwhelming. The best piece of advice I can give you is to take your time and don’t give up. There are going to be plenty of hard conversations you need to have with yourself about what your business is and where you’re going, but when you take the time to slow down and really lean into the processes, your business will be much better off in the end.
One of the biggest mistakes I made in the beginning stages of my business was rushing through a branding process before I even had a voice for my business. Please do not make the same mistake I made. It was a costly/expensive mistake that I still cringe thinking about.
When I first got started in photography, I thought I needed to do wedding photography because that’s what so many of my peers were doing. But large-scale wedding photography just wasn’t my favorite type of photography to do. When I actually took the time to take a step back to see what types of photography was the right fit for me, I was able to serve clients who wanted to work with me versus me trying to force myself to work with people who would never appreciate my work.
One of the cool parts about the branding process is that you get to decide what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. For example, I decided that small, intimate weddings and elopements were right up my alley, but big-time weddings just weren’t for me. During this process, decide what your favorite things are and specialize in those areas. And don’t feel apologetic if that means leaving other parts of your business behind.
Again, this part also takes time and it is a constant ebb and flow as you get to know yourself more and more.
Did you know that I am a full-time family photographer AND a branding photographer who also educates other small business owners on how to best automate their lives using Pinterest, Dubsado, and other fun tools? I would NOT have discovered my passion for automating my business (and teaching others how to automate their own business) if I had just focused on “how to fit into the wedding photography category”….nope…I forged my own path and although it has its highs and lows (and feels like a roller coaster sometimes) I am REALLY at home in these areas because I am passionate and knowledgeable about these areas!
And that brings me to my last point – don’t try to be like everyone else. It’s okay if your business’s branding, voice, customers, or offerings aren’t exactly like everyone else in your industry. During the branding processes, own what makes you, you. In the end, you (and your branding) will be better for it!
Branding your business doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, and you don’t have to waste thousands of dollars trying to get it right. When you give yourself grace, find your voice, take your time, search for your specialty, and own your niche, you’ll avoid the most common branding mistakes and end up with a business (and brand) you’re proud of!
Again, this takes a lot of time and I cannot stress enough that if you allow yourself the time, grit and grace to push yourself to invest and learn from others who have gone before you, I promise you, you will find more of YOUR voice for your business!
If you are interested in learning more about the foundations of building a brand for your small business, I highly recommend checking out Abby Grace Photography’s branding foundations course! I get no benefit from sharing this course, and I know it is beneficial for ANY small business owner (not just a photographer).
I know I still have a long ways to go if I continue to build my photography and business systems education business in the years to come, but I am so happy for all the lessons I have learned as I have built out a stronger foundation for Dolly DeLong Photography & Dolly DeLong Education! Although I am curious to see where 2021 and beyond will take me, I am so grateful for how far I have come (again, not on my own, but by the many many many blessings of God, many lessons learned, and many people who have invested in me along the way)!
Now, if you are interested in beginning the process of deciding if you need branding photos for your own business, I have created a FREE PDF that walks you through my process I send over to my clients. It’s absolutely free, and it can give you some insight into seeing what it takes to plan out your branding session (and to see if you are ready for one and guess what? You can literally apply this to ANY business and if you live in another state that is okay because you can apply this with your own preferred photographer! I just really want you to have a simple checklist to see how to best prep for your own branding photography session!) Check it out HERE!
Dolly DeLong is a Nashville-based family & branding photographer and a creative business educator & encourager. Dolly loves serving families, eloping couples, and business owners with her timeless, radiant photography. She loves capturing the joy and emotion in both digital and film photos.
She also has a heart for serving the larger business community. Dolly shares her knowledge of tools like Pinterest, Dubsado, email marketing, and business systems with new creative business owners in an encouraging and supportive way through automation training, helpful blog posts, and her online courses. (You can start your automation journey here)
Dolly’s faith and love for her family motivate her to help other business owners find the joy and freedom she’s found in running a successful small business.
Whenever she has a spare moment, she enjoys watching TV (i.e. Survivor), eating way too many sweets, and listening to podcasts while running or walking. To work with Dolly DeLong Photography LLC, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out her contact form here.
Interested in elevating your business with some professional branding photos? Please click on the image below to schedule an appointment with Dolly DeLong Photography!