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9: 3 Steps I Have Taken Last Year to Grow & Scale My Own Creative Business (The Systems And Workflow Magic Podcast)

Over the last year, I grew my business by 57%! After looking at those numbers, I knew just how important it was to reflect on what changes I made in 2021 that allowed for so much growth. In today’s episode, I’m sharing three very important steps I took in the last year to grow and scale my business, along with a bonus step as well!

The Systems and Workflow Magic Podcast is brought to you by Dolly DeLong Education. This is a podcast for creative business owners who want to learn tangible steps to automate their business through workflows, systems, tools and strategy in order to go from scattered to streamlined with purpose. Because even muggles can become automated wizards.

The Systems and Workflow Magic Bundle

If you’re ready to streamline your business, make sure you’re on the waitlist for the Systems and Workflow Magic Bundle, where over 20 creatives and business owners have collaborated to create an exclusive collection of resources to help you start and implement workflows and systems in your business to go from scattered to streamlined! The Systems and Workflow Magic Bundle is available January 24th-28th, so make sure you grab it today!

Review the Show Notes:

Three Steps to Grow & Scale My Business (6:07)

  1. Outsource your editing (6:13)
  2. Invest in a Mastermind (14:54)
  3. Invested in a Profit First Coach (19:59)
  4. BONUS: Hired a content copywriter for blog posts. (24:35

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

Cultivated Edits

Jill Gum Outsourcing

Kat Schmoyer

Kelly Mathis – Profit First Coach

Kristina Dowler – Copywriter 

Connect with Dolly:

Review the Transcript:

Welcome to the systems and workflow magic podcast where I help entrepreneurs go from scattered to streamlined in their creative businesses. I’m your host dolly DeLong, a wife, a mom and a photographer turned systems educator. Join me every week as we have conversations centered around creating tactical workflows, and automations in your business now, let’s make some strategic workflow magic. Hey everyone, and welcome back to another episode of the systems and workflow magic podcast.

I am seriously so happy you are here. I just want to say I am pre-recording this episode, you know, just to be more streamlined and prepped for my quarter one because I’m a firm believer of batching out content in strategic ways. And the reason why I am sharing this is that when this specific episode goes live, that means the systems and workflow magic Mundell is live live from January 24th through January 28 of 2022. And if you are wanting to dig into some resources, which can help you get more streamlined and organized with systems and processes and workflows for your creative business, well then please join this free bundle by going to www that systems and workflow And of course, it’ll be in the show notes as well. And if you’re listening to this episode, after the fact that no worries, you can still join the waitlist for 2023. Because the systems and workflow magic bundle has been so much fun to put together. I loved getting to feature some of my most favorite creative business owners and just overall all of the resources that they contributed and has helped out and is going to help out so many creative business owners find clarity, joy and magic in systems and workflows. And I just look at this bundle since it’s in late January as getting a late Christmas present kind of like a kickstart, we all need to get started with workflows and systems. So again, if you’re tuning in late, that’s totally fine. Just join the waitlist so you can be informed of when it opens up again in 2023. So I am so pumped about this week. For so many reasons for this episode for the systems and workflow magic bundle being live, you all are in for a treat. So originally, I was going to make this episode about my top favorite automation and systems tools I use weekly in my own business. But after sitting on this topic idea, I decided to change it up and share the top three steps I’ve taken in the past year alone. So as in last year 2021 That has helped me and my business grow by 57% in revenue. So I did the math twice to make sure I was reading that number correctly. 57%. So 2021 was a year of growth for me. And I needed to take a step back and celebrate that win because sometimes like with my personality, I can be so focused on the future and all the goals I want to achieve that I forget to stop and look at how far I have come and look at how much God has blessed me in the small business because I am I want to be a woman of faith and I want to give honor to God and say thank you God for for blessing me this far. So I will do a future episode on my favorite systems and automation tools I use within my business I promise but I wanted to keep this episode as real as possible and let you in on just some intentional steps I took to experience this I believe for me exponential growth. So disclaimer, I have a huge disclaimer I do not want I mean I’m coming in that is that I do want to share I am not okay not a six figure business.

It is a dream of mine to one day hit that but if you are listening to this and are assuming oh just another business owner talking about their six or seven or eight figure business and how they built it out with X amount of steps. I I’m still a five figure business owner and you know what, on most days When I’m not comparing my little business to, you know, the big businesses, I am actually pretty content. I am always chasing my goals and dreams. But I’m extremely proud of myself, for what I’ve accomplished in the strides that I’ve made are positively affecting my family. And they are my why. And that’s really what matters to me is my husband and my son. And just like making sure that especially my son is taken care of. So this episode is dedicated to the solopreneur, who is making strides and wants to hear from another human who still hasn’t hit that six figure milestone, but a business owner who is still growing and is still making strides. So this one’s for you. Okay, so I know I said I had three steps. But I have four steps. And I thought of the fourth one before I hit record. So I’m just going to keep the title at three, and surprise everyone with the fourth when they listen, just to change it up a little bit. So here are my four steps I took last year to help grow my business exponentially. So the first step I did was outsource my editing. So I know that many listeners of this podcast, you may not be a photographer, and you may skip this episode and assume it’s only for photographers. But I promise you this point is also to help encourage you, okay, so, so give it a listen, even if you are not a photographer, I want you to listen to this example and think of one way you can outsource something in your creative business, which could create a positive ripple effect for your, for your business for your family for your life. Okay, for me, that was finally handing over the reins to an editor. And that was the hardest thing I had ever done in my business. Because I am such a control freak, I wanted to be in control of everything. And if you are new to getting to know me, I am a creative business owner I even though I do teach other creative business owners about systems and workflows. I am also a family and branding photographer based in Nashville, Tennessee. So that is one of my hats I wear for my business. And I’ve been a photographer since 2006 2007. But I didn’t go full time until 2018. It was quite the journey for me. And between 2007 to 2018 Oh, man, my editing style was literally all over the place. I know, all photographers have to start somewhere. But just looking back, it’s embarrassing to me how long it took me to realize how important it is to be consistent in the way I deliver my images. And in the way my images look. In 2018 When I did go full time, I started seeing the value of being consistent in editing. And I started taking that more seriously. So as my bookings grew, I was drowning and editing and I wore that badge of honor as like, oh, I booked out. So I must edit everything every night on the couch. And it was miserable. It was absolutely miserable. But I wore that badge of honor. And it was also very miserable for my husband because we were newlyweds. Like we had gotten married in 2016. And he told me several times that year in 2018, that he didn’t marry me so that I could just sit on the couch and edit. He actually wanted to hang out with me. He really likes me. He still likes me. He loves me. But I did. Even though I did take those comments to heart, I didn’t really take any proactive steps towards fixing that problem. Okay, so the problem was, like, time, I was like taking all the time to edit and there’s nothing wrong with editing. But it was a huge time suck. And it was affecting my relationship. It was making my loved ones really sad. And so I needed to look for a way to outsource my editing and to trust that process. And I did not take any steps towards fixing that. Like I call it like the freaking problem until I’m not going to curse So I said freaking problem until 2020. So it took me like two extra years to take that step. It just it just embarrassed me that it took me that long to hand over the reins of editing. And again in 2020 it was still in my eyeballs with editing or whatever the term is. I was up to my eyeballs. I think that’s the term and even though 2020 was the worst year ever, I was still Looking out consistently, but I did decide to find an editor and actually outsource my editing. And that’s when I found cultivated edits. Huge shout out to Amanda and Landon, I love you guys so much. Now keep in mind, I exclusively photographed families and branding. And this company, they now exclusively edit for wedding and portrait photographers, but how was able to be grandfathered in to their their contracts right before they made that giant change. So I will forever be grateful for them. And I’m just so thankful that I found them. I assumed that outsourcing would cost an arm and a leg.

And I also assumed it would take forever for an editor to understand my style, like, my mindset was so crazy, because it took me years to start shooting consistently, I just assumed an editor wouldn’t get it. But I was blown away that it wasn’t that expensive. Because if I built in the price to my packages, it would make it worth it. And my editors work so hard to edit to match my style, which I so appreciate. They’re very communicative. And their customer service is incredible. And let’s just say so I decided to do some data for you. So in the past, it normally has taken me between three to four hours to edit every type of family session. So family sessions alone take me about three to four hours in the past. And for my branding sessions, because I’m delivering more images. Those take me around six to eight hours, like on average. So for family photography, I did the math, and I photographed around 85 families last year. So on average, it was going to take me three hours said at one session. Okay? If I multiply that by three, so three times 85. Cultivated edits essentially saved me 255 hours for family sessions alone. You all that’s insane. Now you’re probably thinking, Oh, okay, Dolly, but how did that step actually help you increase your revenue? Well, it was the time saved where I was then using that time to work on other aspects of my business. The return on investment was time back, okay, to focus on other needle moving tasks for my business. Like, for example, creating additional mini courses and digital products for my systems and workflow education, which was generating a small amount of revenue is slowly building over time.

So I will end point one by asking you a question. Even if you are not a photographer, I want you to look at your business and ask yourself, what is something I can hand off through outsourcing, which can help me move the needle of my own business. And if you are scratching your head, I have a lot of resources to share about this. But the biggest resource I want to point you to is Jill gum photography of Jill gum education. And she has no idea I’m sharing this about her. But she teaches on all things outsourcing, and she has a system for this. And I’m planning on inviting her over to the podcast later on this year to of course chat about workflows and systems. But I’m going to link her resource in the show notes of this episode because I want you to check out how to take the necessary steps to start outsourcing your creative business this year. And again, it’s just one thing, just outsource one thing and see how it positively affects your business. Okay.

Is it time to sprinkle a little magic into the systems and workflows in your business. The systems and workflow magic bundle is here. Over 20 different creative business owners and experts have joined forces to create a collection of exclusive and free resources designed to help creative business owners actually start and implement workflows and systems in their business so that they can go from scattered to streamline this year and beyond. The system and workflow magic bundle is available now through January 28 of 2022. So make sure you head on over to systems and workflow to grab this free bundle and create some workflow magic in your business. So the second biggest step I took in 2021 Was this being in a mastermind? So again, this was an investment of not only my time, but I had to invest money as well, which was terrifying for me because outside of purchasing a new camera or a computer for my business in the past, I had never spent so much money on my business. And I was terrified. Yet I was fortunate enough to have found Kat Schmoyer years ago, and I’ve been following her and I saw that she had opened up a mastermind and so early in 2021, I invested in joined her mastermind, and let me tell you, Kat is like my spirit animal. I want to be I want to be like her. She is a wife, a mom, a believer. She’s so joyfilled. And she is the creator of the Creative At Heart Conference.

And she is so streamlined and organized. And she is an integrator for creatives. So overall, I have just always adored her and just being in her mastermind, just solidified just like why I just love her so much. And cat. If you’re listening to this, I love you, you’re awesome. I’ve learned so much from her. And with her guidance and help I learned how to dig into my own strengths. I know I’ve mentioned this before in previous episodes, but cat is one of the key people who encouraged me to dig into my strengths of systems and workflows to help other creatives in this field, because otherwise, I was just gonna keep it to myself. Although I do love educating others and providing a lot of value and content on systems and workflows. I didn’t really know what it was gonna look like. But with her guidance, she helped me take those steps. And I will always be grateful to Kat for that. She’s been instrumental in my business. And she’s helped me see the value in not only planning out a year, but planning out my quarter, so 90 day increments. And she also is encouraged to give myself some realistic goals and milestones. She also has been so encouraging to me to assess my past year and to dig into the data of the previous year to see what has worked and what hasn’t worked in order to make better informed future decisions. So before actually planning out my future, I need to actually dive into the data and make better decisions. I am planning on having Kat on this podcast for a future episode, not only to talk about the systems and planning, but just I want to pick her brain and know how she has created such a successful mastermind, and the systems she had to put in place in order to create a positive ripple for her clients for her students. And so I’m just tying it back to point two, I want to encourage you the listener, if you are on the fence about being in a mastermind, I would say from personal experience, invest in someone you not only admire, but invest someone who is organized and who will be intentional about their meeting time.

So if you and your business, if you are going to make a huge investment in a mastermind, you should ask questions like How will this give me a good ROI in the future? What types of meetings will we have? How will this be structured, even if you are not a structured person, again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But the person you are investing in should be very clear about what they are offering. There should be strategies, goals purposes for every single meeting. And hopefully, they are mostly in alignment with what you’re aligned with. And you I know that sounds so weird, but you vibe very well with them and you know that they would help you along with your business goals. Also, I want to remind you that just because you invest in a mastermind, it’s still a two way street, which means you still have to show up and do the work. And the mastermind leader is not your genie they’re not gonna wave a magic wand and make everything happen for you. You actually have to show up and do the work so it’s a two way street. And that’s something that I loved about me in a mastermind with other like minded female business owners that all happen to be female business owners, but we push each other on we spurring each other on and it was such an encouraging six months for me and so I will be forever grateful for that. The third biggest step I took to grow my business in 2021 was this, I finally invested in a profit first coach, and so that I put the systems in place for my numbers so that the numbers of my business could be healthy. And I could actually wait for it. profit. So before June of 2021, even though I was booked out, and I was making a lot of money, because I have been steadily growing since 2018. Okay, I was still not showing much for all of my hard work. Okay. That’s so embarrassing. It was so embarrassing to have my husband constantly asked me, Dolly, where are your profits for this month,

you know, I will always love and support you. But it seems like there’s no profit even though you’re always so busy. So before, I have, like some mean, DMS about my husband, he is not a hater. He’s huge supporter. And I want to be super clear, my husband is super supportive of my creative business. And thankfully, he is very practical. And we have a family to support and raise together. So I did need a firm kick in the pants to remind myself that I needed to actually profit and not make the excuse of Well, I’m a creative and I will pay myself for the first X amount of years because that’s how it is. And I know that’s a lie. That’s a lot of creative business owners tell themselves. But the thing is, even if you are starting from day one, you should be paying yourself. That’s something I learned from my profit first coach. And I put this in my notes that I really just like want to be cheesy and say this, as Homer Simpson would say dough, because only to the bay, I wasn’t paying myself and you need to pay yourself from day one. So like I said, Before, I hired a profit first coach, her name is Kelly Mathis of Kelly Grace photo. She is both a photographer and a profit first coach for creatives. And she literally turned my numbers around for my business. So at our profit first meeting, which was in June of 2021.

And ever since June of 2021, I have been profiting consistently in my business. And no, it’s not because I increase my prices, I seriously kept most of my numbers and packages of my business the same. I just had to look at the numbers of my business in a different way. And because I am paying attention to the numbers of my business, guess what I’m profiting? Who would have that I know. So let’s just say I have paid myself 500% More than last year. And that number is not just some magical number I made up and pulled out of my ear like a magician. I did the math 500%. That’s bananas. So because I know the numbers behind my business, now I am making more strategic decisions about how I can grow my business and save for my business. And I’m contributing more to my family, which again is the heart and the why behind my business. And I just want to say wow, like thank you so much to Kelly, for opening up my eyes to a better system for my numbers. And if you’re wondering who this profit first geniuses and how you can make an appointment with her? Well, Kelly’s information is in the show notes. And guess what she’s going to be a contributor to the systems and workflow magic bundle this year. And she is teaching about the systems and numbers behind your business. So be sure to look in the shownotes. And if you decide you want to check out the free resource bundle, then check out her resources.

Well, I believe it’s like worth over $100 in her shop, so you’re going to get some really good advice from her for the money and numbers behind your business. So kind of like wrapping up point three. The only thing I have to say this is know the numbers. Okay, know the numbers. Now again, I know I said I would share three steps I took to grow and scale my business but I’m going to share a bonus step because, again, I want to get a little wild and crazy and throw out an extra step to you. Okay, so the fourth thing I did last year to better impact my current year was this, I hired out a content copywriter to help me batch out my blog posts. Since I’m a firm believer in strategic content batching like as you heard in previous episodes, Episode Four in Episode Seven. So for so many years, I actually blogged on my own as a photographer because my content was very visual. And when I decided to step more into the role of systems and workflow educator, I knew I needed to produce more article rich content. And again, my pillar content was in blog format. So my game plan going into 2020 and 2021 was to start hashing out ideas for content that was very systems and workflow related. And heavy copywriter actually helped me hash out these blog posts. So in walks the wonderful Christina Dowler, and she has been a very integral part of my content being published on a consistent and weekly basis.

You see, even though I have a strong batching strategy, which I talk heavily about in my batching masterclass, I still needed extra support in optimizing my blogs for SEO purposes, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. Because normally in the past, each blog post for me, takes between three to four hours. But with the help of Christina, I’ve actually had been able to shave off 12 hours per month. So that’s about four blog posts per month. And that has been a great return on investment for me, because a lot of my current clients are now finding me on Google Search due to SEO being optimized. So I am forever grateful to have Christina, I call her a part of my team, even though she’s a contracted contractor, but she’s still part of my team in my heart. And I know, she has some great resources on our website. So if you are interested in learning more about what Kristina has to offer, check out our website, the link is in the show notes. And seriously, she has a lot of fun free items for you. So huge shout out to Christina, thank you so much. Okay, so there are, of course, a million little steps I had to take last year to dramatically grow my business.

But these four main steps were the most crucial, and needle moving tasks I took or steps I took. So I just wanted to share this insight with you all on the podcast today and keep it totally real. And again, if you are listening to this podcast live, if it’s it’s the week of January 24 through 28th, of 2022. And so I want to encourage you again to check out the systems and workflow magic bundle, which is an exclusive resource created for creative business owners, by a creative business owner to help you take the baby steps in setting up systems, workflows and automations you may need for your business. So you don’t have to do all the things at once because I know it can be overwhelming. So just pick out one thing to work out for every month. So there’s enough resources in here to get you through the year. So pick out one goal for the month and concentrate on that resource. Again, I want you to go from scattered to streamlined this year.

Go to systems and workflow magic comm to get that free resource in your hand. And if you are listening to this after the fact after it goes live, then you will just be redirected to a waitlist for 2023. All right. And as always, thanks again for listening to today’s episode. I hope you can always find the magic in systems and workflows for your life and business and I will chat with you next week. Thank you so much for listening to the systems and workflow magic podcast.

You can find full show notes from today’s episode at dolly DeLong forward slash podcast. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be so honored if you’d subscribe and leave a review on your favorite podcast player. Be sure to screenshot this episode, share it to your stories and tag me at dolly DeLong education over on Instagram. Until next time, go make some strategic workflow magic.

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