What I Owe My Business To: Instagram, Styled Shoot, and Style Me Pretty

A little throw back to my very first styled shoot that got published (in Style Me Pretty nevertheless), which leads to my very first real clients from a vendor from this shoot! Yes, so many memorable "first" here! Photography by Jennifer Kulakowski.

A little throw back to my very first styled shoot that got published (in Style Me Pretty nevertheless), which leads to my very first real clients from a vendor from this shoot! Yes, so many memorable "first" here! Photography by Jennifer Kulakowski.

I feel extremely lucky to do what I love for a living. And for the record I loved my interior design job but I love doing calligraphy even more! I know so many aspiring calligraphers/photographers/planners/stylists who want to step it up as soon as possible and I hope this post will help them get to the next step.

For me, the decision to go full time wasn’t exactly the hardest one. It was the scariest for sure, but everything before and after (especially after) was arguably much, much harder! Why you ask? It's because I've spent my moonlighting nights setting up the groundwork for my business, built strong brand awareness, and I trust the analytics enough to take that leap of faith. Just like what I stated above; I owe my business to Instagram, styled shoots, and Style Me Pretty. My first year goal: 1,000 Instagram followers and one publication from a styled shoot. This blog post will be the “why” and I’ll do the "how" in a separate post so we have an appropriate blog length.

1. 1,000 Instagams Followers

Trying to understand Instagram's magic is easier said than done! Not everything you post will go viral and sometimes you have a surprising strong contender. The only thing that will always be true is you'll get 0 like if you don't post it. Photography by Jennifer Kulakowski.

Trying to understand Instagram's magic is easier said than done! Not everything you post will go viral and sometimes you have a surprising strong contender. The only thing that will always be true is you'll get 0 like if you don't post it. Photography by Jennifer Kulakowski.

This part is pretty obvious. I need to capture the market and Instagram is the easiest way to gauge how successful/unsuccessful my product is. To clarify, I didn’t have an Instagram account prior to my business and was using my husband's account to stalk different calligraphers and photographers that I adore. As an added benefit, Instagram has a very welcoming calligraphy and wedding community. The platform itself makes it so easy for everyone to meet like-minded business owners and collaborate! This is how I got some of my first styled shoot collaboration offers and how most of my clients found me.

Why 1,000? I wanted a number that had a nice cache (1,000 has a nice ring to it!) but also a number that was still accomplish-able! Plus, it is an impossible number to reach with just friends. That means I will need people who don't personally know me to follow me, and that's just the justification I needed to silence all the doubters (in my mind, at least!). And just like everything else in this world, the first of anything is always the hardest! It took me about 6 months to go from zero to 1,000 and another 6 months to go to 5,000. Now I'm working to get that "k" tacked on to the end of my followers number. We're almost there with 9,000 ;)

And yes, there's always that skeptics. They proclaim how social media, and Instagram specifically, is a waste of time. They don't even bother to set up the companies Instagram at all. For those people (whichever walk of business you're from), I have a few questions. Do you post constantly and regularly? Does your feed have a consistent and curated look? Do all the images you post have a great or even excellent photographic quality? If you said yes to all and still don't see any desired results, I have one last questions. What do you do after you post an image? Do you close the app and do nothing or do you engage in the "social" part of social media? I'll go into details on the “how" part in my next post.

2. Styled Shoots

Individually, I can only take my stationary photos in my patio with very limited props. Collaboratively, we got awesome image from the film photographer, gorgeous venue, table setting, a beautiful model with perfect hair, make up, and wardrobe. Ya, way better that what I can do on my own. Photography by Jennifer Kulakowski.

Individually, I can only take my stationary photos in my patio with very limited props. Collaboratively, we got awesome image from the film photographer, gorgeous venue, table setting, a beautiful model with perfect hair, make up, and wardrobe. Ya, way better that what I can do on my own. Photography by Jennifer Kulakowski.

Okay, I have a small confession to make. I’d been obsessing on all the gorgeous wedding photos way before I started trying to write any calligraphy. I really got the bug when I planned my own wedding. After a while, I noticed a theme on all the photographers I adore; they're all film photographers! I love the coloring, they nailed the styling, and all the details are just so effortlessly perfect! I thought to myself, “I so so want to be part of those beautiful shoots but I'm not a stellar photographer, or florist, or have a rental company with many gorgeous vintage/rustic pieces.” Also from all the details, my favorites are always the calligraphy pieces, so I figure that'll be my way in. 

I got my first few collaboration offers from photographers via Instagram. I was so excited!! It was a pretty good set up too considering I didn’t have enough projects to constantly post to my Instagram. Styled shoot collaborations allow me to share one or two prior to sending the suite to the photographer, another of the suite once the shoot film scan are done, and more (hopefully a lot more) once the shoot has been featured! I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone, trying on different materials and had more creative freedom in my work. Participating in many shoots allows me to explore and fine tune my style. Plus, they allow me to meet and collaborate with many vendors, some I ended up having continuing lunch/coffee/dinner dates with! And from somebody who is borderline socially awkward, this is HUGE! And for an added bonus, these vendors are more likely to refer me because they've seen my quality of work in person.

So now to play devil’s advocate; styled shoots are basically collaborations so I make very little and often times, even lose money. You can’t worry about that! A classic complaint I hear all the time is, "I did bunch of shoots recently and I haven't heard back from anyone/it's going nowhere." And yes, both points are extremely true but everyone seems to forgot that there's hits and misses in life. Just like sometimes I magically post viral content while there are barely any comments, same thing happen with styled shoots. Sometimes the stars are just not lining up, so stay tuned to my future post where I dish out tips on minimizing the risk and maximizing the return on your styled shoot's investment. I’ll also be talking about a few basic forms of etiquette. It's still a business project after all!

3. Published in Style Me Pretty

Here's a lovely table set up from my very first Style Me Pretty feature with some of the amazingly talented ladies! Photography by Jennifer Kulakowski.

Here's a lovely table set up from my very first Style Me Pretty feature with some of the amazingly talented ladies! Photography by Jennifer Kulakowski.

This is it, the whole reason you do styled shoots (sometimes even real weddings) is to get published and get the word out about your quality of work! It's the ultimate seal of approval that you did an amazing job and provide excellent rapport. As an added bonus, they might reach that one particular set of eyes who could be your future client!

At first, I was just super excited with any feature I received seeing as they continued to build my brand awareness. But I did something slightly different this year which has drastically added to my monthly website visits. Instead of having a presence in all blogs, I decided to do the exact opposite and tried to be everywhere in one blog. For me, that "blog" is Style Me Pretty. Obviously, Style Me Pretty isn't always the dream publication for everyone, and I totally get that, but they've served me well. I do have to disclose that I'm a very happy Little Black Book vendor. After doing many shoots for a while, you'll get a pretty good hand on the different publications "look" and where you'll have the best chance to get the submission approval. How do I know that focusing on one publication contributed to my (wee-little) success? What solidified this thought was when potential clients called and said, "I see your stuff everywhere in Style Me Pretty!". Mission accomplished ;)

Let me know what you guys think below and feel free to shoot me an email if you have any specific questions!!

Much love,

 

Ruth

 

Photographer:  Jennifer Kulakowski | Styling and Floral: Nicole from Hint of Chic | Hair and Make up:  805 Make Up | Model: Isabelle Inveen | Cake: Enjoy Cupcakes | Rental: Chalk&Ribbon and Town&Country Santa Barbara | Ribbon, runner, and handmade paper: Silk and Willow | Leather journal: Barnes&Nobles