What I did in 2017 … and what I’m planning to do in 2018

I remember sitting down at the end of 2016 and thinking 2017 was going to be an awesome year. 2016 was rough. I worked full-time for three quarters of the year while trying to run my business, have a healthy marriage, see my friends and family, and finish paying off my student loan debt.

But 2017 was the year we had been waiting for for so long. I was finally free to be a full-time wedding photographer and entrepreneur. My dreams of daily green smoothies, of mornings spent creating and afternoons spent connecting were about to come true. I had big plans for my business and it was time to get ‘er done.

Personally, 2017 was one of the hardest years I’ve had in a long time. My business took off and was growing at a steady pace. My skills and productivity were improving and I finally found a groove/schedule that worked for me (for the most part). But at the beginning of January, I found out I’d have to have an invasive surgery that I never saw coming.

Without getting into too many gory details, my doctor found a large uterine fibroid and she said since we were thinking about children, it needed to be removed immediately. Three weeks later, I was being wheeled into the OR at Medical City Dallas.

The surgery was basically a c-section without the baby. The fibroid was bigger than my doctor thought and she was concerned about complications for future conception. And not just that, it was an incredibly painful recovery. Emotionally, I was a mess. This was supposed to my year and rather than being productive and building a solid foundation for this full-time gig, I was in bed reading and watching Netflix while my husband had to help me do everything.

I could write this entire blog post about how God worked through that surgery and recovery time but now looking back, I see that the surgery really saved my marriage. I’ll talk more about that in a few weeks on the blog but sitting still for six weeks really gave me perspective on the type of wife I had been and what I needed to change. It also helped me realize the value of slow growth.

I learned so much in 2017 both in my personal life and my professional life. I grew by leaps and bounds in so many ways. While that surgery and recovery was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my adult life, I wouldn’t go back and not have it.

Because of that surgery, I started thinking about my business in a different light. I took a copywriting course that rocked my world. That course led to me launching my beautiful new website, which had been on my list for almost a year and a half. It lead me to starting my newsletter. It lead to me thinking and writing differently for social media. It lead to streamlining my processes and organizing my life in a way that works for me. It lead to dreamboat clients who saw the value in what I have to offer and some beautiful vendor relationships.

Photo by Becca Lea Photography

Far and away, my website and newsletter have been my biggest professional accomplishments of 2017. I don’t mean to be glib or cliche when I saw I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into this baby and I’m so proud of the early mornings and late nights I spent working on it. And honestly, it’s just the beginning of everything I want to do. So that solid foundation I was looking to build? It just came a little later than I expected.

As soon as I hit “publish” on the new site, I grabbed my suitcase and boarded a plane to Barcelona for vacation and friend’s wedding. We didn’t think an international trip was going to happen in 2017 because of my surgery and all the related medical bills but when my friend texted to say she was getting married in Spain in September and airline prices were just right, we knew we had to do it. And I’m so glad we did because just a few days after we got back from our trip, I found out I was pregnant.

I could also write a whole dedicated blog post to how I found out and how God’s redemptive story came full circle early that October morning but I’ll save that for another time. Suffice it to say, life changed completely yet again.

At the end of five weeks, I started feeling really sick. And that all-day every day nausea did not let up at all. I could barely function and again, I was a bit of a mess emotionally. I hated that I felt so incapable of completing simple tasks like writing blog posts and email newsletters. I was in the full swing of busy season trying to pretend everything was fine when really I wanted to curl up and cry.

I managed to limp my way through the first trimester and started feeling a little better around week 14, the start of the second trimester. It’s been another lesson in grace and going slow. They say being pregnant and having a baby typically puts life in perspective and it’s really true. I knew I had to take care of myself and this growing little blueberry in my belly.

So where does that leave me now? Well, I’ve thought a lot about 2018 and while I can’t predict or even begin to imagine what it will be like to have a baby and run a business, here are some loose goals I’m working toward.

    1. Create helpful session guides for portrait, boudoir, family, maternity, and newborn clients. I’ve got all the wedding stuff down but since I’m expanding my business, I want to educate and help those clients, too!
    2. Take on more portrait session clients. I wrote a newsletter about this several weeks ago right before I announced I’d be shooting more family, maternity, and newborn sessions about how, again, being pregnant has changed everything. While I didn’t really love doing family sessions previously, once I became pregnant and did some family sessions, I realized how much I loved them. So as a way to better serve all my clients, I’m publicly taking sessions and loving every minute of it!
    3. Grow my newsletter subscriber list with freebies and valuable content. Not many wedding photographers have emails dedicated to educating and inspiring brides and I want to fill that gap.
    4. Create a plan for maternity leave and working after baby – and adjust as necessary. I might laugh at this come June but I’m going to try to take some time off to enjoy my little one and learn how to be a mom, and hopefully, HOPEFULLY, eventually find a rhythm for working, too.
    5. Read 20 books. This honestly seems like such a throw-away goal considering I read 50 books last year (!!!) but I figured I’d better make this one attainable. Not sure how many novels I’ll be devouring late into the night with a baby waking up every two hours.
    6. Complete Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step #3, pay cash for all our medical bills, and start contributing to retirement. In 2016 we paid off my student loans but had a few other little messes we had to clean up. I could write an entire book about my financial past and how incredible grateful I am for learning about Dave Ramsey when I did. His principles have completely changed my life and my husband’s life. If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is or want more information, you can find his basic principles here. If you ever have questions or need encouragement, I would love to chat! I am super passionate about personal finance (odd coming from the girl who used to run to the mall every time she got a paycheck …)
    7. Be OK with going slow this year. As you might have guessed, pregnancy has been a kick in the pants and I’m sure having a baby will be quite a rollercoaster as well. My priority is going to be myself and my baby so if I have to take fewer weddings this fall, I want to be OK with that.

      If you’ve made it to the end of this blog post, thanks for sticking around! Here’s the best of 2017 playlist compiled from all my other seasonal lists. I am so thankful for each of you, client or just casual reader. If there’s ever any type of content you’d like to see on here (photography, wedding, or personal), please let me know in the comments!

PS: Here’s the recap of my 2017 engagement sessions and 2017 weddings.


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