Episode 7:

It's my 2-year anniversary, so I'm answering your questions!

Today’s episode is very special as I am currently celebrating my two year anniversary of being in business! So I thought it would be fun to take questions from you on Instagram about what I’ve learned in the last two years of running a wine photography & social media marketing business!

Alright, let’s get into these questions:

What’s your why?

I LOVE this question, as the answer is what guides everything I do in this business.

I love the wine industry, and I particularly love the small wine brands who I believe are the heart and soul of the industry. But the trouble I’ve encountered is that many of these wineries struggle with marketing their wine online and they find it difficult to find a photographer that understands their exact needs.  

So, that’s why I started Craft & Cluster; because I think that effective marketing strategies and awesome photos that tell a story shouldn’t be limited to big wine brands with gigantic marketing budgets.

I think that small wine brands, particularly brands owned and operated by traditionally marginalized communities, are going to be the saving grace of this industry. So, my why, in short, is to help these small wine producers market the hell out of their wine so that they succeed.

What were your biggest wins and lessons learned in these two years?

This is also a great question and it’s something I do my best to track because I think that making mistakes and tracking successes is one of the best ways to learn and grow.  

I would say that the biggest lesson I’ve learned in these last two years is that I’m not a good fit for every client and that’s okay.  

When I first started this business, I was desperate for work and so I would say yes to everything, but I learned the hard way that not every client is a good fit for me and vice versa.

Of course, I’m very professional and serve all of my clients to the best of my ability, but if I’m not a good fit for someone it shows in my work and that’s not fair to them or to me.

So now, I am much better at identifying when I am not going to be able to do my best work for a brand, be that because I don’t yet have the skill to deliver what they need or because we don’t have good chemistry. If that happens, then I will always refer them to some else who will be able to fulfill their needs better than I can.

Related to this actually is what I consider one of my biggest wins, which is that I have several repeat clients.  

I take it as a huge compliment that I have many clients who work with me on a recurring basis because that means that I have served them so well that they can’t imagine working with someone else. In short, by understanding who I am going to be a good fit for, I have been able to say no to certain projects so that I can open myself up to working with clients that I can serve so well that they stick with me. And that I think is something to be extremely proud of.

How are you setting goals for the future of Craft & Cluster?

Well, first, I think about the life I want me and my husband to have: so, thinking about our long term goals as well as how we want our lives to look day-to-day. 

I next look at the goals I want to set to help me uphold my personal values.

Finally, I think about how I can support those goals with the Craft & Cluster business while still being true to my “why” of helping as many small wine brands market themselves successfully as possible. 

Putting all of those things together, I figured that Craft & Cluster would need to make $200k in revenue by the end of 2021. This is a pretty ambitious goal, It’s literally quadruple my revenue in 2020, but I know that $200K will help my husband and I buy our dream house, it will allow him to pursue a career that lights him up, it will allow me to hire a full-time assistant to take some of the workload off of my shoulders so that I can live the life I want to live, and most importantly, it will help me reach my goal in donating $10k to the Cal Poly Scholarship for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in Wine and Viticulture.  

Going back to how my WHY guides everything that I do in this business, it’s important to me that we increase representation in the wine industry, and this is one of the most direct means I can think of to accomplish that. So, If I can help fund a student’s dream of entering this industry so they don’t have to worry about going into debt, then I’ll be happy as a clam. (I’m still paying off student loans myself-- the $200k will also help me pay those off)

So yes, I set my Craft & Cluster business goals by first identifying what my personal goals and value goals are, and then figuring out exactly what I need to do in the business to support reaching those goals.

What would you do different business strategy-wise?

I would have written a strategy down! When I first started Craft & Cluster, I had never run my own business before, so I didn’t really know how or why I should make a business/marketing strategy. I generally knew that I had to do certain things if I was going to see results but without writing it down, I had no way to know and track my success. I had no accountability.

It took me about six months to start writing out and implementing a marketing strategy but as soon as I did that, I started seeing bigger growth, not only in the work I was doing for myself but also in the work I was doing for my clients.

There is power in writing a strategy down. That’s why the second episode of this podcast is all about how to create a marketing strategy and why Chelsea and I included a printable freebie to help get you started with it. So yeah, I would have written a strategy down. 

Something that’s on the horizon for me is writing down my SOPs (standard operating procedures).

How long did it take you to get confident tooting your own horn?

I don’t know that I am fully confident in tooting my own horn yet haha! BUT I am definitely finding it less uncomfortable these days to share and celebrate my wins with the world. I hired a business/mindset coach last year who has been absolutely instrumental in me gaining confidence in myself and my ability to run a successful business.  

He has helped give me tools to combat imposter syndrome, a lot of which has involved reminding me that I have nothing to prove, that I am enough, and that I am here to serve. 

And also, I think there’s something to be said about celebrating wins publicly to help encourage more diverse representation in the wine industry. There’s a beautiful line in the movie Bottle Shock that I think perfectly sums this up. The character Jim Barrett says to Steven Spurrier, “if one of us succeeds, we all succeed.” As romanticized as that film is (and as terrible as Chris Pine’s wig is), I think that there is real wisdom in that line. 

If tooting my own horn every once in a while means that I’ve given some young woman out there the motivation she needs to finally do the thing that lights her up, then that would be pretty great. So if I succeed and share that success, there’s a higher chance of someone else succeeding.

When you wear ALL the hats, how do you plan for growth and not let the day-to-day bog you down?

I’m still figuring this out to be perfectly honest. But again, I think that a good place to start is by writing down how you want your life to look, how your career can support that, and then writing down a marketing strategy that helps meet those personal and professional goals.

I have a terrible habit of workcrastinating: doing busy work instead of work that will actually move the needle forward. But, I just started reading Donald Miller’s latest book called Business Made Simple, and there’s a part in it where he talks about how to schedule your day so you aren’t workcrastinating and you’re instead getting the important things done. I’ll be implementing what he teaches soon.

I’ve already hired a very part-time personal assistant to help take care of the work that needs to get done but that I don’t necessarily need to be the one who does it. I’d like to hire a second assistant eventually or have my current assistant take on more of my daily tasks so that I can focus on big-picture stuff and the stuff that lights me up (like photography and doing this podcast).

What sort of support system have you built around yourself for when times get tough and how does it help you?

This is such a good question, I’m so glad you asked it. I have a very healthy support system that consists of my sister, parents, husband, and a group of amazing friends who I lovingly refer to as my brain trust. And as I talked about earlier, last year I hired a business/mindset coach who has been invaluable to me. Each person within this support system helps me in their own individual way, but the important thing to note is that I’ve only recently begun learning how to ask them for help.

I think that’s probably the most important thing I learned in the last two years, how to ask for help. It’s something I think that women find especially challenging because we are often expected to just have it all together. So, that’s some unsolicited advice for you all: learn how to ask for help. Not only when you need it but also before you need it.

The last question is, How do you overcome artistic blocks?

This is another thing that I’m still learning how to do but my friend Nathaniel recently told me about an interview where author John Green was asked about writer’s block and how to overcome it and he said, “my father told me once, “coal miners don’t get coal miners block’ meaning that if you have a job to do you just do it and keep pushing.”  

The way that I interpret this is this: work on your craft every single day and you won’t get creative block. I definitely notice that when I’m able to get out and photograph every day or almost every day, I’m much more energized and creative in what I do. But when I haven’t had a chance to photograph in a while, it’s a struggle to think of new ideas. SO yeah, practice your craft every day.

I also find asking for questions from my audience on Instagram extremely helpful in overcoming creative block. Take this episode for example. I was struggling on how to present this episode and so turned to my audience on Instagram for specific questions I could answer! Some of these questions have even spawned ideas for future episodes of the podcast!

In summary, the way that I run this business has evolved as I’ve gained deeper insights and understandings of the needs of my clients. Now that I have a strategy and goals in place (and most importantly, written down) I have a clearer picture of how I can grow this business in the next few years. 

Take Action/Implementation 

And because, this isn’t a proper episode of the Craft & Cluster podcast without me giving you a plan and calling you to action, here is how you can use this episode to grow your wine brand:

  1. Write down your WHY, commit it to memory, and let that guide everything you do in your business.
  2. Identify your ideal customer and strive to serve the hell out of them so that they come back again and again.
  3. Identify your personal goals and then figure out how your business endeavors can support reaching those personal goals.
  4. Write your strategy down and look at it every single day. Go back and listen to episode 2 of the podcast if you need help with this.
  5. Toot your own horn for the good of the community!
  6. Learn how to ask for help when you need it and especially before you need it.
  7. Work at your craft every single day and when in doubt, crowd-source!

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