Brad and Jen Butcher
15 min read
For the last 9+ years we’ve worked as photographers, specializing mostly in weddings and lifestyle photography.
We’ve grown a brand that we’re proud of, feels like a true extension of our voice, and an experience that impacts our clients and couples in positive ways.
While making photographs is our “means”, we’ve always found so much life and fulfillment out of being a coach for our couples on their wedding day.
Reminding them these feelings or events are normal, helping them slow down, encouraging them to be fully present with one another without worrying about a timeline or mental checklist, and giving them permission to be fully alive and awake to the beauty of their day.
We’ve learned that this is a huge part of the heart behind our work and something inside us comes alive when we’re able to be in that space with others.
It’s something that’s been continually affirmed by our couples and their families. And it’s something we’ve often daydreamed about incorporating into other aspects of our life.
We absolutely love the work we do, and if you’d have told us nine years ago we’d be where we are today we wouldn’t have believed you.
But despite our fulfilling work with amazing couples, we started feeling a stirring in 2016 that we couldn’t shake — a change was on the horizon.
We’ve always known that once we had children we wanted to scale back on weddings to be more present on nights and weekends. But this stirring sparked a desire in us to start thinking about ways to diversify our income beyond our current brand.
While we still work as photographers, the natural progression for us as creators was to build a coaching business that combines our love for great client experiences and diving deep into the heart of what makes us tick as unique individuals in order to help others find passion and purpose in their work.
If you’re thinking about business diversification and transition into a coaching business, here are some ways you know it’s right for you.
Consulting is such a relationship based job, so having good people skills is a fairly important part of the role in our experience.
We knew from documenting weddings + lifestyle sessions that one of our favorite things about our business was the interaction with our clients. This could be talking them through timelines and expectations on the front end, being there to guide them during the session, and making them feel at ease in front of the camera.
This has proved to be true in our coaching roles too, and we find that we both get a lot of energy and excitement from our time with other small business owners.
Listening is another component that feels like such a crucial part of consulting. And not just listening and forming your script of what you’re going to say next while your client is talking — but truly listening.
Every year we go on an annual retreat (we call it “staff retreat” despite just being the two of us).
This time gives us space to decompress from a busy year, reflect on our life, ask hard questions, dream big dreams, and set plans in action. It’s incredibly challenging and equally rewarding.Over the years of doing this we’ve shared stories of what we were learning, what challenged us, and what gave us the inspiration to enter another year with new eyes and full hearts. And with each glimpse into our retreat came an overwhelming response of questions and curiosity from friends and creatives alike.
How do you guys decide what to talk about?
Where do you go?
What do you do while you’re there?
Can you help us do a retreat?
This was our first clue.
We quickly began to understand that this experience we used for planning our business—the structure, the questions, the process—that always came pretty naturally to us doesn’t come natural for everyone…and that really excited us.
Our second clue came in 2014 when an online school for photographers asked if we’d be interested in teaching a class about editing and workflow.
We were terrified, felt unqualified, and completely out of our league. But like many times before, we took a chance and simply said yes.
We’d never taught a class before. We didn’t feel like we knew as much as others when it came to editing, but we also trusted that if we could help people in some small way, it was worth a shot.
One of the things we were adamant about when developing content for this class was that we didn’t want to just teach people “how to edit like us.” We really believe that each individual is unique and their work should reflect that.
We recognized there is a lot of “copy and paste” happening in the wedding industry and we didn’t want to add to that.
When everyone’s work starts to look the same, clients lose and photographers lose. The true art of tapping into your voice as an artist seems to be a harder and harder accomplishment in such a noisy industry, and we couldn’t help but notice that.
In the words of the old adage – we didn’t want to just hand a man a fish…. we wanted to teach him how to fish. So that’s what we did.
What we learned through developing the curriculum for this class was:
We loved everything about the experience and had a similar feeling toward teaching as we did when we first began in photography — “It’s great, we really enjoy it, but I don’t have a clue how it can support a family”.
As we paid attention to each of these little puzzle pieces, things started making sense in our minds — we felt that stirring.
We starting seeing ways that our unique gifts and abilities, paired with our heart to guide others on their business journey, could make for a really amazing partnership that gives back to those we’d come in contact with as well as our own lives.
It was time to take real steps to start our business diversification process. Here is what we did and you can do to.
Doing free or bartered coaching sessions with friends not only allowed us to tweak our roadmap for working with folks, it also gave us a safe place to start leaning into this new realm of work without going all-in.
And it allowed us to see if we actually enjoyed doing this with other people. (Spoiler alert: we love it!)
We had already built an audience on social media who were familiar with our voice and style of “diving deep” in life and business.
We knew there was room to start using this platform as a way to reach people we could serve through coaching services, but we also wanted to be cautious of not completely switching gears by focusing too heavily on the coaching side of our business with our followers.
We decided to start slowly introducing the idea that this is something we do through one-on-one conversations, Instagram stories, Instagram feed, and Facebook—making sure the bulk of our posts have remained consistent with the kinds of posts our audience is used to seeing from us.
We added a line into our bio that let people know we were passionate about working with other small businesses through coaching (in addition to photography) and created a static story that would stay up on our Instagram page to serve as a constant reminder that we offer coaching.
Additionally, we created a simple website for the education and mentoring side of our business to keep our photography clients from getting confused, while giving our potential coaching clients somewhere to get basic information.
While most of the coaching work we do feels so personal and individualized, we still wanted to have a place to send people to get a feel for our style and voice in the coaching world.
Through the first several paid and bartered coaching sessions, we asked for feedback- what worked, what didn’t, what felt off, what felt helpful.
We continue to use this information to tailor our experience to something that will truly impact the lives of others and give back to them over and over.
We also ask for reviews from our coaching clients to use on our website and social media. This has been such a crucial step in the process for us in feeling confident that we’re offering a service of value and also giving us clout with future clients.
Some (read: most) days it feels like we’re still learning as we go.
Some days it feels like we have things figured out.
But regardless, these four things that have helped us stay focused and motivated to keep moving forward in our coaching business. We like to call these our “big rocks.”
Having our first amazing little boy in our lives brought chaos and clarity all at once. Becoming parents shook up every rhythm, structure, and goal we ever had.
It also stripped away a lot of fluff and made us quickly aware of things that didn’t matter as much anymore and made us want to refine our lives. We took on less travel work, worked more set hours so that we could spend more time with our son, and honestly, stopped wasting a lot of time on things like email and Instagram.
The energy we get from helping others is so rewarding, but we hadn’t always recognized that about ourselves.
Several years ago we had a friend share how he and his boss were having everyone in their office take a strength finder test. Once they discovered their strengths they were reworking everyone’s roles in the office so that each individual was only doing work in their strengths (amazing, right?).
Once they redefined everyone’s roles, they specifically hired folks whose strengths helped fill any of the holes that were left uncovered.
Hearing this made us start paying attention and asking some pointed questions.
What are our strengths?
What work makes us feel most alive?
When do we find ourselves continually procrastinating?
What work do we not enjoy?
Once we started paying attention, we noticing patterns that allowed us to rework roles, hire out tasks, and do more of the work that fueled and fulfilled us.
Getting emails and calls from coaching clients who are making progress in their business is the greatest feeling ever.
Whether it’s them feeling more confident in their editing, booking more of their ideal clients, working more efficiently, or getting better referrals — these small reminders that the work we’re doing is impacting lives helps us stay focused and continually improving our work.
We both vividly remember when we started leaning into relationships in an intentional way. Through sharing our lives, our fears, and successes, and giving our people permission to speak into our lives- not just giving advice, but reflecting what they see- gave us a safe place to be fully known.
Truly, we wouldn’t be the people we’ve become without our friends and mentors.
We never understood the value of this until we took the risk of exposing our hearts and learning that all the feelings we felt, all the fears we faced, were not only accepted but disarmed knowing that we weren’t alone.
Having a place to know others and be known by others has completely changed our life, our business, and our family.
We’re still learning every day and our son keeps reminding us over and over that we really don’t have it all figured out. But we do know this– doing the hard work of self-discovery and facing your fear one step at a time paid off in clarity, encouragement, and fulfillment.
So what now? Maybe you’re feeling stuck? Maybe you’re feeling a stirring like we did. What do you do with those feelings?
Do you ever feeling that stirring? That call to expand and build something new?
When you start to feel that movement, here are some steps to take to build on solid ground:
Start paying attention to how you feel throughout the day and notice the things that give you energy or take away energy in your current work environment. Keep daily notes over the course of a few weeks.
Each day, write a summary of how you felt throughout the day and review them at the end of each week. Start to take note of patterns, similarities, differences.
We had to learn quickly that there were only a handful of friends who we could go ALL-IN with and it took time to understand who those people were.
While you might have a community, we fully believe that having people around you who understand the perks and growing pains of running your own business is crucial.
Before we found community doing things outside the box, we felt pretty alone. Nobody understood why we felt so overwhelmed with our workload because in their eyes we “only worked on the weekends” …so how could we possibly feel like we needed help with various tasks?
Check out local small business groups, consulting groups, or your local entrepreneurship center!
Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly is also a great read for learning more about what it looks like to start being vulnerable and find your “marble jar friends.”
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to step into new territory.
We love Bryce Stewart’s story on the podcast Bigger Pockets (Episode #276) when he talks through the experience of selling his truck that still had a loan on it. He wasn’t sure how to sell a vehicle with a loan on it, so he wanted to put it off. Until one day, he realized he didn’t know how to sell a truck with a loan, but he knew how to vacuum the truck.
After vacuuming the truck, he realized he still didn’t know how to sell a truck with a loan, but his wife had a camera and knew how to take pictures. Eventually, through enough small steps, Bryce sells the truck.
When we’ve hit roadblocks that feel overwhelming and unknown, inevitably one of us has looked at the other and said, “we just have to vacuum the truck.” Silly, but a simple reminder that we just have to take the next step, not the biggest step.
If you want to become a baker, start with something simple like offering to make some free treats for a friend or two, test recipes for your co-workers, or surprise a loved one with some unexpected baked goods.
If you want to get into real estate investing, start listening to real estate podcasts, check out some books at the library, or meet with someone in the industry.
If you want to open a coffee shop, start by studying other shops in your area, reach out to a few owners you respect and build relationships that will help you grow and learn!
Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.