Last week I had the opportunity to fly out to Arizona for this year’s United Conference, hosted by Showit. If you haven’t heard of it, United is a 4-day event designed to bring photographers and other creatives together for an opportunity to learn from industry leaders and continue evolving their businesses. It’s also frequently referred to as “summer camp for photographers,” and I wholeheartedly agree with that.
Detailing my experience at United requires me to rewind all the way to the beginning of the year. My sister and I started a tradition several years back where instead of creating specific New Year’s resolutions, we select three words to guide our actions for the year. My chosen words for 2019 were ownership, introspection, and hustle. Bear in mind these words were chosen well before I had ever even heard of United, let alone considered attending. But as it turns out, these three words perfectly summarize the aha! moments I had while attending this year’s conference.
Heading into this trip, I was full of fears and doubt. I kept telling myself lies like, I don’t belong here. I haven’t earned my stripes yet.
Chris Sosa spoke to this during his five-minute fuel. We all have lists in our heads of made-up qualifications that supposedly determine when we’ve really “made it” in this industry. The truth is that no one is keeping score except you. Community over competition isn’t just a tagline; it’s a true belief held by everyone at United. There are so many wonderful people wanting to help you succeed. But before anything else, you need to give yourself grace and fully own the fact that, yes, you might be in a different season of business as someone else, but that’s okay.
It took me until about halfway through the conference to really feel proud to claim my status as a relative newbie in the industry, knowing in my heart that by making the choice to come here I was taking the necessary steps for my business and for my own personal growth.
One of my favorite lines of the week was from Natalie Franke’s keynote:
“This one time in my comfort zone…” said no one, ever.
I thought about how this entire experience almost didn’t happen. My inner shy girl was screaming at me multiple times before I flew to Phoenix, to the point where I honestly considered purposefully missing my flight and skipping United altogether. Obviously, I pushed through and I’m so glad I did. But it made me wonder: how many times in the past have I relegated myself to my comfort zone and missed out on an incredible opportunity? Growth requires you to push past your imagined limits and be brave. You’ll never know if you’re bound to sink or swim if you don’t even dip your toe into the water.
The keynotes and breakout sessions throughout United provided many opportunities for me to think about who I am and the direction in which I intend to take my business to best serve my clients.
I’m incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to immerse myself in an environment with so many industry leaders, and soak up all of this knowledge early on in my photography career. All of the educators at United were so open about the windy journeys they faced to get to the levels of success they enjoy today. Inspiring is an understatement.
Above all else, this experience equipped me with the knowledge that I am capable of success so long as I’m willing to work for it. I’m so energized to continue growing Leslie Joy Photography in 2020 and beyond! I’ve spent the last week refining my marketing tools and creating annual/quarterly/monthly goals for next year, all with the intent of building LJP to what I believe it can be and continuing to create memorable experiences for my couples.