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Business Takeoff: Create Work

New to this series? Start here:
Introduction Post
Step 1: Define Your Style

Now that you have your style defined with a Visual Mood Board, a Client Mood Board, and have your ten descriptive words written, the fun starts! My biggest challenge when I decided to start an event design company was that I didn’t have any work to show off. No one is going to hire an event designer who has a blank website. No one is going to hire (and more importantly trust) you to create your best work if your website is filled with birthday parties and events you did for your friends for free. Friends are awesome, but they might not have the same style that you are trying so hard to cultivate, leading to a mishmash of styles on your site that only lead to consumer confusion. Do you hate mason jars? Then for goodness gracious, get them off your site already. Do you crave to produce small, intimate dinner parties? Then only show examples of those.

The best tool to show off your creative talent is to produce a few inspiration shoots that 110% scream who your company is. I recommend doing two or three small shoots. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel here and don’t try to art direct a magazine-level production your first go ahead. Keep it simple and effective.

The main purpose of these shoots are to elevate your brand. For example, retail companies shoot their tangible products each season for their websites. As event designers, we sell a service, and our service needs example images of our artistic style. Keep that, along with these goals in mind:

1. To show off your best work
Show the world your individual style. Scream about it. Be bold about it.
2. To create relationships with your peers
Depending on your skill set, this is the perfect opportunity to connect and collaborate with your peers. You’ll definitely need a photographer and a venue. The rest you can either do yourself or bring on others who are specialists in those areas, such as florals and stationery.
3. To practice
The process of producing shoots will teach you the best way to schlep (because, really, the schlepping is 75% of our job), how to source supplies, what it feels like to be your own boss, and  how to work against a budget.
4. Get published
Why not try? It’s not your main goal with these shoots (that would be #1) but it would be delicious icing on your artistic cake to see your work on a popular blog.

This is how to get there:


1. Build A Concept
I could really split this one step into it’s own post. The internet chatter has recently been amok with conversations about where us wedding creatives get our inspiration and how to avoid copying off of each other. Marcy Blum said it best in an interview published on Think Splendid, she said: “…that’s why everything is cannibalizing everything else, because we’re all looking at the same stuff. It’s an exercise in discipline not to go on Pinterest or Google.” Long story short: get off pinterest, get off other designer’s websites, get off google images, get off wedding blogs. Get on art museums, fashion runway shows, fine art, and other creative industries that have NOTHING to do with weddings or events. I’m honored to be asked to participate in shoots a few times a month. My biggest pet peeve is when the person emailing me, the one producing the shoot, sends me inspiration images of OTHER SHOOTS. ZZZZZZ…..I’m bored. Using photos of other weddings or events as inspiration for your shoot means it’s already been done.
The concept of your shoot should be clean, concise, presented in a way that’s easy to understand, and looks like the feel of your brand. In the concept should be an inspiration board, color palette, and sketches of your artistic ideas. It can be a simple few page PDF or even a Word doc with images. Use whatever program you are most familiar with.


2. Get Your Team
Most importantly, please, please, please have your work shot by a professional photographer. Take that concept you created and email it out to a photographer you’d love to collaborate with. Yes, they might say no. So what, move onto your next choice. The least that will happen is that they will see how amazing you are at conceptualizing design and will start to get familiar with your name. Do the same with any other creatives you need to bring your vision alive. A florist, venue, and stationer are a good place to start. Ask if they’d like to collaborate with you on an inspiration shoot you are producing for your soon-to-be-launched awesome website.


3. Make Your Budget
These shoots will cost you money. Investing in work that will show people your talent is worth it. You might end up paying to rent the venue, for models (not necessary), for the florist’s supplies…etc…in addition to your own supplies and transportation. Budget at least $500, although closer to $1k is more realistic. I’ve done shoots where everyone involved simply collaborated by donating their time and talents. I’ve also done shoots where I’ve traded my talents with other professionals who I really, really, really wanted to work with.


4. Get Published
Yes, you produced these for your own business growth, but submit them anyway. I get asked a lot how my work has been featured on so many blogs when I was first starting out. Simple answer: I submitted it along with a very short and sweet email. Emphasis on Very Short Email. Camille Styles posted my first inspiration shoot. All I did was ask.

You’ve defined your style and I bet your brain is swirling with ideas on creating work for your website. Next week we’ll talk about cultivating your online presence.

Have you guys produced shoots yet? Any good or bad experiences? Questions on the shoot process you’d like answered? Ask away!


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  1. Sundari says:

    Hi michelle,
    Amazingly times series 🙂 i was made redundant which has given me the kick up the bum to open my business. The worry i have is trying to keep costs low, with the position i’m in i wasn’t able to plan and save – it all happened to suddenly. Luckily a few weddings are happening this year and they’re all happy for me to create for their big day. I offered myself partially free of charge because they are ultimately letting me experiment my processes on them. I’m infact photographing some engagement shoots myself in a bid to keep costs low! With all the supplies etc i’ve had to re-buy i’m just trying my best not to spend much before i earn, hope i’m going the right way about this? Xxx

  2. this is such a fantastic post, michelle! im a photographer and often find that collaborative relationships with other creatives (event designers, stylists, make up artists, etc.) has been so important when first starting out. These relationships can connect you later on to other creatives down the road for other collaborations (or client referals) I have found that a short sweet friendly email written with sincerity also goes a long way!

  3. Hi Michelle,
    This is a great series, I just happen to stumble upon your blog today after several previous visits to your site. The series is wrote on time for me as, I am rebranding as we speak. Your advice to plan and style a shoot to obtain images of your work for your site hit home for me! At the top of this year , I got up the courage to do a shoot on my rooftop. I had a few hiccups that I didnt consider i.e. cold weather and wind knocking over my centerpiece. However, the end result was amazing images which, I can now use on my new site instead of stock photos. It’s one of the best things you can do for your business. Great article!

  4. LOOVVE! This series. Wish I would have found it when I was first starting out. I’ve only been in business for 9 months and it seems so far I am on the right track and following along well. 🙂 Can’t wait to read the others!