Learning and Creativity as a Freelance Photographer
Wedding photography is a big deal, and when it comes to photography jobs, wedding photography can pay mid to upper range of available photography jobs. As with anything, the actual amount depends on the kind of wedding… and on the quality of the photographer.
In our show research we discovered that mid range wedding photography costs between $2,000 – $4,000 per wedding and can break down to less than $40/hour income, all time and logistics considered. Another statistic reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that the average wage for photographers was around $28,860. But weddings can be a very decent to lucrative photography niche, which an off season period for pursuing other work or interests.
In this podcast interview you’ll meet the lovely and dynamic Alex Stead, who has her own very successful wedding photography business.
Alex is a creative and inspiringly productive wedding photographer, and here are some of the things we discussed in this interview:
- What it takes to become a successful freelance photographer
- Who first inspired Alex to give the freelance life a go
- Alex’s deliberation over school versus self-employed
- The passion for learning that keep Alex excited
- Entrepreneurial, self-education versus traditional education
- Why Alex’s chose wedding photography
- The kinds of commercial photography Alex does
- Getting freelance jobs from publications like Reader’s Digest
- Being a freelance photographer in a beautiful tourist destination
- Alex’s favorite non-photographer class that helped her photography the most
- Alex’s productive daily habits that help her most
- How setting goals makes all the difference in Alex’s success and productivity.
- Advice for making a go at professional photography.
- The most productive sources of traffic for her business
- What venues for business leads did NOT work for Alex
And so much more! The above list is just from the 16 minutes of the podcast!
Links From Interview:
- Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
- Article on Wedding Photography Salary
- Labor statistics article
- 90 Day Goals Journal
Thanks for tuning in! Please leave your review on iTunes and also let us know what creators or topics you’d like us to interview in future podcasts and we’ll add it to the list.
Thanks too to Alex Stead for sharing her story!
Quotes we enjoyed from this interview:
“Inspiration is for amateurs, professionals go to work.” ~Chuck Close, painter of big portraits, born-7/5/1940
“There are some things you just have to do every day.” ~Alex Stead, pro wedding photographer
Full Interview Transcription [raw; unedited]:
LeAura Alderson: Welcome to the iCreateDaily Podcast. A movement for creators serious about their art. I’m LeAura.
Devani Alderson: And I’m Devani, and today we’re joined by Alex Stead who’s a professional wedding photographer in Canada. Alex photographs the world with a sense of joy, her images full of bright colors and lights of emotions. She lights up inside when she’s able to capture photos that she knows will become treasured memories. What an awesome way to view your work.
LeAura Alderson: Awesome way to view your work. And also fantastic photos on her site. Welcome, Alex!
Alex Stead: Thank you so much, guys! I’m happy to be here.
LeAura Alderson: Great. Tell us how you got started as a professional photographer.
Alex Stead: I actually got started … I was about 14 or 15, so about 10 years ago now. I became really, really obsessed with photography in a way that did not seem normal at the time for a young teenager. I just super nerded out. I wanted to learn everything I could about editing and taking pictures. I just got really, really obsessed with photography.
About three years later, I decided that I could probably make money off of it. I was a really big fan of Tim Ferris at the time. I was reading The 4-Hour Work Week. And I said, “Hey. I could probably make money with this.” It’s a cool hobby. I know I’ve probably got enough skills to do it as a career. Let’s see where it goes. My initial plan was to just work five to ten hours a week at it as a side job while I was going to university. Eventually, I ended up leaving university and now it’s a full-time job for two people.
LeAura Alderson: Wow, fantastic. When you say leaving University, did you end early? Or did you go ahead and graduate?
Alex Stead: I took a leave of absence for a couple of years. I’m actually heading back in January and scaling back a little bit just so I can finish my degree. At the time, I really wanted to grow my business and just see where I could take it. So, I decided to just press pause on the university scene for a while.
LeAura Alderson: We’re all for that. What do you want your degree to be in?
Alex Stead: Business and English.
LeAura Alderson: Business and English, okay.
Devani Alderson: Awesome.
LeAura Alderson: Definitely the business will help you in your photography business. But as we get into it, we’ll learn more because so often people who get into profession discover that you really have to evaluate whether you need to spend the extra money and take the extra time to go back to university, versus continuing and pursuing your career, right? Had you considered?
Alex Stead: Absolutely. That’s something that I’ve struggled with a lot over the years, deciding whether I should go back, whether I shouldn’t. My mind seems to change on it a lot. At this time in my life, it’s not really very useful. But I keep going back to the idea that … I love the idea of being just a highly educated woman, really. It’s more of a matter of pride than a matter of usefulness, I think. I know, right now, at this time in my life, I don’t have a family, I don’t have children. If I want to pursue my education, now is the right time to do it. I’ve got this great window in my 20s to do that. It’s more taking care of future me than really needing it right now, I think. But I definitely still struggle with it. I’m interested to see in my 30s and 40s looking back, whether that was a good decision or not to finish it.
LeAura Alderson: It’s hard, in your 30s and 40s, while this may seem the opportune time, you can always go back. Our podcast isn’t on that subject, but it’s one of the things I’m passionate about because I see, and I hear from so many of the mentors that we follow, where they say if you are succeeding at earning a living in your business, unless you want to work for somebody else. If you definitely want to become an employee working for somebody else, then you go for the degree.
Alex Stead: Yeah.
LeAura Alderson: If you want to pursue your entrepreneurship and grow in that, then self-education, you can become a highly-educated woman through self-education, selectively.
Alex Stead: Absolutely. I 100 percent agree with that, too. The self-education I’ve done so far has been way more useful in a degree as ever.
LeAura Alderson: There you go.
Devani Alderson: There you go.
LeAura Alderson: Well, something to think about.
Devani Alderson: In your business, you’re a professional wedding photographer. Are you solely focused on weddings? Do you do any other type of photography, or did you decide this is my type of focus, and this is how I’m going to pursue my photography career? How did that come about? How did you niche down to that?
Alex Stead: So, when I first started out, I shot just about everything that came my way. I was doing families, I was doing newborns, I was doing maternity, I was doing commercial work. Really, anything I could get hired for with my skill, I was trying out everything. After a while, I realized that I really liked the wedding work the most. It’s really fun, the hours are good, honestly, you’re working weekends, but you’re not really working with other people on the weekdays. You get that time for yourself to work from home, which is really nice for a kind of introverted person. So I like having that time to myself every week.
I still do some commercial work as well, I just don’t talk about it a whole lot. I get hired mostly through word of mouth.
Devani Alderson: Cool.
Alex Stead: Yeah, I really like weddings, and I like the opportunities I’m able to get through it.
LeAura Alderson: When you say commercial work, would that be like a brand or product photography?
Alex Stead: Yeah, so there’s a lot to it. Commercial work is a fun kind of side project for me. I don’t do a ton of it. But, sometimes magazines will hire me to do a small piece. Have you ever heard of Maclean’s magazine?
LeAura Alderson: No.
Alex Stead: Okay. It’s a Canadian magazine. They hired me a few months ago to follow a reporter around for a day, and photograph people he was interviewing. That was a really interesting day, just a great day of exploring. So, that kind of stuff happens. Or, Reader’s Digest called me up a little while ago, and needed a portrait taken [inaudible [00:06:03], so I just took the portrait. So, stuff like that is nice as a filler. I would say I’m probably 75 percent weddings, and 25 percent just other stuff.
LeAura Alderson: Other things. So, speaking of Newfoundland, because that is the part of Canada you’re in, which is incredibly picturesque, so you have lots of opportunity to take landscape photos, photogenic, picturesque kind of scenes, and sell them as portraits, framed portraits, cards, whatever, gift shops, because tourism is a thing there. Is that something you’ve explored?
Alex Stead: Not particularly. I paint as well, so I’ve sold my paintings in stores and stuff, just to sample Newfoundland scenery, and stuff. Yeah, I have some landscape work that I have available, but I don’t necessarily pursue that a whole lot right now.
LeAura Alderson: Okay. It’s nice to, I mean, the education concept, it’s nice to have other options and horizons and possibilities. Especially if at some point you get tired of the weddings. I would think that a benefit of the weddings is you get to enjoy some good food as well.
Alex Stead: Yeah, definitely is. I keep a list of just other possible options, so if there comes a time that this isn’t what I want to do, I’ve got probably 30 or 40 options now, where if I wanted to put my time and effort into something else, I’ve got a long list of things that are options.
Devani Alderson: That’s awesome.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, and that’s a good point, because sometimes too many options are to the detriment of artists and creators, because we are idea people, and have so many ideas and possibilities and opportunities, so there’s a lot to be said for really niching down, focusing, and becoming well-known for one category as you’re doing with the weddings. And you become automatically the go-to person. Your name becomes synonymous with wedding photography in your area, so that would definitely be to your advantage.
Alex Stead: Yeah, and I love the idea of thinking big, and like I say, I have a lot of ideas that I could pursue. But it takes time and effort, and would take away from your business. So, for now, I’ll cling to an idea, and I’ll take two or three months to flesh it out and make a plan for it, see if it works. Sometimes they take off and it becomes a successful side-project. It’s always a balancing act. It’s hard to have too many side projects, because then, no focus. [crosstalk [00:08:30] So, I try to limit myself to two to three things at a time that I’m focusing on. Always my business number one, the weddings, and I’ve always got something else happening in the background.
LeAura Alderson: Fantastic.
Devani Alderson: Yeah.
LeAura Alderson: That makes sense.
Devani Alderson: In the sense of iCreateDaily, what do you do every day? What is some of the structure you use in your business to keep the business running, and for your own creativity? You mentioned you have those various side projects that can keep it fun and interesting, but what do you do on a daily basis that helps you stay prolific in your own business?
LeAura Alderson: Or learning something new.
Alex Stead: That’s a great question. I’m all about the self-advancement, so whenever I can, I’m always trying to take in programs, or mentorships, classes, whether they’re directly related to photography, or business, or not. A couple of semesters ago, I did a dance class. And that was honestly one of the best creative endeavors I could have done. It made so many new opportunities in my brain. I was thinking of different ways that I could pose people and move people, just by myself. So it doesn’t necessarily need to be directly related to photography or business, but I try to do that. I’m always trying something new.
Every day, I write. I write something every day, whether it’s poetry, or just journals, or short stories. I’m working on films sometimes too.
LeAura Alderson: Wow.
Alex Stead: It’s never a planned set time every day, there’s at least a half hour period when I’m writing.
LeAura Alderson: Fantastic.
Alex Stead: Yeah, and every day I edit, which is more just out of necessity, you have to edit your photos. But I find it very relaxing and very invigorating. It’s one of my favorite processes. It’s very meditative, I find. And it’s just kind of a precise skill, I guess, where you’re just toggling buttons, making sure the colors look right, clarity’s right, there’s no stray hairs. But I find my editing time to be very relaxing and meditative, and it’s a nice, daily process that I look forward to, honestly.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, that sounds fantastic. It’s wonderful how disciplined you are, so young, how focused on constantly creating. That’s very inspiring. Are there times that you don’t, I mean, I think where you are with it, is that you recognize to create daily does renew you, inspire you, and motivate and uplift you. But do you have down days where you don’t feel like doing anything?
Alex Stead: Oh, absolutely.
LeAura Alderson: And do you go with that, or do you push through anyway? What’s your approach to that, in general?
Alex Stead: I read a quote recently that said “inspiration is for amateurs. Professionals go to work.”
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, you heard that recently. That’s good.
Alex Stead: Yeah, and I kind of agree with that. So, my more creative projects, I usually do when I’m inspired, or when I’m in a mood for it. So when it comes to painting, I might go six or eight months without painting anything, but then I’ll go three weeks where I’ll paint 20 things in a row. I’ll just be on fire for it. But there are certain things you just have to do every day, and you just have to stay disciplined to it. So, it’s finding my stretch goals, right, knowing when to let go for your own mental health, if you need down time more than you need putting pressure on yourself time. It’s still a fine line that I still struggle with, is being ambitious, being a sloth. Needing alone time, needing down time to just really rest and read, hang out in the hammock. But it’s also getting to work, make sure I’m focused on my goals.
So, I set goals for myself, like monthly, three months, six months, a year, where do I want to be? How am I gonna get there? And I’m not super hard on myself when I don’t meet them perfectly. As long as I’m working the right direction.
Devani Alderson: That’s such a good point. Because I think a lot of creatives struggle with where they are now, versus where they want to be, and then create their own intense pressure around, I’m not there yet, and that’s terrible that I’m not there yet. Because we also have that perfectionist gene inside of us that’s like, it needs to be perfect, it needs to be there, I need to be a year ahead right now. And so, being able to set those incremental stages where you can say, okay, a month from now, I’m not gonna be 12 months ahead a month from now. And I might even need to take a step back. But, I’m in that general direction, and I know what’s happening, and so I can move forward.
LeAura Alderson: There are many artists in our audience. Some of them are where you are, and they’re earning a living with their art or their craft. And some of them are still working a job, wondering if it’s possible. You’re, I presume, able to make a full-time living as a professional photographer, right? So, what would you advise someone who hasn’t yet taken the leap from the job job into freelancing, working for themselves, earning enough, as a professional photographer, for instance, to make a go of it?
Alex Stead: I think it’s two-fold. I think you need to really critically analyze your own work, and think, can I actually make money off of this? Am I good enough? I think a lot of people start too early. I was one of the people who started probably too early. So, looking at your own work and critically analyzing it, knowing that you’re putting out work that is worth money, really.
The second thing is knowing business a little bit. You don’t need to have, I don’t think, a degree. But you need to know some basic marketing, some basic accounting. You need a little bit of every head. If you’re gonna start your own business and work for yourself and make real money, you need to know how to do the basics in just about every aspect of business for the first couple of years, usually.
So, you’ll get to a point where you can hire those things out, but in the beginning, it’s good to know where you are. Especially with marketing, I think. It’s one of the biggest skills you need with running a business that promotes your art.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah. The marketing aspect. So what is your number one marketing avenue that gives you the most business?
Alex Stead: I would say definitely my social media. We’re pretty big on Facebook on Instagram, constantly promoting. Really, people are seeing Facebook ads has been big. And also using Google and SEO, so we still get a ton of clients through Google, who just find out website searching for Newfoundland wedding photographers.
LeAura Alderson: Definitely.
Alex Stead: And learned early on how to set that up, and utilize to our advantage, we’d be missing out on so many [inaudible [00:15:04], because people don’t know we exist. [crosstalk [00:15:07] When no one knows you’re out there, you’re not gonna book any clients.
LeAura Alderson: Absolutely. So, do you guys run on an ongoing basis, or do you focus your Facebook ads during the primary wedding seasons?
Alex Stead: Yeah, we push more during the high booking seasons, which we just learned through our analytics what those are throughout the year. So, for us, around Christmas, around August, it kind of fluctuates. So, we push more when we know there’s a higher rate of booking, but we have ads going almost constantly at some level.
LeAura Alderson: Fantastic. Are you guys tracking the return on investment, the ROI, of those Facebook ads?
Alex Stead: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been, so far, pretty good. Compared to other ways of marketing. For example, we did a big wedding trade show last year that cost us well over 2,000 dollars in an incidentals, you know, by the time you bought products, and you buy your booth. And we didn’t book a single wedding from it.
LeAura Alderson: Wow. And it was a lot of your time and a lot of your energy-
Alex Stead: A lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of effort, a lot of planning and prep involved in it. Whereas, for 2,000 dollars on Facebook ads spent, I mean, you’re guaranteed 20 to 50 inquiries. And out of those, you’re gonna book, I would say, at least two to five weddings. So, your return on investment is much higher.
LeAura Alderson: Definitely.
Alex Stead: And the numbers are usually a lot higher. That’s lowest possible scenario, kind of.
LeAura Alderson: Right, right. That makes sense. Do you target your local area? Or, I would imagine people from your region, maybe even beyond, travel to your area to get married because it’s so photogenic. Is that true?
Alex Stead: Yeah, it’s definitely a destination. With Facebook, I target mostly the local area, as well as areas where I know most of our tourists come from. There’s certain kinds of pockets of places, where Newfoundland is more popular. So I’ll target those areas. But also, Google’s really good, because you’ll get people searching Newfoundland wedding photographers, so I find that’s really good for people coming to Newfoundland as a tourist to get married. Yeah, it’s a surprisingly high destination wedding location.
LeAura Alderson: Very interesting. Good, that makes sense.
Alex Stead: People get married in the national parks, usually, here, if they’re coming from away. Those are great weddings, usually really intimate, 10 to 20 people, you’re hiking up cliffs, you’re going down waterfalls.
LeAura Alderson: Very nice.
Devani Alderson: Do you do the photography for the whole wedding itself? Because on your website, I saw a lot of photos of engagement photos, or post-wedding photos, or just the bride and groom. So, do you do the whole ceremony too?
Alex Stead: Yeah, so we photograph the whole day, from usually getting ready, to the first few dances. We definitely have a higher percentage of bride and groom photos on our website. They tend to do best when people are looking at the photos they want to see. But yeah, we generally photograph the whole day.
Devani Alderson: Awesome.
Alex Stead: Yeah, we’re there for between six to 12 hours, usually, depending how long the day goes. Some people have shorter days, some have longer for their events.
LeAura Alderson: And do you have sometimes the bride and groom to be come out to get photographs before the day? We were at a conference in Las Vegas, and it seemed like that was a big thing. People were coming through all day long just to get their pre-wedding, get their wedding photos so they wouldn’t have to do it on the wedding day.
Alex Stead: Interesting. No, that’s not really a trend here.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, I wouldn’t think so, just because [crosstalk [00:18:40] you have to get all dressed up.
Devani Alderson: Yeah.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, I guess, I don’t know what the deal is. But anyway, maybe they were having their wedding later in the day, but we saw a lot of them that were just coming to special scenes and settings. You mentioned that you started when you were 15. How long have you been working, supporting yourself as a professional photographer?
Alex Stead: About eight years now it’s been.
LeAura Alderson: Wow. So from when you were about 18, then, 17?
Alex Stead: Yeah, as soon as I moved out of my parents’ house, this was it, I didn’t have any other job after that.
LeAura Alderson: Fantastic. That’s fantastic.
Alex Stead: Yeah.
LeAura Alderson: You are clearly so focused, so young, and already thinking about how to improve yourself, how to keep learning. You want to be an educated woman. So, what or who has inspired you in your life to be so focused and driven in a positive way so far in your life?
Alex Stead: Oh, that’s such a good question. I have a lot of strong women in my life. Both of my grandparents and my mother were all just very, very driven people. I’m so proud of my mom. She recently started going back to university as well, and we’re doing the same degree, and we’re kind of in a race to see who’s gonna finish first. But she’s awesome, she always really, really pushed me. My parents both really pushed me to be my own person and pursue what I wanted to in life, which is fantastic. But also in a way that was kind of, you know what? We’re here as a safety net if you need us, but we’d rather not. You know, learn how to be self-sustaining as a person, as an adult. Which I really appreciated.
This is hard. Goodness.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, and set you apart, because I’m sure you have friends who would rather hang out than attend an online seminar, or take a course and develop themselves, right? We all do. So it’s like, how do you stay driven toward progressing and ascending in your career path and development?
Alex Stead: Sorry, can you repeat that?
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, sorry. You know the quote from Jim Rohn about you become the average of the five people you spend the most time around? And many people in the online world find that the people that most inspire them to aspire and elevate them may or may not be in their environment. May or may not be in their immediate friend network. As we make friendships all over the world now, we find people that we resonate with, and who inspire us to do and be more. In your pursuit, were there any people in your immediate environment, any friends, because that’s kind of an unusual thing that you stayed so focused in that way on your own. Were you doing that just by yourself? Were there any friends in your immediate group that helped pull you forward as well?
Alex Stead: Sure. There’s one friend in particular who, we’re definitely not in the same career path, but we’re both working artists. And we both started as photographers together around the age of 14, 15. And we’re still really good friends to this day, and we’ve really pushed each other, right from that very first beginning, which has been really nice. It’s been awesome to have this relationship that’s grown and changed over the years. It’s a lot of back and forth; I’m doing this, what are you doing? Do you want to work on this project with me? Do you want to just write together? Sometimes we’ll just create Google Docs, and we’ll just flesh out a story as we’re going, which is really cool.
LeAura Alderson: Nice.
Alex Stead: That’s been a huge influence for me, for sure. I really appreciate his friendship, and being able to grow together into, I guess, who we are now, and whoever we’re going to be in the future. Because you’re always becoming, right? [crosstalk [00:22:45], so who I am now is probably not going to be in 25 years or 50 years-
LeAura Alderson: Right.
Alex Stead: But yeah, it’s good to have people around you who are pushing you for sure. That one friendship in particular has definitely been, I guess, the most vital in growing as a person, yeah.
LeAura Alderson: That makes sense. So, one of the things I was thinking about a few minutes ago as you were talking about the wedding season, and we were talking about Facebook ads and wedding season. You have a shorter season there for outdoor photography, because it’s pretty cold up there, right?
Alex Stead: We do, yeah, our season is pretty short, and we jam pack it in. So it becomes kind of a crazy way to live your life a little bit. So, from June to about October is our season. And so it’s about four months of the year where we have good weather. We have a lot of tourists in that time where everybody wants their photos. Then I literally don’t have a single session on the books for November.
LeAura Alderson: Right.
Alex Stead: So, I’m going from I’ve got ten weddings in October, and about 15 engagement, couple shoots, and commercial shoots. Out of the 31 days, I’ve got something probably on 28 of them.
LeAura Alderson: Right.
Alex Stead: This month, so it’s just a really, really busy time. But then, like I said, in the next month, there’s zero. So it very abruptly stops, and then I will barely see anybody until next June, when it comes to photographing people. I might do a handful of indoor photo shoots, or a couple of winter weddings, but they’re kind of rare. So, it’s definitely a weird little life that you live where you’re really, really crazy busy for four or five months of the year. You know, I barely see my friends during this period. You’re just working really, really hard and just really hustling, but with the knowledge that you’re going to have six or seven months to really just relax and pursue side projects and kind of do your own thing after that’s done.
Devani Alderson: So, what do you do during the off season? Does the four months that you have bookings sustain your off season? What are you doing in the meantime? Do you pursue any of your side projects in terms of monetizing them? How does that work?
Alex Stead: So, I do something a little bit different every year. Every year, I take a side project and I focus on it, and I just go all in. So this year, it’s going back to university, right? So this winter, my big plan is just go to university, and just be a student again for four months, from January to April, that’s my big winter project this year. Last year, I went to Europe for two months and worked over there for a little bit, and just kind of pursued art, and took a lot of pictures, and scored a lot. Year before, I did a big course, and I painted, and I started monetizing my paintings.
So every winter’s a little bit different. But it’s really nice to have that time to pick a thing and just really focus on it. [crosstalk [00:25:41] And I try to take care of my people, too, in that time, because I don’t get to see my friends and my family a whole lot in the summer, then in the winter months it’s like, okay, can I cook for you, can I help out? [crosstalk [00:25:52]
LeAura Alderson: Nice. I would think it’s a little tough for you personally, though, because your busy season is also the nicest time to be out doing things yourself, right? And yet you’re so busy. So that’s the conflict there, but at the same time, I can appreciate that wide spread like you’re talking about, when you know you’re gonna have almost like a quiet season to pursue your personal development. I would think that if I were a photographer in that circumstance, I think I would do things like look at the house sitters sites, where there’s House Sitters International, where you can find homes that need house sitters around the world, where you can go stay for free, in exchange for house sitting, so that would be a way to travel inexpensively.
There are a lot more conferences in the fall and winter where these high-level people need photographers. We know one for instance, oh, what’s his name, all of a sudden. Rochelle was working for him.
Devani Alderson: Michael Gebbon?
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, Michael Gebbin started out volunteering to be a photographer for high-level conferences, like for Yanik Silver, for Tony Robbins, for free. And by offering to photograph the event for free, he got to be in the event, got to learn from the event, and make connections with the people at the same time. So by making those associations, it got him so much more work than he ever would have had if he hadn’t done that, as well as connections with very high-level people. So, it seems like you’ve got some things, you say you’re going back to school, but it would seem like there are so many opportunities; it’s just a matter of exploring different ones each year.
Alex Stead: Absolutely. Yeah, that sounds really smart. That’s a good idea.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah. So, do you, as a learner, you mentioned that you’re taking courses or reading books, or whatever, so are there any courses you’re taking recently, or books you’re learning from that you’d like to share.
Alex Stead: Good question. I’ve been powering through Tools of Titans for probably the third or fourth time now-
LeAura Alderson: Wow, congratulations.
Alex Stead: [inaudible [00:28:05] read it over again. It’s just such a goldmine book that I really love reading back over and over again. I did my class, I guess it’s a couple of years ago now, with Scott Oldford, who Devani knows as well. At the time, I think it was just called a Facebook Ads class, at the time he was teaching it. And that was like a 12-week program, learning how to market yourself online, which was really interesting, and I learned a lot through that.
Trying to think now, what I’ve been doing. Where I took this winter and went to Italy, it’s been a little bit more just doing online classes here and there, signing up for a few different little programs. But nothing really big and overarching, I would say.
LeAura Alderson: Right.
Alex Stead: More just self-learning. The traveling is a big one in and of itself, right? Going to a lot of art galleries, a lot of museums, learning Italian.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, wow. Fantastic. It sounds like you have it so much together. Are there any areas that you struggle with currently, and could use help with, or are working to improve?
Alex Stead: That’s a good question. Definitely. I definitely struggle with finding balance between work and life, especially this time of year when it is really busy, and you’re looking ahead and you know it’s gonna slow down. But it’s still hard kind of in the in-between, right? When you’re just trying to power through, I’m a little overworked probably, and your mental health starts to suffer. It’s the point where you kind of fall into a pit.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah.
Alex Stead: I get anxious. I get a little bit depressed. So, it becomes this sort of, yeah, just a pit where it’s hard to be creative, and it’s hard to find the inspiration to get up and do good work all the time. But you have to, of course, and you find it within you. But it’s very draining. So, that’s definitely one area where I struggle, is to find the balance to take enough time for myself, while making sure everything gets done that needs to be done.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah.
Devani Alderson: Definitely. Do you have any self-care tips that you implement, either daily or weekly, or every couple of weeks, whatever it is for you, that just keeps you taking care of yourself while you’re hammering out the four months of intense schedule?
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, what keeps you sane?
Alex Stead: Really small but really helpful this year was I started getting my groceries delivered to my house. So, I started getting a grocery box with the pre-planned meals in them, with the ingredients. And it’s been a life-saver, because I’m not a good cook. And I hate planning, I hate grocery shopping, I just despise anything that comes with it. So, now, once a week, I get everything delivered so I can take care of myself, and make healthy, vegetarian meals, it’s been just a dream. It feels so luxurious to open it up every week and be like, oh, I’m gonna eat good.
LeAura Alderson: Nice, but that is a huge thing. That’s a great tip, because a lot of times, just like all the little things can stack together that overwhelm us; similarly, it’s how the little positive things stack together that can really make a difference.
Alex Stead: Yeah, and one more thing. Oh, sorry, Devani, but just getting away. So, I find that I’m by myself, I have a home office, it’s hard to take time away and to actually step away from the computer because there’s always one more thing you could be doing. So, every six weeks or so, I just plan a really short getaway. You know, out of town for a night or two, whether it’s visiting my parents back home, or going to an Air B&B somewhere just outside the city. It’s been really useful just to reset. You turn your phone off, you leave your computer at home, and I’ll just bring my camera for personal use instead of work use, and I just shut my brain off in a place where I don’t feel compelled to be by the keyboard. [crosstalk [00:31:40] but just that reset. I should probably do it more often than eight weeks, but [crosstalk [00:31:47]
LeAura Alderson: It’s fantastic. It’s so inspiring that you have so much perspective, self-awareness, and wisdom at such a young age. There will be no stopping you. You will definitely continue succeeding and excelling because you’ve got it together. And like you’ve said, there’s periods of imbalance, that’s normal. Being aware of it and then doing something about it is what it’s all about.
Alex Stead: Oh, thanks LeAura, I appreciate that.
Devani Alderson: With the success you’ve had and you’ve worked your 10,000 hours to becoming an expert in your field and all that; are you planning to teach photography? Do any courses on it? Have you already done some of that? Is that of interest to you at all, or are you more like, no, I’d rather do my own thing and not pursue that aspect?
Alex Stead: Yes, yes, yes. I want to do it, I have been dabbling in it, and I really want to take off big time in the next couple of years. I would love to teach full-time. I would love for that just to be my sole project. [crosstalk [00:32:57] And especially my thing is empowering other women to become small business owners, and to create their own income, whether it’s a full income or something they can do on the side with small children. I just think it’s so important to pass on skills if you have them, and you have an ability to teach, I think it’s just goodwill and good karma to pass that on. And I really, really enjoy it. I love getting up in front of a small group and just chatting and sharing what I know in whatever way that I can.
I don’t think I have it all together by any stretch. I mean, there are people who are better than me, probably. Well, for sure, there are people better than me, and probably could teach better than me. [inaudible [00:33:40] either, right.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, absolutely.
Alex Stead: So, it’s kind of battling the anxiety of, oh, I’m not good enough, there are people who are better. But also, hey, I have something to give to the world. I really got a passion, I really want to give it, so I need to work past that insecurity to get to that point where I can really take it to the next level and teach more. So, last year I taught about 100 people, I think.
Devani Alderson: Awesome.
Alex Stead: In, I think it was seven or eight small group class settings, which was really nice. My goal for next year is to teach 500.
LeAura Alderson: Yeah, fantastic. Are you teaching those primarily in person? You mentioned you get up in front of them. Or online? Or both?
Alex Stead: Currently, it’s just in person, but I definitely want to take it online in the near future. So, getting to 500 needs to be online, there’s no way I can sustain that.
LeAura Alderson: Definitely. We’ll include some links and share with you. I don’t remember offhand the name, but there’s a couple of things. One is one of our podcast mentors and favorite podcasters is John Lee Dumas of EO Fire, and John’s big thing is he talks about the imposter syndrome. Other people talk about that as well, and that we all have that to some extent. We feel like we don’t know enough because we know who we are, we know we’re not perfect, we don’t know everything. We have questions, we have doubts, we have struggles, and therefore we think who are we to think that we could teach somebody else? And yet, the reality is there’s always someone ahead of us, and there’s always someone who’s behind where we are currently who we can help. And in fact, if we’re driven, or drawn to teaching at all, then it becomes, like you said, a duty, or a responsibility to share that to empower others.
So that’s the one thing that addressed your imposter syndrome that we can all relate to. And by the way, John has achieved a high level of success, and he says basically that never goes away. There’s always going to be that sense of there’s still more that we can do to be better. But the other side, let’s see, what was I going to say?
One of his podcasts included an interview either with him or Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, that included an interview with a lady who specialized, or a team, I think it was a guy and a lady partnership, specialized in infant photography. And their site, they taught courses on it. Another one was teaching courses on food photography, and she has an incredibly successful blog, and all of her food photography is just from her iPhone. And she actually teaches a course about that. So, there’s definitely a lot that you can do, and we will link to those podcasts, as well as share those with you when we can pull up the links and remember who they are. But yeah, online there’s definitely a big market for that.
And even CreativeLive is a great resource is a great resource for-
Alex Stead: Yeah, I actually went to a CreativeLive class once in person.
LeAura Alderson: Wow. Was Chase Jarvis there in person in New York? Where was it?
Alex Stead: He wasn’t there at the time, no. It was a Sue Bryce class.
LeAura Alderson: Okay, fantastic.
Devani Alderson: So, you’ll be teaching on CreativeLive one of these days soon.
Alex Stead: That’s the dream, right?
LeAura Alderson: That’s right. And your own course as well.
Well, in closing, do you have any final advice for people who are interested in pursuing their own thing, or doing better at what they’re already pursuing?
Alex Stead: I think really just if you’re passionate about something, if you’re really nerdy into something, if you’re really obsessive about something, tap into that, because whatever you’re really passionate about is what you can become really good at. You can become the expert if you’re just a super editor.
LeAura Alderson: That’s great advice, because in fact, we talk about that with some creatives in our audience, and they talk about their goal. We’re having a 100 day creator’s challenge where, in every day, the commitment is to create something. First, set the goal of what it is what we want to accomplish during those 100 days, and typically what happens is people end up shifting their goals, because just the process of identifying a singular goal and then implementing smaller goals along the way to achieve that bigger goal helps people define and refine what that goal actually is. The people that end up struggling a lot, a lot of times it’s that maybe they aren’t as passionate about that thing after all. Because if we have a hard time doing the art that we think we want to do, and we’re not getting to it, we’re procrastinating, the question is: what is it we’re doing when we’re procrastinating?
Because whatever we’re doing when we’re procrastinating, that might be the thing that we should look at pursuing, even if it’s social media. Maybe that tells us that we love people, we’re an extrovert, and we want to engage with people. In which case, you can become a social media expert and manage other people’s social media. That kind of thing. Or you could become a brand influencer and grow an audience. There are a lot of different opportunities. Just being aware of that is really important.
Alex Stead: Yeah, so true.
Devani Alderson: Well, before we say goodbye, where is the best place that people can connect with you and your work, and see your incredible photos?
Alex Stead: I’m most active on Instagram, which is just instagram.com/alexstead. I’m also at alexsteadphotos.com, where I blog and post there. And on Facebook, just Alex Stead Photography.
Devani Alderson: Awesome.
LeAura Alderson: Fantastic.
Devani Alderson: Well, we’re gonna have links for that for all you guys to check out. And definitely check out her photos, they’re incredible. You will want to go to her area of Canada, because they’re beautiful. And it was so awesome talking with you, you’re such an inspiring person.
Alex Stead: Oh, you too, so glad you guys had me. This was awesome.
LeAura Alderson: Great, thanks Alex. Bye.
Alex Stead: See you guys, have a great day.
LeAura Alderson: You too.