The Gist Of It: Success means different things to different people. Join Rachel and Christine as they discuss what success looks like to them and how you can figure out what it looks like to you.
What you will learn:
Rachel Brenke: Hey, guys. Welcome to today’s episode of The Business Bites Podcast. I am your hostess, Rachel Brenke, and I am joined with probably one of my favorite people in the entrepreneurial world, Christine Tremoulet. She is a business consultant, just like me, but I think she’s got a little leg up on a couple of topics that we’re going to dive into today.
She’s also a mentor who helps photographers create successful, profitable businesses out of their passion. One of the things that has drawn me to her was that she actually helped to coin the name of WordPress. Funny fact, she’s also helped name a couple of my programs as well when I can’t come up with a good name.
So, Christine, thank you for being here.
Christine: Thanks for having me.
Rachel Brenke: Of course.
Christine: You’re one of my favorite entrepreneurs, too.
Rachel Brenke: Oh, she’s just saying that. Well, I’m excited because I know that you worked as a digital strategist before, and then you were a wedding and boudoir photographer. One of the things that I love about you, amongst many, is your approach of authentic branding, marketing, and selling. I mean, you kind of take this story that people have and how they can interject that into creating real relationships with potential customers and developing that into an engaging and successful business.
So I am excited for us to focus on that topic because when I think of being authentic, I think of you. You’ve really inspired me to help draw more of my personality into my branding, so I have to thank you for that.
Christine: Oh, you’re welcome.
Rachel Brenke: Yeah, yeah. We’re going to figure out success on our terms. For me, one of the things that got me into entrepreneurship was when I was diagnosed with cancer. I knew when that happened, I knew two things. One, I was really scared of my kids growing up without a mom. And then the other thing that I was scared of was that if I overcome this cancer, I don’t want to live my life on someone else’s terms. And so I always try to remind myself … You laugh, because you know I totally don’t.
Christine: Well, I’m laughing in part also because two years ago, I discovered that I had a pretty major heart disease that I didn’t … I had some health issues. We thought I had asthma for about six months, and it turned out I had a complete blockage in my heart. It’s definitely changed everything about my business in the past two years because of that.
That’s actually part of why I laughed because I think unless you’ve been through it, you don’t completely appreciate how that changes your perspective on everything.
Rachel Brenke: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm (affirmative). I remember laying in the hospital bed. I was still new on my entrepreneurial journey. I had just come out of surgery and I was having to work because I hadn’t put the right measures in place to be able to do things on my own terms. I was still new. I was still learning.
I think that’s why it’s really good for you and I to talk about this topic today from a few different perspectives. Because like you said, some people are never going to be faced with a life-changing event, maybe, with health like we have, but then there’s others that have been through that.
But anything that we can do to try to help anyone listening to kind of shift their mindset and perspective on figuring out what success really means to them is super important. Because, in the beginning, I thought success was all about the hustle. So I was laying in hospital bed, hustling from my hospital bed with my neck had just been cut open to extract the cancer.
Christine: Can I point out that you actually once texted me, about two hours after having a baby, about work? Okay, I just need to remind you of that.
Rachel Brenke: You know, I have my faults.
Christine: About the changes you’ve made.
Rachel Brenke: I’m glad that you actually bring that up, because I’m probably proof of … I am not so anti-hustle. I like the hustling, but I also fall to the pressures of fear. I fall to the pressures of, “Oh my gosh, I see everyone else on Instagram succeeding and doing this and doing that.” often will take what I see they’re doing and where they’re at and put pressure on myself. I have to stop and say, “You need to be on your own terms.” That was the whole point in even engaging on this entrepreneurial journey to begin with.
Christine: I love that you bring up Instagram. I have so many entrepreneurs say to me, “Oh, I need to get 10,000 followers on Instagram.” And then they freeze when I ask them why. But it’s because they see other people with 10,000 followers and they think that that’s like a metric of success.
But my question always to follow that, first of all, you don’t know … That person may have 10,000 followers on Instagram, but no inquiries and no paying clients. Wedding photographers are the easiest example of this. Most wedding photographers are not going to photograph more than 30 weddings a year. Physically, you can’t. Okay, I guess you could physically photograph 52 to a hundred weddings a year, but most stop at 30.
So why do you need 10,000 followers? You don’t. You need 30 clients. If you do the metrics out, that means you need 200-ish couples that are planning a wedding to see you. You don’t need 10,000. Most photographers are not being flown all over the globe. They’re photographing in their market, in their area.
They seem like really easy metrics of success, but when you stop and think about them, it matters much more to me how many inquiries you’re receiving and how many are converting to bookings than how many followers you have on Instagram.
Rachel Brenke: What would you recommend, because you are one of the pivotal people that has helped my mindset shift on different things, what would you recommend to the listeners now, if they are falling to the pressures of looking at, “Oh, I need 10,000,” or, “Her business looks perfect on Instagram”? How would you recommend for them to shift their mindset to creating their own terms, to creating their own intention of success?
Christine: One of the first things I think most of us don’t do when we start on our entrepreneur journey is think about what we want our life to look like. What do you want your life itself to look like? What do you want your average work day to look like?
Many of us choose this journey. It’s a choice. It’s a chance to follow your passion and go for your dream. Your family doesn’t want to watch you sitting at a computer 24/7. Your family actually wants to spend time with you. I started looking at my friends that had corporate, quote, regular day jobs and realizing, oh, they come home from work and they’re not working anymore. Their family sees them. They sit down and have dinner with the kids. They see their spouse. Whatever it may be. So I feel like defining your day and defining your life are very important.
The other really important thing is I like to reverse-engineer the numbers. So let’s say my goal is to make $100,000 in a year, but I only want to charge $100 for each client that I work with. Well, that means I have to work with a thousand clients. Okay, is that really going to be even feasible?
It’s taking these numbers and working them the opposite way. What’s your financial goal, and then breaking it down to seeing, okay, what does that actually mean in terms of work, and how does that fit in with my life? Do I ever see my kids?
Rachel Brenke: Let’s go back to the first point you made. Talk about what it looks like. Does your family see you? In the very first episode of this podcast, I talk about filling the rocks first. You guys can check it out. It’s rachelbrenke.com/epi1, because it was the very first one because that’s the foundation for how I build my vision and my goals and everything for success.
The idea was that you have a vase and that is your time and that is your life, and the rocks that need to go in need to be self-care, yourself, your family, what is important to you. Those are the main things that go in, and then the sand that is poured in on top of that is work and everything else.
Because if you reverse that and put the sand in first, how are you going to squeeze in a huge rock of your family or yourself? You’re not. And not all of those can then fit into that vase.
I do the same thing with my scheduling as well. For you, you talk about the corporate world. People get to go home, for the most part. They turn off the computer. They don’t have to look at it again. I’ve set limitations like that for myself and it was all back in that hospital bed of thinking, “I don’t want to live a life like that.”
So, going to step number two, what do I have to do tangibly in order to achieve number one? This whole idea of being able to shut the computer off at X time. I think it’s also important to note here, you joke about how I was answering emails after having a baby. I don’t think you can ever achieve this perfect balance between the two. I feel like depending on how business is, sometimes it’s busy or not, it’s all about checking yourself and making sure you’re not falling into the trap of the hustle without a real true need or a return from it.
Christine: Yeah. And there is a lot of people that I’ve suggested, over the years, different outsourcing things to them. Particularly in the case of photographers, outsourcing your editing. And they push back, “Well, that will cost me too much,” or “I don’t make enough for it.”
And I’m very thankful. That was one of the first considerations, when I set my prices, was, how much do I have to pay to outsource my editing? And I made a point of … There were two things that were in my pricing. One was the ability to take credit cards and factoring for the extra rates that you do.
And number two, what do I have to pay to get help with editing? And then beyond that other things in my business, but editing in particular. I made more money if I was communicating with a client, whether I was in person doing a shoot, or having a meeting, or even sending emails. I was more profitable than if I was editing my own photos.
Rachel Brenke: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and not even just financially profitable, but time profitable, because-
Christine: Time profitable, yeah.
Rachel Brenke: Time profitable. I think that entrepreneurs underestimate the fact that burnout … You’re not supposed to feel burnout all the time.
Rachel Brenke: You can be busy but not be on the edge of burnout. I mean, there is going to be up and downs, there’s going to be stressors, but don’t allow those emotions. Recently, I’ve been interjecting this rule into my life that if I’m not really going to be upset or stressed about this in 72 hours, and it’s not life-threatening, then don’t spend extra time on it right now, physical time or mental time, emotional time on it. Revisit it in 72 hours if it’s really that important.
There’s so many things that I used to be like, “Oh my God, I have to fix that on the website right now,” or, “I got to do this. I got to do that.” And unless it’s actually going to make or break me, I’ve offloaded a lot on my plate just by instituting this 72 hour rule.
Christine: Right. Yeah. Other people can do your editing and it frees you up to do things like blog post and social media post. The marketing things, they’re going to bring you your future clients, because retouching a photo isn’t necessarily going to bring me a future client ever, but putting myself out there … And we mentioned this authentic storytelling and being authentically you, that’s what’s going to bring me my next clients.
Rachel Brenke: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Christine: That’s a little bit harder to outsource. It’s not impossible. There are writers out there that you can work with and they will help. They will learn about your authentic voice so that they can write for you. But so often I hear people say, “Oh, I’m really behind on editing, therefore I don’t have time to blog.”
It needs to be flipped. You need to be spending the time on your future marketing and finding somebody to help you with the editing.
Rachel Brenke: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Which is really important then, if you’re really trying to inject an authentic personality, your authenticity into your brand, you need to be able to focus on the things that actually do that. Your editing doesn’t capture your … I mean, a visual, but it’s not capturing your personality.
It’s funny you say that. One of the questions that I always try to ask myself when I’m going through tasks, “Do I have to be the person that touches this?” Do I have to be the person that presses the button for this to happen? And one of the things, like you just said, you’re talking about blogging. I think that also can be like podcast interviewing or business networking.
There are things that require my authentic personality, who I am in order to build my brand and connect with others, that I can’t outsource. But in order to have time to do those things and for to make it easier for me to connect with clients, make it easier for me to secure that client, then I can’t be sitting behind a computer answering emails all day. I can’t be the one that’s updating the website.
I know it’s probably sounds easy, Christine, for you and I to sit here and say this, since we are so far along in our entrepreneurial journeys, but guys listening, I still have to ask myself these questions all the time because I’m a control freak, type A, I want to get it all done. I move faster than the average … most people. And so, I have to rein myself in, my team has to rein me in, sometimes to know that it’s okay if this certain task doesn’t happen and I need to not be the one that’s focused on doing it.
I’m glad you brought up blogging, though. Let’s switch to that, because I think that getting this authentic online presence through blogging, Instagram, which basically is microblogging if you do it with [crosstalk 00:14:51].
Christine: It really is, yeah.
Rachel Brenke: Talk to me about that, because I know that I know injecting the personality of a brand and a voice and being authentic into those blogging and Instagram, microblogging, it makes the selling of yourself and your brand and the connections easier.
Christine: I had the benefit of … I started blogging in 2000. So seven years before I started … I was already a photographer, but I was not professional photographer. When I became a professional photographer, the fact that I had already been putting myself out there, writing authentic posts … We didn’t have Facebook yet, so the things that we now post on Facebook a lot of times were the sort of things that we were blogging about. “Hey, this is where I went to lunch today.”
I was fully booked my first year in business. I made six figures my first year in business. I’m in Houston and it’s a pretty crowded market. And talking with other photographers, I’ve had two or three different people tell me that I just seemed to come out of nowhere. They were like, “You weren’t even around and then everybody was talking about you.”
And it was because I was blogging and using social media via the early … Twitter was around, but not so much Facebook yet. And I was just sharing who I was. Even trivial things, like, “I like to knit,” or, “Here’s the new bike I bought so that I can ride around my neighborhood.” Whatever it was.
The thing is, as humans, we’re always looking for connections. And when I review photographers’ websites, or entrepreneurs’ websites, period. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. So many of them look exactly like everybody else in their industry.
Rachel Brenke: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). I don’t hear a voice. I hear a whole bunch of screaming, but I don’t hear a distinct voice in the crowd at all.
Christine: Right. I hear a mumble that’s saying the same thing that everybody else is saying.
Rachel Brenke: Yes. That’s a better way to put it, yes.
Christine: A few years ago, I had to experience it on the client side of things. I was trying to find a photographer in the city where my husband’s from. I found three people that I was like, “Oh, okay, I like their photos.” But once I closed my web browser, I couldn’t have told you a thing about any of those people.
At some point in time, probably around the age of 12, they picked up a camera and they fell in love with photography. Okay, well, that was obvious. Everybody that’s in a business, most of the time, if they’re entrepreneurs, they fell in love with that thing, so that’s a given.
If I had just had a nugget. It was around Christmastime. If one of those three people had posted, “Oh, I’m making handmade Christmas gifts for all of my family. Here’s some of the stuff that I knit.” Well, I knit, too. I wouldn’t have even looked at two other photographers.
Rachel Brenke: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Christine: All it would’ve taken was just these minor … We’re all looking. Our brains are searching for them, subconsciously-
Rachel Brenke: Connections, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Christine: Just the little connection points. Like, how do I connect with this person? Oh, you have young kids. If I was a mother with young kids, oh, I connect with you. You have young kids.
Whatever it is, share the things about who you are. People can copy your editing style. People can, unfortunately, steal the words straight off of your website, and then we all send them to Rachel.
Rachel Brenke: Yeah, as we know, a good lawyer to deal with that.
Christine: Yeah, but nobody can copy who you are.
Rachel Brenke: Right.
Christine: I mean, they can try, but we’ve all met that person who’s trying really hard to be someone that they’re not. You can feel it. You can smell it. You know that they are not being authentically themselves. So nobody can copy who you are.
Rachel Brenke: But, at the same time, I went through this personally within the last year or so, and I believe you and I had a discussion about it. But I had sat down, just like what you were saying, and picked out three main things, and I still do these three main things, of what I want my audience to connect with outside of the services I provide, outside of the products I sell. This is like personal stuff.
The main things, right now, are my kids, I like coffee, and I am engaged in sports and I compete, right? So those are the main things that I talk about outside of any business stuff.
But I had someone make a comment, because when I was developing my brand and being this authentic personality brand, I talked about my kids a lot, because I was still having babies at the time and I was connecting with my audience. I had one person make a comment to me about, in a very disparaging way, of me being a mompreneur and how I was just a mom trying to make it. Which, looking back, I should’ve said, “Heck yeah, I am.” And I am making it.
But I allowed that to take me from this very authentic, personality-injected brand, and I swung the pendulum the other way and became very sterile and only focused on business. I had more comments about people who were sad that I had pulled the personality out of the brand and was then a product and service and not a brand anymore.
Christine: That’s the thing. The gremlins who will get to us. Either the one that are in our own head, which the one that’s in our own head is normally, “So what? You’re nothing special. Who’s going to care about this?”
The pushback I get from a lot of people is, “Well, my life is pretty boring.”
Rachel Brenke: No, everyone’s different. We all have something. And like-
Christine: Everyone’s different. I mean-
Rachel Brenke: For example, Christine, I love you, but knitting would be boring to me-
Rachel Brenke: … so we wouldn’t connect on that level, and that’s okay. You connect with how many people on that level.
Christine: My first year in business I had five weddings that I could trace back to the knitting community.
Rachel Brenke: That’s awesome.
Christine: Because they knew me. I don’t have young kids, so I’m not going to connect with you on that. It’s funny, the three that you listed … we’ve connected over different things, because the three that you listed, I watch the sports that you do and I’m like, “Wow, that’s amazing that she does that.” I run if I’m chased by a dinosaur. There is zero running in my life.
Rachel Brenke: No, but that’s a good point you make is that we still connected on other aspects, but I still know what you’re known for and still have that connector. Now, also, this is a really good point, not only is it for connecting with the people you’re trying to sell to, but it’s giving people who are watching your brand a place of connection in their mind.
So, for example, now if I have an entrepreneur that pops up in my world and is asking me questions and they mention they like knitting, or blogging, I always think of you first when blogging comes up, those are the key … I’m going to go, “You need to talk to Christine.” I have not been doing knitting, and that’s not because I don’t like it, I’m just not good at it.
Rachel Brenke: But then that’s a connector for me. And you’re not necessarily trying to sell knitting to me, but it connects that referral that I’m going to go and swing back around to you.
Christine: One, you mentioned that you polarized that person. That person that reached out and said that they didn’t like your-
Rachel Brenke: No, and that’s a good thing.
Christine: … momness. So you polarized them. That’s actually a good thing.
Rachel Brenke: I know.
Christine: But, secondly, and the reason why polarizing is such a valuable thing, is in our marketing we need to hand people the stories that they should tell about us. So, if I’m talking to someone and I start describing you, I throw in there that you do Ironman races. I’m like, “Oh my goodness, she’s a lawyer and she’s an entrepreneur and she’s an incredible business advisor, and would you believe she does Ironman on top of everything else?”
But I put it in there. And, especially, I put it in there if I’m talking to somebody that I know is also athletic, because even though it had nothing to do with your business, it still, in a way, it says a lot about you and who you are. I mean, it says a lot to me also about your work ethic because it takes a lot of effort to do that. It takes a lot of time training and everything else. And so I share it, that it talks about you.
I couldn’t do that if you don’t hand me those nuggets to use, to talk about you, it makes it really hard. What am I going to say to somebody? What am I going to say about the local photographer who never talks about themselves? I’m going to be like, “Yeah, they take great photos. Period.”
Rachel Brenke: Or, “I think they have a photography business.”
Christine: “Yeah, I met them once. They seem kind of nice.”
Rachel Brenke: And that’s not a real glowing recommendation, but if I knew that they were totally into Zumba, I would be able to say, “Oh my gosh, and she’s such a good Zumba dancer and she runs this photography business.”
It gives you also realness to the service or product that you’re selling.
Christine: And so putting these things about yourself out there may seem so trivial when you’re doing it, but it’s incredible to see what people come back and talk about.
Rachel Brenke: It’s so funny, the replies that I get on different things. Like you were saying, they may not even be into sports, but they had a friend that had done it and had an issue, so they’re giving me advice, and then I’m able to give them advice and it’s a whole connection on another level. Whereas if I had just been selling and pushing to them my product the entire time, they would have never reached out to me. We’d have never created a personal relationship together.
So, I guess, let’s kind of leave them, because I’m sure there’s a couple of people, or a lot of people, I hope not, but hopefully we can help, kind of some tips of how would you develop these nuggets. I mean, for me, I use three core ones, because that’s what my brain can manage and I can implement into my Instagram and my blogging and podcast.
I say three main nuggets about yourself that are unrelated to business. Do you have anything to expand upon that?
Christine: I actually love your three main nuggets.
Rachel Brenke: Winning!
Christine: I was like, “Zing! Write that down on my notes and everything.”
Rachel Brenke: Sweet.
Christine: Initially, even, when you’re very first working on it, I think sometimes coming up with those three nuggets is really hard. I’ve had people do creating what we call The Love List. Just making a list of everything that you love. It can be the silliest things under the sun. It can be, “I love the smell of Sharpie markers.” Whatever it is.
Rachel Brenke: Oh, I do.
Christine: I don’t care what it is. It might be silly at first, but as you start doing it as an exercise, and I tell people initially, sit down and make yourself write out 20. At first, it’s hard. It’s really hard. But then as you get going, the rest of the day, they’ll keep popping up. And then the next day I step back and I look at that list, and I look for themes.
Rachel Brenke: Yes.
Christine: So, in your case, I’m sure those three themes were probably … Like, you might also talk about your dog and how you love running with him and everything else. They’re all [crosstalk 00:26:59]-
Rachel Brenke: I totally fed you that nugget.
Christine: I know, they are. Well, and I see you post about your dog all the time online, so [crosstalk 00:27:06]-
Rachel Brenke: Mm-hmm (affirmative). More than my kids.
Christine: Right. There’s subsets of it.
Rachel Brenke: Right.
Christine: In your case, you might list Disney as a place that you love, but I know that you’re doing one of the Disney runs coming up, so it still falls back into the fitness. So a lot of times when you do this, and you start with the initial list of 20, you’ll come back later and you’ll find three or four really frequent themes that are just coming up over and over, and there’s your three.
Start with them and try them and give them a little time. I feel like people need time to see it and to feel it and everything.
Rachel Brenke: And it has to be authentically put. You can’t just all of a sudden come out the gate of, “I love X, Y, and Z.” People are going to be able to tell if you don’t like that and you’re only creating or selecting that nugget to force a connection.
Christine: You’ll run out of things to talk about.
Rachel Brenke: Yes. Yes.
Christine: That’s what I was going to say. If you try it for a few weeks and one of those items, you run out of things to talk about, then it probably wasn’t the right one. So just refer back to the list again and look for something else to try talking about. You’ll know it’s the right thing when you don’t run out of things to say about it.
Oh, and it’s okay to say the same thing repeatedly.
Rachel Brenke: I’m glad you said that, yes.
Christine: Not verbatim, but it’s okay to talk about something. If it’s a core part of you, it’s okay to talk about it every other day. Because that’s [inaudible 00:28:41], creating that touch point that we can connect on.
Rachel Brenke: Agreed. Love it. Alright, so the homework for you guys is to go to create a list of up to 20 nuggets. Try to pare it down to three, but test them out, see if you’re able to get some depth out of them. And just like the whole idea of this podcast, we’re talking about being authentic, make sure it’s stuff that’s truly authentic to you and not what think others need to hear.
Put out who you are, inject your personality and your authenticity. People will be drawn to you. Birds of a feather. And it’ll be interesting to see how much similarities or things that maybe you’ve already been putting out there that you didn’t really realize was already happening.
Thank you, Christine. I so appreciate you coming on today. I’m going to link all of Christine’s stuff onto the show notes at rachelbrenke.com/epi46. You’ll be able to direct link from there, because I know that her name’s a little difficult to spell. Do you have another URL, perhaps, that they could reach you at?
Christine: I do. thelifeboss.com will take people straight to my website as well.
Rachel Brenke: Perfect. That sounds great. I’ll stick that under the show notes. You guys get working on your homework. I look forward to seeing more authenticity in all your posts. Don’t be afraid to reach out to Christine or I on social media platforms. Come check out how we’re integrating our nuggets so that you guys can see some real life ways to do this as well.
Christine: Thank you again for having me.
Rachel Brenke: Thanks.
As a mom, team USA athlete and cancer-survivor, I want a real life while I have a real business. This is why my resources don’t promote hustle-culture, rather tough-love and no-holds-barred tips to achieving both. In addition to this website, I have a top-ranked business podcast, been featured in places like Forbes and work 1:1 with so many of you.
Enough about me though. I am proud of you for pursuing entrepreneurship. It is rewarding and amazing. Keep at it!