8: Elevate with Education with Annemie Tonken

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8: Elevate with Education with Annemie Tonken 3

So many photographers and creative entrepreneurs are hesitant to invest in their education. Today on the Shoot It Straight Podcast, I’m talking with my good friend and fellow creative Annemie Tonken about the real reason so many business owners are holding themselves back. We share our personal experiences with investing in education, plus how to move past the fear of investing and putting yourself out there. 

The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur while balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in, yet willing to talk about the hard stuff too, Shoot It Straight Podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.

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This episode is brought to you by my Sustainability Guide Freebie, where I’m walking you through 10 steps to a sustainable business. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for years, this guide will help you review the different facets of your business and clarify whether or not you’re set up for long-term sustainable success.

Review the Show Notes:

Welcome Annemie Tonken (1:41)

How Annemie got started in her photography business (4:00)

Getting the most out of paid, in-person experiences (9:06)

Stepping through fear and putting yourself out there (13:03)

Continuing to invest in education (15:33)

Why photographers hesitate in investing in education (20:01)

Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity (25:27)

How to vet educational opportunities (28:12)

Where to start with furthering your education (33:22)

Annemie’s online offerings (39:03)

Rapid-fire questions (40:09)

Mentioned in this Episode:

Root to Rise | Family Photographer Mastermind & Retreat 

The Organized Photographer Online Course

Join the Waitlist for My Mastermind

Connect with Annemie

Website thiscantbethathard.com

Podcast thiscantbethathard.com/podcast

Instagram  instagram.com/thiscantbethathard_

The Family Narrative Conference https://www.thefamilynarrative.com/

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8: Elevate with Education with Annemie Tonken 4

Review the Transcript:

Sabrina Gebhardt
Today’s episode of the shoot it straight podcast is a great chat with my friend Annemie Tonken, She and I both believe wholeheartedly in continuing education and making that investment in your business. Today we’re talking about all things education, why photographers and creative entrepreneurs hesitate and making the investment, the real reason how to decide what type of educational opportunity is best for you. And where you should start the benefits of paying for education instead of just going to the University of Google all the time. And it’s really great. Listen, because we both share our own personal experiences with taking our business to the next level through paid continuing education. So if you have been on the fence about an educational opportunity, or maybe you have really been thinking about something but you’re hesitating, this is going to be a great episode for you to listen to. So let’s dive in.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Welcome to the shoot it straight podcast. I’m your host, Sabrina Gephardt. Here I will share an honest take on what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur. while balancing business motherhood and life myself along with my guests will get vulnerable, their honest conversations and relatable stories because we’re willing to go there. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in yet willing to talk about the hard stuff to the shoot it straight podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Okay, welcome back to the shoot it straight podcast. This episode is gonna be really special because I have a dear friend with me today. And it’s always really fun to get to chat with a friend because well, this is just going to be a true conversation. So today, my friend Annemie Tonken is here And, friend, I’m gonna let you introduce yourself and then I’m gonna give a little background.

Annemie Tonken
Hi. It’s so good to see you. Yeah, my name is Annemie Tonken. I am a family photographer based in the Raleigh Durham area of North Carolina. I’ve been in business now for my business is almost a teenager now. And I started in the education space a couple of years ago. And now I also host a podcast called this can’t be that hard. And do some teaching around more of the business side of stuff when it comes to running a photography business. So that’s me in a nutshell.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, so Annemie And I technically we met in person at a conference that we’ll talk about later, but a few years ago, when was that? 20? That was 2020 Hmm, was it I think it was before? Wow, it was right. Before all the things happened.

Annemie Tonken
I was gonna say it was either 2019 or 2020. Yeah, even before

Sabrina Gebhardt
it was it was right before. So we met then. And that was a total fangirl moment for me because you were already very much. I don’t know, I’d heard your name a lot of places. And it was kind of you were ahead of me in the education game. And so that was really fun. And then we got together in a little online. What were we like,

Annemie Tonken
we had like an accountability group.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yes. And accountability group, what and that was during all of the pandemic stuff when we were all lonely, just really missing connection. And we kind of formed this little group, we get got to chat weekly, almost weekly. We stayed pretty good for a while. And so that was really fun. And you were the first podcast I was ever on. Which was really exciting. It was. That was also even though we were friends at that point, that was very much a fangirl moment that Oh, em, gee, I get to be on animes podcast.

Annemie Tonken
Oh, my goodness that have will never feel normal to me. I’m like, what? Why would you fin girl?

Sabrina Gebhardt
Oh, no, I don’t know. I don’t know. But so we’re going to talk about one of our we both love this subject so much. Today, we’re going to talk about basically continuing education, why it is so important as a creative as a photographer to kind of step away from the University of Google, and really start to dive into things that you need help with and things that you need to master, maybe beyond just the taking of the photos. Because there’s so much to that. So I want to talk about your photography business first, and kind of how did it start? And then what did it look like as you grew? Did you do any education? Just tell me that story?

Annemie Tonken
Yeah, so again, I know it was only 12 or 13 years ago, but 2010 was like a whole different world when it came to what was available and really just where the internet was, right like it was it’s, it is wild to me to think about what I Have seen happen not just in photography, but like in technology from the time that I was a kid to Now, which of course, you know, there’s the downside of that, which is there, I start feeling like, Oh, I’m really old now. But yeah, in 2010 Basically, I got into photography, the way that so many people do. I had a decent camera did not know what I was doing with it. And then my, my older son was born. And I accidentally took a picture of him. That was really I mean, even now I can look at it and be like, Oh, no, I see what caught my, like attention. And by caught my attention, I literally mean took my breath away, I saw it. And I was like, why is this like? Beautiful baby even more beautiful, you know, fully on Program Mode on my camera. It’s like total accident. So I started like, then I picked up the camera again. And I was like, Wait, how did I it didn’t doesn’t look like that this time. It doesn’t look like that this time. And I got really addicted. And I was trying to research how I basically like trying to figure out what the accident was. And so that was going on for a while, like a few years. And at the same time I was working I as a nurse nursing was a second career for me. And I was like going into a master’s program. And over the course of time, I realized like, this second career that I thought was going to be the one really isn’t feeling like the one like it’s not, this is what I want to be when I grow up. And in the meantime, like my hobby was taking off, and I was just loving it, loving it. And I had friends who were asking me to take pictures and all those kinds of things. So at some point, I had this crisis of like, what am I going to? What am I going to do if I don’t do this nursing follow this nursing path? And somebody said to me, Well, you’re really great at taking photos, why don’t you consider that as a career. And I was like, that’s not a career. This is just a fun thing, why you can’t make money doing that. But the like seed was planted and, and it took root pretty fast. And I started being like, wait, I help people do do this for a living. And it’s not a crazy idea. And so I started going down the like hardcore Google slash YouTube rabbit hole, trying to figure it out. And it was crazy. I mean, there really wasn’t very much online education at the time. So I was doing things like googling how to make the background blurry in your pictures, like I didn’t know the words to search, I didn’t know what I was talking about, I would see a photo that someone else had taken and be like that, that’s what I want. I want something that looks like that. And then spend hours and hours trying to like DIY slash research how to how to make it happen. So like the first big turn that my business took was that Creative Live launched. I don’t know if you remember creative life, and it’s still around. But I I found out about that it was a brand new thing at the time. And I actually submitted a at the time and I actually I haven’t followed them for a while. So like I don’t know what they’re doing right now. But at the time, they would have a live audience that could come in, but you had to apply to be part of the live audience. And so I applied and got to go be an audience member back in 2012. So if you deep dive the Creative Live files, you’ll see much younger than me in there being like, Hi, I’m here with my brand new camera learning how to take.

Sabrina Gebhardt
That’s awesome. I’ve totally have seen those videos, like from different, you know, masters or whatever. And I’ve seen the audience thing. So that’s so cool that yeah, that yeah, it was fun. Did you have to pay for that are you just apply to you got accepted,

Annemie Tonken
I applied, and I got accepted. But I had to pay to get myself out. I mean, I live across the country from Seattle was where they were doing all the filming for that. So I flew out there and wrote that expense off on my brand new business tax return. And and did you know, I stayed with a friend and it was great. It was an amazing experience. Yeah.

Sabrina Gebhardt
So do you feel like because even though you didn’t have to pay for the actual class that you were attending, you had to pay and invest time and money? Do you feel like that was more valuable than all of the Googling and the that kind of thing? Like, did you get more from that?

Annemie Tonken
Not only did I get more from that in terms of like it was an amazing learning curve. But really beyond that it was the networking that happened. So part of the way that I justified that because it wasn’t just the money, which we really didn’t have very much of at all. I was bootstrapping my business. And so justifying the cost of that trip, and it was was that plus it was time away from Yeah, my younger son was still breastfeeding at the time. So I that was going to be my first time away from him. So there was like, there were many factors to consider there. So I said to myself, Okay, if you’re going to do this, if you’re going to go out there err, you are not going to, this is not going to be something that you just kind of like show up. And half. I say that happened. Yeah. I was, I was like, I’m going to show up and be 100% present, I am going to get to know everyone has their, like, walk away with connections and whatever. And what actually ended up happening beyond that. And I did, I made friends and I am still in touch with several of those people today. But the I, there were a couple of things that I did, I saw the person who was teaching that particular class was Bambi Cantrell, who is an MS, she has been in the photography industry forever. And she knows tons and tons about lighting and portraiture. And she, for a long period of time was really known for her portfolio review stuff, like she would be one of the judges at the big competent print competitions. So I would like went with my own agenda that I was going to, like, approach her in between shooting, like when we were doing that class and ask her if she would be willing to take a look at a portfolio. So like, I prepared a portfolio ahead of time, and showed up with that. And it wasn’t offered. I was you know, I was kind of putting myself out there. And I felt really nervous about it. But she gave me that portfolio review, which was super, super helpful. And it was also just one of those things where it was like it kind of it felt empowering, like, oh, okay, I can do this, I do have a seat at this table. And then after the fact, I went home, and I was like this Creative Live thing is amazing. I want to do something else with this, like, how can I how can I leverage this? So I pitched an article, two rangefinder magazine, and said, I’d like to write this article about this new business called creative life. I’m not part of the business. But I think it’s really great. I think it’s a great way for photographers to learn. So I ended up getting like an eight page article that I wrote, and I was a brand new photographer, like it was,

Sabrina Gebhardt
my gosh, I’m not surprised by this at all. You’re such a go getter.

Annemie Tonken
Oh, well, it was, you know, the thing about especially during that beginning period of time in your business is that you have more time to try different things, right. Like you have more time and more flexibility, very little is expected of you at that point. And you know, you’re spending a lot of time trying to get new clients. But I was like, Well, what can I do? That’s going to be a little bit different. What can I have to talk about in my Instagram feed? That’s or on my blog, which was the thing that I was spending all my time with, at that point, you know, what can I have to talk about? That’s not just like, I had a session, and it was pretty and so of course, when I wrote that article, you better believe everyone I knew knew about it. And everyone I didn’t know got to hear about it when I was when I was talking about my business. But it gave me a sense of like, yeah, that place at the table, that credibility that at the beginning, we all suffer with, I think,

Sabrina Gebhardt
yeah, absolutely. There is so much to be said. I mean, I have so many nuggets to just bring out of what you just said already. But one of them is kind of stepping through fear and like doing it pulling yourself away from your computer away from Google. And like actually physically putting yourself out there is a game changer. Yeah, it gets you out of your head a lot. Putting you with other creatives and with other industry peers, it really helps with the whole imposter syndrome thing, even though it seems like it wouldn’t it does, though, because we we make up that story. And then when you put yourself out there and you actually meet and mingle and interact with other people in your industry, you’re like, Oh, we’re all the same. Oh, this is cool. Yeah.

Annemie Tonken
Well, you know, it’s really easy to kind of sit behind your computer. And I don’t know piddle. Like, yeah, I’m doing this, I’m doing this and you feel like nobody can see you probably because they can’t. And so you’re not really fully you’re hedging, you’re hedging your bets. And I feel like as soon as you start to put skin in the game, and that can be just money, like you pay for a course online or you know, you pay for something. But you know, when you show up in person, it sort of takes it to the next level, that investment ends up, you know, you learn what you learn whatever that is, but you’re also telling your deep brain like, no, no, I’m serious about my business. This is actually a thing. I’m willing to spend $1,000 or $2,000, or whatever the case may be, because I’m not this isn’t frivolous. I’m planning on taking what I learned here and turning it into something bigger.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, absolutely. I have a similar story about the first basically two years of my business. I did what everybody did, you know, just the Google and all of reading everybody else’s blogs and trying to figure out what I was doing and I finally got to breaking point where I was like, if I’m gonna like really, really, really do this, I need to put my money where my mouth is I need to invest in this thing. And so I did. I like to go off the deep end and the dramatic side with things. So in one year, I invested in a conference, and a one day workshop and a three day retreat all at what like I was like, No, we’re going all in. Yeah, but but that’s the year that you can see the before and the after, in my work in my confidence in my pricing in my everything. I mean, it was a total game changer. So let me back up to your story after you did the Creative Live experience, and you started to really like gain that confidence and that community and you’re taking your business forward? Did you continue to invest in education? Did that change your thoughts on investing in education versus just the googling of the things? Yeah, I

Annemie Tonken
did. I probably kind of like what you said, kind of went in the opposite direction, I went from being hyper frugal to like, Oh, look how amazing this and dramatic this can be. And so I started to at every turn. And again, I just want to preface this by saying there was so much less on offer at that point. But it was like whatever came across my screen that was even remotely related to what I wanted to do. I was like, great, Sign me up. And I learned that like, not all. Like, that’s true. It’s not all created equal. There are definitely courses and conferences and everything else that are more and less useful. However, I look back on that time. And I’m like, I don’t regret it at all. I talked to a lot of newer photographers these days, just by nature of education that I’m doing. And I hear all the time, this hesitation of like, well, it’s a lot of money. And I think it would be helpful, but I’m not sure. And so I don’t know, you know, and there’s this other thing that I’m also thinking of, like what order do I do it in and whatever. And so I think that there’s a way to go about it and be smart, and make your choices about how you’re going to invest. But I think the worst thing that like, I’ve never regretted a course or an investment that I made as much as I have regretted some of the ones that I skipped. That I feel like if I had if I had taken that it would have been like a leapfrog opportunity. So So it’s one of those where like, the worst error of the two is to is to not?

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, no, I agree. Yeah, I agree. 100% I’m just like you. I’m like, how much education can it how much is too much. Even almost 12 years in business, I still invest in educating myself, both as a photographer and as an educator, every single year, like I just I don’t ever want to stop learning, I don’t ever want to plateau and get bored. And yes, there are definitely experiences that are more bang for your buck or more valuable or you walk away with bigger lightbulb moments. But consistently, I always make new industry relationships, which in my mind is always worth the cost of admission. And I you know, a lot of people think that I’m an extrovert, I’m an extroverted introvert. So but I love the community and the connection and the support. And I feel like the relationship building part of an educational experience is one of the most valuable pieces. Yes, you want to get educated, but you can never have too many industry peers, supporting and cheering you on and that you can support and cheer on.

Annemie Tonken
It really does change the nature of the solopreneur experience to have those people out there. I think it can be the lifeline that keeps you going. And it can also be like the the connection, like one connection or one introduction can really be you know, it’s one of those where you never know what it is as you’re going into it. But in retrospect, you look back and you’re like, these are the dots that connected. That changed my whole business. Yeah, and I can, I can look backward and point to those over and over and over again. And almost none of them were free.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, it’s not even just like the friendship. I don’t want anybody listening to this to think like, I don’t want to pay several $1,000 to make friends. That’s not That’s not what I mean, it’s those relationships that you take with you that like you said, take the loneliness out of what we do. And it’s also having people to ping ideas and questions and you know, like, Hey, I’m this image looks funny. What did I do are my cameras but I mean, just having people that understand what you do, why you do it, what drives you? Is so also valuable. I’m curious, why do you think photographers hesitate in investing in education? Because I feel like it’s, it’s, they all hesitate. I feel like there’s they’re always just waiting and and then the people that have started paying for education, I’ve never met anybody who doesn’t just completely fall in love with it and start paying hand over fist, you know, just all the opportunities. So what do you think is the biggest reason why people wait so long?

Annemie Tonken
Well, I honestly think that it kind of comes down. So you’ll hear a lot of different rationale about that. When you talk to people one on one, like, oh, you know, I’m my business isn’t bringing in enough money to justify that or like we don’t have, you know, there’s often a money component or a time component, like, welcome to the number one and two reasons that anybody does not anything, right. But when you dig a little bit deeper, I feel like just like anything else, you spend money or you devote time to the things that you value. And I really think that in a lot of instances, it’s imposter syndrome, that is getting in the way of someone making an investment in education and their business, they can turn to their friends and family and partner and whatever and say, Well, I’m a photographer, I need a camera, I need this other lens, I need this. Whatever, you know, camera bag, I don’t know, we actually have really low overhead, even though those individual things can be kind of expensive. If you compare starting a photography business to starting just about any other kind of business, I always like to point my brother is a fine furniture maker, and he has the the machines. First of all, he has to have this like giant building for his shop. And then all these machines that cost 1000s and 1000s of dollars that he had to like take loans out on and it all worked out in the end. But with as photographers, we can start out with like a camera we already own and you know, like a free website on Wix like it is. So the barrier to entry is so low, which means that tons of people get into photography, because it’s it’s a wonderful thing to spend your time doing. I will be the first to say that but then it’s like the wheat from the chaff. Right, you’ve got the people who are serious enough about it to take the next step and buy into the thing that is seems a little bit less obvious, like the results or the need is less definable, and but they can say nope, I’m serious about this, and they’re sort of doubling down on it. I think that’s, to me, it’s that level of taking yourself and your business. Seriously, that kind of separates that part of you know, that willingness to to move forward with invest with education.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, I definitely agree that there’s like, you have to peel away the layers and the excuses to get to the heart of it. Marie Forleo says in her book, everything is figured out well, that when people say I can’t they really mean I don’t want to. And I think that is so true. Because there’s a reason why you’re not whether it’s you know, fear or impostor syndrome, or, you know, taking your business seriously or not thinking it’s going to last, or whatever the reason is, there’s some sort of issue there. But I know that I am always telling people, you have to be willing to push through that and and take the leap, you have to because I personally don’t know of any longtime photographer in this industry that has not invested in some sort of education, like it’s almost a must like if you are going to make it and still be passionate about what you do and profitable and successful and grow and all of the things you have to it. I mean, there’s no if, while we are on the topic of education today, I cannot leave this episode without sharing an exciting opportunity that I have four potential students. I have a mastermind that is called route to rise. And it is a five month experience where we as a small group, meet weekly and do deep dive discussions and education. The base the purpose of route to rise is really doing hard work that will affect your business in positive ways. Because I truly believe that when you better yourself, you better your business. So inside of this mastermind, we have themes every single month, we read books together, we have lessons and discussions. There are incredible guest speakers that come and teach on specific topics. And one of the best parts about the entire experience is a three day in person retreat where we get together, we all stay under one roof, we shoot sessions together, we do portfolio reviews, and we have fellowship. If this sounds like something that you are interested in, I recommend getting on the waitlist, I will have that linked in the show notes. There are only 11 seats for 2023. And registration opens very soon,

Annemie Tonken
I suppose you could limp along for a while, you know, kind of doing it yourself and trying to figure it out yourself. I just think that most people who don’t make that transition sooner end up, burning out and just fading out before they hit that mark, versus the people who are willing to take before the excuse me, I shouldn’t say before they hit that mark, before they get to the place where they are that confident to just be like, Oh, no, I am sure that this investment is going to be the right one. If you wait for that you’re gonna be waiting for a long time. And it’s the people who are willing to kind of leap and the net will appear that the generally, you know, the net is there there. There are very few instances, there are some horror stories that I have heard about very high ticket mentoring kinds of situations where somebody’s investing five figures, let’s say in a like six month or a year long, small mentoring group are something that they haven’t really vetted. And that person kind of drops the ball. And that’s a big enough investment for anybody that like that’s going to be pretty crippling, not only to your wallet, and your bank account, but also to your sense of like trust and you know, trusting yourself and all that sort of thing. Like that’s a that’s a big swing. And it’s a big fall, if it doesn’t work, but but like when we’re talking, I feel like we’re talking a lot about money and investing and all that sort of stuff. I just want to like reiterate. So many of these things that people are scared to invest in or scared to take the next step on, let’s put it this way less than the cost of a single booked client. And that’s the way I look at so many of my investments, like how many clients is it going to take for me to make this back? And is there a reasonably good chance that what this person is going to teach me or what I’m going to learn by attending this is going to give me some tool that’s going to help me get that number of clients relatively quickly. Because so many times when I’ve taken a class or showing up for a conference, or whatever, I think I’m gonna walk away with, you know, X, and I ended up I get x, but the thing that like really makes a big difference is something that I had no anticipation of, and it might be something really small. But sometimes those small things end up, you know, really making the biggest difference. So, and it’s fun. And to your point, it’s addictive, like you have those experiences a couple of times, and you’re like, Oh, what am I gonna get in the next one? So Right. Yeah.

Sabrina Gebhardt
So talk to me about how you would recommend somebody going about vetting one of these experiences before they you know, fork over some money, whether it be hundreds or 1000s of dollars? What are your thoughts on that?

Annemie Tonken
Well, I think it depends on whether you’re talking about something that’s online or in person, the in person piece, I think it’s really important to find fit, you know, you talked about being an extroverted introvert, or you know, and there are people who love doing one of the very first conference in fact, I think the first conference that I ever went to, was WPI and WPI is huge. It happens in Las Vegas, it’s 1000s of people it’s in a casino. None of that makes any sense for who I am as a person. I am much I’m like you sort of an extroverted introvert. I like small groups where I get to kind of quietly sit down next to somebody and then start chatting, you know, showing up to like a forced dance party where you’re supposed to like go have an amazing time and meet people it’s just not really my jam. And so I that conference was exhausting to me. And I learned some stuff and it was good and you know, I can I could sit here and talk about the benefits of it. But it definitely if I could go back and tell my first conference shopping self like I would say find something that is that’s going to fit who you are a little bit better. And I think the best way now, there’s so many amazing avenues for that. You are sitting here hosting a podcast, somebody can listen to every single one of your podcast episodes and get a really clear idea of who you are what your value Tell us are and how you’re gonna show up as an educator. So I think that that’s an amazing way, you know whether somebody has a podcast or a YouTube channel, or even just a blog, like you can get to know who that person is. And if they show up, like, drop somebody an email, are they going to respond to you, like, see how that sort of thing goes, especially when it’s not time for them to sell something like ask send them a question, and whether they respond or their support team responds or whatever, you know, that’s a good way to kind of vet it. I also think that talking trying to find people who have either gone through that course, or attended that conference, and just DMing them and being like, Hey, how was your experience? Now, like any sort of Google review out there, you don’t want to rely on one single random person, like if you have a friend who went great, but yeah, get some opinions and find out. But I think that if you have if you feel good about the instructor from a fit perspective, and you understand what’s being promised, and you’ve heard from some other people that like, no, no, this really is good quality education, you can invest with very little concern, and a lot of courses and that sort of thing. I mean, not so much conferences, but a lot of them have some sort of guarantee associated with it. So read the fine print on the guarantee. But you know, those are there for a reason.

Sabrina Gebhardt
I think what you said about, like, jiving with the person is huge. If you get annoyed when you see them on Instagram Stories, you probably don’t want to join their program or their workshop, you know, but if you find yourself binging their content, because you are thinking to yourself, I want to be friends with them in real life, like I really liked this person, that’s a pretty good indicator that you are going to mesh well, especially if it’s a smaller setting or a one on one type thing. And then to your point about WPI. I love a big conference. Now. Yeah, but kind of like you it was very intimidating and overwhelming in the beginning, because I didn’t have that confidence piece I didn’t have. I mean, the imposter syndrome was humongous, you know, and I felt like I was just walking in there thinking, what what am I even doing here? Why is this happening? But I think now that I do know, so many people, and I’ve been to so many things, I know what to expect? It’s not I don’t feel that way at all anymore. Oh, it’s

Annemie Tonken
totally Yeah, I and I’m with you. It’s not that I have any problem with any of the different kinds of conferences, but especially when you’re just starting, you want to set yourself up for the best scenario possible for you. Because those first, it’s kind of like, I remember writing a thank you letter to my older son’s kindergarten teacher who was so wonderful. And at the end of the year, I wrote to her and I was just like, you have put my son on a trajectory where he loves school, and you literally could not give a child a bigger gift. So you know, thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I’m sorry, you get paid a pittance. But it really is I feel like you want to put yourself in that really great kindergarten environment when it’s your first conference because it will set the tone and make you you know, the inspiration and factor for something like that is at least as much as the education factor.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, absolutely. So one last question. Before we get into the rapid fire questions. There is so much in education now. I mean, there’s online courses, there’s conferences, there’s workshops, there’s retreats, there’s mentoring, there’s masterminds. Where do you recommend somebody starts, I mean, there’s just so much to choose from, that could almost be paralyzing. Now, like you said, back when we started, the offerings were very small, fewer and farther between and now everybody offers something or multiple things. How do you recommend somebody figure out what’s a good fit for them? Where should they start?

Annemie Tonken
It helps if you have a really clear sense of what you need next. I mean, it’s hard as a small business owner starting out you have a million things that you could and shouldn’t be working on. And you can only handle one or a couple of them at a time. But I think trying to really think through what is the next what’s the most powerful next step that I can take that is going to open the door to the next kind of chamber of my business. Clearly, I’m around people who play video games. I have teenage boys like who unlock the next level but but the but yeah, what what is going to sort of what’s standing between you and the next step. And sometimes that’s going to be something related to your photography skills. Sometimes that’s more I would say more often that’s going to be something related to like your business and the way that you’ve got that set up. Your organization as a business owner, pinpoint that and then start to look around. I mean, again, like we are so fortunate at this point to have whether you are a visual person or an audio person or a like a reader, you there are lots of different resources out there, ask around, go into the like online forums and say, you know, I need to learn about setting up a CRM, like, I need to get that part of my business organized, where who have you guys learned from that’s been great. I think that that is an amazing way to do research on who you should be following and then start to follow those people like listen to a handful of their podcasts or go down the Instagram, rabbit hole with them a little bit. And then you know, in so doing, find somebody that you feel like is speaking your language, follow them for a bit and see what it is that they offer. I am really a big fan of the and actually, we haven’t even talked about this. But I started running a conference with two other women back in 2017. And it’s a boutique conference that was born largely out of the fact that at the time, there were very few offerings for family photography focused boutique conferences. We learned over the course of several years of running this conference that sometimes like the big name instructors are not the best. Like they’re there. They’ve done it so many times it feels kind of rote, they’re kind of thrown phoning it in, they would bring us the attendees, because like tons of people follow them and whatever. But as instructors as teachers, it’s not to say they weren’t good, but sometimes they, in fact, never once in any of our conferences, we always did a survey at the end where we were like, What was your biggest takeaway was your biggest aha moment. And we almost never, they were almost never the ones that people quoted or said like their talk was the one. Even though those same people were like, This is why I showed up in their, like, entrance survey. So So yeah, look for those kind of maybe it’s the the instructor that is a newer to the scene, whatever, but but has enough, you know, you can still get those reviews and those recommendations from people. So it’s kind of a sweet spot. That’s kind of my best recommendation,

Sabrina Gebhardt
I almost always will recommend if choosing something in person. Size is, you know, flexible. But I feel like like, like with your story, stepping physically out of your desk off of the internet, as much as there are wonderful online courses that really teach you very specific skills, there is so much value to physically putting yourself inside of a community. And you almost always get not only what you’re promised, as far as the content you’ve been taught, but just being around industry people and the ideas that get bounced around, and that the conversations that happen over lunch and cocktails and whatever are so valuable. Granted, those are the more you know, expensive investments. But I really believe that for the most part, this is one of those scenarios where the more you pay, the more you are going to get out of it. And so I almost always tell people, if you can swing it timewise if it works with your calendar, if you can scrape the money together, go big, like do something in person first. Yeah. And then you can, you know, fine tune your things. So

Annemie Tonken
that’s, that’s great advice. I sort of took it as the like, where Which one do you choose, but in terms of format, I agree, if you’re like dipping your toe into education for the first time, or even if you’ve done some small stuff, but you’re ready to like take the next step the in person experience really can’t be can’t be matched in terms of the mental investment that you will inevitably make in addition to your you know, financial investment.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Okay, tell me really quickly what online offerings you have my friend because you have quite a lot

Annemie Tonken
I’ve been at this for a little bit I’m the primary thing that I teach and sell is something called the simple Sale system, which is kind of a start to finish business solution for photographers but it is basically a way that photographers can streamline their business if you’re familiar with in person sales, it takes many of the tenants of in person sales that help you make a lot of money but turns it into a more automated online process. I teach that for free and a master class at this can’t be that hard.com/simple And then I have a course that you can take to help you implement that if you want but I like to I like people to know that they can learn it for free. So I have that I have another course called revenue on repeat that is about setting up a membership in your portrait business and I and those are kind of my two main courses that I offer I you know, have little things here and there every once in a while but um, but those are the big ones.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Awesome. Okay, let me get you these rapid fire questions. Coffee Shop order. What’s your favorite? What’s your go to currently?

Annemie Tonken
Oh, I’m out milk latte so predictable.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with predictable at all. Okay, dream vacation.

Annemie Tonken
Um,

Sabrina Gebhardt
when you did just go hard, you did just go on an awesome vacation.

Annemie Tonken
I did. I’ve had a couple of recently because I like everybody else post pandemic, I was like, get me out of here. Yeah, I am. I am itching to get down to South America. Again, I haven’t been in about 25 years, I have an uncle who lives in Argentina. So I’m gonna put that as my as my top. I love

Sabrina Gebhardt
that. I’m thinking back over the course of your business, what was the biggest decision or investment you made that was had the biggest game changer for you?

Annemie Tonken
There are so many little ones and big ones. So I think that I actually feel like and this is kind of a backwards answer to that question. But starting that conference, which is called the family narrative, I don’t mean to be like cagey about it. We’re not opening ticket sales to the public this year. So but the but the family narrative, and the people that I met from doing that, and the lessons that I learned in setting it up, and like all of I mean, I really put myself in sort of a behind the scenes position. But I learned so much and have taken so so so much away from those connections. Like I feel like it was one of those I gave so much and received so much. And, and that’s true all the time. But yeah, the family narrative was a big turning point

Sabrina Gebhardt
for me. Love that. And if you were not a photographer slash Business Coach, what do you think you would be doing? Would you still be a nurse? Something different?

Annemie Tonken
No, no, nursing turned out I don’t take orders very well. I really like running my own business. I if I like, let’s say that I won the lottery, because I’m not quitting my photography business anytime soon. But if I if I did win, you know, the multi million jackpot, whatever. I would definitely go back to school and take I have like a secret future desire to write a novel. And so I would, I would move that plan up in the timeline.

Sabrina Gebhardt
love that. Okay, so before we leave, tell everybody where they can find you.

Annemie Tonken
Yeah. The podcast is called this can’t be that hard. And everything flows from there. So it’s this can’t be that hard. And, and on all the interwebs places. So

Sabrina Gebhardt
all right, I will have everything linked in the show notes. This was very fun, my friend. Thank you for coming on the show and chatting with me.

Annemie Tonken
No, thank you. It is a pleasure. And I am so excited that you have a podcast now you are just such an incredible passionate force for good in the photography industry. And I like I feel like this is I don’t want to say it’s overdue, because I’m sure you’re on exactly the timeline you should be on but I’m excited that you’re you’ve got this out there. Because everybody listening is going to benefit hugely.

Sabrina Gebhardt
You’re so sweet. Thank you my friend. All right, everybody. We will see you next week. Thanks. Thanks so much for listening to the shoot it straight podcast. You can find all the full show notes and details from today’s episode at Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash podcast. Come find me and connect over on the gram at Sabrina Gephardt photography. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be honored if you hit that subscribe button and leave me a review. Until next time, my friends shoot it straight.

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