How Everything Changed Thanks To My Sucky Work/Life Balance
If you had told me two years ago that over half of my business income would come from designing websites for other photographers, I would have told you that you were crazy. I’ve been in business as a photographer for nearly a decade, and I can honestly never remember a time when my website wasn’t a giant pain in my ass. I legit hated thinking about it, working on it, and I stressed over it big time. I always felt like something wasn’t quite right with it, but I could never really put my finger on it. And the resources and education beyond just “how to set up a website on such-and-such platform” where really, really hard to find.
So two years ago I set out to educate myself on not just how to build a pretty website, but on how to build an effective one. A website that goes beyond just gorgeous images, important though those are, and one that actually represents who I was, and spoke to the idea that a website is for THEM - my visitors and target audience - rather than for ME. Because up until that point, I always just built what I thought looked pretty. I got sucked into pre-made templates that looked visually gorgeous but were missing key things. I would tweak and obsess over the images I included, and all but ignore the content and words. And I didn’t give two cares about things like navigation, buyer readiness, call to action sequences, purchasing flow, or a million other things that really, really matter.
But as I started to learn about those systems - as I started to understand how important of a thing a good website is - I realized that as photographers, we are woefully undertrained in this area. We’re all told we need a website, but there aren’t a lot of resources out there for understanding the whys behind a good website. And as I started digging further and further into what’s out there, I realized there was a need for solid, practical, tangible help in this area.
Like most things in life, this coincided with other things in my life: on the photography side of things, I was at the top of my game - having just published an eBook through Craft & Vision, I was traveling once a month for sessions all over the country, and the mentoring and workshops I ran were doing better than ever. And then things shifted.
My oldest daughter started kindergarten, and all of a sudden, missing out on precious weekend time with her was really, really hard.
Traveling from where I live was costing me an entire day on either side, forcing my husband to take vacation time to cover childcare - and I started realizing that I was working really, really hard, and it was costing us the ability to take vacations and build our own family memories because my husband was using all his vacation time so I could work.
And then the day before I was schedule to travel to teach in person workshop, I got a horrible case of strep throat, and the reality of the responsibilities I had when traveling sunk in. It was always in the back of my mind - what would I do if I got sick, or a flight was cancelled, or, or, or - but I kind of just pushed those thoughts to the side and figured I would deal with it when it happened. And then it did happen. It took a shot of penicillin, an upgrade to first class, and a huge amount of “suck it up” - but I got through it. And when I got home, I decided I was done. It was the final of three things pushing me to admit something I didn’t want to admit: that after working for YEARS to get to the point I was it - living the “dream”, traveling for family sessions - I had to admit that I didn’t love it. I did love the families, and I loved the trust that they put in me - but I didn’t love the stress, the juggling, and the insane things I was doing to minimize the effects on my own family.
It became obvious to me that I was failing miserably at that whole work/life balance thing. As much as my heart was dedicated to preserving memories for others, my own memories and moments with my family were slipping by in a blur of travel, stress, and constantly overwhelmingly, achingly busy.
So I decide enough was enough. But then I was faced with the very realistic problem of figuring out how to replace that income with something else. I thought about a million things during this time - more online workshops, another book, wedding photography, commercial projects, more mentoring, etc - and as I was thinking through and planning out a long term solution, people kept emailing me and asking me about websites and design. I played around with designing logos for friends, and started reading about building a brand and how it translates to branding and websites, and before I knew it I was getting more inquiries for websites and branding than I was for photography sessions. It seems that a way had opened up without me even realizing it. And it turns out, that once I was armed with the right information, designing a website is like a giant strategy game full of problems, solutions, and chances to be creative - and that? I LOVE.
That was two years ago, and in that time I’ve built well over 30 websites for other photographers, crafted dozens and dozens of branding schemes, and worked on a number of other design projects, some for other photographic educators that you likely have on your computer's hard drive right now. I even started teaching a new workshop at Illuminate Classes on website strategy, and booked my first of several (local!) commercial film shoots.
It's always amazing to me how life finds a way - how the universe listens, if you only know what to ask.
And the irony isn't lost on my either - that the thing that I used to hate more than anything else in my business, dealing with my website, has now become an integral part of my livelyhood. And in doing so, I’ve come to understand WHY I was so frustrated - and I’m now able to identify and relate with other photographers who feel that same way, and help them in a unique way. And it's humbling to have come full circle and now have the ability to help so many with their own website struggles in such a tangible, specific way.
Because I’m not just a website designer, I’m also a photographer - which means I understand not just how to build you an amazing website, but I understand the ins and outs of the industry and what your pain points are - because they have been mine as well. So when a fellow photographer comes to me with a problem, I can truly understand it from start to finish, and offer more than just design guidance, but strategy, mentorship, business and marketing advice, and so much more.
I can help you with things you likely didn't even realize you needed help with.
And so, StoryRoad Creative was born: STORY, as in the evolution of something, and ROAD, as in a course of action that leads to a particular outcome. A new, online space and business that reflects this transition in my journey, but also in the transition YOUR journey is about to take with me. You can still find all my photography work and mentoring at my katedensmore.com website, but now all things websites, design, and strategy will live at storyroadcreative.com.
I’m so honored to continue to serve you in this way, and I hope that between the resources, tutorials, templates, and custom design options I have available in this space, you’re able to find just what you need.
Thank you, as always, for trusting me to be a part of your photographic journey!