Welcome back to another edition of Mentor Monday!
My love affair with Erin Cobb is six years strong and shows no signs of fading. She has taken all of our family portraits since Charlotte was a newborn and we have her work adorning almost every room in our home. She has the amazing ability to put children at ease and smiling with natural smiles (not those awful ones that only a mother could love) and also make parents feel less awkward about being in the picture. Since we have been doing portraits with Erin she has evolved from a completely on-site, natural light photographer to having her own beautiful studio called The Cottage where she shoots with lighting.
Despite how her star has grown (Certified Professional Photographer, spots on ClickinMoms and The Creative Mama, and Heart Gallery Hero) she has remained a giving professional who is quick to offer advice, support, or help you in your business. This interview in itself is a perfect example. And she’s grown her business greatly, all while being the Mama of two elementary aged children who are delightfully kind and polite. I think we’re all going to learn a lot from Erin today!
Tell me about your business, how you got started, and your inspiration.
I own Erin Cobb Photography in Huntsville, Alabama where I specialize in photographing babies, children and families. The seeds of this business were planted 10 years ago when my first child was born, and they sprouted a bit when a photograph I took of her won the Baby Gap casting call in 2007. After lots of planning, learning, reading and thinking I launched the business in March of 2008. I’m inspired every day by happy, loving families who seek to capture the fleeting moments of their togetherness. Families like Jennifer’s, who I have photographed since 200…9? I think?
What kind of tools do you use in your business?
My literal tools of the trade: camera, computer, software, lighting systems. But most of the “work” comes in the form of one-on-one connections with the children and families I photograph. And for, that I rely on my personality. Kindess matters!
Let’s talk about the elusive work/life balance. How do you handle it? Any tips for us?
Keeping a balance in my life has always been important to me. There was a time in the early days of this business when I could feel that balance slipping away but I’m proud to say that it’s something I think I do a pretty great job of now. I set pretty firm limits with my time. For example, I am the one who takes my children to and from school 95% of the time. During the school year family dinners are the norm. (Summer is nuts and all bets are off). Keeping my home organized and neat (if not always *clean*) helps me maintain a feeling of control and the whole family contributes to those efforts. I schedule clients between 8 and 2 when my children are at school, or after 4 when they can come with me. I charge a bit extra for weekend sessions which helps keep my weekend work to a minimum. My biggest time management tip is to start the work day off with 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time at your desk. For me this means answering EVERY email in my inbox and creating a task list for the day. The task list goes on a post-it note, which is key. A post-it can only hold 6-8 items if I write small. Any more tasks than that on a to-do list is unrealistic. Setting a set of achievable goals for each day is truly the secret to success for me!
What three things must you do every day?
The three things I must do each day are: eat good, healthy food (and a glass of wine never hurts); love on my family; connect with at least one friend.
Where do you see your business in the future?
I started my working life 15 years ago as a kindergarten teacher and I thought I’d do that forever. For that reason, I have let go of long term career plans. My most successful endeavors have been things I never could have dreamed were on the horizon! I know for sure that in one year I see myself here at the Cottage (my photography studio) photographing Huntsville’s most fabulous families. I imagine that’s what 5 and 10 years looks like too…but I’m always open to all possibilities that come my way!
What’s the biggest business lesson that you’ve learned so far?
The biggest business lesson I’ve learned so far is to never say never. I take on jobs, projects and challenges now that I never would have dreamed of 8 years ago. Being open to all the opportunities that life brings is a refreshing way to do life! Having said that, knowing when to say “no” has been a key business lesson as well. Oh, the paradoxes of business…
Who do you go to for advice and feedback about your business?
My husband is the best listener and advice-giver when it comes to my business. He knows me better than anyone, supports all of my wild ideas, and encourages me with kind, loving words. He’s also in charge of paying all of the taxes which keeps me out of jail. So that helps.
Is there anyone that you make sure to keep up with online?
I spent a lot of time online in the early stages of my business but now I find that it can be distracting to pay too much attention to all the noise out there. So these days I mostly limit myself to voices outside of my own industry. Having said that, I do put a lot of stock in voices from our professional organization – Professional Photographers of America. Other than that, I listen to a lot of NPR while I edit…with some Jason Isbell, Brett Dennen and the like when I need some good tunes.
Where can we find you online?
Well, I got a lot out of that and I hope you did as well. I love her tip of writing your to-do list on a post it because you can only list a handful of things! Seeing as how I’m looking at a Day Designer with a full-page of items on today’s to-do list I think that might help me set more realistic goals! What about you? How do you organize your to-do list to stay on top of the work/life balance? Let me know in the comments!