Even though you can learn almost anything online, even I (at a website for online learning) think that in-person learning is incredibly important. Learning in-person is of particular importance for photographers. We spend the majority of our time working at home alone. Sure, maybe your kids are running around or watching Dora while you get things done. However, that’s no replacement for adult and peer interaction at work.

Everyone, even self-employed business owners, need the support of their peers to get through business. I don’t think I’d be here today without the backing of mine. We can rant to each other when things go wrong, talk about the latest industry news, and learn from each other’s experiences. Unfortunately, you can’t get that when you work at home, and you only see clients once or twice a week while you’re photographing them at a wedding.

That’s why learning in-person is so important. When you’re at a workshop, conference or event not only do you get that in-person learning experience where you can ask questions and hear the tone of the people teaching, but you also get to make friends. FRIENDS. They are integral to business. Every time I talk to a few of my “real life” friends who don’t own businesses we just can’t relate to work life. My work life is so different from someone who works for a corporation 9-5 or the government. Our perspectives are entirely different, and it is difficult for those friends to relate to what I’m doing in business. It’s not their fault; it just is the truth.

The best thing I’ve ever come away from a photography event with was friends. These are the people I can text and ask questions, share stories with (good and bad) and just learn together. We know we’re going through the same struggles and hopefully the same successes too. That’s why I wanted to share some of my favorite events with you.

1. The best event I’ve ever been to was The Blink Conference. It’s a small boutique experience. I’ve been to smaller conferences before, but nothing was as genuine as Blink. The people going to Blink are what makes it amazing. Not the speakers or the things you learn (which are also absolutely fantastic and worth it), but the people the best part. I’ve been part of communities before where I thought I was in the right place with the right people, but it all ended up being superficial. Blink is the kind of community where the connections you make are purposeful and creates a significant impact. I was just there in November for the first time, and I know I’ve already made friends for a lifetime. People who cry with you, celebrate with you and most importantly – believe in you. Just the other day one of them, Stacy Pierce (or as we like to call her, Stacy FIERCE) called me, and we ended up on the phone for a good 3 hours. It was the best 3 hours too. I met LaJune King there, who has a business called, Know YOUR Beautiful. No, that was not a grammar error. Her message is about helping women know what their beautiful is and owning it. What’s funny is that LaJune and I barely spoke, one day in a stairwell and yet she’s had a big impact on me since I left. I also met Feuza Reis at Blink. Who knew we’d be two peas in a pod? She’s encouraged me, taught me and already made a big difference in my life since Blink. I also met Denise Espinoza there. We spent the last evening laying on hammocks talking about our lives, our struggles (some pretty deep stuff) and we ended the night ordering pizza and dipping our toes in the hot tub. That’s a connection I won’t forget. I also hung out with the ladies from CG Pro Prints, drove around in a convertible in Palm Springs (where Blink took place in 2016) and ironically the Mission Impossible song was on the radio. Now that’s a coincidence!

 

They say you are a reflection of the five people you talk to the most and I know I’ve picked a few negative people to be in my circle in the past. So I hope these ladies and these connections at Blink will help me be a better version of myself. Blink is number one on my list of places to be and learn from because of these connections. I know you might be balking at the price, but know it’s worth every penny. The education was also priceless and inspired me to do some pretty big things lately, like putting on the Revive Summit! If you can’t afford Blink consider making the monthly payments, because you won’t regret a single penny you spend going there.

2. WPPI makes my list. Not because it’s in Vegas or because I think the conference itself is excellent, but because it’s a place most of your photographer friends will go, so it’s a great way to hang out and be with the people you’ve made connections with online, but in person. I can’t say I’ve been terribly impressed with the education I experienced in past years at WPPI, but there were several years I didn’t go to the platform classes or master classes. I know there has been turnover as well in who is teaching. What I’m saying is, don’t rely on my opinion for the education.

Aside from spending time with your industry friends at WPPI, the best part is the trade show. If you want to get ideas for the latest industry trends, be introduced to better companies and strategies for running your business behind the scenes, or check out products before you buy them, go to the trade show. The trade show is huge, and there is a lot to see, so I encourage you to spend more than one short day there. I can be very overwhelmed in loud, busy and visually stimulating situations, and I struggle walking through the trade show sometimes.

All of that aside, I recommend going. It’ll be a great place to hang out with friends and friends are where I learn the most about what to do and what not to do. Simple conversations talking about business with other people are where I learn most and WPPI is an excellent place to have those conversations and make connections with new friends.

3. Make friends in your local community with a local Facebook group. This option is hard, but with any luck and a little effort, you can become less competitive friends with other local photographers. In Denver, we’re lucky to have a group called the Denver Betties, full of lady photographers. We have a local get together, local events and the group is always busy with people asking questions and people answering them. I’ve made some awesome friends in this group, and it’s so convenient to have those industry friends close to home!

4. I can’t post this blog post without shouting out The $99 Workshop, hosted by yours truly. Yep, it’s $99. I worked pretty hard this past year to bring the price down because I believe in affordability and awesomesauce at the same time. Thanks to friends at Bliss Bridal Boutique in Denver, and a few sponsors you can come to Denver and pay a smaller price for an intimate workshop instead of a larger price on top of all the travel fees you pay as well. Every year I learn new things about blogging, social media, branding and business stuff and this workshop is all about conveying that information to you and helping you with your marketing. So I hope to see some of you there! The workshop is VERY limited for space, so once spots are full that’s it!

5. If going to something in-person is absolutely out of your budget I understand. I’ve been in that place too with business. Sometimes you need to prioritize your extra funds for other stuff. In that case, that’s why I started to build the Revive Summit, which is a free online 4-day event January 25-28th this month. You can learn from a huge variety of speakers and get exposed to some new stuff from our sponsors as well. Plus you have chances to win some things too! Even if you can go to some in-person events this year, Revive is something you won’t want to miss! Plus as soon as you register you get a free video from me with ten ways to boost your social media engagement in 2017!

If anyone plans on being at Revive, WPPI, Blink next year, or The $99 Workshop let me know and I’d love to see you!

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Carrie Swails

I'm a serial entrepreneur. Owner at Photography Awesomesauce, Rock Your Weird and Made in the Lab and I photograph offbeat weddings. In other words, I'm crazy. I have a birthmark in my armpit, and am a terrible mathematician. What I lack in understanding of complex theories such as Pi (clearly a food item - apple is my favorite) and invisible numbers (if I can't see them, why should I care?) I make up for in awesomesauce. I believe there is no right way to put the toilet paper on - I'm just happy it's available. I believe there's no such thing as a bad fortune in a fortune cookie. I believe we only live life once so we should wear costumes as often as possible. I believe wine is like the force - it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. I howl with my basset hound every morning, call my brother to beat video game bosses for me, and love eating fried cheese.

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