Kristin is a long-time wedding photographer, turned business coach to creatives. In this episode, she walks us through how she helps creatives in her mastermind create multiple revenue streams. She also shares with us how she built her team during the pandemic.
John Meese 0:03
Kristen, thank you so much for joining me. How are you doing today?
Kristin Sweeting 0:26
Good. Thank you for having me. And this is such a treat.
John Meese 0:29
Well, it's my pleasure. I'm glad we got a chance to do this. And we've been talking about it for a while. And so I'm glad we're here. So well, Kristen, you and I are not only professional acquaintances, but also friends. And then in this, I forgot to say, so I got a great dance in response to that. Anybody who's listening doesn't get the benefit of that. They just get the awkward pause. So yes, but thank you, Kristen. Appreciate that. So what I wanted to ask Kristen, what gets you out of bed in the morning,
Kristin Sweeting 0:58
oh, man, a five year old who comes into bed with us. And now two puppies that also climb into bed with us. So yeah, but on a professional level, I mean, I love I love getting to create things. And I love helping creative people build their businesses. And that I just like I wake up every morning and am excited to start the day and start working because I have so much fun.
John Meese 1:26
That's awesome. Well, we need some more of that. So I love By the way, I can already tell anybody who's used to listening to my podcasts and think John's just so positive. Well, now you know, there are people in this world who are way more positive than I am and make me sound like a Debbie Downer. So thank you, Kristin. So let's talk a little about what that means practically. So let's actually, if we could actually back up a couple years, what is your business look like? I guess when we met, I don't remember how many years ago that was. But you know, your son Hudson and my son, Damian are good friends. And that, you know, it's been a great anchor in our relationship. So a couple years ago, what did your business look like?
Kristin Sweeting 2:01
Yeah, so I mean, I've been a wedding photographer for about 10 years. And I, when Hudson was born, which was five years ago, I spent a lot of time really niching down into fancy destination, luxury weddings, and would take just a certain number year, and put a lot of effort into each one, like really personal experience. And a lot of times was traveling for them and getting to work with these couples for like a long time. So I think when I moved to Colombia, I was doing that I was doing a little bit of coaching, but mainly just for photographers, and more on like a one on one kind of way and getting into more of the educational space. But like very beginning doing that. So yeah, a lot has changed in the last three years, which is kind of crazy to put like time marks on it. Like that was only three years ago. That's crazy.
John Meese 3:02
Well, when you're talking about traveling to fancy weddings, can you give us an example of kind of I just want to set the stage a little bit for what we're talking about here because I think at the time we met your website said like, you know, Kristen Sweeting wedding photographer in Nashville and Paris or something like that. Right?
Kristin Sweeting 3:18
Yeah. So I had I had thought I was moving to Paris a few years ago, and so went through this whole big rebrand of like, I shoot weddings in Paris and I so yeah, I, I usually on a normal year, not 2020, right. We'll do a few weddings in France each summer or fall, or I get to travel for portrait sessions. So I've done weddings in Italy, France, I've done shoots in China, India, South America. And it's been such a cool part of my work, because I love traveling. And so before COVID like we were gonna be living in France for the summer, I was gonna be shooting European weddings and hosting retreats, and then like hard pivot.
John Meese 4:05
As we all have had,
We all have had, you know, this has been definitely that's been the theme of the Year for many of us. But what did that look like for you? So this year, did you already have weddings scheduled when that had to be either cancelled or rescheduled? Or what happened at the beginning of this year when COVID-19 became a household name?
Kristin Sweeting 4:24
Yeah, I mean, I went I shot a wedding in Florida, right as stuff was changing. And I remember making fun of people in the airport in my head that were wearing masks because I was like, this is not a big deal. I don't know what they're doing. And then like a week later, everything was canceled, everything was locked down. Most of my weddings now are 300 plus people and multiple six figures are getting spent on these events. And so every single one of them moved their dates to next year or to some like undetermined time in the future. So yeah, so it was all of a sudden like, blank calendar. Here we go all travel plans off the table all weddings off the table. So yeah, and we we had to pivot fast. I think you guys did too.
John Meese 5:16
Yes. So but we're but as far as your pivot goes, and what did that look like you mentioned before that should have been doing some coaching some online products, you know, online teaching and that kind of stuff. So, this year, how is your business shifted? That's why I wanted to talk about a little bit.
Kristin Sweeting 5:30
Yeah, totally. This was my first year really running a larger mastermind. So it's a coaching program for creatives. And one of the main objectives in the program was building multiple streams of revenue, which I'm really passionate about as a creative because sometimes things happen and you can't shoot weddings, or like this year, I also broke my hand, and I had to cancel a bunch of things. So it's like, sometimes things happen. So it's really kind to yourself to have multiple streams of income. And I think something, something virtual that you can do, no matter what. So I had been building this group coaching program. And so just really leaned into that side of things, did a lot of online speaking, and podcasting and creating of content and launching coaching programs, because then it became a two on the enneagram. And like, then it became, I need to help everyone else through this, which is a little bit too much pressure to put on yourself, where it's like, Okay, I'm gonna save everyone's business. Let's go, you know. And so, like, I'm backed down that a little bit, but still do really want to help people navigate through this time. So, so yeah, I'm still done a few photography projects this year. But mostly, it's been coaching and speaking and like online courses, as
John Meese 6:49
well. So in your coaching group and your mastermind group, you have direct access to these creatives. And you mentioned that they may be more than just photographers in this group. Is that right? What kind of creative Are you working with?
Kristin Sweeting 6:59
Yeah, so I do work with a lot of photographers, I also have artists, people who make things coaches, financial coaches, VAs, therapists. And it's a wide range of creatives, anyone who kind of feels like they feel creative, or they relate better to quirky, fun, creative people is welcome in this group. So it's been really, really fun to see a whole group of people pivot and thrive through this to, and I think a lot of our natural inclinations would have been to be like, Oh, I guess I'm not working ever again. And, you know, give up on all of this. And they just adapted so well. And I think because they have each other.
John Meese 7:39
Mm hmm. Yeah. So I love that. And I love that you've been able to not only adapt your own business, but also serve so many other creatives, you know, in, in the midst of that shift hasn't been anything that came out of that, that really surprised you in terms of, you know, whether it be a specific industry and kind of how they pivoted or responded or maybe how your community, you know, rose up, has there been anything that really surprised you in that pivot?
Kristin Sweeting 8:02
Yeah, I definitely think that the pivot has shone a light on what things weren't working, and what things were even faster than they would have before, you know, like, things I thought were so essential to a program, all of a sudden became non essential. And we found other ways to spend revenue or hire teams or do things like that. So I think in a lot of ways, it gave us a lot more room to grow. Because we were a lot more focused on a result in providing like support for this community, instead of planning all these big events, or doing all these things that cost a lot of money. And I got to use that revenue to build a team, which I think now I'm so passionate about, because it's like if your business is going to thrive, you should be redistributing it somehow. And I think a really good way to do that is with a team and hiring really talented people and treating them really well. So that's been a fun pivot of this year as I went from a team of one to like a team of five and get to figure out how to how to lead a team in a way that feels like not oppressive, that feels very reciprocal, and, like beautiful and supportive. And so anyway, that's been a surprise for me is how much I've loved growing a team and have done that in the middle of a pandemic, which is like I didn't expect to either of those things.
John Meese 9:33
Did your team ever meet in person or work in person? Or is it all completely virtual?
Kristin Sweeting 9:37
It's all virtual. We had one and we had one in person meeting that we did a smaller meeting in the fall. And it's like people who I've hired we I finally saw them in person for the first time. I'm like, oh we've been talking like all the time. And now I didn't even realize that didn't meet you in person. So yeah, everyone's virtual. And everyone has a lot of freedom. And I really, it's really important to me, too. kind of support the whole person. So one cool thing we got to start doing as a team is a reimburse people's counseling expenses, which is like been huge going through a pandemic like that. It's just like, so now seeing creativity and a different way of not just what can you create to sell? But what kind of community can you create? What kind of culture can you create with your business? And how can you serve people that way, and create something where you are like collaborating together?
John Meese 10:28
Yeah. So I know, there's a lot of people who are currently going through shifts, or maybe they're either building a new team, like you or they had a team that was in person, and now it's suddenly a remote team, and they're trying to navigate that. And I have heard some horror stories of how people have struggled to navigate that. I think the one that sticks out to me the most is I heard of one organization where some of their employees had shared and posted online and said, like, yeah, so their instructions were, hey, we're all working remotely. So just make sure you have that zoom, call open by about 8:55am. And just, you know, keep that camera up, and then you can turn it off about 5pm. You know, you understand if you if you have to get up for a minute, just leave the camera on so we can know that you're gone that you'll be back.
Kristin Sweeting 11:07
Oh, my God.
John Meese 11:10
Yeah. And so that's like, their way of going remote or virtual as they're like, we'll just pretend like we're all in the same room all the time. So we can watch you. And I'm sure I know. That, you know, so I assume you're not doing that grits. And to put you on the spot here. But, uh, but what are you doing to support your remote team during, you know, during a time when you're expanding your business?
Kristin Sweeting 11:32
Yeah, totally. I'm still figuring it out, honestly. I mean, we have a voxer channel. So like a text message channel, or we can voice an audio message. And then we have a team meeting once a week. And then I try to be better about kind of, like saying, here's the things that need to get done this week, or here's what kind of we're working with. And then giving people lots of space. So and I'm, you know, one of the things a big part of our our company, culture is freedom. Everyone wants to be free. Everyone wants to, like have flexibility with their schedule. So but like with freedom, there's also boundaries, so trying to navigate that of, you know, we, we like to cuss on this podcast, I want if you're not,
John Meese 12:17
I've never set the rules. I don't think we will. I think we've made it for the most part PG, maybe pG 13. But I've never said Oh, and then,
Kristin Sweeting 12:26
um, by started calling Friday, F-off Friday, and we all take an F-off day, and you know, anyway, at home, trying to give each other freedom and work within boundaries has been something we're still working on. But it's been fun to be like, what else can we do? That's awesome. And also, and that lets us have the freedom and fun that we want to have with our businesses
John Meese 12:51
So does that mean you really just take the day off? Or do you guys have like, oh, okay, great. Okay, good. So yes, yes.
Kristin Sweeting 12:58
Yeah, I try to turn my phone off, I try to let you know. Because I think that's the other thing too, is when you start building a team is like, you don't want to be away from your phone. Because what if they need something and some right, we all need to take the day off, and then none of us have to worry about it.
John Meese 13:13
I love that. That's a great example. So So you had this highly successful business where you could just take a handful of clients, you know, huge weddings, massive budgets, massive events. I mean, these are like the, you know, this is not the same wedding budget I was working with. I do you had this business, it was kind of a dream business, right? Because you could just have a handful of clients, and you could be set financially, and that disappeared. But in that void, you build something else. So when you look at what you have right now, compared to what you had with the wedding, really that's that's how your business being the main focus. Can you speak to like, are things better? Different worse, in some ways? I mean, you know, what does that what does that look like? Cuz that's really just that's completely changed the makeup of your, of your business life, I assume?
Kristin Sweeting 14:03
Yeah. I love how things have evolved. I think one thing that was hard about being like a wedding photographer, and running this kind of level of service based business is like, if something happened to me, it didn't matter. I just show up and do that wedding. There was no day off. There was no Sick Day, there was no oh, I have pneumonia, I can't be there. It's like, you're kind of doing it no matter what. So I, you know, had for years of doing this business, worked through, worked through lots of different things in my life that came up and I had to keep going anyways. And so I think one thing about growing this other business now not only is it more financially, like there is more scalable, so there's more we can do with the same amount of time. Also, I have a team and oh, if I'm sick, I can have someone else cover for me, that's like a new thing for me because I usually, I am my own wing woman. And now I have other wing men and women, which is really, really awesome. So I think like, it's allowed me more freedom, in that sense of like, I can have actual life and have someone step in and cover for me if I have a day where I can't work. And it's also it's also really cool to to get to bring together a lot of talented people and allow them to do stuff that they're really good at, and encourage them to do that. So. So yeah, honestly, I'm, I'm really, really thankful for the pivot. And while I'm still doing weddings, I love this side of my business and the team that gets to build and I'm not having to do it alone.
John Meese 16:30
Well, that's that's huge. When you talk to your mastermind group, you mentioned that a big part of the focus is having multiple revenue streams. And I love how you phrase that as really just a gift of being kind to yourself to have multiple revenue streams. And I can definitely attest to that. I mean, this it's been a gift this year, to not have my coworking space be the only revenue stream in our life during the lockdown and the pandemic. So, when you do approach that with the members of your mastermind group or with coaching clients of any kind, do you have a specific framework? Or how do you draw out with those revenue streams could be? I'm thinking about the creatives who are listening to this podcast right now who are picking up and saying, okay, I want to be kind to myself, Kristin, how do I be kind to myself?
Kristin Sweeting 17:11
Yeah, totally. Yeah, I mean, we call it our four pillars of a creative, dangerous creative business, because that's our brand Dangerous Creatives,
John Meese 17:20
creatives, and the Danger Scchool as your program as well, right?
Kristin Sweeting 17:22
Yes, yeah. And Danger School is one of our coaching programs. So we have the four pillars, ones being meat and potatoes, which is kind of like your retainer clients, something that is going to be maybe something you don't advertise that you do, but something that gives you consistent revenue every month, and you can count on it a little bit more. For some people, that may be a part time job. For me, sometimes it's like a commercial client that don't really advertise that I have retainer client. The second one is big stars, which is like the main thing that you sell, whether it's your high end wedding photography, or your big art Commission's or your, you know, something that you can have a fairly large chunk of income come in with one sale. And then the next one is your add ons or your enhancers. So anything that you can sell to the first two pillars would be an add on or an enhancer. And a lot of people neglect that one, you actually can actually can bring like a full time income just from that one to our lead, like clients that you already have. It's really, that's the easiest sale to make right is to a current client already. And then the other one is PJ profit, which is some kind of info product or using leveraging something that you already have or know to create something that's going to create revenue for you. So
John Meese 18:43
while you're in your PJs, or what's the idea that it creates revenue while you're in your PJs,
Kristin Sweeting 18:48
right, exactly, yeah, like you don't have to go anywhere. It's not dependent on you showing up and doing a service. You know, I'm broke my hand scootering with my son and like, still had some PJ profits that were bringing in money, when I had to pay other people to do my job for me for a while. So yeah, those are that's kind of the framework we walk people through, and don't focus on doing all of them at the same time, you kind of have to build one before you build another. But then, you know, when one gets knocked down, like a house can still kind of stand up with three pillars. You know,
John Meese 19:20
that's a great framework. I love that. So if someone who's listening is right now is thinking okay, well, I'm not sure which of those four I have or maybe I don't have any, any four of them. Do you recommend focusing on what would you recommend focusing on first is the meat and potatoes.
Kristin Sweeting 19:33
I it's either the meat and potatoes or the big stars depending on your level of comfort and anxiety. If you know about yourself that you like to have know something consistent is coming in all the time. Focus on your meat and potatoes. If you're a little bit more like free and wild and just want to focus on the big stars first, then I think that's a great it's like exciting, and it's your thing, and those things will shift and change like now I feel like my meet and potatoes is my weddings. And my big star is my mastermind. So it's changed in the last couple years, and I kind of can rotate what my four pillars are, as my business keeps growing.
John Meese 20:10
That's pretty cool. That's great. So that add ons then enhancers, I love that you said that that's one of the ones that people miss a lot. And then it's something that can bring in even a full time income from your current clients. Can you give some examples of what those enhancers might look like in a creative business, either in your own one of your clients or just an example?
Kristin Sweeting 20:26
Yeah, totally. I mean, anything that you sell as a big star, so if your service is photography, for example, like I sell wedding photography, so an enhancer is anything that's going to make the clients experience better before or after. So an engagement session would be an add on or an enhancer for before or an album would be one for after a big chunk of my revenue with photography comes from selling albums, or, and some other kind of session around it rehearsal, dinner coverage, multiple days of coverage. So there's all these things that you can be you can go back to your client and say, Hey, did you think about adding this on? You know, the biggest thing to get creatives over is selling or pitching themselves. And I always say it doesn't have to be scary. All you're doing is suggesting something and if they don't want it, you move on. It's not like it's not rejection, it's not so scary. You just say Hey, have you thought about this? And that's your pitch. It's so much simpler than people make it. So yeah, so that's an example for that if you're an artist, doing custom framing, doing, you know, selling kind of a bigger, a bigger project to someone who's already bought something from you would be an add on. Or maybe some kind of lesson like teaching people how to paint that goes along with a painting that they're getting, or something like that your PJ profit can also be your add on air enhancer. Oh, yeah. If you make some kind, of course, or PDF or something like that, it can be something that you add on as well.
John Meese 21:55
Well I love that. That's I think those are phenomenal examples. Thank you for expanding upon that. So you also have a podcast of your own. Do you not?
Kristin Sweeting 22:03
I do yeah,
John Meese 22:04
the poor talk about Yeah, where we're at would talk briefly about what that is, in case there's someone who's listening to this that wants to listen in.
Kristin Sweeting 22:11
It changes all the time, John. And sometimes it's just me interviewing people other creatives about things they've done in their business, we pick a topic to talk about, sometimes, I just do some solo shows for a while. I think one of my last ones was with my fiance because we were talking about what's it look like to you know, date an entrepreneur who already has a kid who's already been through this before. And so we just like talked for a while about all of that. And then his journey into into entrepreneurship and pursuing stuff he likes doing. So yeah, the porch cast. We just we talk about real stuff. We talk about money. We do cuss on the porch cast, because I'm a potty mouth. John is still my friend even though - I cuss too much
John Meese 23:00
Yeah, no, I it's funny people. In every walk of life people around me who like I know who are friends. Like, I don't think I've ever spoken to a friend or family member and said anything about cussing one way or the other like saying like, discouraging it. But I give off this vibe. Like people are with me. And they just like apologize. Like they'll say something and they'll just be like, I'm so sorry. I'm like.. It's fine. I'm not, I'm not enforcing.
Well, we all know you're one on the enneagram. And
That's true, though. It's true. So well. Great. Well, Christy, thank you for sharing that. I appreciate that. So if someone wants to listen to your podcast, that's it. They just search. Is it Porchcast or Porchcasts?
Kristin Sweeting 23:40
Yeah, the Porchcast It's on Apple podcasts and Spotify. And it's just little chats. We record on my porch. John, John's on my first podcast.
John Meese 23:49
That's good. That's good. I think I can think of at least one interview where I don't think there was any cussing, right. So yeah, no Kristin's, Kristin's great. Let's talk about that for a second. This is totally off topic. But I'm curious because people have philosophies on this. The, you know, you just, as you just phrase it, you said I have a potty mouth. What, which is a very like PG way to describe the situation. But as an entrepreneur who speaks online as a creative, have you thought through that in terms of kind of like what you think? I mean, I knew that you're very intentional person. And so I'm sure you have and so that's the reason why I'm asking is like, have you thought through? Why your use of vocabulary that you do?
Kristin Sweeting 24:29
Yeah, I mean, the way I teach building a business is like be authentic to who you are, and build your business on things that you care about. And so one of the things that we talk a lot about is empowerment and a little bit of rebelliousness and doing things differently, breaking the rules, breaking the mold of the kind of the system that we live within, you know, so we're a little bit rebellious and I it feels authentic to me to to cuss. Then I guess I don't even think about it. It just naturally comes out. But I feel like, you know, the when you build a business that is an extension of yourself, it does better because then you're not kind of creating this public image that doesn't really resonate with you. It's hard to make that up. So whether, you know, I don't think it should you cuss or should you not cuss. It's like which one feels more authentic to you, which feels like it is truer to who you are, and then build your brand or your business or your values off of off of that instead of you know what someone else says you should do.
John Meese 25:36
Okay, so that's a relief. So I don't have to start cussing just because it's like what the cool kids are doing. Yeah, it is authentic to me that I just I just don't. Yes. Well, thank you, Kristin. So well, where can we learn more about you and what you're up to online?
Kristin Sweeting 25:53
Yeah, my Instagram is @kistensweeting or dangerschool.com my coaching website. We have stuff about our mastermind and Danger School on there. So yeah, we're on Instagram a lot. Right now. I'm only instagramming pictures of my puppies. So
John Meese 26:12
If you want pictures of the puppies. You know where to go.
Kristin Sweeting 26:15
Some puppies while we're recording this on election day. And I'm like, I'm only sharing puppy content on election day.
John Meese 26:22
That's a good idea. That's a good idea. So all right. Well, thank you, Kristin for your time. I really appreciate it and keep up the good work.
Kristin Sweeting 26:28
Thanks for having me.
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