Photography by Marsha Walker

Celebrating 12 years as a Central Valley Photographer

marsha walker, the photege, central valley photographer, celebrating 12 years as a business owner

It’s hard to believe that I’m celebrating 12 years as a Central Valley Photographer! 12 years since I made that first brave step into the city offices to apply for my business license. I remember the mixture of excitement and terror as I filled out the paperwork for my new adventure. I was giddy with so many mixed emotions and unsure of what I was getting myself in to.

I have experienced some of the coolest adventures and met some of the most amazing people over the last 12 years!

Because of photography, I’ve traveled to Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, NYC, Boston, Oregon, Florida and all over California. I have an Italy wedding in the works and I am ecstatic! Italy has always been a dream of mine!

I’ve learned about farming, real estate, grapes, almonds, animals, people and cultures… so much! I’ve shot almost every type of session you can think of!

As the years ticked by and each client stood in front of my camera, I learned a few things. 😉

Today, I want to share my top 12 nuggets of wisdom that I’ve collected through the school of life lessons.

1. Work hard. Stay humble. I know it sounds cliche but if you value hard work and remain humble in your endeavors, you will grow. 

    • Never be “too big for your britches”. Never be too proud to lend a helping hand. Over the years, I have bustled hundreds of dresses, pinned boutonnières, fixed bouquets, fetched water, glued on eyelashes, fixed stray hairs, tied shoelaces, carried babies, cheered up grumpy flower girls and ring bearers, put on and taken off veils, helped a bride hold up her dress so she could pee, I’ve even HAND SEWN a bridesmaid’s dress when her zipper broke minutes before the ceremony. I’ve done a lot of things that a lot of other vendors rolled their eyes at and stated “not my job.” MY JOB is to make my client feel absolutely fabulous, beautiful and stress free on their wedding day. I will do it all without batting an eyelash if it means my couples will have the day of their dreams. (I will add that if you have a wedding planner that handles all of this, it is obviously a more ideal scenario so I can concentrate all of my attention on beautiful imagery. But just know that I have your back if you need a helping hand!)

2. “A wise person learns from their mistakes but a wiser person learns from the mistakes of others.” Pay attention to your peers when they try to warn you of a mistake they’ve made.  You don’t know what you don’t know and when someone shares their wisdom with you, listen. And then…

3. Never be too proud to apologize when you mess up. There is power in recognizing your mistakes and learning from them. And then DO BETTER. 

    • I have lost track of the amount of times I watched a business owner refuse to accept responsibility for a mistake. (I’ve even experienced it as a customer.) Lots of excuses, deflection and blaming of others.  I know it sucks to make a mistake. It’s absolutely humbling and heartbreaking when a client is upset over an avoidable mistake. BUT GUESS WHAT? We are all human. There is not a single perfect person out there and most people are reasonable and just need business owners to OWN UP to a mistake, validate the emotions, and apologize and do what needs to be done to make it right. I have made lots of mistakes over the years. I have eaten lots of humble pie. But I have always had the mindset that there is a lesson to be learned with everything we go through, good AND bad. I don’t resent these life lessons. They have made me stronger.

4. Don’t be blinded or distracted by FOMO. Comparison is a thief of joy. Your walk is YOURS. Your neighbors walk is THEIRS. We don’t know the journey someone had to take to get to where they are. You can only control your own journey. Make wise choices. 

    • It’s so easy when we first get started to look out at all the “successful” people and compare ourselves. Especially now with so much social media out there. Instagram lifestyles look so glamorous and successful in those curated little squares. We get so wrapped up in what we *think* success looks like without actually knowing the story. It’s easy to jump and follow the trends and follow what “so-in-so” is doing to gain success. I remember the first time I met a “rockstar photographer” that I had looked up to for so many years and feeling so disappointed after one conversation. It was disappointing to see how fake their life was. I stopped worrying about Instagram followers and fake friends. (Fake followers don’t pay the bills. They just create a false sense of acceptance.)

5. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure helps shape your resilience and grit. Failure brings wisdom. NO ONE is perfect and no one “has it all together”. Respect the lessons that life brings your way and learn, grow and evolve. 

    • I can’t stress enough how important it is to be real with these life lessons. Accept them. It will make the process so much easier if you stop fighting it. The more you open your eyes and learn from these lessons, the more prepared you are to avoid repeating the same mistakes. You can’t avoid failure. It’s part of the process. Enjoy the journey. If you’ve never experienced failure, you’re not working hard enough.

6. Block the negative energy. Block toxic people. Learn to be ok with “losing friends” if they don’t match up with your morals, values and goals. Those aren’t friends. They will just be an anchor to misery. 

    • It is so freeing to hit that “unfollow” button on social media. I started realizing that if a certain account or person made me feel bad about myself, I needed to unfollow it to free my mind of negativity and self doubt. I’ve lost lots of “friends” over the years and that’s ok. I used to be the biggest people pleaser and spent so much energy making sure the people around me were happy that I neglected my own happiness and needs. You can’t fill from an empty cup. Once I started removing these toxic weeds from my life I felt so much better.

7. Build a strong foundation. Create rock solid systems to help you maintain your business professionally. Cultivate positive relationships with like minded professionals in your field and industry. 

    • This one is huge. From the very beginning, I always knew that I wanted to build my foundation before I built my clientele. I didn’t mind having 1 client a month while I was learning my systems and the legalities of being a business owner. I always imagined the analogy of fire. When you light a match, the flame is fast, hot, bright. When you light a campfire or logs in a fireplace, you have to light the fire, fuel and stoke the fire, let it catch and smolder, and it will burn for hours. I didn’t want fast fame. In fact, I never wanted fame at all. I wanted a solid, trustworthy, reliable and responsible business. I wanted my fire to self sustain. It took a lot of work but that smoldering took less and less babying and started burning hotter and hotter on it’s own with all the love I gave it over the years. I wanted my reputation to be one of respect and reliability. When it comes to cultivating relationships, learn how to be an asset to the people on your team. And by team, I mean anyone that has anything to do with any project you’re working on. I’ve met so many wonderful professionals over the years that have become great friends and have been instrumental in helping me grow. You have to learn to put your ego aside and meet people with an open mind.

8. Do not ignore the red flags. If your gut is telling you something is off or not right, learn to trust that intuition. It’s usually right. 

    • This goes for all aspects of life. People will show you who they are. Don’t ignore it. I’ve been burned by clients, vendors AND friends because I wanted to ignore that gut feeling by calling it “paranoia”. Business deals, friendships, relationships, investments, etc. The list can go on. Learn how to listen for and hear that inner voice. Be an asset but not a doormat. There’s a difference. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Learn how to separate emotion from business.

9. Run your business with INTEGRITY and ETHICS. Doing the right thing will always take you down a better path and open bigger and better doors. Treat people the way you would want to be treated. Respect people. Be nice. 

    • Integrity always wins. When you work unethically, you will always get caught. Even if it’s not right away; even if you think you “got away” with something, it will always come full circle.
    • Don’t steal from artists. Don’t back stab your fellow vendors. Don’t poach clients by stalking and undercutting your peers. I could write an entire topic on this alone.

10. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. Pay for workshops, invest in education, invest in advertising. Invest in new gear (but don’t go into debt!) If you’re too scared/cheap/uncomfortable to invest in yourself, why should your clients feel comfortable investing in you? Food for thought.

    • I was there. Investing in advertising is scary. Workshops are expensive. Some of those workshops end up being not as great as you expect. BUT. There is ALWAYS a lesson. And each investment brings a new lesson and a bigger horizon. When I started investing in myself, I saw HUGE elevations in my business. Once I started believing that I (and my clients!) were worthy of these investments, I grew technically, I matured, I gained confidence. My dad used to tell me “you have to spend money to make money” and that always plays in the back of my mind when I get scared to invest in myself. I knew what market I wanted to be in and in order to get there, I had to have faith in ME and elevate myself!

11. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Self care is important! Sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, HYDRATION… and block off time to unplug! If you burn out, your business will suffer. 

    • This one took me a long time to learn. I always felt guilty taking time off or carving out hours in the day to sleep and exercise. I love fitness and when I neglect physical activity, I begin to get stressed, depressed and unmotivated. Now, my workout hour is sacred and it’s my ME time. I also drink lots of water! You need to make sure and get plenty of that H2O.  It helps with your functions and your body will love you for it.

12. And last but not least: never, ever, ever give up. You may have to pivot or change paths here and there but never give up on yourself or your dreams. You are your biggest cheerleader. You know the dreams in your head and the desires in your heart. Believe in your worth and keep on going on! ♥️

    • “Adapt and overcome” has become my anthem. (I borrowed it from my boyfriend.) The only way to survive the fast pace of our world and technology is learning how to adapt to the changes that constantly come our way and learning how to overcome with grace, poise and respect. This year has taught me so much about myself as a person and a business owner. I’m not sure how 2020 will end up but I know that no matter what, I am strong, I am worthy, and I am enough.

I hope that some of these little nuggets of wisdom helped anyone struggling to stay positive and hopeful. If you have any questions or want to chat, send me a message! I’m always willing to help with what I can.

xoxo- Marsha

If you want to read a little bit more about my journey, click here.

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