About Jeff Hellenbrand

Jeff Hellenbrand is obsessed with helping wedding entrepreneurs love their business and their life. If you don't have the business you want, it's because you aren't having enough fun. Learn how in the free teleclass.

Audio: My Secret Weapon

Okay, I’ve done it. I’ve gone and given up my my best coaching secret. It’s a tool I recommend to almost all of my clients and it’s responsible for creating a big shift in people’s lives. If you’re unhappy or exhausted, this is for you. It’s not going to be what you thought it was, but I promise you, if you try it out, it’s going to pay dividends. The call is just fifteen minutes. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip to the eight minute mark to hear about the coaching tool. The first part of the call is focused on how coaching helps wedding entrepreneurs, though, so you may not want to miss that.

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Audio: Flipping Marketing on it’s head

This week’s call is quick. In fifteen minutes, I highlight the difference between thinking like most people and being super creative when you’re at your best. I help wedding entrepreneurs see themselves and their world differently. When your perspective changes, your marketing strategy changes with it. And you’re going to be blown away by what happens as you become more and more fearless. The key to getting more of the brides you want isn’t spending more money. It’s a whole lot easier (and harder) than that.

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You Always Have a Choice

I love memes about first world problems. I’m just as guilty as anyone else when it comes to feeling sorry for myself about shtuff that really doesn’t matter. It’s not our fault – no matter what your circumstances in life may be, you get accustomed to them pretty quickly. What that means, though, is that even if you came into a bunch of money (or other form of success) all of a sudden, it wouldn’t necessarily change who you are or how you think. It wouldn’t make you happy. Because you’re stuck with who you are. This is awesome, because it means you can be happy without winning the lotto or marrying a supermodel.

Do you ever feel stuck? Like the world is out to get you? Well, it is.

Just kidding. Well, kind of. It sucks when you feel like you don’t have a choice. Most of us talk like we don’t have a choice all of the time (“I have to send this bride a proposal”). We talk like we’re slaves to our wedding clients, our kids and our dogs.

I’ll prove it. When was the last time you said, “I have to” or “I need to”? Was it today? Do you have things right now that you “should” be doing? Does that make you feel bad? It makes me feel bad. I hate being forced to do things. That’s what started the whole Boston Tea Party situation – people being coerced into doing things they didn’t want to. And look how that turned out – a lot of perfectly good tea gone forever. Of course, we’re talking about you (not other people) making yourself feel like you have to do stuff. I mean, nobody is actually telling you “You have to write a blog post this week…or else.” Though I would consider hiring someone to tell me that.

When you begin to live on purpose… life opens up.

One of the most powerful things I help coaching clients realize is just how much choice they have in every area of their lives. How would it feel if you knew you had a choice? When you begin to live (and act) on purpose, instead of doing things because you “have to”, life opens up. It becomes fun again. And easy.

Okay, okay, I don’t expect you to believe me (it can’t be that simple, right?). So let’s try an experiment. Pick something you “have to” do that you don’t want to do (something that doesn’t feel like a choice). What would happen if you didn’t do it? Would someone call the cops? Would you die? Even if you did die, you still have a choice. If you’re making the choice not to die – good choice!

This concept is deceptively simple. Don’t be fooled. Realizing that everything you do is a choice changes everything. It puts you back in the driver’s seat. Try it out today. The next time you feel like you “have to” do something or you “need to” do it, remind yourself that you really don’t. And then choose.

Time: Are you Penny Wise and Dollar Poor?

You’ve probably heard the expression penny wise and dollar poor. And you’ve heard that time is money. But time is also time, and unlike money (or any other resource) it is limited. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So you can get more money or happiness or fun, but you can’t get more time. As a wedding business coach, I help wedding entrepreneurs get a whole lot smarter about how they spend their time. It’s fascinating to me that someone who runs a successful business and understands the importance of investing money in the right places can still be somewhat foolish with how they spend their time.

Okay, let me give you an example. Most of the wedding business owners I work with think like bootstrapping entrepreneurs. When you’re starting out, you’ve got lots of time and no money. But now, they’re working with all of the brides they want (and the money is rolling in) and time is the scarce resource. The problem is that they still act as though there’s plenty of time and no money. So let’s say you’re a wedding photographer who’s now booked solid after a couple of years of hard work. Between photo editing, sales and client meetings and actually shooting the weddings you are slammed. Not to mention blogging, staying up on trends, trying to learn more about social media and everything else. You don’t delegate anything because you’re stuck in the old mindset of I-have-to-do-everything-myself.

So how do you break out of the penny-wise-dollar-poor mentality?

1. Know what you absolutely love to do (and are crazy-good at). Usually, for a wedding photographer, this is actually taking the pictures. This is where you want to spend the most time (because it makes you happy and it makes your life better).

2. Root out your time-hogs and give them to someone else. Many great photographers can outsource their photo editing to a cheap, but talented assistant. This isn’t just about saving time. If you dread doing your accounting chores each month, to the point where you are thinking about it constantly, imagine how much energy and time you’ll save by outsourcing that to a professional bookkeeper.

3. Know how you make money. Those time-hogs are sinister because they keep you from doing things that get you more business. Don’t try to do everything yourself just because you can. Outsource as much as possible so you can focus on getting more business (so you can spend more time doing what you love).

4. Love yourself. No joke. As a business coach, I don’t just give quick-fix advice (actually, I never do) – we explore why a coaching client isn’t being wise with their time. If you’re using up all your time on tasks you could outsource, ask yourself why. Chances are, there’s some fear there, or possibly the feeling that you don’t deserve to work just four days a week. It takes a strong person to love themselves and to say, “You’re worth it. You deserve to spend your life working on things that you love, instead of mind-numbing tasks.” Are you worth it?

5. Remember that this applies to money, too. I hear wedding business owners say things like “I can’t afford that” all the time in response to investments like marketing opportunities or (ahem) coaching. But what is your return on investment? If that marketing opportunity (or, ahem, coaching) will bring you ten times as much money as you pay for it, how can you afford not to? If it will save your sanity or give you ten more hours a week to spend on things you love, how can you afford not to make the investment?

It’s easy to think small and to make excuses. I do it all the time. But then I remember, there’s a better life out there for me. And for you, too. So if you are twice as productive on days when you hit the gym, can you afford not to hit the gym? I can’t.

Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Where have you been penny wise and dollar poor in your life (when it comes to time or money)? More importantly, what the hell are you going to do about it?

How to Be Rich

Most people I talk to in the real world follow on Facebook want to get rich quick. The last few weeks we’ve been bombarded by talk of the lottery and instant-wealth. And, hey, I’m not turning down checks, if you’re offering. But there’s more to life than money. In fact, that’s the main reason we want to be rich, so we can enjoy that other stuff. And while many entrepreneurs (and all of my clients) will someday have plenty of money, I think that there’s something to be said for living “rich” even without all the cash.

I’m talking about the difference between getting rich and being rich. If you watch reality tv, you can think of some rich folks who don’t have it all. Then there are those precious few, who, like my late friend, Elizabeth Melde, lived so incredibly richly, and touched so many lives, without obscene sums of money. Let’s talk results: here are some ways you can be rich now.

1. Volunteer
The best remedy for jealousy (and toy lust) I’ve found is to give my time for those less fortunate. Spending an evening with people experiencing homelessness really dampens my “need” for the new iPad. Too lazy to volunteer? Compare yourself to people with less (most of the world for most of history) rather than the relatively few people who have more stuff than you (some of your friends, Bill Gates, etc.)

2. Be generous
We often envy the wealthy for those monster checks they can write to charities. We long for the day we can be so generous. So we save our pennies to get there. But you have something to give, right now. Give your time, cut a little check for something good, offer some great advice to an entrepreneur just starting out. If you aren’t generous now, you never will be. Start building generosity into your lifestyle. Think of it as buying karma offsets.

3. Travel
When I interview job candidates, I always ask what they would do if they didn’t have to work. They all say the same thing: travel. (I should really stop asking that one.) If your idea of being rich means globetrotting, you don’t have to wait for the money. Maybe you can’t afford to fly to Venice, but I’m betting there is an amazing cultural experience awaiting you just across town. Even if you don’t live in a super diverse town like Chicago, you can find a fun experience that’s (almost) as good as traveling halfway around the globe (without getting jetlag!).

4. Spend time with loved ones
If time away from work is what you dream of, find a way to spend more time with friends and family now. How can you make the most of the time you already have? How can you adopt systems (or hire an intern) that will give you more free time?

5. Want what you have
One of my favorite questions is “What do you want that you already have?” Advertisers are doing everything in their power to make you feel like you need “stuff” you really don’t. You’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I know I do. What are some things in your life that you are truly grateful for? Need some help? You aren’t a sex slave (and you probably didn’t lose your twenty-something spouse to cancer this week). Work back from there.

Okay, that got heavy for a second, but the truth is you are already ridiculously rich and no matter how bad things feel, you’ve got it pretty damn good. If you aren’t happy now, more money won’t change a thing. So how can you start living richly now (at least until you win the lottery)?

Never Schedule a Meeting Again

If you spend way too much time trying to schedule meetings with clients, potential clients, other vendors or anyone else, your life is about to get a whole lot easier. Say goodbye to the thirty-email conversation where you keep trying to randomly guess which date will work for the other person. Stop setting reminders for yourself to remind other people to show up to your meetings. How many hours a week could you save if you didn’t have to schedule appointments?Enter timetrade.com. This amazing piece of webware lets potential clients schedule appointments with you instantly online. It does all of the work so you get to have all of the fun. Here are five reasons timetrade is my best friend:

1) Potential clients can schedule appointments instantly online, 24/7.

2) It automatically sends them a reminder at just the right time (usually a day or so before the meeting).

3) It syncs with Google Calendar so whenever someone schedules an appointment with you, it’s automagically (yes, that’s my favorite word) added to your calendar.

4) It checks your calendar for you. So if you add a new event to your Google calendar, it won’t show open appointment times during that event. Never double book.

5) It ain’t ugly. The interface isn’t gorgeous, but I’ve looked at more than a handful of other online scheduling systems and they’re all ugly as sin.

The sixth reason I love timetrade is that the annual fee is $49. I generally like my webapps free, but for the punch it packs, fifty bucks is just plain giving it away. Like any respectable web service, they also offer a free trial so you can try before you buy.

If I had to come up with some downsides to the service, it would probably be the lack of control you get over some aspects (like when those reminder emails go out). That said, I haven’t had any missed appointments yet, so I’m not sweating it. And any features they’ve lacked (like iPhone compatibility – c’mon, people) they’ve quickly rectified (their calendars are now iPhone and iPad friendly.)

As usual, I don’t make a dime for recommending them (though I probably should). It’s just one of my favorite tools and one you should definitely know about if you’re sick of wasting time trying to schedule appointments. What are you going to do with all of that free time?

Get that free trial here: www.timetrade.com.

How to Have More Fun (Even at Work)

photo credit: addictinggames.com

Running your own business sounds so much cooler before you actually do it.

Remember when you used to dream of having your own business? You would spend the entire day doing what you loved and you’d even get paid for it! You’d get to call the shots. You’d get to keep all of the money. You wouldn’t work with annoying clients and whenever you got bored you’d just take off for the day. (Okay, maybe not all of those, but I’m sure you thought at least some of those things).

So what the hell happened?

If you own your own wedding business, chances are you’re working now more than ever before. The most sinister part of working in the events industry (okay, it’s kind of awesome, too), is that you attend parties all of the time. The reason that’s not such a great thing is because you can start to believe that because you go to other people’s parties and networking events, you have a life. When, in fact, you do not.

Never fear. Your coach is here to help you try out some new strategies to build real fun back into your life and, yes, even your work.

Connect with your purpose: You love what you do. If you’ve lost some of that passion, rekindle the fire by doing something creative totally for you. If you’re a stationer, make a new design just because you think it’s pretty. When you take time to meditate on your life purpose and the mission of your business, you’ll also enjoy and appreciate the stuff that’s not as glamorous because it’s part of your larger mission. Paperwork doesn’t seem so monotonous, when it means that you get to change people’s lives (and we all do, in some way). Connect with your purpose and you’ll enjoy deeper meaning and fulfillment in absolutely everything you do.

Connect with your friends: You need friends outside of the wedding industry. Right now. I’m sure you used to have some, probably until you became completely engrossed in your wedding business and eventually they stopped calling. It’s not too late to salvage those friendships. You’ve simply got to spend time outside of your wedding world.

Connect with nature: I’ve been hearing more and more good things about the healthy benefits of being in the great outdoors. Some studies even show that you get a huge benefit from just five minutes of walking in a greenspace. If you live in the city, schedule monthly getaways and find a sanctuary (like the Garfield Park Conservatory).

Connect with yourself: Want to be more in tune with yourself and the universe (or your higher power)? Here are my three favorites: exercise, meditation (video) and yoga (video). Click the links for more information on how to get started. If you add more of these three things into your daily (or weekly) life, you’re going to see the benefits almost immediately. You will feel better, look better and have a deeper sense of calm. I can’t think of better ways to ward off stress. And you can’t have fun if you are stressed out.

Understand their importance: If you aren’t making these connections regularly, you’re going to lose your mind. At the very least, your business and your personal life will suffer. It’s not healthy and it’s definitely not fun. You won’t change until you realize how devastating it’s been to not do good things for yourself. The best way to recognize the difference is to start making some of these positive changes in your life and to keep a journal of how you feel and how business is going.

Schedule it: Once you understand that you’ll be more productive and more focused, have more energy, be happier and healthier, too, it won’t take much to start building time into your day for these essentials. You don’t need hours at a time, either. Five minutes of meditation or centering before a meeting can make all the difference. Can’t make it to the gym? Try biking on errands or walking to the next bus stop.

So many of my coaching clients (like all wedding entrepreneurs) struggle to take care of themselves in this way and it takes its toll on their businesses and their lives. Commit today to being better to yourself, not because it will help your business (even though it will), but because you are totally worth it.

Five Simple Steps to Conquer the To-Do List Monster

I iz overwhelmed

Has your to-do list been kicking your ass lately? Here’s why: you have tons of really great ideas and it’s really easy to think of things that need to get done (or things that “should” get done). It’s a lot harder to find the time to actually do all of them. You’re not alone. It can be especially difficult for wedding entrepreneurs to turn down new projects or to tell a bride on the phone, “you talk too much and I have other things to do, bye.”

Don’t fret. Here are five simple steps to outwitting the to-do list monster:

1) Make a new list every day. This forces you to take some time to plan out your day and it gives you a chance to reconsider that extra five-hour task you added to your list yesterday.

2) Set clear priorities. If you haven’t established your vision for your business, taken a close look at your values and your mission, this can trip you up. My coaching process takes clients through this crucial phase so that they can quickly set priorities instead of floundering. Once you know what your money-makers (or fulfillment-makers) are, you can easily pick out your top priority tasks. Be ruthless and be clear: every task is either more or less important than every other one.

3) Knock out the big ones. Once you know what’s super important to your business, focus on those things. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to do it all. The key to getting ahead without losing your mind is knowing exactly what you need to do and then doing it (without getting too distracted).

4) Cut yourself some slack, Bucko. Hey, if this were easy, I wouldn’t be talking about it. Pretty much every other small business owner in the wedding industry is dealing with the exact same overwhelm from trying to cram too much into a busy day. Realize that you won’t get everything done that you want to. Be okay with that. Accept that you are kicking ass and getting the right things done instead of trying to get everything done (and getting nothing done).

5) Take out the semi-sweet smelling trash. If you stick to your top priorities every day, you will eventually have a long list of nice-sounding-but-low-priority to-dos that never get done. Want some fresh air? Cross them off your list. Better yet, rip up the paper they’re on (or burn it). Okay, if you can’t bear to lose them forever, email them to yourself or upload them to evernote.com with the title “projects for a rainy day.” If you’re still having trouble, read my “just say no” post on saying no to things that sound good at the time.

Were you surprised by any of the steps? Most of us have a loose notion about how we should be approaching our daily to-do list, but most wedding entrepreneurs think they are too damn busy to give it serious thought. Until you try something new, step back and get a fresh perspective on how you’re spending your day, you’re going to keep feeling way-too-busy.

Teaser: on Friday, we’ll talk about how to actually get some more time (and more fun) back into your schedule, now that you’ve whipped that to-do list.

Time Saver: Edit PDFs painlessly

I don’t know about you, but trying to edit PDFs used to make me crazy. Someone would email me a contract as a PDF. Then I would download it, open it, print it out, fill it out, scan it (with my phone), email it to myself and then send it back to the person. Your version might be a little better, but probably not by much. Some people have access to expensive software that lets them manipulate PDFs. Good for them.

For the rest of us, there is PDF Escape. This amazing little app allows you to add text and images to PDFs in a way that is very intuitive and (relatively) easy to learn. Don’t get me wrong, it’s ugly. But I’ve used dozens of programs and they’re all terrible. This is the first one I absolutely love, despite it’s minor flaws.

Here’s my new PDF process:

1. Download PDF

2. Upload to PDF Escape

3. Edit (tip: I have my signature saved as an image for digitally signing documents)

4. One-Click Download (awesome!)

5. Email to the sender

Okay, I’m not sure if that sounds easier or not, but it really is amazing. My last tip, though it pains me to do this to the developers, is this: don’t waste your time creating an account. It’s much faster to skip the login (they make you complete a captcha every time you log in) and just use the webapp unregistered. The only benefit I can see to registering and logging in is that you can save documents on their server. So if you’re into that, perfect. If you’re like me, and only want to edit and send, then save yourself the hassle.


Just Say No

Are you one of those people who says “yes” to every single thing someone asks you to do? It’s hard to say “no,” especially when the project sounds interesting (or the person asking is a bully). It sounds good (or we don’t want to turn someone down) so we say, “Yes!” But then another project comes along, and then another. And pretty soon we’re in way over our heads and we have no time for ourselves or to really focus on our passion.

Why We Can’t Say No

I think most people are afraid to say no for a couple of reasons:

1- We are afraid to miss out on an amazing opportunity.

2- We don’t want to let others down.

Why No is Necessary

Taking on everything all of the time is exhausting. You will burn out. The problem is that there will always be someone who wants to drop something on you so they don’t have to do it. So you need to start sticking up for yourself and for what you really want. What are your big goals, your dreams? If you want to have a super successful business doing what you are passionate about, you’re going to need to STOP doing a lot of the things that are preventing you from focusing on that. We can’t take on every project. When we try, the things that are most important to us (including our health) suffer the most. Not only that, but we run the risk of turning into a frazzled mess that no bride wants to hire.

How to Say No

Saying “no” doesn’t have to be painful. If you are someone who is afraid to miss out on an opportunity, think of the greater opportunity that will come from focusing on your passion and your ultimate goal (and know that other opportunities will come along). Recognize that many before you have sacrificed their own good stuff for the sake of the best stuff.

If you have a hard time turning people down, be honest and get creative. Tell them the project sounds awesome, but that you are choosing to be very selective about what you take on because your time is limited. (That should knock their socks off and encourage them to consider saying “no” more in their own lives.) If you’re up for it, take a moment and reach out to someone who would really love the opportunity. You help two people out and you don’t take on any new projects.

That’s Not All

It’s not enough to know how and when to say “no” to new projects. What obligations are already in your life that you need to say “no” to so that you can say “yes” to the best?