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I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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2021 Year In Review: Highlights, Wins, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

January 22, 2022

Personal

Another year, another late annual recap.

I opened up last year’s blog post, feeling a little stressed about how I haven’t written this year’s…turns out I didn’t post my 2020 recap until mid-FEBRUARY so *technically* I’m improving. Ha! That’s how that works, right?

Coming off of a year like 2020 you wouldn’t think life could get much crazier, but 2021 definitely gave it a run for its money. I packed more work and massive milestones into these past 12 months than I think I even really realized, until I sat down to do my yearly reflection. 

If you’re new around here, every year I review and reflect on my year with prompts similar to those in the Cultivate What Matters Powersheets (I didn’t buy myself a book this year because I finally accepted that I’m just never going to fill it out monthly like I think I will in January lol). 

I love this exercise because it’s easy to generalize a year as “not the best”, “wild”, or “the greatest”, when the truth is a year is a LONG time and SO much can happen. 

I’m also going to do something I’ve never done with one of these posts before… I’m going to write EXACTLY what I wrote in my notebook. Sharing it all. 

Dakota Hersey Photography Year in Review 2021

So as a start, here are the highlights from my 2021:

  • Big group ski trip to Breckenridge, CO where I successfully made it down a blue run on my new snowboard!!! 
  • Participated in my first Wilmington wedding venue open house at The River Room (we have this year’s happening next weekend if you want to come!!!)
  • Helped my best friend choose her perfect wedding dress and plan the most gorgeous wedding – my first time being a maid of honor!
  • Started dipping my toes into the world of brand and content photography and realized that I think it’s what I was made for
  • Drove to ECU/Greenville multiple times a week in April (thought I was going to die from having to wake up at 6am every morning for the drive…)
  • Brought my brother Weston on as my main second shooter and enjoyed long car rides with deep conversations
  • Celebrated my 2021 senior spokesmodel team’s graduation and then said goodbye to the spokesmodel program as it stood…
  • Made some much needed changes and created the Senior VIP Membership that allows seniors to create the friendships they loved from the spokesmodel team!
  • Welcomed 14 new Senior VIPs!!!
  • Photographed weddings at venues I’ve been dreaming about shooting at for years
  • Brought home the love of my life, Dune!!!!
  • Attended my first Creative At Heart and felt so full of inspiration and confidence 
  • Drank bottles of wine in Charlottesville, VA…TWICE on girls trips!
  • Turned 28…still sounds weird to say
  • Shot my first destination wedding in the mountains of North Carolina
  • BOUGHT MY FIRST HOUSE
  • Completed 8 weeks of puppy school training with Dune
  • Started the renovation process and learned more about countertops than anyone should know
  • Really started incorporating albums into my client experience
  • Hit 100 rides AND a 52 week streak on Peloton (freaking PUMPED about that)
  • LAUNCHED A NEW BRAND AND WEBSITE!!!!
  • Photographed 61 seniors and 22 weddings!!!! 

Um…am I okay? That was a LOT. A puppy, a house, a new brand, on top of everything else?!

The answer is, yes, in a lot of ways I feel really good. I’ve grown so much as a person and in business and I’m thankful because that’s allowed the space for both my business and my personal life. 

This is my favorite part of the review exercise – the recap of what worked last year and what didn’t…

Wins: What Worked in 2021

  • Prioritizing my personal time
  • Going to the gym consistently – thank you Peloton!
  • Doing what I wanted, even when I was scared (like getting a puppy)
  • Making time to be around friends in the industry and who understand solo-prenuer life
  • Having consistent girls’ nights and trips with my friends
  • Making big investments for my future
  • Listening to my burnout when I felt like things needs to change or be restructured
  • Standing up for myself within my business
  • Stopping shooting on the weekends, except for weddings
  • Figuring out how to balance being a big sister who is also a boss
  • Outsourcing things that I just didn’t have the time or skill level to get it done
  • Finding things outside of work that bring me joy, like taking breaks to play or train Dune
  • Taking less pressure off of the events I plan or attend and actually enjoying them
  • Being okay with not being productive and just RESTING
  • Sharing more of my authentic self online
  • Hanging out more at local places in Wilmington and feeling like I’m a regular
  • Leaning on different people for different things (not putting the pressure all on a select person or group of people)
  • Being more daring with my outfits
  • Feeling confident and sure of myself
  • Listening to my own gut

Like I said…lots of growth this year. It’s really satisfying to see the fruits of the labor I’ve put in for the last few years of being a recovering workaholic, perfectionist, people-pleaser, etc. 

I still have an equally long list of things that didn’t work and I will need to fix moving forward…

Challenges: Things That Didn’t Work In 2021

  • No consistent blogging schedule and getting so overwhelmed that I just gave up
  • No consistent office hours, which lead to longer response times
  • Going to bed entirely way too late
  • Too much unproductive time on my phone
  • Needing to set even clearer expectations and answer questions before they’re asked to build trust
  • Not having a system to stay consistent with deliverables even when my schedule ramps up
  • Disregarding dates I put on the calendar (like launches, announcements, etc.)
  • Not following through on launch plans and not preparing ahead like I used to
  • Having a cluttered, non-inspired office space
  • Not structuring my week and blocking off time for future projects – just doing what needed to be done “now”
  • Needing to review my backend systems to make things more efficient and streamlined
  • Sharing too much about my personal life and feeling vulnerable
  • Scheduling too many shoots in one month
  • Not having multiple backup second shooters
  • Not documenting big moments on the blog for myself
  • Not doing anything with all of the content I’ve filmed
  • Getting distracted during tasks
  • Not enough time in the sun or the ocean
  • Working holiday weekends!!!
  • Needing to charge more and be more strategic about travel (with gas going up, having to make arrangements for Dune, and having to spend so much unproductive time on the road)
  • Not having a system for editing and printing personal photos

Yeah…that’s me being as honest as I’ve ever been in one of these recap posts. But I think it’s important to see that we all struggle with similar things, no matter what stage of business or life we’re in.

LESSONS LEARNED: WHAT DID THE GOOD AND BAD TEACH ME?

This is one of my favorite parts of the review – less of a list of events and more of a curated, really-thought-through compilation of what the good and the bad left me with.

  • Not everyone will be pleased and I can’t be responsible for the world’s problems.
  • The gym is more than just moving your body. Its meditation. 
  • Becoming a “gym” person is honestly just about showing up enough that you feel at home being there.
  • I can do big things by myself and my gut is loud and can be trusted, more than I thought. 
  • It’s possible to love your business and yourself. 
  • It’s important to have a full circle of people to lean on for different things.
  • People are observing your life, not doing it with you and it’s okay not to share “everything” about yourself online.
  • There’s something special about paddling yourself to an island and sitting in the sun in silence.
  • Having a dog invites SO many more conversations with people in public.
  • Our phones have a death grip on us.
  • As we get older, it’s still really important to do things with “just the girls.”
  • Not everyone you hire will do things exactly how you would have but that’s okay because done is better than perfect and sometimes its even better.

I’m not sure if it was apparent that I took a step back from sharing so much this past year, but if it was, know that so much was still happening behind the scenes. I generally regard myself as a confident and outgoing person, but even people like me need to have moments of reset and evaluate what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. 

I really feel like 2021 was laying a solid foundation in myself to really KNOW that I can do the things I want to do in business and in life…because well, I’m doing them.

I’m SO looking forward to sharing my 2022 goals and a little insight into what I have planned for this year…plus I HAVE PICKED MY ONE WORD FOR 2022, EVERYONE!!!!! It’s a good one 🙂 Stay tuned!!

hello!

I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer Helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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