We're back for the May edition of the Kitchen Table Series with Laura Neff! Laura is one of my #bizbesties who I'm so grateful to have met through the Rising Tide Society back in 2015. I've always been so inspired by Laura's passion for helping other creatives and how she lives out #communityovercompetition every single day.
Laura recently launched a new business focused specifically on helping creatives create systems and processes so they can do work less and live more! Laura gets into all of the nitty-gritty details below so grab you favorite beverage and get reading!
Name || Laura Neff
Business || Laura Lee Creative and Laura Lee Photography
Title || Photographer and Educator
City || Vernon, NJ
Wine or Coffee || Wine! Riesling to be exact. Around a firepit. Obviously.
You just recently launched your new site, Laura Lee Creative! Can you explain what the site will provide to your audience and what your main goal is for the site?
Yes! I’m so excited about it!! What a long dream in the making. Laura Lee Creative exists to empower photographers and creative entrepreneurs to build a profitable business and fulfilling life with education designed to help you save time and make more money. My main goal is to help people systematize and organize their creative business with workflow and efficiency tips so that they can find their own definition of work-life balance. (Amongst a ton of other educational resources and products that will help you do exactly that! Think: workflow templates, systems courses, productivity resources and SO MUCH more.
Essentially, I’m trying to redefine how entrepreneurs run their business and their lives, because far too often, entrepreneurs un-intentionally swap their 9-5 jobs for a 24/7 one. And the worst part? They’re not bringing in enough money to make the hustle worth it. Their dream job has now gotten in the way of their dream life. The good news? Those two can go hand in hand. And that’s at the center of what Laura Lee Creative aims to do. Through educational resources, we empower creatives to find a liberating ‘work-life balance’ on their own terms. All while growing profitable businesses that don’t require working around the clock. When you learn how to be more efficient, simplify your systems, and work smarter, you’ll make more money and have more time for your family and friends, more time for yourself, and more time for whatever else sets your soul on fire.
Tell me a little more about how you got your start in creative entrepreneurship!
Oooooo so fun! So, my mom was a photographer! We actually had a darkroom in my house growing up and I literally had a camera in my hand since I was about 1.5 years old. No joke, I used to try to take pictures in my mom’s home studio from her lap. Although I wanted to go to school for photography, I felt like I’d always have that as my side passion so I went to school for interior architecture and design. After almost 3 years of being the senior designer at a hospitality firm, I’d had enough of that world and my photography business started to take off.
Then, a few years into it I started leading our local chapter of the Rising Tide Society and realized how fulfilled I felt teaching others things I knew. (Specifically about workflow and productivity!) and after lots of friends coming around my firepit, crying over wine, I decided that Laura Lee Creative needed to be born so I could help people with their systems and workflows and everything in between. I never imagined how much I’d fall in love with teaching others.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
So! More recently, I am trying to get up a little earlier and do some reading, journaling, and enjoying quiet time. I admit I’m not consistent with it but it’s a work in progress. But, almost every day I’ll wake up and make a good breakfast - either eggs and spinach or a shake with cacao nibs in it cause they really give me a boost of energy!
Once I start working, I’ll put some tunes on (usually Chill Out radio on Pandora) and start tackling the to-do list. I make my lists the night before otherwise I’m just not productive at all. I try to start with big creative tasks first, such as editing, blogging, or working on a design project for an upcoming project. If I start with email, I immediately get drained before even working on the important projects, so I check email around lunch time.
This pattern pretty much repeats in the afternoon too and then at night I like to listen to the courses I’ve purchased and soak that all in after my workday kind of pretending it’s night school!
I’m most typically working on a shoot, new content for the blog or newsletter, or brainstorming new helpful products and freebies for my tribe!
How do you balance work with your personal life?
I have 8 core values in my life and my business and those are: community, relationships, freedom, balance, self-care, passion, adventure and gratitude. Basically I try to make sure I’m making time for at least 2 of these things on a daily basis. It might be as simple as calling a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while (relationships), having a date night, going paddle boarding, or even just reading without my phone in the room. It’s always a work in progress because I’m one of those people who LOVEEEEE to work. I love what I do and it brings me so much joy so it’s hard to pull away from it sometimes, but because I’ve systemetized my business so much I actually have a lottttt of free time! (Most of the time I spend it dreaming up the next business venture) but if I can slow my brain down then I’ll do something involving one of these core values.
My favorite things are going to aqua classes or zumba at the gym, paddle boarding, getting brunch or coffee with friends, having date night (obviously) or reading a non-business book.
What do you think your unique mission is?
To reassure creatives that their dream job can not only be a part of their dream life, but it can also create a dream income.
I REALLY just want to help people amp their productivity and organization up so they can start having a fulfilling life. I’m all about helping people achieve less work more life with tangible tools to help them get there.
What do you feel is the hardest part about being your own boss?
Quitting for the day. Again, I love working, so it’s hard to stop a lot of the time. But I should point out, I don’t work all the time because I HAVE TO work (like most people because they feel they’re behind) I work because I want to work and keep bettering myself.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a creative project, blog, and/or business?
Just start! Done is better than perfect. My boyfriend said that to me in 2013 when I was launching my first website. I spent so long deciding on a squarespace template that I prolonged it being out in the world for months. Don’t do that! You can tweak and grow as you go. The world doesn’t expect you to be perfect, so just put one foot in front of the other.
And also! Quick tip! Start small. If your dream seems scary to you, or big and overwhelming, break it down into the actionable steps you need to take to achieve it. Break it down reallllllly small, so it’s not overwhelming.
How do you stay motivated through the ebb and flow of being an entrepreneur?
Knowing my why. And that’s empowering creatives to build a profitable business and fulfilling life BECAUSEEEE, when you learn how to be more efficient, simplify your systems, and work smarter, you’ll make more money and have more time for your family and friends, more time for yourself, and more time for whatever else sets your soul on fire. And THAT. Is the end result I want for anyone I help. I want them to have more time with their family, their friends, or whatever else sets their heart on fire. And when I’m tired, or feeling like I want to give up, I read this over and over, because I know I can make an impact, and I know the reason I do this. And that helps me push through and stay motivated. Knowing I can help people.
What do you believe is the most important factor in building an authentic and successful brand?
Staying true to yourself. It’s so easy to see something you like online and imitate it for your own brand because it looks good. But I challenge people to dig deep in themselves to find what THEY like so it feels true to them. When I look at my new site and brand, it feels like me. It feels like a true extension of who I am, and that’s what I think a brand should be.
What has been the most rewarding part about doing what you love on a daily basis?
Making an impact on others. Easy peasy. Everytime I get an email from someone saying that something I wrote, taught, or created helped them in SOME WAY either saving them time, or getting them more organized, I want to cry, because those emails always end in, “I got to spend more time with my family this week thanks to you”. I cry every single time, and I’ve never felt so fulfilled in my business before.
Do you have any other questions for Laura? Ask in the comments below!