APPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | STITCHER Robert Peterson: Managing Stress as an Entrepreneur We all dream of those pinch-me moments, whether it’s reaching a certain revenue milestone, landing a dream client, or receiving an industry award. But we rarely talk about what comes after that big win. Today’s podcast guest, Robert Peterson, has a pinch-me list […]
We all dream of those pinch-me moments, whether it’s reaching a certain revenue milestone, landing a dream client, or receiving an industry award. But we rarely talk about what comes after that big win. Today’s podcast guest, Robert Peterson, has a pinch-me list a mile long.
As an interior photographer, Robert has worked with clients like HGTV, Magnolia Journal, and TV personalities like Brian Patrick Flynn.
Yet our conversation centered around how to enjoy the journey of entrepreneurship, celebrate small wins, and stop stressing about reaching the destination.
Press play for the full interview or keep reading below!
Robert’s photography journey began when he bought his wife, Tiffany, a camera as a birthday present. At the time, she was working as a kindergarten teacher and Robert as a personal trainer. Tiffany began taking family photos on the side.
It wasn’t long before someone reached out to her for wedding photography, and Robert went along for moral support.
“I remember they wrote us a check for $1,000,” Robert says, “and we thought that was the most money anybody could ever make in a day.”
They took that first $1,000 and invested in a second camera for Robert, then dove headfirst into everything they could about wedding photography.
In 2016, Robert and Tiffany had two children and the photography business had become their sole source of income. “It became a bit nerve-wracking in the sense that all of our eggs were in one basket.”
Robert carried a lot of stress about delivering for clients, even at the expense of his own happiness.
It wasn’t until he developed shingles that he realized just how big of a toll that stress was taking. “That was such a revelation moment for me that you can’t burn the candle at both ends.”
Robert and Tiffany photographed weddings until 2021, when they decided to pivot to interiors. “I’m so grateful for our time doing it, but I wish I would’ve enjoyed the process more.”
In this next phase of business, Robert is leaning more on his faith. “Even if the process doesn’t work out how I envisioned it, chances are it works out even better.”
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get caught up in chasing the next milestone – a big client, a launch, or a revenue goal.
But as Robert points out, “There is no end destination. You get to whatever you think the destination is and it doesn’t bring you that joy. All of a sudden you need to find another rung on the ladder.”
Robert’s best advice for how to manage stress as an entrepreneur is to get to know yourself and your internal dialogue. We’re all operating off an internal script that drives our decisions, but we rarely slow down to think about it.
For Robert, he realized he was operating from a perspective of why am I not good enough? “It’s a self-proclaimed question. And the more I dove into it, it’s one that’s lived with me my entire life. But that question drives how you approach everything.”
In Robert’s life, that question of self-worth showed up at work but also in his fitness, where he felt the same relentless drive to be competitive.
If your internal dialogue is similar to Robert’s or is negative in some other way, then it’s time to flip the script. How can you create new beliefs that are more fun and relaxed?
Robert realized that he was holding onto some things too tightly. “When we’re scared, we hold things tight and we want control.” Learning to loosen your grip may be difficult at first, but it can also be freeing.
Robert used to be afraid that if he relaxed more, it would take away his drive to work hard. Now he knows that isn’t true. “You still have the drive, but now you enjoy it more because it’s not coming from a place of stress, but from a place of excitement.”
Most entrepreneurs are naturally ambitious and competitive, always striving to reach the next goal. But as Robert has learned, revenue milestones and industry accolades won’t bring fulfillment. Only serving a deeper purpose can do that.
“We are not creatures meant for selfishness. Anytime we are very selfish, I find for myself, I get very unhappy.”
Robert shared an example from his own career when he transitioned from acting to personal training. Although being a personal trainer wasn’t his dream job, it allowed him to focus on other people and build relationships.
“Simply spending time with people and listening to them brought me to such a healthier head space than when I was trying to pursue an endeavor that was all about me.”
It’s a piece of wisdom he’s brought with him into his photography business as well: “If you want to create a great business, serve others.”
A few years into running a successful wedding photography business, Robert connected with designer Brian Patrick Flynn.
Originally, he worked as Brian’s personal trainer, but it wasn’t long before the designer learned of Robert’s photography business and started asking him to take photos of various design projects.
Soon Robert was helping Brian create content from the HGTV website, and word spread from there. Other designers began asking about his interior photography services. Still, Robert hesitated to let go of the wedding side.
“I was scared to let go of personal training when we started wedding photography because I wanted that backup. And then I was scared to let go of wedding photography when interiors was taking off.”
But as their children grew older and life got busier, Robert and Tiffany realized they needed to make a decision. They started to phase out the number of weddings they took on – but they never could have predicted what happened in 2020.
Right as all the wedding photography work dried up, there was a massive shift toward interior design. “2020 was the biggest year we ever had.”
Robert’s biggest takeaway from that season was saying yes to new opportunities. If he hadn’t said yes to helping Brian Patrick Flynn with a few photos, their business would have gone in a very different direction during the pandemic.
As for handling the finance side of things, Robert says, “I’m the constant saver and worrier in our house.”
Like most new entrepreneurs, his original price points were guided by what clients could afford to pay. But as the business grew, he and Tiffany were able to raise those prices.
His advice for other creative service providers: “When you’re ready to take up your price, take it up on all new inquiries.” This eliminates the fear that if you raise your prices across the board, you’ll lose all your clients at once.
Another stress management tip is to calculate exactly how much work you need to take on to meet your financial needs.
For example, Robert knows that he needs to book approximately 100 photoshoots per year. Most interior design clients book one to three sessions each year, which means he needs about 40-50 clients to fill those 100 spots.
Check out this blog post for more on how to reverse engineer your numbers.
Robert has used a variety of marketing strategies over the years, from mailing personal gift boxes to posting on social media. But the strategy he’s found to be most effective is word of mouth – and the best way to get people talking is to provide a great client experience.
“The experience on set with me is just as important as the final images. When a client leaves, I want them to be super happy with the photos, but hopefully they also enjoyed their eight to 10 hours with me.”
Many entrepreneurs underestimate the power of quality service, but this is ultimately what will drive referrals and repeat bookings. “Who you are and how you behave on set is so important.”
Like most business owners, Robert used to feel pressured to say yes to every client that came his way. But as his business and family have grown, he’s learned to put his personal calendar first.
“I offer a Monday to Thursday based schedule to clients and try to protect Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to be with my family.” Carving out that intentional time is key, whether it’s for yourself, your friends, or your family.
“Don’t ever sacrifice relationships for business. Because if you get to that end destination and you don’t have anyone to celebrate it with, it’s going to be incredibly unfulfilling.”
Another one of Robert’s favorite stress management tips is to start outsourcing. What tasks in your business could you hand off to someone else?
As a photographer, Robert outsources his bookkeeping and post-production work. “If it’s not a hell yes for me at this point, it’s a no.”
If you’re trying to spend less time in the weeds of your business, make a list of all the tasks you do in a week. If anything isn’t absolutely necessary for you to do yourself, look for ways to delegate, eliminate, or outsource.
If you’re spending a lot of time emailing back and forth with clients, could you hire someone to manage your inbox? Or replace all those emails with one ten-minute call? Look for ways to get creative with your time.
One of the most meaningful lessons Robert has learned is to celebrate every win in his business, both big and small.
After booking some of the biggest names in the industry, he realized that those pinch-me moments weren’t hitting him quite like he wanted. “I think part of that was never really learning how to celebrate and enjoy the good moments.”
For many of us, when things are going well, we worry that the other shoe is about to drop. But as Robert says, “It doesn’t have to be that way. There can just be good moments. And any struggles are learning opportunities.”
If you’re someone who struggles to celebrate your wins, look for ways to plan them in advance. For example, if you book that dream client, you’ll take your spouse out to a nice dinner.
In my own business, every time we launch our signature program, The Blueprint Model, my husband Kyle and I set celebration milestones. If we enroll five students, we’ll go bowling. If we enroll 15, I’ll get a massage, and so on.
All entrepreneurs experience stress at some point, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the wins along the way. Focus on building relationships, connecting with others, and serving your clients well, and the journey will be a much more enjoyable one.
To hear the rest of the story and what Robert is up to now, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.
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B Patrick Flynn Interior Design
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From Robert: My love for visual storytelling was sparked early in my career with post production. After working with industry-leading clients like Sony Pictures and Turner Studios, I brought my eye for crafting soul-stirring stories to digital photography.
In 2010, I began photographing weddings with my wife and business partner, Tiffany. While capturing memorable moments worth treasuring for newlyweds, I was deeply inspired by the slower pace that food and interiors photography offered.
After collaborating on photography projects all across the globe, travel photography was naturally woven into Rustic White. Travel plays a key role in my life, always fueling my creativity and sense of adventure. With our two daughters in tow, we enjoy exploring mountain ranges and low prairies alike in search of stories worth telling. I bring this same spirit of intentionality to every space, subject, and place I capture.
Recent clients include: House Beautiful, Magnolia Journal, Luxe Magazine, Domino, Atlanta Magazine HOME, HGTV Magazine, HGTV, Home Depot, Matthew Quinn, Phoebe Howard, Brian Patrick Flynn, Jaipur Living, Tiny Horse.
April 13, 2023