What It’s Really Like to Take a Big Risk
Creative Rising Episode 108
In early 2019, we signed a lease on a brand new studio – an empty 4,000 square foot warehouse with industrial offices and a massive garage.
We spent the next six months moving, renovating, and building out this new space – while running our businesses in the middle of the construction.
We’ve documented this journey on social media, but even that doesn’t tell the full story – the exhaustion, the all-nighters, the setbacks, and the anxiety.
Was this a good decision? Or were we in over our heads?
This is the behind the scenes story of what it’s really like to take a big risk. A risk you’re not entirely sure of…
**Listen to the Training Above or Read the Transcript Below**
OUR COMMERCIAL BRAND: BAUMAN PHOTOGRAPHERS
- (01:09) Signing the Lease
- (05:04) What Will Our Employees Think?
- (08:01) The Weight of Being CEO
- (14:06) Episode Sponsor: KISS Books
- (16:26) Our Team Celebrates
- (20:04) Burning the Candle at Both Ends
- (26:25) Things Are Looking Up
- (29:18) Was This a Good Decision?
Just checking these audio levels… Looking pretty good. Do you want to tell us, um, just talk about what we’re doing?
We are signing a lease for a brand new studio space.
Erin (Narrator): 00:22
Welcome to Creative Rising, my friend, a show about what it’s really like to run a photography business. If you’ve been checking out our Instagram stories the last several months you’ve seen that Jeff and I made a big change in our business recently. We moved our studio from a cozy 1200 square foot residential loft that was in the heart of an adorable neighborhood to a 4,000 square foot warehouse in an industrial complex. It’s a move we’ve been working towards for a few years now because our commercial business, Bauman Photographers, has seriously outgrown our current tiny shooting space. So it hasn’t been a rushed or a surprise decision by any means, but it still didn’t make it any less nerve wracking when the moment finally came to sign the lease on our new space.
Yeah, it’s been a long time coming. When we first took over the studios in 2012 and I remember like one of the first things we said is like, Hey, the goal is in five years to have grown the commercial business to the point where we need a studio big enough to shoot a car. That was the goal. And so here we are signing that lease. What year is it? It’s 2019 so we’re a little bit late. How do you feel right now? I mean it’s a balance between excited and nervous. It’s just a big deal. Like this is like over twice what we’ve been paying and it’s a multi year commitment and it’s like a big deal. Like the lease that we signed before was like an eight page document and here we have like a 25 page document in triplicate and tiny, tiny font that we’ve been negotiating since September and now it’s January. So it’s just, it just feels like, you know, it’s like a big deal. Oh No. James don’t chew on the lease. We’ll give the, we’ll give them that one. That’s the, uh, that’s their copy. The one with James is jewel on it. Perfect. Are you ready to sign? I’m going to initial 25 times right now.
What’s the part of it that makes you the most nervous?
I think the part that makes me nervous about this is we’re really saying that we’re doubling down on the commercial side of things and like do we really have what it takes? That’s what I feel. You know? Yeah.
What are you experiencing right now as you’re signing this Erin?
Um, it’s so funny cause it’s just, Oh I got to sign here, too. It’s just so similar to other things that we’ve experienced in our business. I think just the biggest lesson that I have learned and have been learning ever since we expanded into these studios is that no matter how much bigger quote “bigger” we get or the more stuff we do, like it’s still is the same kind of nervousness that never goes away. Like change is always scary. Doing something new, doing something different. We’ve never signed a lease in a giant warehouse before. Like, I feel like we’re, you know, getting the hang of running a commercial business and, you know, we figured it out and excited about it and now we’re like taking this whole new step with it. And so we just don’t let ourselves stay comfortable for very long before I do something new. But it’s kind of the same as when we got our first interns as when we like left our day jobs. I mean remember that, that was very scary. I remember looking at you and saying “it’s kind of now or never.”
Well that’s, it feels good. You know, I mean we’re going from a cute like two story loft in a little adorable part of San Diego to like a light industrial warehouse area, you know, so it’s a shift. Like we had a Starbucks downstairs and a Burger Lounge next to that and a cute grocery store in organic market, like all this stuff right there. And uh, you know, now we’re going to have the trolley next to us.
Erin (Narrator): 05:06
This is one thing that makes us really nervous about moving to the warehouse. Our little 1200 square foot loft in Kensington is in one of the cutest neighborhoods in this city. Most of the houses in the neighborhood were built before world war two so it’s old and seriously quaint. There’s a main street with cafes shops, a library and a small park and on the main intersection sits a Starbucks and our corner loft is the two stories above that. Starbucks, we have a giant bay windows that are two stories tall that overlook the whole area. So from a lot of our desks we can look out over the main street scene below and watch kids swinging in the park, couples taking an afternoon stroll and old men reading the newspaper on the Starbucks patio. It is literally everything you imagine when you think of Main Street USA, but from now on we’ll be in a concrete industrial complex.
Erin (Narrator): 06:01
The only thing we’ll be able to walk to is the trolley and the nearest Starbucks is a drive through down the street across a major freeway intersection. Our team is super important to us and making sure they love their job is high priority. As we make this change that is critical for the business. We’re concerned that the move will seriously impact how they feel about their job. Specifically our photo editor, Blair, because she edits all of our images. She has to work in a very specific color correcting environment in a room in the back of the loft. She works in a dark office with neutral gray walls and she has to have the lights off and the window shut to keep her computer in neutral lighting conditions. So our open sunny loft was especially beneficial to her.
Here I am with Blair interviewing about Kensington. How does it feel leaving this duty on Kensington?
We have this really great natural light that comes into the studio and I sit in the back in the dark all day editing photos. So the fact that I get to walk out to this like gorgeous like sunlight that comes in, um, has always been like a huge plus for me. So I’m definitely, you know, a little sad to go into like a warehouse space where I don’t get that anymore. And then also we have this really cool neighborhood that we’ve been living in and all the people there like no, you, we have our Starbucks that’s right below us that knows me by like, you know, they definitely know who I am cause I go there way too often.
So now that there’s nothing around the warehouse, what do you think you’ll do for lunch?
Uh, definitely my bank account will like that I’m not near Starbucks anymore. I’ll have to do, you know, more coffee in the studio, which is good. Um, but I think the main thing I’ll miss, um, the difference about like the little neighborhood we had and stuff is that, um, just being able to walk, like taking my 15 minute breaks and walking around the neighborhood. Like now it’s just, we’ll have to walk around a parking lot, I think. So we’ll see how that goes.
Erin (Narrator): 08:03
Just a few days later, all of the construction that our landlords had agreed to do in the warehouse officially began. And Jeff was immediately consumed with managing all of it. There was drywall going up, walls coming down. The concrete floors were getting polished, the ceiling tiles had to get replaced and all of the offices and a fresh coat of paint was going on every wall. That was all getting done before we could take over with building out this shooting space and then we could move in. So Jeff spent a lot of time bouncing between our two studios and a few weeks after signing the lease I joined him on a trip to the warehouse.
We’re in the big shooting space and this is what we’re excited about. I’m super pumped about this. Oh yeah, this is great. This isn’t, this is so incredible. It’s like finally coming together. We’ve been negotiating on this whole thing since September. It’s middle of January and so here we are. This is crazy.
What’s your overarching emotion right now?
Excitement. Coming in and seeing these guys just like going to town, tearing down walls, moving stuff around, kind of all the stuff that we’ve been like trying to figure out, you know, what we can get the landlord to pay for and do and what we can afford and different stuff and now it’s being done. The footprint and vision is becoming a reality already, which is amazing.
When you think about the years when we bought this commercial business – because this is what the studio is for is for, the commercial business – when we bought it and we got inside and it was broken and needed to be overhauled and needed to be worked on. When you think about those days when we wanted to cut and run and now we’re in a massive studio warehouse for this business to grow it and to make it bigger, it’s like we’re going all in. So what changed for you?
I think it’s just we were in many ways impatient that this would never happen. Like not believing that this was ever going to be possible. Cause when I wanted to cut and run, like I think we had a vision for doing something cool like this. But if I believed it was actually possible, I don’t think I would have wanted to cut and run.
So why do you think you believe it’s possible now?
Because I can see it.
But you had to negotiate this whole thing. You’ve had a realtor looking for a space for us for over a year, almost two years. So you had to believe it was possible before that?
You know, to be honest, Erin, when I had Nick start looking for places with us, I still didn’t think it was possible.
I felt like it was like, you know, I mean to be honest, Nick laughed at me a bunch when I would just say things like, we’re believing that when the right space comes, it’s going to be the Lord telling us it’s the right move to make. And so I was just in the process and I was just like, you know, if the Lord finds this place and then we’ll move forward, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. So it was kind of like just like testing the Lord on it and um, you know, when we found the place, I was like, Gulp, when we got up we got a lease going, I was like, Gulp. And I was like, man, should I pull out of this? But I’m like, no, this is what we believed for and here we are.
So do you think that you are kind of using that as an excuse?
I think so. I think so.
I mean, yeah, I remember you went back and forth on the pros and cons and it was almost like you were trying to find enough cons to make – like you almost backed out many times. So it’s almost like you’re trying to convince yourself that it wasn’t…
That’s why you’re good for me. What’s up?
Erin (Narrator): 12:13
As if on cue, a bill from the electrical company came while we were recording, but the bill was for the old tenants in the building who haven’t been in this space for months and thus haven’t been paying the electric bill.
They just came by just now I don’t know what happened…
Erin (Narrator): 12:28
So the company is threatening to turn off our electricity.
I’m glad you were here.
Erin (Narrator): 12:33
Electricity we need to continue construction.
You’re like, I’m, we kind of need power.
Erin (Narrator): 12:38
It’s just one of the hundreds of small details that Jeff has had to deal with over these weeks and months as I watched him handle yet another frustrating part of his role that I’m sure was not included on the list of reasons to go work your dream job, I thought about all of the weight that he shoulders every single day. Jeff has always been the CEO of our business. He’s always been in charge of the finances, making payroll, paying the bills, managing cashflow, hiring and firing, and none of that has been easy these past six or seven years since we bought the commercial brand. He’s carried his role with a deep sense of responsibility and even though the two of us own this business together and we’re in it together 100% as partners, I’ve always gotten the feeling that he believes that as CEO he’s ultimately the one that shoulders the most weight of whether this business succeeds or fails.
Erin (Ad): 14:10
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Jeff (Ad): 14:27
If you could be a cover color, which one would you be and why?
Shaun (KISS): 14:30
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Jeff (Ad): 14:51
With your role at kiss? What’s your favorite thing about what you do with the company?
Shaun (KISS): 14:54
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Erin (Ad): 15:40
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Mic, Check one, two, one, two, one, two mic check.
Okay, let’s open it. Okay.
Erin (Narrator): 16:33
A few weeks later when construction was almost finished, we brought our team in to see all of the work that had been done, so let me introduce you to our team in case you don’t know them yet. Blair is our photo editor. Kelsey is our studio manager. Bronson is our main commercial photographer and Chris Francis, who we call Fran, well, he doesn’t work for us. He actually owns his own commercial cinematography company called Rosedale Creative, but he’s an old friend and he’s been sharing our small Kensington office with us for the last several years, and he’s one of the people that will be renting an office of his own in the new space. So he’s basically a part of the family. Before we go on, what you should know is that our team is kind of a crazy crew and when we all stop working and come together, we tend to have a lot of fun. So we decided to celebrate this big new step in the business, truly Youngren style with a bottle of champagne in the middle of the warehouse.
Well here we are.
Under the skylight…
Such great light in here.
Technically the two skylights or should it be skylights,
Skylights Studiossssss SD. Five S’s. I think it makes sense.
Tell us what you think about this space Bronson.
Well, I’m very excited about this space because my, my creative juices are really starting to flow whenever I walk in here and I love the natural light and it’s going to be amazing. And I can’t wait to install a rope swing from the ceiling.
I think the rope swing definitely needs to happen. And the lights pretty awesome in here, Huh?
Can we decide the place for the disco ball? I feel like this is really important.
Yeah, let’s do that. Where should it go? Where do you think?
That’s also what I’m excited for.
Can we nail it to the ceiling of the green room?
Oh yeah. We should get like a legit disco ball on a motor and hang it there with some spotlights
I mean we are going to have lots and lots of parties in this space.
We’re going to put in led lights that like change colors and like light up the whole space.
And do the other folks that are joining our studio know that we have weekly dance parties and are they down for it?
I don’t know why they would join if they didn’t know that. Like that’s probably why they’re joining.
Great. That’s all I needed to know.
Are we going to like shoot the champagne? What is that called? What is shoot, pop, pop.
We are here for popping bottles. I think that’s what’s on the calendar, right?
Bronson, I’m going to have you pop it cause I’m terrible.
How’s that distance? How’s that distance?
Oh yeah, that was great.
This, guys, this is a big deal. So I remember when we first, you know, when Erin and I first bought the business, the thing that we had said was like, man, you’ll be so cool if one day we had a studio that was big enough we could drive a car into. But this is a big deal. I feel like this is like just the new season for us and I’m so excited to get to do this with you guys. So, um, you know, this is going to be a place where we’re going to create a lot of great work and a lot of fun memories and a lot of fun together. So here’s to our new studio. Cheers.
Erin (Narrator): 20:06
Jeff and I were really excited to celebrate because it had been a stressful week. Long story short, the construction that our landlords were in charge of wasn’t done yet. In fact they were running really late based on our lease in Kensington. We needed to move in Asap, which meant we weren’t going to be able to move into a finished studio like we thought we would. We were going to have to move in while our landlords finish the rest of the work they agreed to and then it would be our turn. We would have to run our business while we built out the studio space and we’re going to have to build as fast as we could to get things up and running.
Erin (Narrator): 20:45
To give you an idea of what we doing in this shooting space, we were taking a 2000 square foot garage and turning it into something like a music video set. You know car commercials, when you see a car filmed against a big white background and it looks like it never ends? Or look at the background of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” music video, you can’t see any seams or any corners. It’s just white. Well those are infinity walls and they’re called Cycloramas or cyc walls for short, and we were building one in the shooting space that would be big enough for a car to drive on to. Plus we were building a smaller gray cyc wall off to the side, a living room set in another portion of this space and a shiplap wall next to that and then hanging multiple backdrops in different places so we can have as much variety as possible to generate as many different photo looks as possible for our clients.
Erin (Narrator): 21:37
Oh and then don’t forget the offices. Once the shooting space gets finished, we then need to build out a communal kitchen, fix up the bathrooms, furnish a client meeting area, decorate a green room and paint and decorate all of the office spaces to make it feel less like an industrial warehouse and more like an inspiring place you love to work in. I mean we have to make up for leaving Kensington somehow.
Erin (Narrator): 22:04
The next several months were a classic tale of burning the candle at both ends. Jeff had to run the business during the day, come home for dinner and see James in the evening and then go back to work on construction projects at the studio at night, sometimes all night. A few months into this crazy schedule. Jeff met up with me after work while I was walking with James at the park and we were enjoying the last bits of the evening sun.
Uh, so we’re in at the Allied Gardens Park right by our house and I came straight from the studio to meet Aaron here in play with James. And so the sun’s about to set, it’s a beautiful day and yeah. Are you doing good?
So you said that when you got here, like you’ve had a really good day, um, that you’re just feeling really excited about, work, excited about you know, our business and about your job. And you said that it’s been a really, really long time since you felt that way. And I have experienced that with you too. Like you’ve definitely been, um, pretty, pretty down and out about the business for a lot of years and not like weddings. You love weddings, you love the shooting, you love our couples, but the business part and the studios and all of that and you seem really excited, like it’s a huge shift. So I’d love to hear more about, tell me about that.
Today was our first big studio shoot. It’s kind what we were preparing for. And so we had an entire law firm and it was like a dozen people and everything was just clicking. Like people were coming in, they were like, oh my gosh, this is amazing. This is so they were like getting out their phones instantly and like instagramming it and taking selfies with the sidewall and just like going crazy. That’s fine. And it just made me super excited. But I think even beyond today, just kind of leading up to a lot of the excitement with the new space, I’ve just felt like I’ve had a lot of energy. Like you know like last night I stayed up until 4:00 AM just working on stuff cause I was like I’d finish one thing and be like, well I still have a lot of energy. Like oh I’ll just do more. And then I went to bed at four cause I was like, it’s unreasonable for me to be awake right now. I should probably sleep.
So it wasn’t because you were tired at that point yet? Like literally you could have stayed up all night?
I was considering just staying up all night and just keeping going just because I had the energy. I just had a ton of energy and I, so here I am right now I’m functioning on three hours of sleep and I, and I feel like, I mean like I could lay down but I don’t feel tired. Like I feel like I want to, there’s other things I want to work on and it’s not out of. I think that the differences is like I’ve hustled a lot before when I’ve been stressed. Like we have to make this happen. Otherwise it’s going to be bad. Yeah. Yeah. Like this is like we have to do this. I think I’m hustling right now cause I’m just enjoying it. I know you don’t like the word hustle, but it’s working hard with the purpose I think is what I’m really enjoying.
Yeah. It’s not that I don’t like hustle, it’s the, I just don’t like hustle for hustling sake. Yes. There’s times when you need the hustle in your business, like you need to make things happen or else nothing is going to happen. So there’s periods where you have to work really hard and put it in a ton of hours or work or whatever is wanted and needed in order to finish something. But if you’re just hustling all the time because you think that’s what you have to do, that’s when it’s super unhealthy.
I know that I’ve experienced a really huge shift in you. The best way to describe it as going from really pessimistic, really optimistic.
You think pessimistic?
Hmm. Maybe hopeless to hopeful.
I would, yeah. I would say like, like living in a spirit of discouragement. Okay. Instead of living in a spirit of encouragement, like not hopeless, but just kind of like a little bit more towards the Eor side of things. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And then I think I’m getting to be more towards the Tigger side of things. Tiggers like a healthy number seven, right?
Yeah. I mean, I’m sure. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be a Tigger.
Erin (Narrator): 26:25
Hearing Jeff talk about how encouraged and excited he feels is a huge relief for me at this point when the list of projects seems like it’s never going to end. We’ve gotten both cyc walls built by now. The shooting space is nearly complete and we’re now working on painting, furnishing and decorating all of the offices. It’s been a ton of work, but as it turns out, Jeff wasn’t the only one who is feeling excited and optimistic about the move. After we’d been in this space for a while longer, I asked Blair how she’s feeling about the change.
All right. We’re here in this studio, in our warehouse and we’ve been here for a number of months now. So has it turned out differently than you thought it would? What’s it like being here in the warehouse instead of over in Kensington now?
Its definitely a lot different than I thought. I’m enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Um, I do. Uh, I do miss, you know, being able to walk downstairs and go to Starbucks or pick up like a little like snack at the market that we had, but at the same time I have really enjoyed seeing the development in our new studio space. Um, all the fun new things. Like even just like we have some really cool murals on our walls and like the new furniture that’s coming in the main room and even the shooting space has been really cool to see. Um, but I think for me the main thing, I feel like the environment, like just the positivity, like in our studio, it’s just super fun. I mean, it’s always been fun, but it’s just, I feel like brought a whole new level of like excitement for everybody.
So the excitement and the optimism over the new place and where we’re going and what we’re doing has overshadowed the fact that we can’t walk to Burger Lounge and it’s just right there?
Yeah, definitely. That’s, yeah, that’s definitely been the huge uplift of it all, which has been great.
Erin (Narrator): 28:17
Again a huge relief to hear that this change hasn’t gone south for our team, but in fact has motivated them, breathes life into my overworked soul because as the construction has slowed down with the shooting space, getting finished, the kitchen getting installed and all of the floors, baseboards and trim getting completed in the bathrooms, the work has shifted from Jeff and his drill to me and my paintbrush. Winter is gone and spring has turned into summer and wedding season has ramped up. So instead of curing my wedding hangovers the day after shooting a wedding by lounging at home with my son and my BJ’s, I’ve been waking up early on the weekends and going to this studio to caulk, spackle, sand and paint all day long. Murals, walls, baseboards, doors, trim – you name it. I’ve painted it. So it’s so good to feel like all of this work just might payoff.
Erin (Narrator): 29:18
And now we’re at the present. As this podcast episode goes live, it’s the middle of July 2019, six months since we signed the lease. There’s one wall left for me to paint and the last rug is on its way to finish the green room. The final space we need to complete before the whole place is done. We’ve had every office rented since the, we moved in and we’re renting out desks in our shared workspace. We’ve rented out the shooting space several times already for big shoots and the word is getting out about the new amazing Skylight Studios that The Youngrens have built.
Erin (Narrator): 29:55
So now that we’re on the other side of things, I brought Jeff back into the warehouse and we stood in the same spot that we did six months earlier and we chatted about the journey.
Okay Sweetie, we’re here in the studio and it’s completely different than the last time we are here. Talking about this. Before it was literally just a garage, like concrete floors, nothing on the walls and you just drove trucks in here. But now it’s completely different. There’s a giant white cyc across two walls. There’s a gray cyc, there’s a shiplap wall, a living room set, a storage unit like it’s amazing. How have you felt about all of the work that you’ve done over the past six months?
Oh my gosh. It’s felt like never ending and I think there’s been a lot of times where I see saw back and forth between being really, really excited about what the potential is to come and then part of it being like, man, is all this hard work actually worth it. We are spending weekends, like we’re spending late nights where you know, coming back here after putting James to bed and working more and there’s been so many times where I’m like, is this going to be worth it? Like did we make a good decision?
Do you think we made a good decision?
I do, I do. I think we’ve made a really good decision, but I think that that really has only become a reality for me that I would say that like I 100% believe we made a good decision probably just within the past few weeks. What happened to change your mind? It really started with, you know, we got a really big corporate client, a big corporate club contract here for the studio. That’s like way bigger. It’s the biggest contract we’ve ever signed by a lot and it came out of the blue from somebody that was looking to do a big project and they wanted a photographer that not only had the chops but also had the studio and so it was like we got this job because we had the studio not because we could rent it, not because we had access to one, but because it was ours and I think once that all was finalized, I was like, yes, we definitely made the right decision. I mean it’s going to be no small amount of work, but it’s like, okay, like the studio is generating the revenue. It needs to exist.
It’s not just like a gamble anymore. I think that’s what it is. It’s a, we’ve moved from it being a gamble to like being a proven concept. I think the thing that’s just been really surprising to me is that it’s been up and down and I think I expect there to still be ups and downs. Kind of what I’m thinking… Like stressed when we were signing the lease, excited when we started moving in. Stressed when the contractor was delayed, excited when we put the first coat of paint on. Stressed when we had to get things ready for a shoot, excited when the results came back and everybody was so happy. It’s just like kind of back and forth, but the thing that I think I’m learning through this process is you know the power of just staying the course.
What would you as Present Jeff say to Former Jeff that is sitting down and signing the lease? What would you say to that Jeff?
You’re making a good decision. Just go for it. You’re fine.
Has there been any moments in this process that you’ve been like, what was Jeff thinking? I’m not sure about this?
Like honestly, really there, there hasn’t been
Awww that’s sweet. Thanks for believing in me
Erin (Narrator): 33:34
And I really mean it. Not once did I truly question Jeff if this was the right move or not. Maybe it’s because we’ve been through hard stuff before. Maybe it’s because I’m not in the day to day grind of the business like I used to be, but I think it’s really because in our 13 years of being married and running a business together, I’ve learned to trust. I trust his gut instinct. See, when you run your own business, you make a big tradeoff. You get all the freedom in the world. When you work for yourself, the freedom of choice. You get to decide what you do with your time. No two weeks of vacation or clocking in a timecard. No one tells you what to do anymore. On the flip side, no one tells you what to do in so many ways, you’re on your own. No one else carries the responsibility of success or failure except for you.
Erin (Narrator): 34:30
No one has a roadmap for you or can tell you if your next move is a good idea or not. Not In the end. It’s up to you. So I’ve learned that one of the most valuable assets that a business owner has is their instinct, their ability to vision and to see a future that’s better than the present. And when we bought the commercial business, Bauman Photographers back in 2012, Jeff had a vision before any of us could see it. He saw us moving into a studio space big enough to shoot a car in. And guess what? One of the first shoots we did on our big cyc wall was? Just after we completing the wall, we got a job where we photographed a BMW I8 for BMW. So does Jeff have good instincts? Yeah, I think he does and I’m so excited to see where that instinct takes us next.
Erin (Narrator): 35:55
Thank you for joining me here on Creative Rising, my friend. I love sharing our behind the scenes stories with you. If you’d like to learn more from us, then check out our free training on how to book dreamy clients you love over discoveryourdreamies.com. It’s one hour, completely free and totally worth your time. Also, if you loved this episode and can’t wait to hear more, remember to subscribe to this show in your podcast player so you won’t miss any new episodes. Bye for now, my friend. I’ll see you next time.
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