FINDING MY TRIBE.
Written by Sue Cade
Rosie Parsons tells how lockdown prompted her to challenge how she perceived herself – and helped her to find her TRIBE.
As a photographer lockdown had a devastating impact on Rosie’s business. Without face-to-face networking the opportunities to meet new clients simply dried up. “Work came to a standstill – it was very scary,” she said.
But far from letting this drive her into despair, Rosie, one of the most positive people you’re likely to meet, had an epiphany. She spotted an Instagram post by Serena Edwards of Calm Waters Counselling. “The inference was that if you allow yourself to be yourself, then others who would instinctively love your personality will find you. It struck a chord, and I realised I had nothing to lose!”
Rosie has always loved bright colours but lacked the self-assurance to carry them off. “I’d buy vivid clothes but then only wear them once before feeling embarrassed and going back to wearing dark tones. I got into a rut of dressing in black, hiding in the shadows, being an ‘unobtrusive’ photographer.” Rosie decided it was time to embrace her values of colour, joy and informality.
So out with the black, in with the bright. Rosie popped the colours in the belief that this would draw in others who love vitality; people she knew she could be friends with. She rebranded her business and her website with lots of pink and a fabulous offer of ‘joyful and colourful personal brand photography’.
“Not for me those images of businesspeople who clearly don’t want to be photographed, who are dressed formally in grey standing against a drab office wall.” Rosie thinks this style has probably had its day, anyway. “The pandemic has led to a more relaxed look – after all, most meetings are on Zoom, who knows if you’re wearing PJ bottoms or tatty slippers? People don’t need to hide behind a corporate front anymore; get rid of the grey – you can still do a great job!”
Her tactics paid off, attracting interest from exactly the right people, mostly female entrepreneurs – women fired by a passion for their own businesses, totally upfront about who they are, even how imperfect they are. “People who want to know me. People who inspire me.” Rosie realised she had found her tribe and knew that she could help them.
“For the female entrepreneur, it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Let’s face it, there are so many of us, photographers, VAs, PRs, HRs. Everyone needs to find their USP, visually show their uniqueness, passion, drive – and confidence. You may know you’re great at what you do, you just need to tell others!”
For every shoot, Rosie wants her subjects to feel relaxed, project self-belief and be themselves. How does she go about it?
“After an initial enquiry, I schedule a meeting to find out everything about a client’s business, the types of projects they particularly enjoy working on, what makes them tick. I love discovering their brand adjectives – are they energetic, lively, passionate? What colours represent their brand; what facial expressions fit their brand personality?”
One of the first to take Rosie up on the new style was Sarah Turner, aka the Unmumsy Mum. This was something of a litmus test for Rosie. “I’d worked with Sarah previously to produce her portrait photos. At the time, I wasn’t clear about what I wanted to achieve. I chose Haldon Forest as the location, purely because I knew it would make a lovely background. I didn’t debate branding ideas or outfits with Sarah beforehand. The photos came out well, but….”
The ‘but’ means that Rosie knew she could do even better. “This time around, we met for coffee to chat about what clothes Sarah might wear and the look we were aiming for. We agreed on Bristol for the location – I know plenty of creative, colourful places in the city. It worked perfectly and Sarah looks amazing.” She also appears to be extremely happy – as do all the women featured on Rosie’s website. They’re all smiling, most of them beaming. They clearly feel comfortable and confident.
Now she’s using WhatsApp so clients can share pictures of possible outfits, which helps her to think about backgrounds. “Laura Woodward-Drake of Boost VA’s colours are yellow and teal. For some of the images, I photographed her outside Zizzis in Gandy Street. The teal walls and Laura’s teal suit working together to make a striking image.”
Rosie’s taking her obsession with colour a step further. She bought a house in Exeter just as lockdown hit which has turned into a massive renovation project. Once it is finished the house will be a vibrant home for her young, energetic family of four children, and will also double as a backdrop for photographs, literally a home studio. “It’s going to be bright! There will be different areas to play with, like a desk space, lounge and the garden, which can all be accessorised.”
One of the reasons for the house move was to be close to the city centre, making it easy to walk in to meet people for coffee and attend some of those networking breakfasts everyone is missing at the moment. And once the pandemic allows, Rosie’s anticipating that her house will be filled with her tribe. “I love bringing people together, I envisage big, noisy dinners!”
Rosie’s positivity and enthusiasm are totally infectious; she is committed to encouraging others to be themselves, to use her skills to bring out their personalities, helping them to enjoy their business and successes more.
“Lockdown gave me time to be more accepting of myself, a good dollop of self-love, if you like. I realised that I’m valuable as I am – I’m unapologetically me. If someone doesn’t ‘get’ me, it doesn’t diminish me as a person.”
That’s one heck of a lesson and something that we should all learn from.