Testing & Offering Something New

posted on: September 23, 2018

The audio version is 11 minutes long if you'd prefer to listen instead of read:

When I need to restart my business in a new region, there's a built-in need to test offering my services and skills to different people.  There's a built-in need to meet new people and make new connections.  There's a built-in need to better understand a new place and the perceptions of the people who reside within it.  I have to see how they respond, what they like, what they don't like, and what they value before I can understand how my service or product fits into their needs.  I also need to understand what questions they have, so that I can consider more thoughtful answers.  I have to do all of those things even when I already fully understand how people perceive what I'm offering every other place I've ever lived, because every single market, city, state, country, etc. is just a little bit different.

What if they gave up after folding one crane because it was not big enough, or seemed too mundane, or not perfect, or was going to require too much work, or didn’t make them happy? . Is there something you want to give up on because it isn’t coming togeth

Since the information I need about new clients is stored in their heads and not mine, I have to talk to a lot of people in the community about the work I do and ask them questions in order to see how they respond.  Having people click a thumbs-up icon on facebook or a heart-icon on instagram isn't nearly as helpful as having face to face conversations with full body language included.  I learn so much more in a shorter period of time by talking to as many people as possible about the kind of work I do and why I'm passionate about it than by doing something like running ads or just posting online.

This is true when changing careers, changing industries, entering a new market segment, introducing a new product in the market, or doing anything in a new space or with a new audience.  We need to talk to people about what we're creating in order to get rich feedback.  The more we listen to the feedback of others, the more we can cultivate an offer and find the right market.

When I started testing the waters with being a reiki practitioner and whether or not I wanted to offer it to more people, I attended several local BNI meetings in NYC, where I had to deliver a 30 second pitch about what reiki is and who it's for.  BNI is a small-business-focused networking environment designed for speaking publicly about your offer and pitch in a short period of time, which is great for testing something new and getting immediate feedback.

During the causal BNI networking time before and after the formal part of the meeting, I also had a chance to ask questions, and I learned that the people who did not know what reiki was either nodded like they knew until I asked about their experience, or they just admitted they didn't know what it was.  When people really knew what it was, they immediately conveyed their prior experience, a healing story, or a story of someone else they know who practices reiki.  These conversations really helped me understand what percentage of people in this metropolitan area already had some experience or understanding with what I was offering, and how much advance education I'd need to do if I were going to make an offer, as well as how to identify what issues reiki could help with.

Another thing that happens when speaking to other people face to face about what I'm offering is that I contextualize my description differently based on the person I'm speaking with.  For the waiter who goes to the gym all the time, I describe reiki as a relaxing therapeutic method that can be similar to massage, but without roughing up muscle tissue.  For the cardiologist, I describe reiki as a method of practice that can help people regulate their own heart rate better, and it can be learned as a personal self-care practice or received hands-on as a therapeutic practice.  In one case, when I encountered a cardiologist, I also learned I didn't even have to describe it, because it was already in his medical understanding- so I got to check my perceptions as well about who may or may not understand it.  The main point is that by speaking about what I'm creating or working on with different people, I'm forced to make it relevant and understandable to many different types of people, which expands my vocabulary about what the work is and how it is relevant for different people.

This is either madness or brilliance.

This change of career, change of offering, and change of market is the first time I've really needed to reintroduce myself to people I've already met, as well as finding new people and new markets to introduce myself to, while living in the same place.  I'm discovering that it's much easier to step into a new city and introduce myself in a completely new way than it is to remain in a city with the same network I've had while going through a process of introducing a totally different direction to people who had already placed me into a comfortable and understandable box in their brain.  It's not really "difficult" to do this, it just takes time to catch everyone up on all the changes.  

Some people don't get the memo that I've made a big change until I see them again in person, so it can be a regular retelling of the change in direction story for a good year or more with people who had already known me under one industry title (Photographer) and now need an update on my change in direction (Reiki).  Luckily, most people I stay in touch with are totally cool with this change and still like staying connected even if we're in different industries.  Smart people stay connected no matter what because it can mean more referrals for them.

Ironically, the process of reintroducing myself and new work to familiar connections is almost the same as just starting up a new business in a new city anyway.  If there's anything I've learned over the last 14 years of working for myself and moving to multiple cities, it's how to introduce whatever I'm doing to an entirely new group of people as quickly as possible.  Doing this process with people who already know me is what makes this particular transition more unique than the others I've done.

Another thing that makes this particular transition unique for me is that I've been traveling a lot internationally and I have more international travel ahead, which means changing a lot of things about how I'm used to working.  So, I've been testing and trying more ways of working asynchronously so that I can have more time for adventures offline or just time to deal with spotty internet connections while traveling.  Photography required me to be with a client in person on a specific time frame, which just doesn't work when I don't even know exactly where I'll be in a week or a month down the road- let alone several weeks or months.

Ancient Temple Doors on a Modern Restaurant

One way I've been building capacity for working asynchronously is to put everything I regularly help people with during consulting sessions into a DIY workbook format that makes it easy to go through the process I've perfected in a very simple step-by-step way.  It's a lot of time investment up front before there's a return on that investment of time, but getting it into the hands of people who can test the workbook part by part allows me to make progress on it more quickly before bringing it to the public.  I'm very proud of what this workbook will mean for the future of self-employed creatives and I can't wait to share it publicly.  There are still parts of the process that are a challenge to put on paper when I'm used to doing them it quickly in my head, so it takes time to break down the process into parts and pieces that can be accomplished in a simple step-by-step way.  I also have another book in the works, but if I can get the workbook done and ready first, that would be a huge packaging of so many things I've learned and would love for others to be able to do for themselves.

Another thing I've been testing is an asynchronous method of energetic and intuitive body readings, using what I've learned from reiki and medical intuitive clients.  It still requires getting permission from a client up front, but I've learned that I can do the work over a few days without the client needing to be present on video or the phone, and I can deliver the work in a tangible format that makes it easier for the client to undestand.  

In order to test whether I could do this work asynchronously and it would be viable and valuable to a client, I made a very easy and affordable offer to a facebook group of people who are open to taking a chance on a type of intuitive work they may not have experienced yet.  I limited the offer to a certain number of people and a certain timeframe in order to make sure I could deliver on my promise without being overwhelmed.  I learned that I was able to work with 6 people over the course of 3 days, which also helped me understand that I could only do 2 readings each day due to the energetic and entanglement nature of the work.  The clients provided feedback that let me know the work was still just as valid, confirming, and insightful even if I wasn't working in a synchronous way with them on the phone.  That was pretty cool, and when I feel ready to package that and make it available online, I'll gather a few more testimonials from clients about the process, and probably create a video about the process to help people better understand what's possible and why they might want to try it.

While my announcement in November about leaving photography and focusing on reiki may have felt abrupt or fast to people who don't speak with me offline, this process has not been without extensive testing along the way to see if I feel comfortable stepping into this new space and ready to deal with the challenges that may come along with it.  Testing my offerings and speaking with people was the only way I knew I could potentially pursue it all more fully.  I needed those conversations and confirmations along the way to feel confident about taking those next steps, regardless of whether I felt like I'd actually figured it all out.

I hope my personal examples and story inspire you to test anything new you're considering doing.  Life is far too expansive to limit yourself into one thing your entire life, or to never try to pursue something you're deeply passionate about.  You don't have to give everything up to test something out, you just have to be willing to be open with people that you're testing something you're curious about and looking for people who are open to trying it out.  You just might be surprised by who is willing to take you up on your offer, and where it goes from there.

Everything After Leaving It All

posted on: September 6, 2018

Well, I think I've made this process as easy on myself and my clients as I possibly could, but there are still things to wrestle with even 9 months after announcing my retirement.  I'm sharing this in the event that you're also exploring leaving a business that has been running for a decade or more, with regard to how you might plan your exit strategy.  (all photos from my instagram feed)

When I announced the changes in my photography business last year, I had that very optimistic outlook about how much time I'll have "after I retire" to think about everything else I've been wanting to do and create, but the reality has taken much more time to get to a place of being able to think about anything else.

The first 4 months after my announcement were spent finishing projects that were still immediately on the table, as well as a few more projects clients wanted me to take care of before I completely unplugged and spent the summer traveling.  It turns out that wrapping up a photography business and pulling back from awesomely loyal clients takes almost as much headspace, time, and expense as keeping the business going.  I should have known this based on the other businesses I've helped close or transfer, but of course it's always different when you're in the middle of doing the work.

The second 4 months were pretty splendid and blissful, traveling city to city and country to country, while allowing myself to be completely disconnected from email, or managing client needs, or customer service, or responding to bid requests, or following up with new leads, as well as not feeling the need to have any of my photography gear with me to complicate my travels or find more work while on the road.  In a way, I think I really needed those months to fully step away and disconnect, otherwise I would have been tempted to continue responding out of kindness and loyalty.

It was freeing, and definitely gave me more headspace, but how I spent that headspace was truly just enjoying each moment as it unfolded, rather than planning for what would be next.  I learned that I need more stillness to create what's next because travel and adventure keeps me focused on just what is right in front of me at that moment, rather than giving me the stillness I need to plan ahead.

So what did I actually accomplish in 6 months after announcing retirement?

1. Stopped taking on new photography clients.

2. Finished up photography projects that loyal recurring clients were counting on me for so they had more time to plan and try out other replacement solutions on a longer timeline (there are still just a couple left this second half of the year.)

3. Shipped out as many of my printed sample products as possible to clients who were featured in the samples.  This actually went much smoother than I thought it would, and most wedding and portrait clients were happy to cover shipping costs.  There were a few times when checking back in with former clients that I learned of tragic events or separations, and those were hard to check in on, but I tried to get as many products as possible out of storage and into the hands of former clients.

4. Decided to keep the photography equipment assets to continue to be sure I don't want to use them for personal projects or other random things.  The value declines every few months, so eventually they are actually worth more to keep than to sell.  If I wanted the money out of it all, I'd sell it all and get what I could from it, but obviously that doesn't matter as much to me as the creative freedom of keeping it.

5. Traveled a whole lot, and I still have some more travel ahead.

6. Freed myself from my inbox by essentially letting one inbox get so full it would bounce back emails, and putting a long vacation announcement on the other.  This is so different from those years when I was completely addicted to my inbox... I never thought there would be a day I could just walk away from my inbox.  Clients who still wanted to reach me basically needed to reach me on Facebook, Instagram, or by Text Message- which they already had access to and had already used to reach me at some point anyway.

Things I still wrestle with 9 months out.... 

How much longer do I want to keep my website and work out there while I'm not taking new clients?

  • On one hand, the website continues to represent my work and experience as a photographer as well as a copyright holder in order to defend any copyright issues for myself or my clients.
  • On the other hand, it also creates the impression that I might still be taking clients, and online high resolution storage is a recurring expense that continues to be billed to a closed business.
  • Ultimately, I may still keep a portfolio out there of some kind featuring my work, but more as a creative archive and copyright placeholder rather than as someone seeking new clients, so I'm still figuring out exactly what to do with my copyright archives.

What is "AnneRuthmann.com" if it is not a professional photography portfolio?

  • Considering the hundreds of links already out there online pointing to "AnneRuthmann.com" were pointing to a photographer's website, do I want to continue directing traffic to a gallery that makes it appear like I'm still an active photographer?
  • Do I want to reuse anneruthmann.com for anything else after it has been so established online as a photographer's website?
  • After my announcement, I decided to point the domain to my "Changes at Anne Ruthmann Photography" blog post, since that would be the most practical way to tell people what's going on, but as time goes on and I debate whether I want to reclaim my domain name for anything else, I still wrestle with exactly where that domain should go and what the consequences are with google when it comes to pointing it in other directions.  I keep playing with it to see what happens regarding traffic.  
Accounting & Taxes
  • I'm not really wrestling with this, it's just a reality of closing out a business, but it obviously has to continue through the next fiscal cycle in order to be fully accounted for whether you're selling the business to someone else or just closing it down for yourself.

What I'm excited about now... 

I feel like I've only just started having time to scratch the surface of what's next for me and how I can help more people.  I have two books that are rattling around in my head right now and each day I plug away bit by bit at the content, outlines, and writing for both of them.  I go between just launching them as books or turning them into workshops to edit and refine first.  For one, it may be better to launch as a book, and for the other it may be a launch as a workshop.  We'll see, as the process continues to unfold the more I work on it.  I just have to keep plugging away and creating what I need to create based on all the rich experiences I've had so far.

I'm spending more time doing reiki energy healing work, both in person and at distance, which feels so aligned and uses all of my very unique body sensitivities and ways of perceiving unseen things.  I even did a couple sessions while I was traveling - and I was grateful I could serve in that way when people were in need.

I'm also spending more time doing consulting work for creatives who want to achieve more freedom and flow in their business.  After creating so much freedom for myself in my business in the last half of my self-employment career, I feel like the only way to truly honor all of that learning and experience is to share it with others to help make their path easier in a much faster way than mine was!  I still look back at what I built, and how easy I made it, and have those moments of thinking "Why couldn't I just keep doing that?!" - but I know why- because I love a challenge, and when I no longer have challenges, I need more.  Now it's much more fun figuring out how to help other people finely tune and optimize their flow!

If you follow me in all the usual social media places, you'll probably see me trying a few different things, asking for people who want to test some things, and throwing a few offers or polls out there to get some feedback and direction as I create new things.  I've learned that I work better in zig zags rather than straight lines.  It almost seems important that I work on two projects at once rather than just one, so that I can switch to another productive thing when I feel stuck or stagnant on one.  It also seems that documenting this process in various ways has become equally important for me to move forward as well, so you'll likely have more to read from me as I work through it all.  

Thanks for joining me for the journey!  If you have any cautionary tales or suggestions about the whole "AnneRuthmann.com" domain thing - please do share!

Day Trip Downtown NYC - 9/11, World Trade, Battery Park, South Seaport

posted on: August 1, 2018

I love creating great experiences that make visiting New York City easier, and since so many people ask "What should we do?" when visiting NYC, I thought I should create a guide that will walk you through the neighborhood the way I would if I could be with you.  Most people have an interest in visiting the 9/11 Memorial and the Statue of Liberty, but this neighborhood has so much more to offer if you know where to go!  So, I've laid out my insider perspective stop-by-stop in an order that helps you spend a day on foot in this neighborhood anytime of year in order to get the most out of it.  If you start this tour around 9am, you'll be in good shape to do all of it!  Some sites may require advance tickets to be purchased in order to avoid a long line or not getting in, so please check out those websites in advance if you've interested in spending more time at those sites.

9/11 Memorial Park & Pools

Address: 160 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10006
Hours: Park Open 7:30am-9pm, Museum Open 9am-6pm 
Time: 30 minutes for just the park & pools, or 2 hours for the museum
Cost: Free to visit the park & pools, Museum is normally $18-$40 but free Tuesday evenings
Start here in the morning, when the air is cool and the tourists haven't fully crowded the park yet.  You'll see the two large pools that are memorial footprints of the buildings and the people who died in 9/11 carved out of the pool's edge.  If you have young children, the actual museum may not be the best content or environment for them.  If you have older children, you may be interested in visiting the museum, which has a somber and reflective tone as it shares movies, memories, and moments of the day and the people who were lost.  If you plan to visit the museum, check in advance for tickets and entry times available: 

One World Trade 360ยบ Observatory

Address: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10006
Hours: 9am-8pm
Time: 60-90 minutes depending on wait times or lines
Cost: $34-$61
Is the sky clear enough to see the top of the One World Trade Building?  If so, you should have a good clear view across the city from the top of the observatory as well.  If it's a rainy or low-cloud day, it may not be worth the visit, but if it's clear, take advantage of the weather and enjoy the elevator ride up which has basically been turned into its own amusement ride through time, history, and space as you soar the 100 flights to the top observatory deck over the highest view of NYC.  

Oculus / Westfield World Trade Center 

Address: 184 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10006
Hours: 10am-7pm
Time: 30 minutes to explore different levels and views without shopping
Cost: Free to enter,  Retail shopping available
A modern skeleton designed to be a grand public space for commuting downtown, shopping, and viewing the ever upward skyline and perspectives through the various windows and skylights.  Architecturally unique and spectacular as it connects the descent and the ascent of the new world trade center.  After walking around here, take the underground tunnel past the Path Train and down the hallway to Brookfield Place, which has many great food options for lunch!

Hudson Eats / Brookfield Place

Address: 230 Vesey St, New York, NY 10281
Hours: 10am - 7pm
Time: 60-90 minutes to explore, order, wait, and sit down for lunch 
Cost: Free to enter, Food Court, Restaurants, and Retail Shopping Available
This is the best place to eat downtown because it has the largest selection of restaurants and high quality food options to stay, to go, or to sit down and enjoy as long as you want.  The lower level near the palm tree atrium has grocery and some sit down restaurant options, while the top level has a food court where you can order at individual eateries and then find a table.  If you can get a table near the windows overlooking the Hudson Yacht Marina, that's one of the best views here.

Battery Park City Esplanade / South Cove Park

Address: South Cove, Battery Park, New York, NY 
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Time: 30 minutes to walk, stop, take photos
Cost: Free
After a good meal at Brookfield Place, take an easy stroll along the waterfront as you make your way down to Battery Park.  It's so easy to forget that this metropolis is an island surrounded by brackish river and ocean waters, and a good walk along the water will help put that back into perspective.  There are plenty of places for shade to stop and sit, as well as a few public restroom options along the way.  If the weather isn't great, it's a short taxi ride to the Ferries at Battery Park.

Take a Ferry - Pick One Option... 

Option 1: Ferry to Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Address: Castle Clinton National Monument, Battery Park, New York, NY
Hours: 8:30am - 5pm
Time: 4 Hours
Cost: $9 - $21.50
If you love history and landmarks, this is the choice for you.  Stand at the feet of Lady Liberty or book a visit to climb into her crown.  Walk in the footsteps of early immigrants as they journeyed from other countries to create a new life in America.  Look up your ancestors in advance through the Ellis Island online registry to see if anyone in your family shared the journey of arriving at Ellis Island.  Reserve your ferry time with Statue Cruises, departing from Battery Park:

Option 2: Staten Island Ferry

Address: 4 Whitehall St, New York, NY 1004
Hours: 24hrs
Time: 2 Hours
Cost: Free
This is the fast & free way to get a closer view of the Statue of Liberty.  New Yorkers who don't want to visit Ellis Island will often take their friends and visitors on this ferry just to pass by for photos.  It's also great if you're just tapped out and tired and want to sit for a while, which I've found has been appreciated by my family members and friends who aren't used to walking all day long like I am.  There isn't much to see in Staten Island right now (they have plans for a large Ferris Wheel attraction), but you still have to hop off when you get to Staten Island, so if you can't catch another Ferry back to Manhattan right away, grab an ice cream cone and look at the little aquarium in the terminal until the next Ferry takes off back to Manhattan.  You can find the ferry schedule here:

Option 3: Governor's Island Ferry

Address: 10 South St, New York, NY 10004
Hours: 10am - 6pm Summer May 1 - October 31 (Closed November 1 - April 30)
Time: 4 Hours
Cost: $0 - $2
My personal favorite way to spend a good weather afternoon is at Governor's Island (not open in the winter).  Most tourists never even learn about Governor's Island, let alone visit it, which is another reason why New Yorkers love it.  It's a place to escape the city while still being close by.  The island has zero traffic because it's designed for pedestrians and bikers.  There are historic sites on the island that are operated by the National Park Service, there's a small farm and eco-education center, there's a food truck alley, a hammock grove, a slide hill, and a bunch of other things you can discover while you're there.  It's a space to relax, breathe some cleaner air, and slow down the pace a little.  Find the Governor's Island Ferry Terminal by looking for the historic victorian ferry terminal to the east of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.  For information about events happening on the island, visit the website:

Seaport District Fulton Market 

Address: 19 Fulton St, New York, NY 10038
Hours: 10am - 10pm
Time: 2 Hours
Cost: Food Court, Restaurants, Retail Shopping
The perfect ending to a full day must include good food and good drink.  As the rest of the financial district closes down and empties out in the evening, the Seaport District and Fulton Market area restaurants light up as a place to relax, eat, and drink after a long day.  Getting here from the Ferry terminal is either a long walk along the waterfront, or a short taxi ride.  You can find restaurants and food options for all diets, as well as indoor or outdoor seating in the good weather months of the year.  There are retail stores for all ages as well as a Seaport Museum and a Pier with Brooklyn views along the water.  This is one of NYC's hidden districts that often isn't explored by visitors unless someone tells them about it.  The district website lists a few of the businesses, but there are many others not listed here:

Do you have sites you'd recommend to visitors spending a day downtown?  
Leave a comment and share your favorites!

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