In Conversation with Diana Davis, Business Coach for Creative Entrepreneurs

I think I need to touch on the concept of fear for a second here.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the future. Fear of leaving the concept of safety and stability. Fear of going out on your own. Fear of building something, and then pivoting to try something new and unfamiliar.

I’m no stranger to fear, but have found time and time again that it only inhibits me. There is no upside to fear. Unless you’re being chased by a bear, and then I think evolutionarily the impulse has been quite a success for us humans.

What has really helped to stem the fear, for me, has been focusing inwards on my own innate wisdom and knowing. Shutting out the externals, the brain chatter from our conditioning, and saying to myself “What do I love? What lights me up?” And then pursuing just that. Knowing that if I am following my true and authentic purpose, that represents the antithesis of fear. It represents honoring myself and the world around me.

A great reminder of this message has always been my close friend, Diana Davis. She is a business coach who empowers creative entrepreneurs and side hustlers to turn their passions into profit, yes. But she is also a fierce advocate for individuals, for us all aligning with our intuition and pursuing our own paths, and for supporting others along that journey in the spirit of collaboration and compassion.

She had a major head start on me in her entrepreneurial pursuits, and built a business first as a graphic designer and photographer that was the model of success for myself and many other female entrepreneurs in our circle. And now, as the new decade is upon us, she has inspired me once again by pivoting to an entirely new business model. Not because she needed to, or it would further pad her bank account. But because it set her soul on fire. 

We sat down (virtually) to talk about everything from her journey as a female entrepreneur, what that major business pivot has looked like, how to continuously show up for your community along the way, and how we can all turn inwards and trust ourselves a little bit more each day. 

Let’s start with your own personal journey as an entrepreneur leading up to 2020. What gave you your spark, how did you build your business, and what does being an entrepreneur mean to you? 

I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur but honestly, society told me it wasn’t possible unless xyz things were in line (big clients lined up, capital, and so on) so I thought, if anything, it might happen in my 40’s. I’ve always freelanced as a graphic designer and photographer on the side of my corporate design and photography job, so I had dipped my toes in. But I was nervous to make the leap. “How can I not only be the creative but also my own accountant, marketing team, and customer relations??” I would ask myself. 

Luckily, my parents were “entrepreneurs,” cattle ranchers to be exact, and they always taught me to chase my dreams and not the money. So, I decided to chase those dreams. I dropped everything and moved to NYC without a job or a plan. I made it work. The same happened with my entrepreneur life. To get super real, I had been working in media publishing for several years and my job was all the sudden eliminated. Best day of my life, as I see it now. From that moment, I took the leap into the depths of full-time entrepreneurship. I hustled my butt off and it paid off.

I built my business, my career in general, and my New York life by reaching out to people and connecting with them. It literally started with cold messages on LinkedIn to get connected enough to land my corporate job at Time Inc. Then it was attending in-person women’s events in NYC to start getting a photography client base when I went out on my own. As they say, your network is truly your net worth. Am I comfortable reaching out to people? Absolutely not. But when you’ve gotta make it work, you do things so far out of your comfort zone, you don’t even recognize yourself.

So to me, entrepreneurship is freedom. Freedom to work with the most inspiring, badass people who are changing the world. Freedom to fulfill MY vision for my life and my business. Freedom to go to a workout class at 3pm on a Monday. Freedom to work out of NYC or Montana or Japan. Freedom to make an impact on other people’s lives directly versus being a link in a chain. And OH BOY, it’s not for everyone. What a roller coaster entrepreneurship can be. But it’s right for me. 

You built a thriving, six-figure business as a photographer, and then this year you decided to pivot in a completely new direction. Can you share about how you decided to make this change, let go of what was not only comfortable but successful, and found the courage to move in a new direction?

First of all, YES. Six-figure photography business is a real thing and I want to say it again for the creatives in the back who think they have to stick with a $50k salary.

Back to it—this year has obviously had SO many changes for everyone. I feel so lucky mine were mostly positive ones. In February 2020, right before the pandemic, I invested in myself and hired my first business coach. She has pushed me in some much-needed ways and I don’t think I would’ve survived quarantine without her. When quarantine started, in-person photoshoots were not happening, so I started offering Strategy Sessions: one-on-one coaching sessions for creatives. This was something I had been meaning to do for a year or so but didn’t want to dedicate the time to. COVID gave me the space and time to explore this and as it turns out, it’s definitively my calling. 

Then, when I started Camp Clarity, my 90-day group course for creative entrepreneurs, all bets were off. It’s literally my favorite part of my week and I feel like I could do this forever. There’s something about seeing 18 different creatives learn to thrive in their business that totally fills my cup. 

I will say, the process of pivoting has not always been an easy one. Ego deaths are real. It’s hard to have identified as a photographer for so long and now, all of the sudden, I’m a Business Coach. WHAAA? But it truly feels like my soul purpose. 

How have you found that your existing community, clients, and audience has responded to your pivot? What was this shift like both internally and externally, and how has it opened your current relationships up in new ways and allowed you to foster new relationships?

Apparently my audience, community, friends all knew this was my calling before I did. When I made the announcement on Instagram that I was taking on coaching clients, I got comments like, “GIRL! This is perfect! I totally picture you as a coach!” and, “It’s about damn time!”

It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine though. I had some resistance with other people in the same coaching space not taking to it kindly and feeling competitive. My biggest piece of advice with any industry is to get out of that competitive mindset. Start collaborating with those people instead and build camaraderie. You’re going to need support, you’re going to have questions, you’re going to need to vent, and so are they. 

This new pivot has cultivated so many new amazing connections and also has really made me look at my current relationships and circle. In my opinion, it’s SO important to have “expanders” in your circle that challenge you, lift you up, and help you see how much further you can go. That means unfortunately a lot of relationships also have to sluff off if they are no longer serving you. My mom always says, “Life is a trolley car. People get off and they get on. Some stay longer than others. Some people even get back on. They all serve a purpose.” 

What’s really cool is that through Camp Clarity, I’ve literally created a new community and it’s thriving. That group supports each other like you wouldn’t believe and it’s so beautiful to be a part of and I’m excited to see it grow. 

We need to touch on your Instagram, as you have one of the most engaged and loving communities out there. You consistently inspire me to show up, be real (bloopers and all), and do so daily in a way that never feels contrived and always feels like YOU. What does Instagram represent to you, and how do you leverage this platform to meet your business goals?

First of all, AWWW, thank you! I love my community that I feel like I accidentally built. Instagram represents a way to connect with people across the world, grow my business, spread awareness and love, and also give my parents a way to keep up with my crazy busy NYC entrepreneurial lifestyle. LOL.

I use Instagram to just be me, which is what I teach in Camp Clarity. Be you. People buy from people. If anything, for me, it’s sort of a blog/vlog platform for my life and business (the two are so intertwined). If one person can relate to my authenticity, then I think it’s worth it. And yes, because people love real people, I’ve grown a little following and it provides business opportunities often. That’s a win-win in my book.

What have your biggest challenges been with pivoting your business, and how have you worked to overcome limiting beliefs and written a new story for yourself?

Imposter syndrome was my main challenge and trusting in the Universe’s plan was my solution. Many days I wake up and think to myself, “WHY ME? Who would hire me? I’m not even qualified to xyz.” But neither are most people, if you really think about it, except maybe in the medical field (and we love them!). It’s so funny how no matter how much positive reinforcement we get from the outside world, with clients, friends, family saying how great we’re doing and that we’re crushing it, we still have the capacity to get in our own way. For this I have coaches and therapy. They pull me out of my own self-created sinkholes. Coaches absolutely need coaches and I’ll never not have one again. 

As a coach, you do really deep and vulnerable work to help creative entrepreneurs step onto their path and know their true worth. How have you learned to protect your energy while coaching and holding space for others?

GOOD QUESTION. Yes, coaching is not only about business logistics, money, and strategy, but OFTEN about mindset. Sometimes an entire session is just talking someone off of a ledge. Having my vibe at a super high level beforehand so I can pour into people is crucial. I’m learning not to take on too much and also to keep working on myself so that I can show up 100% and serve others. 

Honestly though, I have manifested such ideal clients that I rarely feel an energy suck from coaching. How to manifest their dream clients is part of what I teach them too. And boundaries… OHHHH BOUNDARIES. They’re literally the first thing I cover in Camp Clarity because it’s that important to all of our wellbeing.

Are there three tips that you can share with fellow female entrepreneurs today who may be looking to make a change in their business, but are feeling fear and uncertainty around this shift?

As hard as it may seem, go with your gut. If something seems to be pulling you in a direction, listen to it. Observe. 

Try to have an open heart and open mind because if I’ve learned ANYTHING in this lifetime, it’s that the Universe has a plan for you that you can’t even fathom and it’s MAGICAL. 

So trust it, close your eyes, and let it lead you through it. The more I resist, the harder I make it on myself.

Anything last words that you’d like to leave us with?

I have so many things I could share but I’ll leave with a quote that my friend Nicole Wild said during a meditation once: 

“Looking around at other people is kind of like cheating on a test without realizing you’re all holding a different copy.”

You do you. Your path is your own and it’s BEAUTIFUL. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s and it actually shouldn’t. Follow your intuition and let the story unfold. 

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