Home » Podcast » How a Mastermind Group Transforms Your Photography

This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. We only recommend products we fully support or use ourselves. Our full disclaimer

Episode #006

How a Mastermind Group Transforms Your Photography


UPDATED: May 20, 2023
ORIGINALLY AIRED ON February 18, 2020


If there is one single simple tool that can radically up your game as a conservation photographer, it's a mastermind group.


Use mastermind groups to level up your photography

I'm going to get super blunt. Too few conservation photographers are putting in the much-needed work of understanding business and marketing. But, we're going to change that together. Starting right now. Because I have a tool for you that's going to make you flat-out excited about the business side of our work. 

This one tool can do everything from lighting a fire under your creative vision, to turning the dial up to 11 on your conservation project’s reach and impact, to absolutely transforming how you handle the business side of your work. This simple strategy is equal to hanging out with high quality people and having amazing conversions. In fact, that’s exactly what this tool is! In this episode, we are talking about Masterminds!

If you love sitting down with a small group of folks whose opinions you value and whose work you respect, and having conversations that leave you feeling like you can take on the world, then you're going to love what is in this episode.

Today, I'm walking you through what a Mastermind group is, what it can do for you and, ever so importantly, how you can create one … like, right now!

You'll Learn:

  • The structure of an effective mastermind group
  • How to select people to be in your own mastermind group
  • The best meeting structure so everyone gets the most out of them
  • Potential hiccups to watch out for, and how to prevent them

It's really good stuff, and I can darn near guarantee that if you put in the work to building a great mastermind group, you're going to see amazing results.


Steps for Building a Mastermind Group:

  1. Start with the people. Find 4-7 people with a broad diversity of skill sets, but roughly the same or a bit more experience then you. Make sure that they are truly committed to showing up to every mastermind meeting, and that they'll stay focused throughout each meeting. No multi-tasking allowed.
  2. Set a recurring date and time that works into everyone's schedule. Usually a weekly meeting will produce the most results.
  3. Set up a one-hour meeting either in person, or on a conference call (Zoom works great for things like this!)
  4. The meeting structure goes as follows: 10 minutes for everyone sharing one of their wins from the past week. 40 minutes for the hot seat (I dive into detail about the hot seat in the episode).  10 minutes for everyone sharing either one goal, or three top priorities for the upcoming week.
  5. Remember that the hardest part is keeping the mastermind going consistently, and with good vibes all around. Setting up some ground rules from the get-go can really help with this. Two key rules include a promise of privacy – what's shared in the group stays in the group – and a commitment to never miss more than a certain number of meetings. Having a straightforward conversation with a member who isn't living up to the group expectations is a lot easier when the expectations are clear from the start.

I hope this episode motivates you to curate an amazing mastermind group that will help to hit spectacular levels of creativity and success.


Episode 006: How a Mastermind Group Transforms Your Photography

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/6

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)


Jaymi Heimbuch: So something that you might not know about me is I avidly, and I mean avidly consume business and marketing books and podcasts. I follow marketers on social. I have a ton of emails coming in that are all marketing emails that I just used to kind of glean information and ideas. I sign up for every free masterclass about business and marketing that I come across, even though I know that it's the precursor to a sales pitch, because all of this, all of it, is pure gold for conservation photography.

See, there's something seriously lacking from conservation photography, and it's something that I have as a personal goal to help shift. I'm going to be really blunt with you guys right now. Most conservation photographers…well, we lack marketing game, and most of us only kind of dabble in business skills. Few actually study business and marketing, and I mean, really study it. And that's a serious problem, because savvy marketing strategy is exactly what we need to help us make our conservation photography campaigns actually have an impact. Everything that we learn in marketing for a consumer mindset that can be applied to our conservation campaigns and savvy business strategy is exactly what we need in order to make this a full time gig that's comfortable. That's something that pays the mortgage and the utility bills and, heaven forbid, pays enough for high quality health insurance and a retirement plan.

I know, I know. I get a little energized when I talk about applying business and marketing skills to our work in conservation photography, and I know that not everyone feels that way. But I want to help change that. And in this episode, I want to talk about one simple tool that can radically up your game as a conservation photographer, from lighting a fire under your creative vision to turning the dial up to 11 on your conservation projects reach an impact to absolutely transforming how you handle the business side of your work.

This simple strategy is equal to hanging out with high quality people and having amazing conversations, and in fact, that's exactly what this tool is. In this episode, we're talking about masterminds. Let's dive in.

Welcome to Impact the conservation photography podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch, and if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild then you're in the right place. From conservation to creativity, from business to marketing and everything in between. This podcast is for you, the conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.

Have you ever heard of a mastermind to group before? It's totally understandable if you're looking at me with furrowed brows, just thinking, huh?

So first we're gonna talk about the what. What is the mastermind group? And then I'm gonna walk you through the how. I'm gonna show you step by step, setting one up for yourself.

But first do me a favor. Think back to a time when you had a really great conversation with someone, a friend or a colleague, and it could be about your work or a project. And it was such a great conversation. Ideas were flying left and right, and creative brilliance was sandwiched in with sharing stories and working through troubles. It's one of those conversations where you leave feeling like you've covered serious ground and you've cracked the code on something that had been weighing you down.

I definitely remember having one of these conversations a couple of years ago. A group of I think it was 4 or 5 of my photographer buddies and I were sitting around and I mentioned this project that I had just started and a certain shot that I could totally see in my head. But I really had no idea how I was gonna get it. It's logistically tough. It's technically tough. And I knew I wanted this shot, and I was kind of venting about how I didn't know how to go about it. And they just dove straight in. We got completely sucked into ideas like Well, what if you use this kind of light. Will that hold up against saltwater, though? Or what if you set it up like this? Well, what if you tried this approach? No, no, no. That's not gonna work because of this issue over here. But what if you tried and on and on and on for probably a solid half hour. So until we devised a solid plan of action for me to go test out in the field, it was such a fun, creative, satisfying conversation.

We've all had one of these epic conversations. So now think about having one of those on a weekly or a monthly basis. Because a mastermind provides this.

A mastermind is very straightforward. It's a small group of people who have committed to meet on a regular basis to help each other brainstorm, troubleshoot, to work toward big goals. A mastermind group is this all in one package of a community of trusted peers and an informal classroom. It's a source of ongoing motivation and inspiration. And here's the most important part. Your group members are your accountability partners.

With a mastermind group, you have the ability to work out solutions, and you have the team who is gonna help to hold you to implementing them. It's amazing. The kind of transformation that a mastermind group can have on your photography is frankly monumental. I know that I sound like I'm overstating that, but trust me, I'm not. Because not only can you talk about creative strategy, but you can bring to the table your projects, your funding issues, your business issues, where you're stuck in advancing your work. You bring what you need to bring to the table and the group helps out.

And on the flip side, when a mastermind member brings the issue to the table and you focus all of your brain power on helping them, it's amazing how much you maybe didn't realize you needed to work through that problem, too. And the input can be put into practice for yourself as well.

So masterminds are extraordinary tools. I'm running two of them this year, one has focused on business for creatives, and one is focused on marketing for creatives. The best part is, mastermind groups are not difficult to set up. I'm gonna walk you through a basic structure of how you can build your own mastermind group to ramp up your photography skills and your success. Okay, let's get straight to it.

So first you'll start with the people. Mastermind groups work best with 4 to 7 members. This is a really great size to ensure that everyone has opportunity to add to the group. There's a solidarity among all the members and a trust that you can just more easily create and maintaining without smaller group size. And you'll also see why this is a great size when I talk about the meeting structure in just a few minutes.

So when you start with the people, you're going to think about gathering up members based on their skill levels in some ways. So if you're the one building the mastermind, then you want to find people who have a wide diversity of skill sets and also be a bit more experienced than you. Not way more experience because, frankly, if you have someone who is incredibly experienced in the group, then they probably are not going to see much benefit of being in the group at all, because everyone else isn't going to be able to dive in and help out with these more advanced issues that really experienced person is probably gonna have. So really aim for folks who have roughly the same or a bit more experience than you and again, a nice, broad diversity of skill sets and backgrounds. Because that way, there's a huge amount of knowledge that can be pulled from during meetings.

So what I'm talking about that in conservation photography, you can be pulling people who have skill sets in different areas of photography, different styles, different approaches. They can have different backgrounds beyond photography, so environmental communications or biology or law or whatever it might be. That big, broad diversity is a pretty important asset.

You'll also want to make sure that you have people who are serious and committed to the mastermind group. If you pull in someone who tends to be flaky or flighty and they miss meetings or they're multitasking during meetings, then they're gonna bring the entire group down. So you want to think about personality and skill sets and you want to think about commitment. That's a really big factor in deciding who's in the group, right. Okay, so we're looking for people who are roughly the same experience. Level is you are a little bit more experienced, have really different backgrounds and who all are the type of person who is super committed to the group, and you can trust them to show up, show up every single week or months. Whenever it is you're holding your meetings.

Okay, so you have your great group of 4 to 7 committed folks now. So now let's get into the meeting structure. Mastermind meetings are usually about an hour long. It's a great block of time that usually fits well into everyone's schedule, so it's an amount of time where you can get a lot accomplished, but it doesn't become a burden for anyone. And when you keep a group of 4 to 7 members, you can definitely get everything accomplished within one hour.

Now here's a basic structure that you can follow to get started, and then you can always adjust the structure as you figure out what works best for you and your group. But here's a structure that I really suggest starting with. First, one person is the facilitator for that meeting, and usually it's gonna be whomever was in the hot seat the previous meeting, and I'm gonna talk about the hot seat in just a second, so don't worry about that. But the facilitator is the person who makes sure that the meeting moves forward on schedule, kind of making sure that one part of the meeting doesn't ramble on too long. And then they're also gonna help to wrap things up when it's time to wrap up the meeting.

So the first 10 minutes are all about sharing quick wins. So round table style, everyone's gonna share a win that they experienced since the last meeting. It's a great, positive way to start out the energy of the group meeting, and also everyone loves to share those wins. It's really inspiring, and it keeps people really motivated to show up every meeting when they know they're going to get to kind of brag a little bit or celebrate a little bit with their meeting members. So that's the 1st 10 minutes.

Then the next 40 minutes is hot seat time. So this is what I'm talking about: the facilitator is usually the person who was in the hot seat the last meeting. So one person is going to take the hot seat for the next 40 minutes, and so one person becomes the focus of the meeting. They bring to the table a problem or a struggle they're having, or something that they're working on, and they want feedback about it. And the other members spend that 40 minutes providing strategies to try providing input, productive stories that are of their own similar experiences that might inspire answers. They ask, insightful or probing questions to help tease out the answers. They offer support all through that 40 minutes, and by the end of that 40 minutes there is, ideally, a plan of action for the hot seat person to put into play.

So between now and the next meeting, that person in the hot seat has an idea about the next steps that they're gonna take. All thanks to the work that everyone put into that hot seat issue over the course of the 40 minutes. So the facilitator can help wrap up this portion of the meeting with a list of tasks or a summary of the action plan, so that the hot seat member really leaves with a very clear idea of what it is they're going to do next. They feel like they were acknowledged. Their issues were addressed, and it's all wrapped up in a tidy little package.

Then the group wraps up the meeting, with everybody getting clear on their plan of action between now and the next meeting. So there's two things that you can do during those last 10 minutes. Again, you can go round table style, and each person can stay either a goal or their big three priorities for the next week, so they can either say Well, by this time next week, my goal is to X Y Z, or during the next week, my top priorities are going to be accomplishing A B and C, and everyone's going to state that for the group, because again these other group members can help each other be accountable for accomplishing those short term goals or those priority tasks.

And that's it. It's pretty straight forward, right? So an hour long meeting, spend the 1st 10 minutes on your quick winds, spend 40 minutes on one person in the hot seat and then spend 10 minutes again roundtable style staying. The goals are the top three priorities for the next week, and it really is all of the organization and consistency around these mastermind group meetings that makes them so magical. They become a regular part of your life rather than something that is random or happenstance. And you know that the other people are expecting you to pull off whatever it is that you have planned for yourself. So you enter a whole new level of accountability that can have huge impacts overall in your work. It's pretty great stuff, right?

So here's the hardest part. I wanna make sure that you understand that there are some potential hiccups that you'll wanna watch for, and maybe put some preventative measures in place, for the hardest part is keeping it going. It takes a serious commitment. The group can only have these amazing, transformative results if all of the members are equally committed to showing up every meeting and really pouring their full Selves into it, there's no multi tasking. There's no looking through Facebook while you're listening in on the call, there's no checking your phone. Everybody is dialed in, they’re committed and they're really showing up for each other.

And sometimes if one of the members starts to flag, you might need to have a serious and potentially awkward talk if they need to leave the group, and often that's gonna fall on one person. Usually it's the person who set up the mastermind to make sure that everyone knows the date and the time of the next meeting, that everyone is really flourishing in the mastermind. And they're gonna be the ones to have that straightforward conversation if someone isn't staying so committed.

It's not a bad idea to set up some group rules to help this situation out. So one of the key rules that you definitely want to set up with the very beginning is privacy. That everything said inside the group is set in confidence and it's not shared outside of the group. This is pretty huge because if you're bringing a conservation project to the table, something that you really want a document, you don't want that getting out into the world. You don't want other people picking up on that idea, and you're not going to talk openly and candidly unless you know that everybody else is going to kind of keep that cone of silence and protect you and what it is, you have to say so privacy is really critical. So a key rule to set up the beginning is an understanding that what set in the group stays in the group

And a second key rule is required attendance. So you might set up a rule that let's say, if someone misses two consecutive meetings, or if they miss a certain number of meetings each quarter, then you know they're kicked out. It's up to you, of course, but, um, I do believe the good fences make good neighbors and that having really clear expectations from the get go, that helps keep everything as amicable as possible and make sure that everyone's on the same page. And then if something pops up, no one would be like, Oh, I didn't think it was really like that. They knew exactly what it was that they were getting into what the expectations were.

This could be something that you want to create for yourself, you now have all the steps in the information that you need to go ahead and set one up, and through it you can gain that consistent help, that accountability that takes your work to the next level. And I know that we did go through steps rather quickly.

If you want a breakdown of how this works, you can find all of the details of what we talk about in the show notes, so you can go to JaymiH. That's JaymiH.com/6 the number six for this episode. All right, my friends, I hope that you are inspired and motivated, and I will talk to you next week

Before we wrap up. I'd love to ask you to do one quick thing. Subscribe to this podcast see as a subscriber. You'll not only know when each week's episode goes live, but you'll also get insider goodies like bonus episodes. You might miss them unless you're subscribed and I don't want you to miss out on a thing, so please tap that subscribe button and I'll talk to you next week.


Impact: The Conservation Photography Podcast



Rate, Review & Follow on Apple Podcasts

Love listening to Impact: The Conservation Photography Podcast? Please consider rating and reviewing us! Reviews help us reach more photographers just like you who want to make a meaningful impact with their images.

Head here on your mobile device, scroll down to “Write a Review”, and let us know what you love most about the show!

While you’re at it, tap “Follow” so you’re sure to get all the episodes – including bonus episodes! – the moment they drop. Follow now!