Now, let's get to the interview!
How long have you been in business?
Behind the lens professionally, 8 years. As a full-time LLC, 2.5 years.
Why did you get started in your industry?
I was in grad school for sport psychology and had some major life changes. My horse got really sick and that was my priority- my advisor and I decided that it was time to part ways because my head+heart weren't in the grad school grind. It was a harsh reality but it opened my eyes to what else is out there. I wanted to do something meaningful that I was passionate about so I took a risk and started a business. BEST. DECISION. EVER.
What has been the most rewarding project you have worked on in your career?
Oh man this is hard to answer...there's a few that have hit home emotionally and really solidified why I'm doing what I'm doing. Capturing my first live birth. Being able to experience that for the first time and document the entire labor was life changing- a home birth at that. The fact that I was invited in to capture such a significant and monumental experience will always stay near and dear to my heart. A memorial shoot for a woman and her horse. They had been a team for nearly 27 years and she reached out to have me photograph their bond+relationship before she let him go. I had recently lost my horse Luxe and I had a memorial shoot as well. Those photos helped me during the grieving process and celebrated a love so fierce- I was honored to do the same for someone else. I had a wedding in New York this past year that I did pro-bono for a long time friend of mine and it was the highlight of my year. At first I questioned if it was a smart decision to do such a huge project for free but it paid off. They were SO onboard with my style and really let me have creative freedom-- I wish more couples would put their trust in their photographer and just let the day unfold! They let their guards down and this was the wedding that I truly hit my stride as a wedding photographer. Having that experience and having their trust delivered my best work to date- a reward better than money in my eyes.
What does a day in the life look like for you in your business?
I learned really quick that inconsistent work habits do a lot of damage and we have to set boundaries as self-employed, work from home-ers. I strongly believe that we need our own workspace- not the couch or bed or breakfast counter-I don't care if it's a folding chair and a tv tray, you need a place to work that is ONLY FOR WORK. I stick to M-F and try to sit down at my desk by 8:30 am and will work until 3:30/4- after that it's personal time and I will not work unless I'm loosing time during the week due to something else. I schedule client meetings at night and on the weekends. I'm not one of those people that schedules time blocks for certain tasks-I have a list of priorities that need to get done and to be honest, work on what I'm in the mood for. Self-awareness is crucial to being self-employed- you have to be aware of your habits and what works best for you! AND what doesn't work for you. During the offseason (WI= Dec-April) I spend a lot of time revamping, updating and educating. This is the time when working from the couch and binge watching tv shows is "allowed". When it's wedding season the majority of the day is spent shooting, emailing, editing, blogging, and content planning- the hours get a bit longer because I'm a perfectionist and somehow have a hard time saying no to stuff.
What has been the best investment you have made in your business?
TIME. Investing A LOT of it to make things work. I don't give myself much wiggle room with my business budget and refuse to collect any credit card debt from it ( I don't even have a business CC!) so the time and effort I invest in my business has to pay off vs. dumping money into courses. I would like to attend a photography workshop in the future but for now I rely on free resources, webinars, local workshops, and networking. Time networking has been the best investment to help my business grow. Also, get an accountant- it's a small investment in the big scheme of things but a huge life+stress saver.
What advice would you give to a person just starting out in this industry?
Get ready to put the work in! Owning+running a photography business isn't taking pretty pictures and letting the cash roll in- it's difficult and frustrating. I think I spend 10% of my time actually shooting. We wear a million different hats in this business and the to-do list never ends. Take calculated risks and form a plan! Don't photograph every inquiry that comes in, find a few niches and get really good at those! Figure out what you want to make and price yourself accordingly. Set aside money for taxes, your business, and for yourself. It took me 2+ years to actually start paying myself. Be real with yourself and your clients, don't fall for sales pitches+trends that big time social media influencers push on you. It takes time and effort to build a business/brand and it will NOT happen overnight. Also, don't obsess over social media and having a perfect feed- it'll get in your head and consume you. 75% of my leads come from vendor referrals, word of mouth, and strategic advertising (i.e. local wedding blogs, the knot, killer SEO). Learn how to be self aware + recognize your strengths/weaknesses, ask for help when you need it. Outsource what you aren't able to learn and do it yourself. Attend Rising Tide Society meetings, look for other small business groups that meet. Reach out to seasoned veterans and take them to coffee. I promise you that finding other creative small business owners will save your sanity and open up a million new doors. Help others when they need it and don't expect anything in return (karma is real friends). Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate- BE THE PERSON EVERYONE WANTS TO WORK WITH. Shoot+create for yourself to push your own boundaries and to keep getting better. Always remember that success takes time, do things right and be patient. Most importantly- Have fun and do the things you're passionate about!
I LOVE meeting+helping other creatives! Please reach out if you have any questions, want to dig in deeper, are feeling stuck, bounce ideas off of someone or just make a new friend. As one of my favorite educators, Ben Sasso, always says- "We're in this together".