What motivated and inspired you to start your business?
Being a full time photographer was always a dream of mine. I studied photography at degree level, and almost immediately after graduating I worked for a number of other photographers and photo agencies, but later pursued a career in teaching and educational project management. I had ampules experience of photographing people and weddings, and I was an assistant for a professional wedding photographer all throughout my studies. But it took a long time to accept that I was good enough to actually be a photographer and get paid for doing so. In 2011 I was made redundant due to the educational cuts. I searched for job after job but nothing. We were in a recession and all I remember thinking was “it was now or never.”
Tell us about your business
I have a successful wedding and portrait business, which is now in it’s 5th year (officially started in 2012). I am a very observant photographer who embraces natural light, and my work is very ethereal and natural. I also use and adore film photography. My clients range from; couples getting married to families, models, babies and newborns, lingerie shoots, corporate, food, other photographers, artistic commissions, and mostly anything that involves taking pictures.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
I knew the craft, but very little about what being a business woman actually meant. I attended free courses on social media, book keeping and time management (and most were rubbish, but I was flat broke). So I arranged to meet other successful business woman and chat with them about their businesses over coffee, and I got a lot more from this than any of the courses I attended. I then slowly started to build up my network and collaborate with as many local businesses as I could. I would always offer my services for free, and with no income (not even job-seekers), with the very minimal and basic equipment, and a very heavy credit card debt, I can’t pretend this was an easy time.
How have you raised awareness?
It was at least a year of constantly researching, networking and building up my portfolio before I was ready to say I was now “a photographer” and start accepting work from strangers (many who later became consistent clients and friends) . I discovered a great number of like-minded creative wedding suppliers in my area and together we created a great network where we all helped to promote one-another. I managed to get some of my work featured on local blogs and magazines, and before I knew it I was finally getting booked for work. And it felt really really good.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
There are always challenges in business, and going into business is not to be taken lightly. I face different types of challenges throughout the different growing stages of my business, the best thing is to not avoid challenges but rather welcome them as they come. I have found no matter what the challenges have been (even the particularly hard ones) they have always taught me a valid lesson and helped me to grow and shape my business model to become better each time.
How do you overcome challenges? Welcome them and face them, know that they are they to help you grow and overcome something that you need to (whatever that maybe), it could be that something needs to change to make you and your business stronger, and the only way to get there is to go through some growing pains.
What do you love about running your own business?
I love waking up every day knowing that I am doing what I love for a living. I have a studio in the centre of Sheffield and I love spending time there, it’s flooded with beautiful natural light and gives me so much inspiration. When I am not there I am either shooting a wedding or out on location shooting a portrait session/commercial/creative shoot. I have also got to see so many different parts of the country (and abroad) through my work, that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, it’s just my absolute dream and I feel so very lucky to be living it.
How do you stay motivated through difficult times?
It’s important to take some time out to gain perspective, recharge your own batteries and accept these times are a part of life. I like to be around nature and go for a long walks in the Peak District (where I live), go hiking, or for a ride out on my motorbike. I also feel it’s really important to remind myself how far I have come, and reflect on all what I have achieved. Tough times pass, and it’s important to remember that in order to appreciate the greater times we do have to go through some tougher ones too.
Do you have a business philosophy?
Be true to yourself, and try not to compare yourself to others who are doing a similar thing as you. And remember that success has different meanings to different people. I believe that if you are doing what you love and are making a good living doing it, and you are happy, then you are already successful.
What advice would you give to other budding entrepreneurs?
Know what you want to achieve, and go for it regardless of what anyone else says. Keep only positive and influential people in your company, and you can never dream too big or aim too high. More importantly know and practice what the meaning of success means to you daily. And do not be misguided by what the definitions of success means to other people, you are not on their journey, you are on yours, and it’s not going to the same destination.
When I face a big challenge I… grab it by the horns and work through it the best way I possibly can, but I am conscious of being kind to myself and allowing myself time to work through things.
My greatest fear is… not enjoying my life and enjoying the journey of business. Regardless of income, if there is no enjoyment, self-reward and happiness, then how can you define such a way of life as successful?
The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is…
Going for my dream of being a full time photographer, regardless that I was in debt, and that I knew nothing about business and had no income what-so-ever.
If I could go back in time to when I was 20 I would tell myself… Do more of what makes you happy, not what makes others happy. You don’t need anyone’s approval to follow your dreams and no dream is too big.
I believe… You are the only one that is in charge of your own destiny, and only you alone can and will make it happen.
The biggest lesson I have ever learned is… To stay away from negativity, especially negative people.
My favourite business tool or resource is…
My kindle; I download book after book, mostly books about other people’s business journeys, challenges and successes (currently reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert).
My favourite quote is… Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!
Thank you to the Female entrepreneurs association for the interview.