November 15, 2019
Wow! 10 years went by in the blink of an eye. I had all intentions of publishing this blog last month, but the busy portrait season got in the way and I never could finish my thoughts. So here they are…
I never intended on starting a business. I was perfectly happy in my world of being a wife, mom, and Registered Nurse when a hobby snowballed into something completely unexpected. All the sudden I was photographing families and friends and the referrals started coming in. I quickly found myself at the county offices getting a business license and constructing my first contracts. It all happened so fast! Only two years into this journey, I took it full time and left my hospital job. I was completely oblivious to the booming photography business trend at the time, where many new camera owners put a logo on their work and opened a Facebook business page. Completely oblivious. But in a world where small businesses close after a few short years, mine somehow grew and I’m grateful for the lessons and and experiences I’ve learned over the past 10 years. It’s my hope I will be able to sustain the same momentum and enthusiasm for my art for many years to come. I feel compared to share what I feel has been the most influential to my journey. I hope it might help others, whether you’re in business for yourself or not.
Finding your photography “style” is an ongoing journey. I’ve never been one who’s felt compelled to follow the crowd, so this translated well into my work. While I appreciate so many styles of photography, I love color, warmth, and light. Those things will always be a part of my style regardless of trends that will quickly come and go. Sticking to what I love has brought me clients who appreciate these attributes and in turn, ones I work with the best!
My business structure has always been to offer my clients what I would personally want as a consumer. Simply put, we live in a digital world where we have access. Over half of my clients are high school age. They have smartphones, computers, and want image files to share. So why not give them those? My offerings have been balked at and picked apart by those who feel differently, but that’s okay. I’m sustaining a business that makes my clients and me happy! What’s even better is I offer AMAZING products and my clients LOVE them, too!
When I tell my clients what they will receive in their photo collection, you can bet I ALWAYS over-deliver. The sweet surprise of giving extras is something that makes me super happy whether its more images or a conversion of every image in black and white. I LOVE giving more when they’re expecting less.
You may never notice these things, but I try and leave a part of myself in every image I create. This could be from a location choice, the quilt on the ground, a pose, or the joke I told that put a smile on my client’s face. Identifying something you have in common with your client will build your relationship and their trust in you. Infusing yourself is like your signature; sign every piece of work.
Every client I meet has a concern or question at some point during our working relationship. While it may seem frivolous or annoying to some, meet them where they are. I do photoshoots every day, but this may be their first one. Putting my clients at ease by responding in a kind way is how my client feel cared for.
I’m nice. But like a lot of entrepreneurs, I also have an anxiety disorder. Blocking out negativity is hard for me, but I’ve learned it’s necessary. Over the years, I’ve heard comments about my business. I bet you didn’t know I was once told I “took advantage of teens” because of my VIPteam senior program!? Complete rubbish, right? I’ve been criticized because I “walked away from a nursing career “and homeschooled my son. I’ve lost friendships I treasured. Here’s the thing; not everyone will be your fan and respect you. Not everyone will understand what you do, value your work, or think you have a lucrative career. I’ve been picked apart for things I’ve said that have been misunderstood. I’ve been asked for discounts and to do lots of “charity” work. You have to stand firm and treat your career as such. The more professionally you present yourself, the more likely it is that you will be treated as the bad-ass pro you are. Walk away from the noise in the background, it’s just noise!
There was a time I would shoot mostly on weekends, edit late into the night, and had no schedule. I’d answer work-related text messages and email even when they came at midnight. I look back at photos of me from that time and I looked swollen, red, and ragged. My back was killing me after weddings, to the point I couldn’t stand up straight for days. I finally realized I needed to give up some things and make hard decisions. About 6 years ago, I started keeping office hours. Four years ago, I stopped shooting weddings. I started using a virtual blogging and social media manager and stopped shooting on most weekends. I’m now able to sustain my workload without feeling overwhelmed.
I’ll never take the opportunity I have to be a part of the lives of my clients for granted. I get to step into some of your most precious moments. I will always thank you, whether it’s in an email or a small token of appreciation. My 97-year-old grandmother who just passed away last month taught me a little handwritten note goes a long way, and I’m going to keep sending them.
There’s no difference in “business Laura” and “real Laura.” There’s just me. I treat my clients the same way I would treat a friend. I wear regular clothes, laugh at your kids with you, and invite you to my home. This is just the way I want it to be and I hope it continues for the next 10 years and beyond.