THE TRUTH: What is it actually like to run your own photography business

Social media has a way of portraying the simplicity of business

When you scroll through Facebook, do you see those sponsored ads from business gurus enthusiastically explaining how they quit their 9-5 job and in within a year was living their dream life, able to work for just a few sections of the year and then spend the rest of the year travelling with their family?  Similarly, do you read in the paper the people who found their niche overnight and created a new business that runs itself?

In reality for the vast majority of us, this is horse poo!

Deciding to set up business and then having the guts, determination, tenacity and bravery to launch, let alone continue to run a business for any length of time takes more effort than you would know.  Unless of course, you run your own successful business.  Up to 91% of businesses fail in their first year yet here I am today on 6th October 2018 celebrating three years since Inspired By Joseph launched.  I am so proud and I want to shout this from the rooftops everything I have achieved more or less on my own!

Why I decided to take the biggest risk of my life and leave my established career behind me

Before kids became a part of my world, I’d built up a very successful career in marketing.  I’d worked for some of the biggest brands in the UK including Halifax, Sainsburys, Bupa and most recently Manchester Airport Group when I became Head of Airline Marketing at 29. I’d enjoyed a place on the prestigious Marketing Academy, travelled well (both in and out of work) and wanted for nothing but all was not right.  There was something missing.  Kids.

Traditionally, they say that kids change your life but for me, the transition to motherhood was astronomical.  Even today, I still struggle to explain the transformation in me that I just can’t put into words.  I vowed I wanted to create a life that put me much more in control of doing what I wanted to do, on my terms and when I was able to take redundancy, I knew that the opportunity for me to create the life that I wanted to lead was right under my nose.

Adding kids into the mix made it tougher

Deciding to step away from the corporate world was an easier decision than I imagined but the worry of money, what people would think of me and how I could create something from nothing gave me more sleepless nights than I care to mention.  Oh and did I mention that at this time I was pregnant with Victoria too?  Consequently, I decided I must do this now, despite the hormonal fluctuations I was feeling!  At the end of the day, yes I could fail but I’d regret it if I didn’t give it a go.

Mamma with baby in a sling looking to the distance

The early days as an Oldham photographer were some of the toughest days of my life

So, looking after a one year old with baby number two in my tummy, I found the courage and energy (I’m still not sure how!) to write a business plan, create my brand and set up my website.  I decided to name my business Inspired by Joseph as it was my first born, Joseph, who 100% inspired me by his own presence to do this!  Conversely these things took an age to do and every day I questioned whether I should wait until Victoria was born but I knew if I did, I would never do it.

Many people think it’s easy for me to do all of the marketing side of things but much of the implementation I was years out of date as my most recent roles were much more strategic so it was actually like going back to school.   I plucked up the courage to ring a fellow member of the Marketing Academy, Jonny Miles Prouten, who had gone through the same transition very successfully and took all of his hints and tips on board.  I ordered business cards and flyers, purchased my business insurance and was ready to go.

For days and days I put off launching.  I was afraid of failure.  I was afraid people would wonder how I could move from marketing to photography.  Then I pondered ‘sod it’ and pressed go!

Inspired By Joseph logo

Inspired By Joseph begins!

Initially, the reaction was positive.  Friends and family seemed very supportive.  I ran a competition on social media to win a photo session with me.  A few friends believed in me and bought discounted packages to help me increase my experience.  Each time I was more nervous than I ever imagined possible but I was actually enjoying myself!  I remember climbing up a hill full of wet autumn leaves and a client saying, be careful, you have a baby in your tummy!

Victoria was born and I took the brave and very risky decision to not take any new business.  The whole point of creating Inspired By Joseph was that I could create the life I want to lead so I had to have faith that I could pick up where I left off.  I couldn’t live with the regret of missing those first nine months with a new baby.  Of course, I used this time to improve my photography skills!

Reality hits home after maternity!

Getting back into the swing of things took more tenacity than I knew I possessed.  With two small children and the usual potty training, weaning and the like, it meant that my focus on my business was very limited. From this point right up to today, the amount of times I have had to bite my tongue when people have called me a ‘stay at home Mum’ never ceases to amaze me!  Because I am so visible in the day, taking Victoria swimming, doing most of the school pick up and drop offs, visiting the park etc, most people think I don’t work.

Truth is, I work every single day.  I do at least one small thing every day to move my business forward.  The difference is that my working day usually starts at 7pm when the kids are asleep and to be honest, I am usually pretty knackered myself!  I laugh now as I reminisce on the many late night chats I have created with other Mum’s in particular, a big shout out goes to Bert who just gets it and has provided many words of wisdom along the way.  This is me knowing I have to fit my tax return in soon!!

inspired by joseph

Onwards and upwards

Usually, winter time is quiet in the world of photography and this time last year, I had hardly any bookings after a pretty successful summer.  I worried that I wasn’t going to be able to make this work financially.  I tried loads of things to secure bookings but at one point went nearly three months without a booking.  Thankfully, through hard work, grit and determination, I am (hopefully) over those times now and am pleased to report that this winter I am pretty much booked up until Christmas in between my holidays and planned Christmas activities with the kids.  It is this fact that made me decide to write this blog to show that despite the good and the bad times, three years on and I am still here!

And here are a few of my all time favourite photos, professionally and personally!  This has been very hard to do as I would like to have included more!!!

When I was in the corporate world, I was always ‘that’ employee who went into their annual appraisal with a HUGE list of accomplishments and results.  It’s like a drug for me, it keeps me going and focuses me on what can be done.  Consequently, I took a few minutes out to think about some of the amazing things I have achieved so far with Inspired By Joseph.

I always have far more ideas than time (so 2019, watch this space!) but given how I have managed to achieve this with two small children, I am more than happy!  I would therefore like to say a huge thank you to all of the people who have helped me to achieve some of these brilliant initiatives I have been able to try.  For me, the actual art of taking photos is just a snippet of my business model.  Being a helpful Oldham photographer is just as important:

The things I am super proud of!

I have:

  • Ran several photo challenges for adults and a six week summer holiday version for children, now in it’s second year!
  • Told my story of how I have taken a photo every day since I found out I was pregnant (so as of today, that is 1609) and I thank Saddleworth Independent for supporting local news stories every time.
  • Wrote 124 blog posts (no easy or quick task, trust me!) on my client stories and also how to be a better photographer yourself.
  • Celebrated World Kindness Day at Grandpa Greens. I hosted complimentary parent and baby photos and gave a masterclass on how to take better photos of your kids.  At the same time, I collected more baby clothes to give to charity than I ever expected.
  • Took photos at local playgroups including Delph Tots and Jelly Tots.
  • Hosted a masterclass for children at Little Owl Farm and was blown away with the improvement I saw right in front of my eyes!
  • Encouraged more Mums to get in more photos with #my18in18 initiative on Instagram to encourage more Mum’s to get photos of just them – no kids!!  (There is still time to get involved ladies!!)
  • I have redesigned my website myself (but I will always be ever so grateful to Gemma from Buiness Gem for her fabulous input and support with my previous website which she took on from scratch knowing nothing about it!).
  • Shared my favourite recipes for time starved Mums and Dads including my best weaning recipes.
  • Shared other Mum Stories to help us share experiences and ideas on this journey we call parenting.
  • Launched my annual Christmas advent calendar, full of hints and tips for photography in the festive season.
  • Created a suite of personalised scrabble frames which are increasing in popularity.

But most importantly…..

That doesn’t account for all of the wonderful clients who have believed and invested in me in the past three years.  I genuinely have no words for you except thank you!  Without you, your kind words and your support in helping me to grow my lovely little business, I would be nothing…..  You are the reason I can pay my bills.  You are the reason I get to reinvest in myself and train to be an even better photographer.  You contribute to the local economy and small businesses.  Thank you xxx

Oh and finally, thank you to my other half Jonny who is the person who knows me the most and always supports me whatever I want to do…..  I am sorry that we never get time together of an evening but it will change one day, I promise! x

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