1. What is your “day job” and how many hours do you work in a week?
I am a program manager for a major telecom company, I work about 45 hours per week but I am fortunate to be able to work from home so that cuts out a lot of time alone just in commuting to and from work, which I can spend on my business and perusing my MBA.
2. What is your business? (What do you sell/who do you serve and why?)
I am a photographer! I shoot weddings, portraits, families, and travel! I love shooting families who are visiting my town of Charleston, SC enjoying their vacations, and we have a constant flow of weddings here which keeps the creative side of my brain very busy. I love to travel and I keep all of my photos from my journeys on my blog as well.
3. For how many years have you run a business alongside your regular job?
4. Why did you decide to start a business?
Although being a project/program manager was the career I had always hoped for, I always knew that I didn’t want to be sitting at a desk for 40-50 years in the corporate world. I eventually wanted a job that challenged the creative side of my brain. I called this my “second career” and I started by business on the side so that over time I could work up to where I needed to be in order to spend the later part of my career doing photography.
5. In your first 6 months of starting your business, please list out the top 3 pain points you struggled with:
1. Taking on too much. When I first started, I was priced pretty low because I didn’t have a huge portfolio. Because of this I got a lot of inquiries and I said yes to every single one of them. Photography is tricky because not only do you have to manage a whole day for your shoot, but then endless nights after that editing the photos.
2. I was not very quick, because I lacked confidence and experience I spent a long time on editing and other tasks that now come fairly quickly to me.
3. I didn’t have a network of people to learn from. I taught myself and in the end this cost me a lot of time.
6. How did you overcome these pain points?
Eventually, I gained experience and raised my prices so that I am only getting in the amount of work that I can actually take on. Networking with other photographers and learning from them helped a lot as well.
7. How good are you at delegating tasks to others?
I am actually now starting to do this and I’m really excited about it! I realized that in order to make my business grow I need to invest some money to have people who know what they are doing take care of things on the backend for me. For example, optimizing my website. This would take me a long time to figure out how to do it, but I can pay a professional a small fee, who can get it done in just a few hours! I plan on trying this out in many areas of my business this year.
One thing that is unique about photography is that the taking and editing of photos is a unique art specific to the photographer. Delegating core tasks would take away from the authenticity and style of my photos so this is something that I will always keep for myself.
8. Do you feel you have a good balance between your job, business and personal life. If yes, how did you achieve this? If no – why not?
I think that I do, but I also spend my time differently than most of the people I surround myself with. I don’t watch TV unless it’s a Netflix show on in the background while I’m editing, and I try to cut out all “lazy” activities so that I’m always being productive. I struggle with this at times because on the odd chance I do have downtime I don’t know what to do with myself!
I am able to make it work because I don’t have to deal with commuting to my job so I am able to jump straight from working to working on my business, and wrap it up in time to grab a drink with friends.
9. What are your top 3 tips for people starting a business alongside their regular jobs?
1. Learn from others who have done it first. Take a class, take a workshop, learn from their mistakes so you can save time and trouble.
2. Spend time mastering your product before you offer it. One thing I wish I did in the beginning was spend more time learning photography before photographing others, even at a low price.
3. Cut out activities in your life that aren’t helping your progress. If you’re spending all day Sunday hungover then you’re not progressing because you’re spending your free time in a way that is not benefiting yourself or your future. Same goes for binge watching TV every night. Make some goals and start checking off the boxes to reach them.
10. If you could change one thing about your start up process when you started your business what would that be?
As I suggested earlier, I wish I had spent more time learning my business before I started my business. I wish I would have assisted other more experienced photographers so I could learn from them instead of spending so much time learning on my own.
11. Do you have plans to transition to full time business owner? Why?
Eventually, yes, I would love nothing more. As to when this is, I am still struggling on. Sometimes I think I could make it work now, and other times I think I want to see what is next in my career before making that decision. Only time will tell, but for now, I am working on developing myself in both my career and my business. It’s hard and it is challenging at times but for now it is working for me.