OKINAWA BRIGHT + VIBRANT PHOTOGRAPHER FOR HAPPY, KIND SOULS
Last week I shared the story of how I became a photographer. If you missed that post you can find it HERE! This week I am going to take you on my journey from roughly from 2012 to present. I promise it won’t take five years to read 😀
I ended last week’s story with when I became an official business. Not a lot happened after that. I continued to photograph anyone and everyone. I crazy stalked other photographer’s work, I Youtubed, I read books, I did everything I could to learn more about photography. I was also going to school full time and working three other part-time jobs, so to say my schedule was busy is hardly covering it.
In 2013-2014, I invested in new equipment and I upped my pricing to over $100. For anyone who has ran a small business – holy cow it is a lot of work! So on top of my school work and other three jobs, I was setting up photo sessions, emailing, editing, packaging, sending, marketing, and growing my business. Which is probably why I got burnt out. There was a few months in there that I lost my drive and passion. It just wasn’t there any more. I was close to graduating and my plan was to do my photography full-time, but part of me hated it. I hated being super tired and spending all my free time editing instead of hanging with my friends. I was 22 for gosh sake and spent almost every Friday and Saturday inside editing. I wish I could say something magical happened but it didn’t. I just worked through the suck. I graduated college with a Bachelors degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in Small Business Management, quit two of my three jobs, and finally felt liberated!
Since I was investing more time into the product I was putting out & with some encouragement from my family & friends, I built a pricing structure that actually covered my expenses, taxes, and time. That changed my life. I was finally feeling like I could do this & continue to pay my bills.
I kept investing in education and certifications. I kept saving and investing in equipment and education. I kept slaving over a computer for endless hours because this job is my passion.
Around the end of the summer in 2015 I felt like I plateaued. I felt like to be taken “seriously” I need to be a real business, and to me that meant I needed a store front. After months of looking for a space I found the cute little spot on 5th avenue. I dreamt of that place for months & when it finally became a reality I could hardly stand it. I never felt more successful then having clients in my studio.
I guess you all know the studio doesn’t exist anymore, but it wasn’t as sad to give it up as you may think. I went through a whirlwind of 18 months in that studio. It helped me immensely to find out who I am as a photographer and where I stand in this industry. It also helped me realize that I didn’t need it to be a professional. That I didn’t need that space for people to recognize me as not some crazy 24 year old but a small business owner. It was kind of liberating giving it up, because it meant I really know who I am as the owner and photographer at Merry Character Photography.
The past (almost) six years have been a rollercoaster. I was thrown into things and it never really slowed down. I am extremely grateful for everyone who has let me capture their memories up to this point & who keep coming back to me. I really can never accurately express how thankful I am for you. My friendclients (that’s a real word) are 95% of the reason I do this job. You guys make it so worthwhile, so don’t every stop being so cute and wonderful because then I might lose my job!!
For now, I am spending my time working as much as I can in the community I love before I start loving up in a new area. I am excited to build my business and learn how to successfully move a business. And you guys? I am nervous and scared! But hopefully in three years I will have another blog post update about how to successfully move your business across the country 😀
Now lastly, for you young or new entrepreneurs out there a few things I didn’t mention a few things that I need to so you can learn from my mistakes:
When offering a service with product make sure to receive payment for that service before the product is delivered. I didn’t do this and was never fully paid for one of the weddings I photographed because I gave them their photos trusting they would pay me, and they didn’t. In another instance I photographed a wedding and never received payment for their wedding so I didn’t deliver their wedding photos until TWO YEARS when they finally settled my bill.
Save at least 25-30% of your income for taxes. Keep it in a separate account that you don’t look at often so you aren’t tempted to touch those funds. Make it a habit to take that 25% out of every check you take in and put it in taxes. Then when you have to pay your taxes it won’t be quite as painful. *Please talk to an accountant for sure. I ain’t no money wizard 😉
Finally, serve with your heart. Treat every person you meet with kindness and the kind of service you wish to receive. Serve people with your talents & love them as friends. When you build your business on friendship & serving your clients well and honestly, you will only benefit.
Here are some comparison photos of my journey roughly 2012-2017.
Big hugs, my dear friends!