Eight years ago, I took a photography class in high school and fell in love.
Five years ago, I emailed my favorite photographer on a whim to see if she needed an assistant. After introducing myself and sharing my obsession with her blog, I offered to do just about anything to help her out! I agonized over my outfit, debated curly-or-straight hair, and drove 45 minutes to meet Jamie for coffee with my fingers crossed for a chance to observe and learn from her. Instead, she took a leap of faith in me and, even though I hadn’t touched a manual camera since high school, brought me on as her second shooter and taught me everything she knew.
Four years ago, I made a Facebook page, slapped together a Wix website that played a Colbie Caillat song upon opening, and called myself a photographer. I photographed a few people here and there, charging only what it cost me to rent a “fancy” lens for the session, and felt pretty good about it. I had no clue what it meant to run a business, which was fine because I didn’t even consider my photography a business; it was just something I sort of did for fun.
Three years ago, I graduated college, got married, and moved away from everyone I knew. A year into our Cleveland adventure, I had a career crisis. Realizing how much I missed photography, I posted an ad for a mini-session, texted some families I babysat for, and somehow wound up with three families who trusted me to take their photographs (…that, or they just decided $50 was worth the risk if the photos turned out crappy…we will never know! :P ). It was fun and exciting, but it was still not a business.
However, as more people booked me and more opportunities came my way, I realized I was doing both myself and my clients a disservice. I was getting busy, but wasn’t profiting at all. Any money I made went straight to equipment rentals, which was stressful enough on its own as we lived in an apartment that wasn’t on the best terms with UPS! I yearned to purchase my own gear…but had no financial foundation to do so. I knew nothing about vendors in the Cleveland area, and had minimal ideas for locations. People were booking me to capture some of the most important memories of their lives, and I still viewed it as a hobby! I lacked confidence, I lacked knowledge, and I lacked gumption. I photographed my first solo-wedding, had the time of my life, and realized something had to change.
One year ago, I decided to start taking this business seriously. Again, I was naive about this; in my mind, running a photography business looked like blogging regularly, posting on my Facebook page, and creating a website that actually had my name on it. But I knew I wanted to start making it happen. I soaked in business tips and information from Dear Sweetheart Events, Abby Grace, Stephanie Messick, Elle & Company and Katelyn James to name a few, and I slowly but surely made my way.
In the months since, I’ve officially created Sami Renee Photography, LLC. I established my business, launched my website, consulted with lawyers, created client packages, organized my finances, collected reviews, started blog series, developed contracts and booklets, joined various social media accounts for marketing, ordered business cards and stickers, had head-shots taken, dedicated space in our house for my “office”, blogged more regularly, bought Equipment & Liability Insurance, attended a creative small business conference, networked, photographed seniors, families, and weddings, edited sessions, designed albums, and somewhere in the midst of all that, began to step into my role as a business owner.
Today, I am still learning. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to say, and to be honest, it still feels a little weird coming out of my mouth. I own a business. I am the CEO of Sami Renee Photography, LLC. I am a wife, full-time teacher, wedding and family photographer, entrepreneur, #bosslady, and creative. I know all of these things; yet, I still have days where I feel like I don’t. But, as I learned at Creative, I am so over running my business timidly.
Here’s what I do know.
Running a small business is hard work. It’s late nights on your computer and early morning uploads before heading to work. It’s the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The squeals from a client’s happy text (“These pictures are like Christmas!!) and the tears from the unsatisfied ones. It’s the camaraderie over a cup of chai, encouraging texts, and a glass of summer wine. It’s color indecision, font choices, and countless hours of research. It’s realizing your business doesn’t define you and discovering your strengths and weaknesses all over again. It’s modifying what you have and improving as you go. It’s coming to terms with yourself and being choosy about who you let speak truth into your life. It’s picking yourself back up, learning from your failures, and improving every. single. day. It’s serving your clients with your talents, making them feel valued and important, and sharing a little piece of your story everywhere you go.
It’s a never-ending process, and there is always something to learn.
When I first realized this, it overwhelmed me. But now, it encourages me: to share, to listen, to soak up, and to lean in. To pursue community over competition and to give back as I have been given. I would not be where I am today in business or in life without the support and encouragement of those around me, and it is my hope to pass along that same support and encouragement too.
I will be launching a new series this week as a spin-off from Natalie Franke’s #communityovercompetition and my Day in the Life post earlier this month. Twice a month, I will be featuring another small business #bosslady who is making it happen while working a full-time job too. I am so excited to share these women with you, because they are fierce, humble, and true. It is my hope that their words will equip you with confidence while also providing you with tangible takeaways. Why, you may ask?
No one knows it all, but by sharing what we do know, we can make a difference.
Your story matters.
Do you want to play a part in encouraging and equipping small business owners who also work a full-time job? Shoot me an email using the “Contact Me” link below to share your story! I can’t wait to hear from you :)
Love love love,