What better way to start then by learning from others? I’ve seeked out friends with profitable businesses and decided to interview them one by one to learn their ingredients to success. First successful small business interview – featuring Helen John Photography.
Name: Helen John of Helen John Photography, Washington D.C
Why do you do what you do?
I’m a photographer specializing in modern art portraiture. I mostly photograph babies and families, but now that my children have gotten older I’m able to take on more weddings, which are a lot of fun as I’m an adrenalin junkie. I also love to shoot a variety of subjects including interiors, events, and nature/landscapes.
How did you get into your business? what was the starting point?
My first son was 8 months old when I purchased a DSLR camera for my birthday. I dedicated myself to learning the craft (self-taught) so I could capture my son’s childhood, but started receiving requests from friends to photograph their babies. It all grew organically from there.
How does social media impact your business?
It is HUGE. Facebook is the number one reason I even have a business. The ability to reach large numbers of people via social media is profound. It’s especially helpful in my line of work, because it’s entirely visual. I post a photo and it doesn’t require anything more from the recipient/viewer other than a glance to take it in and understand what I do. I aim to create beautiful, thoughtful images, and my clients, fans, followers, family, friends, etc appreciate it. My work is always positive, which is another reason people are attracted and react emotionally. I do not use social media to rant, vent or feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I’ll commiserate with other parents of young children, but everyone likes to know they’re not alone in this crazy place called parenthood. LOL
What would you say is the one most important thing that made you successful?
Keeping a positive attitude no matter what. That’s one business asset you CANNOT purchase anywhere. In every startup there will be ups and downs. Learn from the mistakes. Grow from the challenges. Laugh at yourself as often as possible. Never take out anything on a client. Let them win. Your reputation and dignity is worth so much more than putting someone in their place, even if you know you’re right!
What is most challenging for you today?
BALANCE. I have two kids 4 and 2 years old, and I sometimes have to decide whether I want to shower or respond to my latest inquiries. Guess which wins? Yep, I work from home, so unless I have a client coming here I can afford to be stinky. I have two little boys, my whole world revolves around dirt anyway. lol
Who is your mentor? What did you learn from them that was most valuable?
I never had a specific mentor. I have always followed a lot of photographers who inspire me for specific reasons. Some for their beautiful imagery, some for their sense of humor, and others for their positive attitude and ability to dodge drama like it’s hot. I wouldn’t mind a mentor, it’s just that I haven’t come across someone who fits into this description for me. I think you can be successful by learning bits and pieces from a variety of professionals in your field. Or even outside of the area where you work. I know that by diversifying my skill set, I am setting myself apart from the mainstream portrait photographers.
What do you recommend to people who are thinking of starting a business?
If you want to be in business, think like a business. You have to have a goal of profit. That is the only reality. If you have a hobby that you want to turn into a business, you have to make sure you’re motivated enough for the business side of things. I consider myself an artist but I also LOVE the business side of what I do. I find it to be a fun challenge, so it suits me to do both ends of it. If you’re not business savvy, consider hiring out for that part. Without a business mindset and profitability, you don’t have a business. And hardwork. You have to LOVE working all the time, at least at first.
What do you love most about your career?
The amazing grateful reactions from clients. It’s so incredibly rewarding when clients come back to me and tell me the first time they saw the images I took they were in (happy) tears. This is more fulfilling than any job I’ve ever had. It took a lot of hard work to get where I am, which makes it that much more rewarding. I also LOVE babies. I am definitely a product of biological programming. The wee ones melt me.
What motivates you?
My kids motivate me to work my butt off. I want to provide a good life for them, and I want them to see that hard work and commitment pay off. My clients also motivate me, especially the ones who are so loyal and grateful to me. I would do anything for my clientfriends!
If you had an opportunity to speak to a large group of people, what would your message be?
Believe in yourself. When I started my business I believed in myself about 30%. I had a semi-slow start for the first year, as I was astounded each time someone wanted to hire me. But each job made me more sure of myself, and when I started believing in myself, my work got better, and the new business started flowing in. Now I’m up for any challenge, and I’m more confident in my work than I ever imagined. Part of it is experience, but the other half of it is a positive attitude. Don’t let a challenge scare you. Believe in yourself and you can do anything.
To learn more about Helen John Photography visit – website blog FB me twitter IG get my newsletter!