Nice to Meet Me Series | Lynchburg Wedding Photography
If you had told me a year ago that I would writing this post I would probably be in tears and be so thankful that there was finally light at the end of a very long dark tunnel. It took years of work to get to this point… James and I have technically been in business together for 5 years but I took the business over in 2018 under my name! From that moment on, I busted by butt investing in education, gear, and all the things behind the scenes to make this hobby and passion an actual BUSINESS.
I have had SO MANY of you reach out asking questions about this journey so today I am sharing my top questions here on the blog! It’s going to be a jam packed post but that’s just how I roll! I am being very vulnerable in this post, but if it helps someone else in the same shoes I just threw out then I’ve done my job! 🙂
Just keep in mind I am NOT a financial planner, lawyer, or official business coach. I am simply sharing my journey with you!! So keep that in mind because your journey will look differently!
Why did I choose Photography?
Let’s start with WHY photography? More specifically, why did I choose wedding photography? If you asked me 5 years ago it was to spend time with my new husband, James, and find another hobby we enjoy doing together. Fast forward to 2018, I started to realize that I have a passion for working with newly engaged couples! Because as newly-weds ourselves, we just lived that season of life and I related so well to our couples.
Spending the entire day with our couple, meeting their family & friends, and then delivering a gallery that reflected their complete story from engagement session to their wedding day exit gave me LIFE. Seeing their reaction when they saw their wedding photos or engagement photos gave me so much joy and helped me realize my purpose! I was meant to share my photography skills and love for serving others with my couples by being their biggest cheerleader & hype girl, helping them feel confident in their own skin & love who they are as a couple, and most importantly, make them feel loved and honored on one of the most important days of their life.
Even though I had this epiphany, it wasn’t until 2019 that I realized I had a chance to make this side hustle/passion project/hobby into a business that could bring enough income for me to be a stay at home mom one day!! And that became the last deciding factor that I needed to take the next step… the leap of faith!
How did you manage a day job and photography (2 full time jobs)?
The real answer??? SACRIFICE. James and I had to sacrifice so much to make it to this point. These are just a few things that come to mind:
Sacrifice of good health by eating out a ton during busy season, limited time, energy, and motivation to exercise & take care of my mental and physical health.
A sacrificed social life. Saying no to trips with friends and family, no to double or triple dates out, no to parties on the weekend, etc. My wedding workflow is very strict so that all my couples receive the same experience of having their wedding blogged on the Wednesday after their wedding. But that meant Sunday-Tuesday, after my day job, was dedicated to culling the photos, editing my favorites, and making the blog post!
Sacrifice of personal money. We had to really be smart with our money when it came to vacations, buying things for the house, a slower renovation for our house, etc. Just because the business was making money, that didn’t mean we could take that money and head out of town or buy fun things for the house! We had to save each month for different things and in doing that, we had to sacrifice not having the latest and greatest phones for 4+ years, not having the house reno finished completely yet, etc.
Sacrifice of starting a family early. When we first started dating back in 2012 -YIKES that’s almost 10 years ago!!!- We talked about having 1 or 2 kids by the time we turned 27/28 and be done having kids by 30. Here I am, almost 27, and we haven’t even started having kids. This business in a way has been our baby the last few years and for the first time in a long time, I am starting to prepare mentally & physically for a little one to join our family (sooner rather than later)!!! 🙂
What did my days look like with a full time job?
During the busy season, this was a typical day for James and I:
6:30-8am Morning routine, breakfast, walk the dogs, travel to work, etc.
8-12pm Day job work
12-1 Lunch break- errands for business, blog post writing, social media posting, calls with vendors, etc.
1-5 Day job work
5-6:30 Any other errands, grocery store run, cook dinner/pickup dinner, eat dinner, etc.
7-11 Editing, emails, blog posts, social media, book keeping, cleaning my house, etc.
AAAAAAAAAAND repeat it again the next day. That may not seem like a lot but day in and day out…. it adds up!! Plus keep in mind, my 2 days off my day job were spent photographing couples at engagement sessions and all day wedding coverage!! Last fall there were 7 weeks in a row where we only had 3-4 days off in that 7 weeks! How on earth did we service that without coffee??? haha
How did I know it was time to quit?
First of all…. does anyone ever *really* know when it’s the right time?? For me, I knew it was time because my LOVE for this business was taking a hard left towards bitterness. I started feeling like blogging and social media was drowning me and I didn’t want to do it! But if you are a business owner, having both of those things active and updated regularly shows your business is still open and growing! I actually really like to blog my work, brag on my awesome couples on the blog and social media, make funny videos, etc. So when this task became pulling me in the wrong direction I knew something needed to change.
I also felt extremely disconnected, sad, and tired while at my day job. I have always been one to work on something to the best of my ability. So when my role changed to add more on my plate, I wasn’t able to keep up with my work load at work and with the business. I felt so exhausted physically and mentally- and it was December/January of 2021. So it wasn’t even my busy season!!
If you’re a fellow creative business owner you’re probably used to feeling like you are wasting your life 9-5 every weekday but this truly only hits the tip of the iceberg for me. My bitterness for my day job and the busy phase of life was dragging me down a path I didn’t want to be on anymore. So this attitude change about my day job (despite the consistent income aka “stability” that I appreciated for years) was another big hint!
What did I do to prepare?
(The MOST ASKED question)
And for good reason too! Everyone wants to know how to do it. They want a simple 5 step process to going full time. I know because I wanted this too haha! But after thinking back on the last 3 years I have made a list of the top 5 things that helped me “jump” to a new level which has led to the ultimate leap of faith!
Savings- Full transparency, we are now relying mainly on James’ full time job. His job provides the income we need to pay bills and live a comfortable life. His job also provides health insurance which is a huge cost covered for us. However, my day job paid for some things still so to make us feel financially secure, we wanted to hit a certain number in our savings account before I took this leap.
We aren’t 100% doing Dave Ramsey’s teachings but on top of an emergency fund, we wanted to feel more secure by having a buffer in savings while I was getting used to this transition. And thanks to the stimulus checks issued in 2020 we hit that goal!
Gear- In the first few years we had to rent most of our gear for each wedding and some sessions. But in order to make my expenses lower I had to buy our gear little by little! And because Canon released their brand new R6 mirrorless camera we were able invest in the top of the line equipment that will last a long time.
Tax & Legal- This is just the worst. I love this creative industry and really consider this type of stuff to be gross and on the same level of *hate* as going to the Dentist… But its absolutely necessary!! Life was absolutely crazy last year and honestly I am so glad we found a local VA company that not only helps me maintain things monthly, but also helps me with taxes. Having this 2 in 1 service has changed the game for me!!
The other thing that has changed things for me is my contract. Having a contract that protects me AND my couples was important to me! Contracts were something that James and I knew you couldn’t DIY!! So we invested in a local to VA lawyer, Caroline Fox of Engaged Legal, and ever since we started working with her, I feel so much more secure!
Consistency- I worked to create a wedding experience that reflected my unique business goals to serve and love my clients well. I needed to create a system that was easily replicable as well as affordable! Once I had this in place I could feel more confident going forward knowing my “Cost of Doing Business” per experience. This really helped me understand my numbers.
Faith- I do have a personal relationship my Lord & Savior, Jesus! By His grace am I able to serve my community with this business!! I share His love in unique ways through my business to bless my couples, their families, and their marriages! I love being a witness to all my couples in subtle, yet powerful ways! 🙂
All that being said, this business is not guaranteed to succeed. It is a huge risk but I know that whatever happens in this world, God has got my past, present, and future covered. I know that by loving His people well through my business is what I’m meant to do and He will make it work out! 🙂 That doesn’t mean bad days won’t come because I know they will!! But I am trusting in Him to use my business in ways only He can make happen.
26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6: 26 & 33-34
PS: Did you notice that “shooting a dream wedding” or “booking ___ number of weddings” or “get published in ___ magazine/blog” was NOT on that list? Don’t get me wrong, experience itself has also given me a portfolio & credibility to reflect the pricing that I can now charge but it’s not necessary!
What are your goals for your first wedding season full time?
Honestly I have so many goals haha I am a goals, checklist, and paper calendar person through and through! But my immediate personal goal for this transition is to get my house in order! I have been waiting to go through each room in my house and get rid of the clutter and really try to keep things minimal. Having clutter around the house has been so distracting this first week off to be honest…. So I am working on that room by room this month.
My first big business goal is to make sure my couples are well taken care by answering emails faster, creating timelines, and create the educational resources they have been requesting!!! Once I have caught up on this work, I am finally starting on my NEW WEBSITE!! I’m not rebranding per say, rather revamping the site to reflect how much we’ve grown! It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait to put that together! 🙂
My last goal is to work on my health! I have quite the journey in front of me, but I want to be healthy for me, my future family, my couples, etc. I can serve others better when I am at my best and right now I am not reflecting the best version of myself. The last 5+ years I sacrificed my health by focusing too much on other people, things, events, and not myself. Well now it’s time to really put in the work and be a healthier me. James and I have goals to hit but once we do, we can’t wait to welcome a little one to our family!!!
So if you’ve made it this far, just know I appreciate your support, encouragement, and prayers to reach these personal and business goals!! I will be sharing my progress with you as I go!! So I hope you stay and follow along! 🙂
Do you have advice for someone who is too scared to take the leap?
When I first started doing photography there were so many better photographers out there. I was not the best and still am not the best technical shooter!! Anyone can learn how to use a camera?? A simple google search or YouTube video can teach anyone how to use basic settings and take photos. But I learned that not everyone has what it takes to be a business owner. Only so many people have this drive inside them…
But honestly, what I have to offer is more than just photography. I have an experience unlike anyone else! Knowing WHY I have this business and WHY I serve the couples I do is what really gives me peace about taking this leap. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just about knowing your why, you also gotta know your numbers!! Making the money work is just simple math really. There are many different ways to make money work for you, but if I’m being honest, that’s not REALLY the reason why we are scared…
What usually holds people back is all mental.
And I can say that because I was ALWAYS TOUGH on myself… Still am tough on myself. We are our own worst critic. But I think if you really sit down, really think about it, and let yourself be vulnerable, you would know what’s actually holding you back. What’s keeping you from taking the leap. What that voice inside your head is really scare of.
The mental game is the hardest thing to overcome.
My encouragement to you is to focus on your WHY because your HOW will make itself clear eventually. Once you know the purpose behind your business that’s when you don’t focus on your fear. Knowing that I can help my couples more and create the life that I have been craving for so long is what made me feel at peace to take this leap. I am always a listening ear if you need help discovering what is really behind the fear of taking the leap!! I’d love to help you friend!! Send me an email or DM me on social!
Do you have advice for someone newer that wants to make this their full time job?
Three things came to my mind immediately, but I know this list could be a lot longer…
Education: Honestly the biggest thing that has helped me get to where I am is education. But not just any educators or courses. I wanted to learn from people that had the same reason “why” for their business. The same mindset on different aspects of business. Someone who was, of course, credible, offered valuable content, and most importantly taught in a way that I understood!- I am a visual learner!!
My go to educators have been Katelyn James, Amy & Jordan Demos, Natasha Coyle, & Davey & Krista Jones! Here is what I’ve learned from each of them (the broad topics):
Katelyn – All things business, client experience, editing, finding good light, finding my purpose, learning how to shoot wedding days from her BTS monthly videos (All Access), etc.
Amy & Jordan- Business & life balance, how to pose, how to create a good client experience for family & my lifestyle portraits, different topics from their podcast, etc.
Natasha- Reels, TikTok, and all things social media!!
Davey & Krista- SEO, website design, running a business, how to be an organized and structured business owner, ads, etc.
Styled Shoots & Shoots for FREE: If you have a small portfolio, or are just starting out, I definitely recommend attending styled shoots and offer free sessions to your friends, newly-wed friends, family, etc. But don’t giveaway too many shoots!! Once you get 3-5 really good sessions in to give you variety to share on social media and your website, start to charge!! And you will grow from there!- Please remember to charge what you are worth!! Don’t know what that number is? Invest in education with Katelyn & the Demos’ I listed above!! Their business courses will teach you!!
Community: Find community through social media!! This industry can feel lonely because you are not always around people. Most of the time you’re behind a computer or phone. So find friends in your industry that you can trust!
I found community through places like:
Educational groups on facebook
Instagram by way of DM’s- Voice messages & video messages!
Actively engaging with content from people I’d love to work with/learn from
Apps like Clubhouse
Rising Tide Groups
Other new vendors in the area- connect and grow together!
Lastly, You guys wanted to know what was the first thing I did on my first day working for myself? I met up with one of my friends, Ashley Eagleson Photography and a NEW friend, Mallory, of All the Dainty Details! I did a styled shoot with these ladies and will be posting it on the blog soon!! ( I will link it here once I am done!!)
If you read through all of that, God bless you, you are my people and I would love to connect with you!! Reach out through email or DM and I’d be happy to answer any questions, send you some encouragement, and of course, cheer you on as you take your own journey to going full time in your business!!
Just remember, not everyone can do this. If you have made it this far with your business, there is a REASON for that! There is a reason you have worked with the clients you have and will have. So don’t give up!! It’s a long journey but well worth it in the end!!
Vendors from the photos above:
Rings: Finks Jewelers
Invitation Suites: Designs by Allison Rene
Cake: Commonwealth Cake Co
Florals: Petalos DC
Until next time,
Learn more about our services here!
Hey there, I’m Emily! James, and I are a husband and wife wedding photography team based in Lynchburg, Virginia. We specialize in weddings and engagements and serve Virginia, DC Area, South Carolina, and beyond!
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