INTERVIEW WITH LINDSAY HORN of LINDSAY HORN PHOTOGRAPHY from Dallas, Texas
Hi Lindsay! Thank you so much for taking some time to let us get to know you and to let us pick your brain for some insight on how you go about operating your own business!
You are a mom and wife. How many kids do you have and what are their ages? How long have you been married?
I have one beautiful two-year old daughter named Emory, and I’ve been married to my amazing husband/best friend Ross for almost 7 years.
What is the best thing about being a mom for you?
I haven’t come across too many things that I don’t love about being a mother, but I love being able to watch this little person experience the world for the first time. She finds so much joy and awe in things that I so often overlook, it has truly been a life-changing perspective shift. Oh, and I can’t live without all of the sloppy kisses and grimy-hand hugs too.
What is the best thing about being a photographer/business owner? How long have you been in the business?
I’ve been in business about 18 months. Apart from everything I enjoy about photography itself, one of the things that I love about being a photographer is the opportunity to get out of my house and meet and interact with awesome new people all of the time. For the last several years (and still currently), I’ve worked out of the house doing bookkeeping, and it can get pretty lonesome. Since my daughter was born, I really longed for some more “adult” contact day-to-day, and starting my photography business was a wonderful opportunity for me to get that interaction. Selfishly, I also feel like it’s something that I get to do for me, apart from my identity as a mother, which is of course, my first and most important job. Being a business owner is just icing on the cake as I get to set my own hours, vacation time, workload, etc.
Why photography? And what is your favorite subject to photograph?
I’ve always loved taking photographs, even when I was just burning through disposable cameras like it was my job in high school. I really started learning the craft of photography after an elective course in Digital Photography that I took my last semester in college, where I walked away with a business degree. I never really planned on starting a business, but I eventually had enough family and friends asking me to take portraits that I thought it could be feasible. I never would have dreamed that my business would be where it’s at today, just 18 short months later. I have been truly blessed!
It’s so hard to pick a favorite subject, but I would probably have to say high school seniors. I love how creative I’m able to get with subjects who can follow instructions and who are excited to be there. There’s also something really special about photographing young people sitting on the brink of the rest of their lives. I love making them feel beautiful (or handsome) and really giving them that boost of self-confidence that can mean so much at such a vulnerable age. I recently launched a separate division for my senior clients, LHP Seniors.
What do you recommend women do who are just getting started in their own business in general?
Do your research! If you are anything like me, once you get an idea in your head, you want to go at it full force until you bring it to fruition. In most scenarios, there’s no reason to rush! I always told myself that I’m only going to get one “business launch” opportunity, one first impression, and I need to make the most of it. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, if it’s presented in a sloppy manner, has poorly thought-out pricing, and if it’s not backed up by the proper business/tax licenses and other necessary business documents, it’s going to be very difficult to succeed. Put in the time to research your market, perfect your website or other presentation method, and get set up as a proper business, and it will pay off!
How do you stay grounded and keep business/photography from taking over your every day life?
Haha, you ask as if it’s something that I successfully do all the time! That is a constant learning process for me. I had to learn the hard way to know when to say “no,” and that’s something I’ve really come to embrace. I hope it doesn’t sound stereotypical, but I think it can be difficult for us as women to say NO. It’s like that hard-wired maternal side of us wants to help everyone and doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the ones who suffer are always the ones we love the most. The practical application of this concept is to know your limits. I know I can only take “x” number of sessions a month and keep my sanity, and I’ve learned to stick to that (for the most part), no matter how many people I have to turn away.
What do you do for fun…that has nothing to do with photography?
I love doing just about anything with my family. As my daughter gets older, it’s been so much fun to take her on outings like going to the zoo or going to see Christmas lights. There’s nothing better than seeing her little face light up when she is experiencing something for the first time. My husband and I are also big movie buffs, so we take full advantage of our Netflix account!
What are you most proud of as a businesswoman?
While I’ve had some neat accomplishments so far, I would say that I’m most proud of the reputation that I’ve managed to build among my clients and community, not only as a reliable photographer and businesswoman, but as someone who is enjoyable to work with from start to finish. I recently “caught” one of my senior guys telling someone else on Facebook that I was a lot of fun to work with. Anytime that I can get a senior guy to have fun at a 90 minute photo session and then actually admit it to peers in the public arena of cyberspace is a huge accomplishment to me!
How do you keep your marriage safe from the stresses of your business?
I’m so blessed to have a wonderful supportive husband. He really is the backbone of the success of my business. As I read this question, I was actually reminded that we are overdue for a date night! So thanks! It’s so important to make time for each other, even if it’s just a 30 minute chat after the kids go to bed. I typically do most of my work in the evenings after my daughter goes to sleep, but I try not to head straight back to the office once she does. I don’t do as well at setting aside date nights as I should, but that’s where my sweet husband comes in. He pretty much dragged me on a little 36-hour getaway a couple of weeks ago, and while I was so hesitant because this is my busiest time of the year, I’m so glad he did. It was a much-needed break for both of us, and you know what? My business did not crumble to the ground while I was gone.
What are the top three things you did when you were first getting started in business to bring in clients?
The single most helpful thing I did was utilize every resource I had to network and get my name in front of people. I tried to stay away from paid advertising, and honestly, the couple of times I have used it, I have had zero returns. That may differ business to business, but in the photography world the best thing you can do is generate good word-of-mouth. I think most people are far more likely to ask their family and friends for a photographer referral than to start googling and calling random people. I sent an email out to everyone in my contacts list letting them know that I was opening my business. I had my mom and sisters do the same, and almost all of my early business came from those contacts. Secondly, utilize social media! I launched a Facebook page jointly with my website. Facebook is a great way to get your name out there. I allow my clients to use images I post to Facebook as their profile pictures (as long as they leave my watermark in tact), which has generated a lot of referrals for me, especially among high school seniors. It does take time to keep your content fresh and updated, but the returns are well worth it! Lastly, use contests and promotions, but sparingly. I did a contest on Facebook when I first launched my site that involved “sharing” my page, and the prize was 50% off of a session. During that week-long contest I picked up about 400 fans and did generate some business. NOTE: Facebook has tightened up their guidelines on hosting contests, so make sure to do your research before holding one there. I say use them sparingly because if you are always running specials and contests, you are discouraging your clients from ever paying full price. They will know that they can just wait a few weeks for the next promotion to roll around.
What is the best thing you’ve done to make your business successful?
I pride myself on the complete experience that I give my clients. From start to finish, they get a true custom photography experience, from a pre-session consultation to hand-written thank you notes, from custom-designed products and displays to boutique-style packaging. I know it sounds cliché, but I truly feel like I ‘m not only adding return clients, but I’m making friends by the time our “business” is done. Why does this add to the success of my business? Because I believe that I offer the type of service that people want to talk about, rave about, tell their friends about. You can’t buy paid advertising worth more than that! My phenomenal business mentor and friend, Chelsey Mach of MachC Photography, recommended I read the book “Hug Your Customers,” and it totally changed my outlook on customer service. I highly recommend it to anyone trying to build a successful service-oriented business.
What do you do to keep your children from feeling like your business is more important than them or that you love your computer more than them?
Wow, this question certainly hits home! I always have that guilt and fear that she will think my computer is my second child. I try my very best to keep my working hours to when she is sleeping, but as I’m sure many of you know, that’s not always possible. I do try to have some balance. If I know that I’m going to have to get some work done while she’s awake, then I try to spend some time doing something really fun and interactive with her. I’m very lucky that she is good at self-entertaining, but I try not to take advantage of that too often.
What do you do to keep from feeling overwhelmed?
Take a break! I know that sounds simple, but I bet many of you aren’t doing it! It’s amazing how refreshed you can feel if you take one evening or afternoon off to do something non-business related. You also need to think realistically. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that if I don’t get items 1-3 knocked off of this to-do list, then the world will end. Most of the time, that is not the case. I’m the queen of self-imposed deadlines, so I would know. For example, I haven’t had time to print our Christmas cards yet. And you know what, if they don’t get sent out until January, no one is going to look back a year from now and think, “Wow, I wonder if Lindsay is going to send out her cards soooo late again.” Well, maybe except for my mom, but it’s just because she really wants to see them! Honestly, there are very few things that will be detrimental to your business if they have to be put off for a few days.
Is this survey overwhelming you yet? 🙂
Haha, no! I’m having fun!
What three products or things help you stay organized?
Again, this assumes that I am! I can always do better at organization, but I have found a few things that help me.
1) To Do Lists – In my business, I always have little things popping up here and there, and I would never be able to remember them all without writing them down. I have an ongoing list of all of the little odds and ends that pop up, and I couldn’t live without it. Its organization for the brain, and nothing feels better than crossing things off.
2) Physical File/Paper Sorters – Again, a simple thing, but with as much paperwork I have to work with, it’s imperative that I keep it organized and off of my desk space. I have a stack-able desk sorter where I have a tray for customer payments (income), a tray for payables and receipts (expenses), and a tray for miscellaneous things that need my attention.
3)Accounting Program – I can’t imagine that you could keep good business records without accounting software. Personally, I use Quickbooks. I have it set up so that I can see all of my income and expenses per session, I can see sales by items so that I can see which items were most popular overall, I can check my specific expenses to see where I can cut back, etc. I read where someone said that the key to having a successful photography business is 10% talent and 90% good business, and I couldn’t agree more. While it is a great artistic passion, at the end of the day, it’s first and foremost a business, and if you don’t understand how to properly run a business, it’s almost always doomed to fail.
And finally, what three pieces of advice would you give women who are trying to find balance in their business & their overall lives?
You’ve probably heard the saying “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” For me, the main thing is God and my family. If my business ever reaches the point where it’s trying to become the main thing, then I have some serious soul-searching to do. So, how do you keep it in its proper place? Here are a few quick pointers in review:
1) Learn to say NO. You can’t be the world’s photographer (or accountant, or provider of adorable knit goods, etc.). Accept it and start working within your limits.
2)Set some boundaries. You are not Walmart, and you should not be open and available to your client’s whims and needs 24/7. Except for emergencies or quick responses from my phone, I try to only respond to emails in the evening. Sometimes it may take an hour or two to get through my inbox, but it’s worth it for me to be able to get other things done or enjoy time with my daughter during the day.
3)Take a break. Do you feel yourself reaching the breaking point? We’ve all been there. Take a step back and reevaluate your to do list. I guarantee you that you will find there’s a lot more leeway on your timetable than you initially thought. For example, I was stressing out on Friday about a stack of orders that needed to be placed. You know what? Whether I place them on Friday or Sunday, they still aren’t going to ship until Monday. Now that that’s out of the way, take some time for yourself. It’s so easy to spend all of your time being a business owner, a mom, and a wife, that you forget to take some time to be you. That’s right, I give you permission to plop on the couch while your kids are napping and catch up on your favorite shows. Even better, get a sitter and get out of the house. Go shopping, grab lunch with a friend, do ANYTHING but sit in front of the computer. You’ll feel so much better once you do, and your productivity will increase because of it.
In closing, I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but hopefully some of these tools that I use will be helpful to somebody out there! Women have so much to offer the business world AND each other. I really look forward to hearing from other ladies in the rest of this series. Thanks Heidi!
The images on this blog post are (c) Lindsay Horn Photography
Did you enjoy this “WOMEN IN BUSINESS” special? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments for Lindsay as well & thank her if you enjoyed her words! If there is anything else that you’d
like to see discussed in this series, please leave your comments & questions below and I will be sure to incorporate them in future interviews!
Look for another WOMEN IN BUSINESS post soon!
Thanks for stopping in ~Heidi