INTERVIEW WITH VANESSA RAE of Vanessa Rae Photography from Salt Lake City, Utah
First of all I want to start off by saying thanks for taking some time to share with all of us & that I absolutely LOVE your work Vanessa! You are so good at what you do! How do you find your inspiration?
Thank you so much! You are so sweet. I find inspiration in so many places. Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved fashion and fashion magazines. Nothing is better then picking up a new issue of Vogue, InStyle, W, Vanity Fair, or Elle and being inspired by the beauty of great clothes, great lighting, and beautiful people. History inspires me. Looking back through history at cultures, cities, and how people lived. I also find inspiration through dance and music. I grew up dancing and have been teaching for over 12 years. Dance and music move me, they allow me to go into a dream like world, a place that allows my mind to shut out the world around me, and just create. But, probably the biggest thing I find inspiration from is love. I love, love. I am a hopeless romantic, and just allow myself to be touched by watching people in love.
How long have you been in business?
I have had my business for two and half years and have always had a love for photography. Finally, one day I decided that I could do this, and jumped in head first.
You have 2 children, what is your favorite part about being a mommy?
What is the best part about being a mommy…there are so many. It is the little things for me. I love the little things that they say to brighten my day. Watching them enter act with each other, the way they say “I Love You,” and just sitting and holding them. Dancing and singing at the top of our lungs as we jump on my bed. Knowing that everyday, I am lucky to wake up to two precious lives that motivate me to be better a person.
When you were just starting your photography business, what did you find to be your greatest struggle? Did you ever overcome that or is it ongoing battle?
I have to admit, that when I first started, I really didnʼt even know how to send an email! haha. As far as computers go, that was my biggest struggle. I was terrified that I would not be able to learn all the programs and grasp the digital world. Now, I canʼt live without my computers, my phone, and my digital camera. I realized that once I really decided this was what I wanted to be doing, it came very quickly to me. I spent so many long nights reading, watching tutorials, and asking questions to further my knowledge. Although some of those nights ended in tears, the best thing I did was stick with it, even when I thought it would never get easy.
What 2 pieces of advice would you give people who are just starting out in ANY business?
My biggest piece of advice is always stay true to yourself. Find out what you love about the business you are starting. Take your own journey in finding your strengths, talents, and your own way of standing out of the crowd. My other advice would be donʼt give up. Starting your own business is a lot of work, time, and patience. Allow the time it takes to really see your business grow. Remember, we all started out once too.
What do you think women business owners should definitely NOT do?
Do NOT compare yourself to others. I did this a lot when I first started. It only made me more frustrated. Also, make sure that while taking inspiration from others is a wonderful thing, remember to always let it guide you in your own direction. This is how you will really be able to live your journey and not someone else’s.
What is the best thing you’ve done to make your business successful?
In the beginning I decided that I wanted to set myself apart from others. I took the time to really fine tune my skills. Took the time to really find the style and look I wanted in my photography. I also set my prices at a rate that I found to be worth my time. Even if I wasnʼt always booking tons of clients, I was getting clients that wanted me for my talent and style, not just my low prices.
I love that last answer….Here is another question for ya : One of the biggest struggles for women business owners is balance. How do you balance family time and business without feeling like one is being neglected?
Wow! This is such a good question for me right now. In my business now, this is my biggest challenge. I have recently become a single mother. Just having the worst year of my life, has definitely put a lot of things on the back burner. I have to had to learn to say “NO” a lot, and accept that I cannot always meet deadlines. I am having to relearn how to find balance between my kids, my work, and still have time for me. It is a daily struggle, but is slowly beginning to get better. I donʼt know if you ever really find that perfect balance being a working mother. Finding and making the time to do both is a fine line that we walk everyday. Right now, I work a couple hours in the morning, during nap time, and then after my kids go to bed. This way I still have time during the day and night to be with my kids. Also, finding a great nanny…is a HUGE bonus too.
For people wanting to get their name out there and be recognized, what tips do you have? How did you gain clientele?
The best way for me has been through word of mouth. I have gotten most of my work through my wonderful clients, telling their family and friends about me. I think just being you, and doing what you love, will in turn attract people to your business. I also use my blog and Facebook as a way to connect with readers. It is also a great way for them to get to know me as a person as well as seeing my latest work. There is something about feeling like they know you first, when they are hiring you to capture their most precious memories.
Do you ever say “NO” to people? I believe that a mistake a lot of people make when first starting out is that they say “YES” to everyone and their demands. How do you say no to clients, and is it okay?
Do I say “No”?…Yes I do. You have to set limits in your business. If you donʼt, you will be allowing your clients, and others to run it for you. I have taken a good look at my business and what I am willing to do. This way when the question is asked, I already know what I will say. Your clients will respect you more if from the being you see yourself as a professional and conduct your business in such a way.
Okay, onto some money management issues….Do you do your own bookkeeping or do you outsource? How do you keep track of your profits/ expenses/taxes? Do you use Quickbooks or some other program?
I do my own booking, and have someone do my taxes for me. I have talked with a financial advisor on the best ways to handle my profits, expenses, and taxes. Having a system in place that is best for you is key. I keep track of everything that I am doing on spreadsheets that make sense to me. I keep all receipts, profits and expenses together by month. I do not use Quickbooks, but it is on my list to learn. If you set up a system from the beginning it will make your business easier to manage. Take the time to keep up on it as well, this will allow you to know what your profit to lose ratio is. You will then see if you need to adjust your pricing to match your time working. Very important.
How do you put a worth/price on your art & time?
Putting a worth and price onto your art and time is something I think is very important in placing value in what you do. To me, my time is very important. When I am shooting,editing, answering emails, furthering my education, and etc, it is taking time away from my children and home. To work as hard on my business and my art as much as I do, it must be worth all the sacrifices that I make. Donʼt be afraid to set your prices to what you think you are worth, and stick to them. It is also important to believe in your product and what you do, creating more value in you and your art. If you do not value your talent, your self as an artist and business owner, you can not expect others to as well. You need to stand firm that you believe your art is worth what you say it is.
What should women do when their business just becomes all consuming? How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed?
Any business that you are putting all of your energy into will at some point become consuming. I try to set goals and deadlines to help keep me on track. Do I always meet them, and stay on task…no of course not. But having short and long time goals has helped me to take on one task at a time, and not let myself get bogged down with so many things. With photography, I think we try and do to much. We want to be the best at all types of styles and sessions. Figure out what you love the most and go from there. Really allowing that to grow. When I first started, I would focus on one thing that I really wanted to master, then once I had a good grasp on that, then I moved to the next one. Allow yourself to be ok with only taking on what you can handle.
And finally, what 3 suggestions could you offer women who are searching to better their business?
Three suggestions: One, find what you love and focus on that. Giving your full energy and talent to see that grow. Second, find that special something that sets you apart from your competitors. This will allow you to offer something that is new and exciting. Third, stop comparing yourself to others and really find out what you want from your business. This will allow your true talents to come through. You can develop your own sense of style that will showcase your business and art. Branding yourself and your business is huge in having your business become the very best it can be.
Images in this post are all (c) Vanessa Rae Photography
Did you enjoy this “WOMEN IN BUSINESS” special? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments for Vanessa as well & thank her if you enjoyed her words! I know she’d like to hear from you as much as I do! 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