INTERVIEW WITH SPANKI MILLS PHOTOGRAPHY | The Woodlands, Texas
Hi Spanki! Thank you so much for taking some time to let us get to know you and to let us pick your brain for some in site on how you go about operating your own business! Let’s start out getting to know a little about you! Are you married? Do you have any children?
Yes, I have been married for 13 years. I was told at a young age I might have trouble conceiving…BUT clearly they were wrong, I have 4 kids! My oldest son is 12, I have 11 year old twin boys and we got our girl (AKA the devil child…thanks to her dad) who is 6 going on 16!
What is the best thing about being a mom for you?
That is a tough one. I think it is the fact that you can totally be yourself around them and if you make a mistake they love you no matter what. My family is truly my best friends!
What is the best thing about being a photographer/business owner? How long have you been in the business?
I have been in business 4 years this October. The thing I love about it the most is it is my creative outlet. Anyone who knows me knows I can not add, subtract, spell, or know anything about history… I am an artist through and through. I can color with the best of them!Prior to being a photographer I was a professional faux painter, you can give me paint, colors, paper and pencil, camera, etc I will make something with it… you give me a text book and I will hyperventilate.
Why photography? And what is your favorite subject to photograph?
Like I said interior design and painting is my background, I have always had a camera in hand… ALWAYS! I never thought or knew you could make a career out of photography. It never even crossed my mind until we moved from our bigger city to a tiny country town and I had to give up my career of painting. I wanted to embrace being a stay at home mom with my last little one and my camera was a natural way to hold on to those moments. It snowballed for me and here I am now. My favorite things to photograph are seniors and kids.
What do you recommend women do who are just getting started in their own business in general?
Know your strengths and weaknesses! If you know what you are good at then you will know that it is the OTHER that you will need to focus on first! For me it was business (like I said I can make anything art. But having to be responsible for ANYTHING is a struggle for me) So the most challenging thing from the start for me was all things business and that is what I have needed to focus on and spend time and money on getting help with.
How do you stay grounded and keep business/photography from taking over your every day life?
Oh wait…who said I know how to do that? Ha. seriously. I don’t!! I wish I did and I am VERY much so working on it but I am still so far from “grounded”. I have always thought of my business as my baby. Just like all my other “real” babies, they need nurturing. More in the early stages of development they need to be fed every so many hours…as they get older they can stand on their own two feet. I am just now getting to the point where it can stand on its own with my help but I am no longer waking up every two hours in the middle of the night to make sure it is still breathing!
What do you do to relax…that has nothing to do with photography?
I get away with my kiddos. I am queen of checking them out of school just so we can have a day together of FUN, away from the house, away from my office and away from my phone! The other thing I really enjoy to do is to walk or jog. I like to de-stress outside, alone, quietly.
What are you most proud of as a businesswoman?
Oh that is fun. There are a few things… first at how far I have come in the past few years. I am a self taught photographer with NO business experience. It has been nothing but a huge struggle but I have realized I am stronger than I ever knew… I have wanted to give up so many times but I have kept pushing. I was determined and even though I am still facing new struggles each day, I am still fighting. The other thing I totally take pride in is how drama free my fans on my FB page are. I love love love all the friendships I have made and I am NOT a fan of drama, my facebook page is a place I can go to and be ME and they can be them and it is very friendly and an encouraging environment.
How do you keep your marriage safe from the stresses of your business?
Yikes. I don’t! I am human. I stress and take it out on those closest to me. But early on we realized that we can not talk about my business. My husband is a GREAT business man, so I’d turn to him for help. He is a problem solver and wanted to help, but like I said this business is my baby and even though I wanted to talk bad about it didn’t give him the right to! He’d try to help me solve problems in a very matter of fact manner, but these problems were emotional problems for me, it wasn’t his fault…he wasn’t a photographer, he didn’t have any emotional connection to my work like I did and he had no clue how or why photographers do what they do. So I’d get upset and we’d end up fighting over it. I still turn to him for help every now and again, but he now knows to listen and not try to solve any problem. Most of the time if he lets me talk long enough I figure it out myself!
What are the top three things you did when you were first getting started in business to bring in clients?
The FIRST thing I did was make sure I could consistently produce a quality product before I ever “set up shop”. You get one chance to make that first impression, do not call yourself a “photographer” until you can produce images worthy of that title. That being said, once you do “set up shop” charge what you and your TIME is worth and give yourself a cushion allowing you for growth. I promise it will be harder and more time consuming that you think, that cushion will allow you to grow without losing or offending clients. The third thing I did was valued myself, my work and my time and set boundaries on what I would and wouldn’t do. If you don’t have confidence in yourself no one else will either. You can give yourself away for free or close to it but all you are doing is letting others know you don’t believe in yourself and your product. You have to show others with your action who you are as a photographer.
What is the best thing you’ve done to make your business successful?
The BIGGEST thing I did that helped my business grow was realize right off what types of clients I wanted and where they were, then I networked with local businesses that targeted the same clientele that I was. Networking with local business is hands down the best thing I have ever done for my growth.
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?
Ouch. Again I know I am not perfect and like I said in the very beginning…thank goodness kids are more forgiving of you than sometimes we are of ourselves. I try hard to remind my older kids that mommy does have to work to afford all the things they want to do that cost money. I also try my hardest to give them my attention when they are around. I work when they are in school, and some when they get home until dinner time, but I really try to shut off after dinner. I leave my phone in the other room so I am not tempted to pick it up and check it. I have to constantly remind myself that there is nothing so pressing it can not wait until I get in my office the next morning!
What is in your camera bag?
I am seriously one of the most simple shooters EVER!!! I carry my Nikon D700 with my 50mm 1.4 attached and if I remember I will bring my reflector. That is it. I do own the 85mm and the 35mm and this summer I SWEAR I am going to put them on my camera for the first time ever…hold me to it, I have owned them for a while now and never have even tried them out! :/ I love my 50mm and don’t have a real need to change so I haven’t!
And finally, what three pieces of advice would you give women who are trying to find balance in their business & their overall lives?
1. Remember your number one job is your family. You will get a lot further with a lot less bumps with their support.
2. You need to value yourself before you can expect anyone else to value you.
3. The BIG one for me: Realizing right off that everything that goes wrong with your business in the end is YOUR FAULT. The minute something doesn’t go your way, dissect the situation and IMMEDIATELY fix the problem so it won’t happen again.
Thank you so much for your wise words Spanki! Thanks everyone for coming by and reading another segment in our Women In Business Series! Be sure to leave some love in the comment section!!