Truth Telling From The Trenches With Photographer Jennifer Findlay
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Canuck, eh! I say“roof” and “about” all wrong, and I say “sorry” in every sentence...sorry. If I pronounce “Y” as “E”, c’est la vie, baby!
My husband is in the tech industry, and we moved from White Rock BC to settle in Issaquah. Much to this city girl’s surprise, I love living on a mountain, where I can walk out my front door and head for a hike. I also love the fact that on a good day, I can make it to downtown Seattle in less than ½ hour (rare, but possible). Most of all, I love the awesome Americans who have welcomed us with open arms.
But enough chit chat, let’s get real! I discovered football! FOOTBALL! I begrudgingly attended my first (ever) football game with my husband last November. You should have heard the whining and seen the stomping of feet. I gasped in horror when he said we were taking a bus, and sitting in an open-air stadium, wearing Michelin-Man-thick layers…in the rain…at night.
The Huskies had me at MARCHING BAND!!!!!!! By mid-game, I was high-fiving strangers around me and alternating between screaming and cheering! I had a hotdog in one hand and a coffee in the other! Heaven.
Where is your business located?
Where did the idea for your business come from?
In 2014, I was looking for an online course that would keep me honest about shooting photos daily, and I came across a 28-day course by Sue Bryce, one of the top portrait photographers in the world. Her business model, philosophy and artistry instantly appealed to me, and I was hooked.
The most appealing aspect for me was the thought of being able to help women feel beautiful and worthy of being in photos. It was a very personal calling, because I knew exactly what it was like to feel ugly.
For over 20 years I hid behind my camera and avoided being photographed, because I was horrified about gaining 100 lbs. I’m ashamed that I actually made my mother cry by ripping up a photo of my sisters and I in front of her. I hated myself and how I looked, and the last thing I wanted was a photo to prove it.
So, I knew I could make women feel safe in front of my camera, and I could create images that would show them something they might not have seen in a very long time. In my heart, I know that woman are beautiful and I want them to know that.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
At 6:45 a.m., I hug my husband and thank him for the steaming cup of coffee he hands me (God bless that man!). Then we sit on a couch with our snuggly dogs (We’re a couple of suckers and the dogs take full advantage!), our computers, and the local news on TV. At 7:30 a.m., my husband leaves for work, and my work day begins. I spend 1.5 to 3 hours following up on emails, checking my social media accounts and all the boring administrative tasks (yuck).
What does your work day look like and how do you maximize your productivity?
If it’s a photo shoot day, it’s really important for me to spend some quiet time getting centered--spiritually and artistically. I review my clients’ file and focus on how I want to serve them. I love to envision how the photo shoot will flow, and the experience that I want my clients to have. That sets the tone for my whole day.
While they’re getting a makeover with my stylist, I clean my lenses, set up backdrops, review their wardrobe and make sure everything is running smoothly. Then I spend between one and three hours on set photographing them. When we’re finished, I bid everyone goodbye and take time to tidy my studio. Did I mention coffee? I drink coffee all day long.
On non-shoot days, I usually spend most of my time retouching photos, meeting with potential clients online or in my studio, and attending networking meetings. My most productive time is spent networking. I can’t stress enough the value of meeting people face-to-face. I love the energy and inspiration I get from the groups that I belong to.
I feel strongly about being consistent, listening to other people, and supporting their businesses.
How do you bring your great business ideas to the world to serve your clients?
My business is photography, so social media is the perfect platform for promoting it.
I regularly post images and tell my followers about my clients and their experiences. When
I'm at meetings, I hand out my accordian-folded business card that has 8 images, which instantly educates them about what I do and who I work with. It's always better for me to show, rather than tell.
What is one trend in business that excites you?
I’m impressed with how collaborative the business world is becoming. I grew up in a time of “every man for himself”—oh how times are changing. I used to think of everyone else as my competitor—a threat. Now, I approach everything from the spirit of, “What’s good for one of us, is good for all of us.”
I regularly network with other photographers and we learn from each other and raise the standards of photography as a whole. I know that it’s the same in other industries too. Just look at the rate of participation in women’s networking groups. It’s phenomenal how much women in support each other. It's our superpower and we genuinely celebrate each other’s successes and back each other up during rough patches.
What is one strategy that helped you grow your business?
Putting myself out there in front of people is the biggest boost to my business. Network, network, network. Step away from your desk. Put your computer away. Turn off your phone. Talk to people, face-to-face.
I even love public speaking, and any chance I get, I talk about my passion for portrait photography and why I believe everyone should have a portrait they fall in love with.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Before photography, I launched an online home décor store in 2008—the same week that the world economy tanked. I managed to limp along for three years shipping orders throughout Canada and the U.S., but we started hemorrhaging money and I had to face failure on an epic scale. I didn’t “overcome” that failure, but I sure as heck learned from it.
When I finally picked myself back up (it wasn’t easy), I realized that I’m a survivor, and I’m not afraid to be bold and take risks to pursue my dreams.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to this community?
I discovered a way to maximize my return on door prize donations!
My out-of-pocket expenses for doing a photo shoot are really high, so rather than just ask people to drop off their business card at my display table, I now require them to attend a consultation with me in my studio, or online, in order to qualify for a draw.
It works really well! I got three photo shoot clients by donating a photo shoot at a big networking event a few months ago.
What is the best $100 you have recently spent? on What? Why?
I just purchased two new attachments for my camera belt, and they’re AMAZING.
I’m always hunting for a battery or a fresh memory card, and one of the pouches holds everything right on my hip when I need it. The other is a long lens pouch, so I can wear my huge 70-200 mm lens on my hip when I go hiking. Awesome sauce!!!!
What is one piece of software or app that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I would be out of business without Photoshop!! It’s such an amazing piece of software and I love how it keeps my brain sharp and lets me be as creative as possible. It’s endlessly brilliant, and I can retouch portraits exactly how I want! I’m also a huge fan of InDesign and Illustrator—total design geek here.
What is the best business book you have read? Why?
“The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace Wattles. It was published in 1910, and the language is definitely 1910ish, but the principles hold true today. The biggest takeaway for me is the idea that people don’t need to feel to feel “guilty” about making money and achieving financial success. He discusses the idea that it is not selfish, and that it is actually God’s will that we build wealth and live a successful life.
What is your favorite quote?
It's the first sentence in a poem by Rumi. I put it on a vision board 15 years ago, and I love it:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there."
Who inspires you in business and why?
The women who have run their own businesses for over 10 years really inspire me. They have been through everything business cycle, they have seen everything, and they have a tenacity that I aspire to. I always listen when I meet a "wise" woman. She's the one who extends a hand to those following her.
What are your thoughts on work-life balance?
I am the WRONG person to ask for advice on work-life balance, because I’m a big workaholic! I’m not even convinced that“balance” is possible for business owners. We pour our hearts and souls in to our businesses, and even when we’re not working, our brain still has a foot in the game.
At this time in my life, I understand the value in spending more time on non-business activities, so I’m consciously trying to change my habits. I am trying to read more books, and I signed up for a painting class. I used to paint all the time, but I stopped about 10 years ago, and it’s time to pick up my brushes again.
I’m also getting back to my landscape photography practice, which gives me so much joy. But if I’m being completely honest, all these extra-curricular things inspire me, which helps me be a better portrait photographer, so it all circles back to BUSINESS—LOL.
What are the 3 business lessons you’ve learned so far?
1. Always serve others…If you only talk about yourself, you’ll never get ahead. If you always ask others about themselves and find ways to serve them, you’ll always get ahead.
2. Never, ever, ever say negative things about anyone on social media, texts, phone messages, emails…just don’t do it.
3. It’s not them. It’s you…I excel in the blame game, but I learned the hard way to look at my own behavior and my role in any situation. I don’t always get it right, but I’m getting better.
What is your workspace like?
I am madly in love with my workspace. It’s beautiful and functional. When clients come in for a consultation, I want them to feel like they’re in a beautiful French estate (a girl can dream). They sit in my antique Louis XV “Queen for the Day” chair imported from France.
The walls are covered in vintage gilded frames with portraits of past clients, and there’s always a mannequin or two wearing beautiful gowns. I make sure to light a few Glassbaby candles and serve tea whenever I have visitors. My studio is washed in white and it’s full of natural light.
It’s a girlie girl space with a white velvet settee and a wall full of empty, vintage white-washed frames. There’s a hair and makeup station, racks of gorgeous gowns and dresses, a table covered in glittery beautiful jewelry and a wall of flowers to pose in front of.
It’s a place where grown women get to play dress-up! I could go on and on and on…
Last thing you do at the end of your work day?
A couple of months ago, I started a little ritual at 5 p.m. I give myself an hour before I start making dinner, and I sit on my deck outside with my candles burning, sometimes a glass of champagne and a good book. I breathe deeply, listen to all the birds and lose myself in whatever I’m reading. Bliss.
What is the one thing you can't leave home without?
Lip gloss, breath mints, and cell phone—don’t make me choose one!
What superpower would you love to have to use for good?
The power to heal. I’ve seen too many of the people I love suffer. I wish I could end their pain and make them well again.
Number of unread emails right now?
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you for this opportunity to share my story. I'm humbled by your beautiful, generous spirit!
How can other entrepreneurs connect with you?
Facebook: Jennifer Findlay Portraiture
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