Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Daniel Wakefield, owner of Top-Tier Headshots, located in Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm the owner and photographer of Top-Tier Headshots, a photography company specializing in high-end headshots and branding images. My clients are corporate executives, attorneys, realtors, salespeople, and really anyone interested in taking their online image to the next level.
Tell us about yourself
I had stepped down from a previous teaching role and ultimately decided that I wanted to turn my photography hobby into a full-time business. My desire to produce excellent quality images led me to Peter Hurley's HeadshotCrew, where I was able to train under him and eventually become one of his associates.
What motivates me? My faith, my family, and my passion for photography and helping people. Perhaps the most surprising benefit that has come from starting this business is the impact it is having on people's lives. My goal when I started out was simply to give people great headshots. But as it turns out, a lot of people don't like being in front of the camera and even consider themselves to be "un-photogenic." The impact it has when they see a great photo of themselves is priceless.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There have been a lot of great accomplishments since I started my business, but two of them stand out. The first one is getting to the point of being able to lease a commercial studio space one and a half years after starting the business. The second is tripling our sales in our second year of business.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Being a solopreneur means that I've got to do everything. I've been slowly working on outsourcing some of the activities that I can. But at the end of the day, I'm the owner, the photographer, the marketer, the salesman, the finance guy, etc. For me, one of the hardest things to learn has been sales. I knew nothing when I started, but I surrounded myself with knowledgeable people, and my skill and confidence in sales gradually grew.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
These are pretty general, but my three tips would be to get focused, get direction, and get a mentor. Let me illustrate with some negative examples of a previous photography business I tried to start.
I used to primarily think of photography as a "side gig." When I started that first business, I still primarily thought of it as a side hustle, and as a result, I never had the focus on it that I needed to make it a full-time career. An intense focus on taking photography full-time was one of the keys that have led to the success of my current business. That first photography business also lacked direction. In my ignorance, I thought that being willing to do just about any kind of photography would help me bring in more clients. The opposite was true. Being willing to do anything made it more difficult for ideal clients to find me and figure out what exactly I do. With my new business, I decided to work on specializing in one thing (headshots) and getting really good at them so that people would know what I do exactly and how I could help them. This also has the benefit of making your business easier to find on Google.
When people tell me they're starting a business, I now tell them, "you need a mentor!" Having a business mentor has given me the opportunity to model my business after the success of someone else's. It's given me the help to work on my mindset and overcome obstacles. It's given me the accountability to keep pressing toward my goals, even when the going gets tough. Having a mentor is one of the key things that has helped me grow and sustain a profitable business.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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