Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Emily Dowell, Founder of Emily Dowell Photography, located in Columbus, OH, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is Emily Dowell Photography in Central Ohio. I am a lifestyle photographer specializing in Newborn, Maternity, and Family photos and home print art such as wall galleries and heirloom albums. My clients are just starting a family and expecting their first child or have a family of young children. They prefer photos that are authentic to who they are and that show love and connection rather than being perfectly posed. My clients also really appreciate my home print art service, where I use my expertise to design wall galleries and albums custom to their needs and be able to choose from print art products of the highest quality and uniqueness unavailable to them at online retailers.
Tell us about yourself
My background in early childhood education, fine art painting, and a huge interest in the family unit and childhood coalesced into a photography business for Family, Maternity, and Newborn photography. I took every class I could from Click Photo School in order to take emotive family photos that would bring joy and nostalgia to families. I wanted my photos to be visually impressive to bring out lots of emotion and importance to the people in the photo. I loved challenging myself further to design professional prints from my photographs for clients. I love leaving them with tangible home print art that makes the most of their photographs, elevates the look of their home, and gives them heirlooms to treasure and hand down to the next generation. It's an amazing feeling creating photographs for other families that will grow in value year after year for them and be an important part of their heirlooms and legacy.
I can't include my disability as part of my story because while it creates a huge roadblock and struggles, my disability also has made me more fearless to go for my dreams. Learning to walk again and be independent again after becoming a paraplegic showed me how capable I am of accomplishing big things. That big things that feel impossible can be achieved by taking small steps forward every day and how to treat setbacks as learning opportunities.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I added another service to my photography experience that has made my business unique among all the other photographers in my area. It has taken me three years to get it where I had envisioned, with a large investment and lots of learning, but it has paid off and become so much more fulfilling. I used to give clients their digital files at one price, and that was the end of their experience with me. If they wanted any nice prints, they were left with a big project. I found that clients didn't have the know-how or time to make nice prints for their homes. I realized that even as a photographer, I didn't have the skill set either. I had to take classes on designing wall galleries and albums, how to print at a fine art quality, how to photograph with printing as my goal, and interior design concepts. My business is now so much more than making family photos to be shared online. I now provide a whole experience that families look forward to and an end product of heirloom print art to elevate the look of their home and to enjoy for generations.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Wanting to buy all the things!! I provide my clients with a client closet of dresses and baby & toddler clothes that photograph well. As well as some photo session props, backdrops, and blankets. It can be easy to go overboard. Every year I have different challenges. Last year was about staying profitable and not putting all my profits back into my business. I have to give myself a spending allowance and keep track of what I'm buying.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Plan on having problems arise and view them as learning experiences to make your business stronger. The way you handle problems helps you define your 'why' and define your ideal client. Have a terrible client experience? Create better vetting at the inquiry stage, so you don't work with those types of people.
- Hire out jobs you aren't good at. I'm terrible at keeping my books and handling money. I can either spend $ on hiring it out or lose the $ because I suck at it. I'd rather hire it out and gain the time back and not have to stress over it.
- Define your ideal client with extreme detail, and then use that ideal client avatar to make all your branding and marketing decisions.
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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