Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Katie Ward, Owner of Katie Ward Photography, located in New York, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm a brand, editorial, and portrait photographer working in NYC, The Hamptons, and around the world. My customers are magazines, brands, individuals, and families who are looking for contemporary portraits steeped in art history and authenticity.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up wanting to be a photographer. After getting over my lofty childhood goals of being a very famous actor (hint: I can't act), I was drawn to being behind a camera. At 13, I took my first photography class and took to it like a fish takes to water. I was hooked, and for my first job, I apprenticed with Burt Glinn, the famous photojournalist and former CEO of Magnum. He taught me patience, the importance of prime lenses, and cropping in frame.
Like many women, I was told that my ambitions weren't realistic. So instead of pursuing my desire to be a photographer, I spent many years trying to fit myself into careers that didn't work for me. I worked as a television producer, in fine art galleries, and as a journalist. And in all these careers, I always ended up coming back to pictures. When I was working in galleries, I started @picklebeholding, and as a journalist, I ended up spending a great deal of time reporting on and photographing the issues surrounding parents and families.
When my daughter was one and a half years old, I made the leap and started doing portrait photography full-time. It was terrifying to break off on my own, but it has been incredibly rewarding. And for the first time in my life, I feel fulfilled in my career and am doing the thing I am meant to be doing.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishments are the small steps forward I've been making since I started my business in 2018. In 2019 and 2020, I reached my goal of having consistent work. In 2021 I reached my first goal of surpassing six figures in revenue. In 2022, I reached my goal of working less while still maintaining the same income level, and this year I've made steps to take on more work for brands, magazines, and companies.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Consistency in doing the difficult things, in stepping out of the box. It's really easy to stay in what is comfortable and for what you know works, and for me, that's portraits for private clients. The hard comes in pushing forward with larger goals that are untested, that could fail, and that brings the possibility of rejection.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Whatever you are doing, you have to decide if you can tolerate or even like the hard that comes with it. As Elizabeth Gilbert in 'Big Magic' would call the shit sandwich. Just because you love something, or have a passion, doesn't necessarily mean that you will be able to persevere when it gets hard.
- Hire an attorney and accountant from day one. Making sure that you have all your ducks in a row when you start is important to have a smooth launch into your venture.
- Take the leap. Just like having kids, there is no right time to start a business. Just do it, even if you don't feel ready because no one feels ready.
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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