Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Laurie Ludes, Owner of LaurieL Photography, located in Vancouver, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who your customers?
I am a photography studio. I specialize in fine art maternity photography and newborn portraits. My customers are women who are pregnant or who have recently had a baby. I also provide high school senior photography as well as family portraits and professional headshots. But my passion is Maternity and Newborn portraits.
Tell us about yourself
I have been a photographer since 2002, when I got laid off from my corporate job at Verizon Wireless Headquarters in Irvine, CA. I'd had no formal training and taught myself everything I knew about photography. I've never had a photography class or instruction from anyone, ever. Back in 2002, there wasn't an incredible amount of online videos or photographers mentoring other photographers. I was completely on my own, figuring everything out myself. But I'm a self-achiever and decided to start a photography business. I was shooting all over the board, weddings, corporate events, and portraits..., but then one of the therapists that worked with my autistic son got pregnant. I asked her if I could take her pictures at the end of her pregnancy, and she said yes! That was my very first maternity session, and I absolutely loved the results! Her standing on a rock at the edge of the ocean, wrapped in my son's twin sheet and a pillowcase around her chest. Her picture is still on my website to this day. She ended up having the baby the next day! I shot the baby as both a girl and a boy so that I would have plenty for a newborn gallery. Her maternity and newborn pictures helped to create my maternity and newborn galleries on my website... and 21 years later, it's still my life! I moved to the Pacific NW in 2004 after just 2 years into launching my business. I basically had to start all over again, but surprisingly it really took off for me. I was named as one of Portland, OR's best maternity photographers. But, as I mentioned, back then, there weren't the thousands upon thousands of photographers that there are these days. It was a pretty new niche and had been named one of the best in my area. The rest is history.
As for what motivates me? I love the look of a pregnant woman... the glow and excitement that surrounds her. I Love capturing the curves that the baby inside her creates. Love the tenderness between her and her spouse. My look is ethereal, mystical... using lots of shadow and light and flowy fabrics. Then, the babies. Oh, the babies... I love to capture everything about them, creating heirloom-quality portraits that I know will be handed down through the generations. There's simply nothing more pure than a brand-new baby... That's what drives me to continue to capture the beauty of this most precious time in someone's life. It just fills me.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being able to juggle my home life with my business and still maintaining my sanity. I have a husband that's had cancer twice. I have a son with autism, for whom I ran a home behavioral modification program for, 7 days a week while I worked full-time. We also adopted a beautiful little girl who was three when we got her... and she came with some of her own tender needs. I consider that a huge accomplishment. Taking on all of that and still staying motivated and high-spirited, with the drive to go out every day and do what I do best!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
It all comes down to YOU. No matter who messed up or what mistakes happen that are out of your control... it all comes down to you. You are the business... there's no 'other department' to send clients to. So everything has to run perfectly every time. People don't like delays... they don't want to hear that you had something happen, and so their pictures are going to be a bit later than expected. And it's 24/7. The work just has to get done... no matter what time or what day.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Always smile... even if you're just on the phone with a client. They need to feel like they're the best thing that happened to you that day!
- Make sure your customers know how important they are to you. If it's wrong, fix it. If they're not happy, make it right. Communicate with them. Underpromise and over-deliver!
- Keep your family a priority. I've seen people go through a divorce over their business because it became more important than their family. Don't do that. Your family should be your first priority.
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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