Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nate Dale, owner of New Adventure Productions, located in West Lafayette, IN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I own New Adventure Productions, and I'm a destination elopement and wedding photographer. I specialize in connecting with clients who want destination weddings and elopements but don't know exactly how to connect all those dots. My clients come from all across the United States and are folks who value travel, amazing views, and ease of access and really want an intimate and unique approach to their wedding day.
Tell us about yourself
I began this journey as a photographer a long, long time ago, but it wasn't until my wife, and I were driving home from a small backyard wedding in 2016 that we had both helped to work behind the scenes when she suggested I pursue photography as a job. It felt really unrealistic at the time, but whenever I've had the support of my wife, I've been able to accomplish almost anything.
While I launched New Adventure Productions in 2016, it wasn't until 2019 that I was able to step into work full-time. And it really wasn't until 2020 that my destination approach really took off. Ironically, what hindered so many people from traveling (the pandemic) empowered my clients to get out and choose secluded and safe spots, away from the big crowds, to celebrate their love story.
I also really love inspiring other photographers and creatives to break the mold. I don't believe that love stories and weddings should be a rinse-and-repeat approach. Each wedding and elopement is unique and deserves to be curated specifically to how it is.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think that my biggest accomplishment within the photography business is having the pleasure of hosting two destination elopement photography workshops. What was most humbling was seeing all of the attendees use the pieces of information that I shared in their own businesses to grow.
A secondary accomplishment would be getting to bring my wife along with me to many of these amazing adventures. In 2022 we traveled to Hawaii, Alaska, Las Vegas, Moab, and Salt Lake City. And those are just the places I was able to take her. While I love getting to capture other people's love stories, I also love nurturing my own and ensuring that we have lots of 'main character' moments during our travels.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I think this is a toss-up between marketing and finances. Finances are, unfortunately, the much scarier side of business ownership, especially when it comes to taxes and legality. Being able to actually 'pay' yourself legitimately and to also ensure you've got money set aside for the inevitable mishap, new gear, and of course, taxes. The less scary but equally challenging aspect is marketing.
Photography is a very saturated market. While I think that most people can learn to be good photographers, they don't always know how to 'stand out.' Many folks don't understand their own unique value that they offer and don't take the time to actually figure this out because, as small business owners, we're always required to wear so many hats, and marketing isn't always the most glamorous.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
My top 3 tips for anyone aspiring to go full-time with photography or even step into destination photography are these things:
- Know yourself and know who your ideal client is. You have to know what you're bringing to the table besides pretty photos because that's a dime a dozen nowadays. Are you specializing in travel plans to Las Vegas? Are you empowering alt-couples to have their most intimate and unique days, and do you specifically only serve that demographic? Perhaps you've got the superpower of making high-strung people forget their strings and actually feel relaxed and confident in front of the camera. Whatever it is, know what your unique value proposition is and bring it EVERY SINGLE TIME. The second part of this is knowing who your perfect ideal client is. What is their pain point? How are you solving that problem for them? Who exactly are these people? The more specific, the better because no one that ever said 'everyone's my ideal client' had the type of success that folks who niche and know their audience and client do.
- Get a payroll specialist and an accountant that works specifically with small businesses. Your first few years will probably be losses as you're spending all the money you make to put back into your business. With the mysterious tax changes that happen every presidential change, having a specialist on your side to ensure that you are getting the max amount of write-offs and protection is important. I also recommend hiring a payroll specialist to deal specifically with your actual payroll. When the day comes to finance something, you can just pull out your W2 from your business to prove your income rather than bringing in a massive pile of bank statements and receipts to prove that you're scraping by.
- Outsource the stuff that you hate. There will come a time when you're making enough money to start paying others to do things for you. Whether it be editing, marketing, or even correspondence, outsourcing will give you more time for your personal life, and that's going to be important as your business grows. In the long run, it'll also allow you to grow your business further because you'll have more time for bigger ideas over tedious and small non-money-making tasks.
- Be sure to turn it off. And by that, I mean be sure to stop working at some point. I know it feels like the world is going to burn down, and every person is going to pass you by if you don't work 25/8. But I promise you that they will still be there, and keeping your personal life a priority and the relationships you have in your life at the forefront of everything will ensure you have a solid team of support for the ups and downs.
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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