When I made the decision to start my photography career, I was absolutely terrified to step out and start my own business. The feeling that no one would take me seriously because of how young I was, the fear that since I hadn’t gone to school for business I wouldn’t know how to successfully run my company, and the constant concern of my work not being good enough. I never thought that my dream of being a business owner would come true but I had to give it a try. I knew that working for other people wasn’t something I wanted to continue so I started reading any book I could get my hands on, watch tons of YouTube tutorials, and began to learn how to grow my company little by little. I took the slow and steady route because I knew that many companies fail when they try to grow too quickly. So I wanted to make sure I took my time in making big decisions and I had to make sure I was able to juggle being a mom and entrepreneur. I told myself that most small businesses fail within the first 18months but if I could just make it to 5 years of steady growth I would be okay.
I stepped out of my comfort zone and I started my business with an entry-level camera and kit lens. My first year I made $0. Yup, you read that right $0, but that was okay with me because I was happy. I continued to focus on reading about being a business owner and a successful wedding photographer knowing the more I knew the more I had a chance at success. I didn’t worry about my wages because I was still learning and building a portfolio. I took my time, I dreamed big and to me, that was the best part because my first goal I set for myself was to not be in debt. With all the equipment and subscriptions I knew I would need and the money I would have to spend on education I simply wanted to be debt free.
My second year I made $2,000. Wow, $2000 from taking pretty pictures of people? It was amazing to me that I could take what I read in a book, the skills I learned in school, apply it to real life and actually make money doing it. At the time I was charging $50 for a portrait session and my clients were ecstatic! Life was good. I reinvested that money in a better website template and more equipment. Shortly after reaching that goal my thirst grew and I had a new goal of $30,000 which I thought would be just enough to supplement some income and make life easier for my family. I immediately went and upgraded my camera and got the Nikon D810 a 85mm lens and 24-70mm lens. This line up has been my go to set up since.
My third year in business I taught myself a little more about building a website to showcase my work and I started my first social media page for my company. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and so much more, soon became my focus on becoming a better businesswoman. I decided that creating a logo was needed to brand my company. I was enrolled in photography school and watching tons of inspiring photographers on YouTube in order to grow my photography skill and learn techniques I could modify to make my own (My favorite wedding photographer has started a group for photographers called The Inspired Club, her name is Jana Williams). At the end of year three, I was pulling in $17,000 in income. I didn’t reach my $30,000 goal but at this point I was hungry and now I wanted to work for myself and only myself. I didn't want to grow anyone else’s brand. I wanted to grow my own brand and build my own empire regardless how small.
By year four I was working for myself full time and focusing on weddings. I began advertising with The Knot and was booking brides and grooms left and right. I was asked to photograph a wedding for the hit TV show Married at First Sight and that show opened up all kinds of doors to the reality TV Show world and the wedding world. I began networking with more photographers, second shooting, and attending some pretty amazing events that allowed me to meet some great people. My income went from barely getting by so I can manage a family on this. My brand was making $55,000 and it had allowed me to go full time. I was no longer working for anyone else and I was proud that I could say my hard work was paying off. That year I told myself that if I could Just make $75,000 I would be okay.
Year five is now coming to an end and this year has been full of learning experiences. I’m still networking and growing my brand. I’m now using the video world to grow my company. I am growing my social media pages and making some great friends along the way. I have shot weddings and special events for Food Networks: Cake Hunter, Bravos: The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Lifetime Networks: Little Women Atlanta. Talk about Growth! I have continued to have my work published in magazines like Black Bride, Munaluchi Bridal, Brides magazine, and Modern Luxury Bride. This year my brand is making Six Figures. LaJoy Photography formerly L. Hunter Photography has been through a divorce, a rebrand and name change and still managed to come out on top. I'm writing this because when I began my journey I needed to hear from other photographers like myself that were able to make it to levels they never thought they would reach. I am truly grateful to everyone that has come my way when I began my career. I am also very grateful for my amazing clients that have trusted me with their memories. I have come such a long way and I can now say that everything I taught myself over the years has paid off. Don’t get me wrong... my journey was hard and full of nights where I just wanted to give up. However I’m happy I believed in myself enough to want to push forward and achieve my goals so that I could be the mom I needed to be to make my children proud and have my mother smile when she looks down at me from heaven.
How did I make my dream a six-figure reality? The patience to understand I needed to wait for the right opportunities to come my way. I not only shoot weddings but I shoot portrait sessions for other entrepreneaurs that are just getting started. I took on the natural hair community and decided to take photos of models and bloggers in need of some great shots for their websites. I also shoot sports photography for a larger photography company that works with tons of high schools in my area. When I learned that my camera could make money for me and my family nothing would stand in my way. I would then use my camera to make sure that I would always be able to provide for my children and provide them with the life that they deserve.