This month’s “Ones to Watch” is none other than little Miss (ahem or should I say Missus now) Katelyn James! We first met Katelyn when she came to the DC stop on our Spread the Love tour last year. She wore these killer brown boots that I fully coveted and a kelly green cardigan. We talked J. Crew, the south, blogging. And then the talk got started.
It was “pin drop, Bell Atlantic, reach out and touch someone” quiet in there and I was fully convinced that we were going to bomb. Like A- Bomb bomb. So I do what I do when I’m so nervous my heart just might explode into a million pieces of confetti at any minute….I turn into the Hugh Grant, charming in that random bumbling sort of way, version of myself. Let’s just say it was not going well. But every time I cracked some lame, nervous rambling, I can’t believe I just said that joke… Katelyn would laugh out loud and her smile would just get bigger. And in that instant I fell in love with her. Not so much because she laughed at my jokes (ok, who am I kidding…it was TOTALLY because she laughed at my jokes)….but also because I could tell right then that Katelyn is the type of person that just makes others feel like everything is going to be ok. She invests in others. She builds other people up. And she shines like a light of love in this crazy world. And because of who she is, I know she is poised to set this world on fire. Just like that fiery red hair of hers! :)
**You’ve probably by now noticed a theme in our “Ones to Watch” series. They are all people who I believe to be people builders. People who are lifting others up. Who give way more than they ever take. Who aren’t afraid to step up, but then also reach back to give a hand up. Because they know there is plenty to go around. They are genuine, they are honest, they are real. In short, I believe they are a new wave of leadership rising up in this industry, at a time when our industry is already so “me, me, me” focused. And I for one, can’t wait to see it happen. Because I believe people like this change things. They take the rules and flip them on their heads. And they make you pay attention.
Meet: Ms. Katelyn James
1) How did you decide to start your business?
How did I start my business? That is a GREAT question! I wish I had a 3 step program as to how I launched my business but to be honest, it was really an accident. I owned a Canon Rebel Xti in college. I shot on “auto” for 3 years and thought I was so cool. Needless to say, I knew NOTHING about photography. During my junior year, I taught myself to shoot manually and a friend invited me to second shoot a wedding with her. I didn’t completely hate it. It was hot, realllly hot but the bride was gorgeous and we had an awesome venue to work with. However, I wasn’t in love with the idea of being responsible for someones WEDDING pictures! What a huge responsibility! I was convinced that this career wasn’t for me. Well, later that summer I was asked to shoot a wedding for a close friend and I agreed to do it. I bought a Canon 5D with intentions of selling it after the wedding. Once again, I was very wrong. I ended up keeping the camera and booking 6 more weddings that fall……and that is how it began. I fell in love with capturing LOVE!!
2) What advice do you have for someone wanting to get a photography business started? What’s the best first thing they could do?
Decide to never stop learning. Make a commitment to never stop learning about business management, using light, shooting manually, good communication skills, creating goals, maintaining great client relationships, design, social media marketing….etc….the list never ends. The biggest mistake a photographer can make is to stop learning. When you stop learning, you stop growing and if you never make a commitment to learn when you’re launching your business, you’re only heading for a dead end. Wow, that sounded so harsh! But I really believe that it’s true. It’s impossible to be an entrepreneur without a desire to constantly grow and push yourself. I’ve struggled with this during different phases of my small business journey and I’ve realized that it’s something that I have to be constantly reminded of.
3) What are the three biggest mistakes you’ve made in your business?
Ooohhh this is a good one! 1. After year one, I started thinking that I had it all figured out…nothing else to learn and I became very critical of other photographers… bad bad bad. I just needed a good wake-up call and a big dose of humility. I quickly realized just how wrong I was and how much I needed to learn! 2. I signed up for a bridal show. I thought it was a great idea and that I would get TONS of bookings for 2011. However, I should have known that this isn’t how my business works. I don’t book brides from shaking their hand and handing them a flyer….my business is 100% relational and I book weddings through great word-of-mouth marketing from past clients and by forming friendships with my clients. I spent over $1,000 on this show and only booked one wedding. Looking back, it actually gave me a ton of confidence in the way I market my brand. I had the opportunity to really see what works and what doesn’t. 3. I lost confidence in “My style”. This mistake happens so often. Sometimes I view others photographer’s work and I think to myself “I want my images to look more like that….their “look” is so better than mine” and I begin to spiral into a bad case of “Comparison-nism”. That is most definitely NOT a word but it’s a real problem that I think a TON of photographers deal with… at least I hope I’m not the only one! Comparison crumbles dreams and sucks the confidence out of every photographer. Falling into the “Comparison” trap is by far one of my biggest mistakes!
4) Who/what inspires you?
Oh! Inspiration! I love this question! I love OLD things. Anything vintage, rustic, falling apart, paint chipping off… I love it all. My husband and I recently returned from our honeymoon in Venice and I was so inspired by the old architecture of that city. It’s a photographer’s dream! Besides all things “old”…. I am inspired by LOVE itself. Being in love with my NEW husband has to be my greatest inspiration. To know what it feels like to be loved is the greatest way to be inspired to capture the love of others. :)
5) What three words describe your photography? Your brand?
Clean. Classic. Creative.
6) Where do you want to be in your business/life in 5 years?
5 years…. wow. I want to be working less and loving on my family a lot more. Who knows what our family will look like in 5 years but I want my business to be so established that I am able to set aside 2 weekends a month for work and the rest goes to my family. I want to become a better blogger, I want to continue to think outside of the box and I want to be published in Martha Stewart Weddings…. hey, a girl can dream right?! :)
And we finished by asking Katelyn one question that she has for us:
My question for you guys would be now that I’m a married woman (no big deal!!!!!), I would love to know how in the world you balance your personal life and the business. The business is obviously a HUGE part of both of your lives… but how do you go out to eat and not just talk about business stuff the whole time?! And how do you force yourself to turn away from the imacs when you KNOW you could conquer 3 more “to-do’s” if you just stayed on them a little while longer…..(I obviously struggle with this! So your input would be so great to hear!!)
The answer is that you’re right: it can be SO hard. And it’s something that we struggle with all the time. I think that’s especially true if, like we did, you’ve already gotten into the habit of working fifteen hour days and still talking about the business when you go out to dinner. And for us, because that was the case, we literally had to (and still have to sometimes) retrain ourselves out of that very bad habit. And just like overcoming any bad habit, it’s literally about catching yourself anytime you’re doing it and forcing yourself to fix it right then.. So we would go out to dinner and everything would be going great and then inevitably one of us would bring up a print order or something like that. And without even realizing it, we’d get on a five or ten minute discussion about the business before we knew what was going on. But just like those kids on the Super Nanny we’d have to catch ourselves, bring ourselves back to our proverbial corner for a few minutes til we learned our lesson, and then start again. And having stuff that we’re excited about outside of the business like movies that are coming out or how we’re going to decorate for Christmas or upcoming trips we want to take really helps. Over time I do have to say that it gets easier. And I think that really boils down to the realization that as much as you love your business, you just stop worrying about it quite so much after a while and trust it to run on its own for a bit. Because there comes a point in the day where it really isn’t going to matter in the grand scheme of things if you answer one more email or blog one more picture. It’ll still be there tomorrow. But it is going to matter if you put that same amount of time dating your husband again. Into rubbing your dog’s belly a little more. Into taking care of yourself. And the rest of the world will just have to wait and be ok with that.