Starting your own business isn’t easy. It is very difficult a majority of the time as many try and fail. Even for those who are able to successfully get off the ground, they now face a plethora of new challenges as they embark on their journey of owning their own business. As much as I’m making it sound awful, starting your own business is so worth it. Speaking with Jennifer Johnson, she was able to give her first hand experience, having started her own photography and videography business, as well as some tips and advice for others who are hoping to start their own business.
Jennifer is 24 years old and has a master’s degree in social work from LSU (Geaux Tigers!), loves to watercolor, and lives in the amazing city of Lafayette, Louisiana. She enjoys quiet days exploring the library, chats over a cup of coffee, and exploring new places. She is an extraverted introvert that loves intentional conversations and a good game night. To find out more about Jennifer Faith Creative check out her website!
For starters, what business did you start, when did you start it, and what made you want to start it?
JENNIFER: I started Jennifer Faith Creative officially in November, but it had been in the works long before then. My business is all about telling stories with authenticity and joy through photo and video. This began my freshman year of college when my dad gave me a camera. I began taking photos of my friends for fun and even did a few of their graduation photoshoots. I fell in love with capturing big milestones in people’s life. From a young age, I always said I wanted to be a wedding photographer and here I was with my camera knowing nothing about business but realizing that I was just on the cusp of that dream. A year or so after I received my camera, one of my lifetime friends reached out and asked if I wanted to shoot her wedding. I had no idea what I was doing but I was so honored that she wanted to take a risk on me and cultivate this dream that I had about wedding photography. Needless to say I fell in love with all the aspects of the wedding day. I loved the chaos, joy, tears, excitement, sentiment, and everything in between. I continued throughout college focusing on finishing my degree, but offered to do photoshoots for anything and everything in my free time. After I graduated from college, I faced the decision of pursuing a career in my degree and taking the safe conventional route, or ultimately pursuing my lifelong dream of photography and videography and taking a huge risk. I decided to start my own business and wow it has been a ride! I am so excited that I have a support system that pushed me to start my own business and chase my dreams. While my business is still young, I am hopeful to see where it goes in the future!
How did you get the word out and market your business?
JENNIFER: The biggest resource that has grown my business and gotten the word out is word of mouth. Delivering an amazing photo gallery is nothing without an amazing experience behind it. I want my clients to leave their photoshoot feeling joyful, cared for, seen, and valued. Because of this, I have been able to establish strong connections with my clients, and I am always getting new inquiries from someone who has a friend that has worked with me or heard about me!
Also in this day and age, social media is a super easy and free tool to market yourself. I slowly built up my portfolio over the years and I use instagram to showcase that work. It may be tempting to want to appeal to the masses when you market yourself on social media, but I believe that it is most important to market yourself to your dream clients. Don’t waste time trying to go viral because then you might get lots of business from certain clients or businesses that aren’t your “dream clients”. Instead take time to really showcase who you are, your values, and your brand and the perfect clients will come along.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
JENNIFER: An easier question to ask would be what challenges have I NOT faced along the way haha. Starting your own business is definitely glamorized but it can be terrifying as well. You are taking a huge risk and you are opening up yourself to the possibility of failing big. It can be a lot of work to keep your morale up and continue believing in yourself.
Besides being mentally challenged, starting your own business can also be logistically challenging. I don’t have a background in studying business or marketing in college so I had to learn all about the business side of things on my own without much outside guidance.
It can also be a challenge to have work-life boundaries when you run your own business. Something I always love to say is that I traded in a 9-5 job for a 24/7 one. It is really easy to want to solely focus on your work and neglect other areas of your life but having balance is a key to long term success and avoiding burn out.
How have you overcome these challenges?
JENNIFER: First and foremost, it is important to have an amazing support system to encourage you when things get hard. I am blessed with many family and friends who believe in me and my work. It can be very isolating to start your own business, so it is important to keep people around you who add value to your life and not make you feel overwhelmed or discouraged.
I also believe it is extremely important to educate yourself in all things business! Anyone can have a passion for what they do but if you can’t handle the business side of things then your business will not get very far! There are so many free resources out there that can help you learn what you need to know. I love listening to podcasts with experts in my field who give great advice. There are also plenty of books at your local library that will teach you so much! I currently have about 10 books on different business topics checked out haha. You can also join different facebook groups and forums that cultivate a community of asking business questions and supporting each other in your specific area. Also, I highly suggest not being scared to reach out to those in your field that you look up to. I have a few photographers that I absolutely adore for their work, but they also have thousands of followers on social media and would never notice me! At least that is what I believed until I put myself out there and reached out to some of them and they happily responded with their wisdom and advice! You never know who will be willing to help.
Lastly, in regards to the challenge of work-life balance, it is important to set boundaries with your clients and yourself. I try not to respond to clients on the weekends or late at night because those are the times I am spending getting recharged and rested to be my best self for them! I also think it is important to have hobbies and interests outside of your business that restore you and your soul. You don’t want to monetize all of your hobbies, but keep some to yourself just for your personal enjoyment!
What are some of the best moments you’ve had from starting and operating your own business?
JENNIFER: Some of my best moments are rather small from an outsider’s perspective but they were huge for me! One of the biggest priorities of officially starting Jennifer Faith Creative was working on my website. I spent months perfecting every detail of it and cultivating it to reflect who I am and what my brand is. Recently, I just got the very first inquiry from someone who stumbled upon my website and fell in love with it and my work. This meant so much to me because it meant months of hard work and late nights are finally starting to pay off!
Another sweet moment is all the times that I receive reviews from my amazing clients. In their reviews they will mention that they loved their photos and videos but more often they mention that they felt comfortable with me, felt seen by me, and felt that I made their vision for their session come to life. That is all I could ever really want as a creative and it always makes me so excited to receive that feedback!
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting their own business?
JENNIFER: Starting your own business is scary but it is so WORTH IT! So what if you fail? You will learn so much about yourself and your passions in the process. You will always wonder “what if” unless you try! Go into it whole-heartedly and eager to learn. Educate yourself on everything you can about your field and become an expert. Value experiences and making people feel good and you will always get positive feedback! And lastly, do it because YOU want to not because someone else thinks you should or you shouldn’t. At the end of the day, your business is an extension and reflection of you so give it everything you’ve got.