Why She's Featured
Lindsey is the first to admit that photography is a saturated industry. But the reason why Lindsey stands out as a millennial photographer is that one of her primary drivers in her business is to provide stress-free photography for moms, kids, and families - which is the majority of her business.
Lindsey took the leap from a 9-to-5 job into full-time entrepreneurship and for that, I applaud her. Not to mention, I'm thrilled she did because she took my incredible professional photos (you can find one on the about page) as well as maternity and newborn photos of my sister-in-law and niece!
I sat down with her to find out more about what it was like to transition into the life of an entrepreneur.
How did this evolve?
My dad has been an entrepreneur his whole life. Most of it he spent as a self-employed farmer. He has survived serious market fluctuations over time and he's done that by creating new and different ideas, partnerships, and ways to bring his meat from his animals to the market. And, he'll pick up these little side gigs here, there, and everywhere.
So I've always had that inspiration. I've grown up with that mentality that you can do this on your own. You don't need an employer. You just have to be innovative and respond to the world around you.
When I started my last full-time job, I actually tried negotiating things during that job offer like, "What if I only worked four days a week?" or "What if I work from home on Fridays?" At that point, I was already looking for flexibility that a 9-to-5 doesn't offer. I wanted flexibility and variety in my life. I wanted that Friday off so I could go and do whatever I wanted to do. I could go explore. I could do photo shoots for people. I wanted that one day that I could do something I was passionate about that wasn't necessarily what I did every other day of the week.
I knew I would have some flexibility going into my new job, so I thought, "This will be fine. We'll make this work." And, I did for awhile. I loved managing the fundraising communication effort for a non-profit university. But, the entrepreneurial spirit just kept knocking and it never went away.
So when I knew that I had just kept ignoring this, I guess a call, to be on my own, I stopped eating out. I had whittled away my debt. I didn't have a car loan or student loans anymore. No credit card debt or anything. Really it was, I needed a nest egg. That's what I needed in order to make this a reality. I needed a nest egg. I just cut expenses. Didn't buy any clothes, no shoes, didn't do any shopping, really. Built this nest egg. That was in November of 2013.
I think the tipping point was when 651media hired me for the first marketing/communication project. I was like, "This can work and I can launch a photography business and do freelance marketing/communication work. I can do this." And the nest egg was getting bigger and bigger. By March 2014, I had my nest egg, launched my photography website and was working on a project with 651media. I started putting it out on Facebook and telling people I knew that I was launching my photography business and would be available for freelance marketing/communication projects.
Did you always know that it would be photography and writing? Is this what you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was in fifth grade, we had to bring something to paint our profession on. We found this cloth napkin at our house - a perfect square. My OCD-self painted a perfect #2 pencil on it and in blue puffy paint under the pencil was the word, "Writer". I majored in communication during my undergrad and spent a good deal of my career writing. I still do that too with L. Communication.
I started to like photography in my twenties. I took a couple photography classes in college as part of the communication program. But when I bought my first DSLR, I started doing sessions for friends and family and thought, "I really like this." I got better and better at it and it was bringing me and others a lot of joy. I knew that there would be some kind of market for that. I could find people to hire me for that too.
What obstacles did you face when trying to start your business?
I think just trying to do it all on your own. The uncertainty of how you build a website. What should my pricing be? What should my packages look like? Are people going to hire me? You are creating something from absolutely nothing. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of work and risk. Just straight up risk. Sometimes you just don't know. As much market research as you do or talking to friends or a banker, none of that takes away the risk you take on. I don’t think anything, not even my master’s degree in organizational management, can fully prepare you.
The biggest obstacle in the whole process was building the confidence to take the leap in the first place. Everything else has kind of come. Yes, there are challenges, but the biggest challenge was believing I can do this in the first place. Financially this can work. They always talk about the golden handcuffs of the corporate world. That is so true. It is so incredibly scary to take those off. But once I was out there and getting consistent business, it was absolutely ridiculous to think about taking them back. You can have them. I don’t need them. It's not for everybody though.
Have you had any major failures as part of this?
Like all photographers, I had a client that said they did not like their photos. I sent them all the unedited pictures. It was totally against my policy and procedure, but I did it anyway to see if there were others that they liked better.. You don't show people your unfinished work. It’s like turning in a half written paper to your teacher and saying, "Hey can you give me a grade on this and then I'll finish it?"
It was a turning point for my business though, that opened a whole brand new revenue stream. It helped me grow as a photographer. I learned how to batch edit photos (improving many photos simultaneously). I still whittle things down and show only the best of the best getting rid of things that I wouldn't be proud to put out.
Now, if your session includes 15 images, you're going to see 50, sometimes 70 enhanced images and you can pick your favorites. Then I can add small finishing touches to the client’s final selections. Clients feel like they have a say and I think they feel even better about their photos.
Now people can purchase images above and beyond what their original package included, which is where the additional revenue stream has come from. So people are buying more than their 7 or 15 images included in their package. They're buying these a la carte after they fall in love them. That would have never happened if I didn't have a client that was unhappy with their images.
I made that change in October. Between October and December I made $1,000 off of people buying $25 images at a time. $1,000! When you think about the corporate world, $1,000 is a drop of water in the ocean. When you're talking about being a small business owner and feeding your family, $1,000 is like a million bucks!
I'm just so excited about the opportunity, not just for me - the brand new revenue stream- but these people are happy and want more of what I have to give and that's great. More joy.
Have you had a favorite experience as part of the business?
Our community was struggling because four 13 year-old kids died in a crash with someone who was drinking. The community was just sick about the death and they were sick about the decision this guy made to drive. I think we were all grappling with justice, fairness, life, death, grief, support, values, family, friends--everything that life is, you know? It was so raw and so fresh for everybody because these kids were so young, and I was just sick. I was sad and heavy. Everything was so heavy.
During that time, I had a friend hire me to photograph her small extended family. It was a grandma, grandpa, two adult children, one in-law and one little grandson. They also wanted to tell their parents during the session that they were expecting another child.
So we came up with a game plan. We had the little boy wearing a big brother shirt underneath his nice shirt. We were wrapping up the session and I said, "Oh let's do some of Brody by himself. What is he wearing under that shirt? Let's do some without the plaid shirt just to mix it up." The grandma gave this super weird face like, "He's going to wear a t-shirt instead of a..." So the mom said, "Okay."
The grandma and grandpa both dug in and started unbuttoning this kid's shirt. The grandma is like, "What does it say?" Then she goes "Big brother?" She broke down crying and I captured the most amazing shots of joy.
I just felt so honored to be able to help her share that news with her family and to be able to capture that for them to have forever. It was new life was coming to our community after we had experienced so much loss. It was at the right time. My heart needed that. It's so cheesy like, "I'm a photographer, I'm not changing the world." But it's little moments like that, I know this is the right thing for me and I'm bringing joy to people and I don't have to change the world to do that.
What are you looking forward to?
Spreading more joy. Finding more people who find value in what I have to give them and waking up every day and working my butt off to give it to them. Mutually beneficial relationships. That's what it's all about. One of my main focuses ever since I've been self-employed has been to show love to the people who show me love.
Never focus on the people who chose to go to another photographer or writer or they never inquire with you. I never dwell on those people. An attitude of gratitude has paid its dividends. Do everything you can to show love to the people who show you love.
What advice do you have to other millennials that may be starting or thinking about starting something new?
Build your nest egg. That is your security blanket. Whatever your chosen field of interest or passion or whatever you’re trying to launch. If it has financial implications, build your nest egg.
It's just about listening to yourself. When the thought keeps knocking at the door, there's a reason it keeps knocking. You just have to listen to yourself and believe in yourself. But sometimes don't listen to yourself, because you try to talk yourself out of it. But if it keeps knocking, answer the damn door! It's a sign. You're built for this.
You have to be a creative problem solver. You have to be willing to take risks and be able to sort of find comfort in risk and be okay with uncertainty. There are a lot of characteristics you have to have in order to be an entrepreneur. Most of all you just have to love what you do and be passionate about it and be willing to work 24/7. Be better every single day. I think that the world will take care of you, if you do those things.
I've experienced Lindsey's stress-free photography when I had my professional head shots taken. If you are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul or Dubuque, Iowa, areas, make sure to check out her website to get your next maternity, newborn, family, milestone, or senior photos taken. She also sells gift certificates if you'd like to purchase a session for someone else. I've personally gotten one of her gift certificates. A newborn photo session makes a great baby shower gift!
Make sure to Like L. Photography on Facebook so you can check out what kind of photos she's produced and have your photos show up on your feed when you do a session with Lindsey!
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