Back in 2017 Giana and Sara sat down to talk all things black backgrounds, but then ended up talking business for a few hours before coming up with the grand idea to start a podcast. Here we are a year later and releasing the Horses in Focus Podcast to share what its like working and photographing horses as well as tips and tricks to help you grow a successful business in the equine industry!
Sara: We see a lot of questions wondering “when is a good time to go full time with your photography business” so we felt it was important to share our stories and how we came to the decision to pursue our business. (2:00)
Giana: Taking that leap to become full time can be a scary step to take because you never really know if you are going to make enough money to sustain yourself as it is such an unpredictable business venture. (2:33)
Giana: I really wanted to do film when I graduated high school and ironically I didn’t get into any film schools I applied to. I ended up at SCAD studying Equestrian Studies (3:10)
Giana: While I was in college and high school I was always doing photography in the background. Wether that was messing around with my friends or a camera in general. Although I didn’t have a lot of time in college I would still travel where I could to continue to grow my business. (4:00).
Giana: When I graduated college I was really convinced I was going to be in the horse industry in the simplest form. So I became a groom at a barn in Maryland. Most people tell you that you have to start from the bottom up so thats what I was after. (4:45)
Giana: Even while I was a groom I would still find ways to pursue photography. On my days off I would travel to different states. I was getting so much business I actually had to turn people down.(5:15)
Giana: Having zero connections, it gave me a little more encouragement that I could completely move my whole life to Maryland and still have a booming business. It helped kick me in the butt to realize I should keep pursuing my photography. (6:00)
Giana: It was a weird revelation where I wondered why am I fighting this? Clearly you want to keep photographing horses. So I finally went full time to dedicate my time to traveling more (6:30)
Giana: Starting off I really didn’t know I was going to be photographer so it was kinda ironic I ended up as one, but it was all those steps I took to NOT be a photographer actually made me a better photographer. I always say wherever your career path takes you just follow it, you might be surprised where you end up (8:00)
Giana: I was making more money as a groom then I was with my photography, but I was only able to photograph once a week. I did sit down if I did X amount of shoots a week or did X amount of shoots twice a week would it add up or be greater then what I was getting paid to be a groom (9:36)
Sara: I was sort of the opposite where my photography business was making me triple what I was making at my day job. (11:15)
Sara: I started getting into photography and media because I wanted to share how cool my horse Marco was to the world and to the Youtube community back when everyone was making videos of their horses (12:00)
Sara: I went to college in New York at LIU Brooklyn because I had a full ride softball scholarship, so my horse Marco couldn’t come with me, but I knew I wanted to go into media because 1. I was a lazy athlete who knew I could get an easy A in photography 101 and I had a firm grasp on different editing software and 2. being from LA working in film or TV is so tangible so I felt this was a path I was supposed to go down (12:30)
Sara: After I graduated I didn’t know what to do because the only guidance you are given is “you should get an internship.” (13:30)
Sara: My dad knew a guy Bodie Stroud who is arguably one of the best custom car builder in the world. He was one of those TV guys that was on shows with Jessie James and Brett Micheals but he built cars for Tim Allen, Johnny Depp, Adam Corolla, the Lautners, I was there when he did Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons Mustang. So when I was graduating I started working for him (14:00)
Sara: I was there almost three years before I left and in that time I went from being this media girl to THE girl. I ran the entire business and did everything from book keeping, payroll, ordering parts, invoicing, budgeting, to being his assistant etc. (15:25)
Sara: So I was all over the place working 50-60 hours a week. By that time I had bought another horse and started dating my boyfriend so I was just a chicken with her head cut off. But about half way in I started going, well horses are expensive, I’m still living at home, and I need to make more money to pay for all of these things and move out. So I did what every photographer does when they start out and did $50 mini sessions on Facebook (15:44)
Sara: The smart thing I did was I was super particular with who was getting in front of my camera (16:00)
Sara: At the end of the day all that experience I had at Bodie’s of actually running a multi million dollar business, I was applying those into my business (17:00)
Giana: Actually having physical experience in the field wether photography related or not can make a huge difference (17:15)
Sara: The people who make it are the ones who know how to run a business and don’t just have an art that appeals to people (17:30)
Giana: When people see someone rise to the occasion and grow really quickly they think they got luckily and people don’t realize it may how they started off or had the education to do so (18:15)
Sara: Where it gets messy if I realized I reached a plateau working for Bodie. I loved my job, but realized I couldn’t grow anymore. (18:55)
Sara: What finally got me to pursue it and go “I’m going to do this photography thing full time was after I listened to the first episode of Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast. I said if “She can do it why can’t I?” (20:22)
Sara: I buckled down. I maneuvered my scheduled where I was working Monday-Thursday for 45-50 hours and then shoot Friday Saturday Sunday and I did that for 8 months solid without a single day off. (21:20)
Sara: What finally got me to quit was Nick and I came back from dinner on Sunday and since I had to drive to Burbank the next morning to get back to work, I started packing up my new laptop and it fell off the table. It had a crack that ran across the middle of the screen and this signified the crack in myself that told me YOU NEED TO QUIT. (21:29)
Sara: October 2017 I left, I had my last day on a Thursday, on Friday I sold my horse, and the next day I packed up my life and moved down to Orange County. (22:30)
Giana: One of the things that make us as successful as we are is we don’t really shy away from hard work or a lot of work (22:45)
Sara: I think going full time, the great thing about is it allows you to work on things like your brand, communication and traveling (23:45)
Giana: People think if I just take good pictures the business will come but the reality is you spend more time doing the business side of things versus actually taking a picture. Its all about the behind the scenes (24:16)
Sara: If you’re at that point where you feel like you are burning the candle from both ends here are our 4 tips to hopefully set yourself up for success if you are deciding to pursue a business full-time (25:35)
ESTABLISH YOUR MARKET + BRANDING
Being able to be consistent with your branding and marketing message across the board that people can recognize will help you stick out from that part time hobby photographer to a full time professional. It will help drive clients to you and keep those repeat clients that you love the most because you are a brand that people know and resonate with. Always say build a brand and not a business. People are always going to come back to something they trust.
MAKE SURE YOUR FINANCES ARE IN LINE
Make sure you know the dollar amount that you need to make! I wanted to make sure my photography business could sustain itself far after the first month of leaving my job. Sit down and figure out how much you want to work, how much you want to get paid, figure out your expenses; not just your business expenses but your life expenses too. Do you need to pay for health insurance? Whats your retirement plan? You need to make sure your photography business can pay for everything before you even think about leaving!
NEVER STOP GROWING
Keep learning and evolving your business to the ever changing times that comes with photography. Being able to educate yourself will allow you to stay on top of new trends and never get complacent. The moment you stop learning means you stoped caring. Mentorships and workshops are great avenues to take new information and apply it to your business to make it better. Education is an investment in yourself and bettering your business.
HAVE A TRIBE
Having a tribe that is in your corner that can support you and be there for you when times get tough is the best thing you can do for yourself. Wether its friends, family (your mom can be your best supporter!), or growing your own community on social media! Having an outlet you can go to that encourages you and has been where you are can help drive and push you to success.