I’ve been friends with the super sweet and talented Jackie Foley for a few years now. We met one day at her studio with baby Ellie bundled in her stroller to talk business and discuss the possibility of collaborating together (in my experience, the best business meetings are the ones that you can bring your toddler to 😉 ).
Jackie is a wedding and lifestyle photographer (see my picture in the sidebar there? That’s her handiwork) and I had been the editor of a regional wedding blog for a while, where I eagerly featured her gorgeous work. With similar tastes and a mutual love of food, we decided that working on a project together was kind of a must. After a little back and forth (and a lot of food), Bijou, an online wedding magazine with an emphasis on love, was born.
In the years since our little project, I have watched Jackie’s business flourish—this girl is always traveling somewhere for a shoot—and I’ve watched her juggle a whole lot on her plate in the process. When I started thinking about small business-owning ladies who seemed to define #girlboss, Jackie was a given.
I’m so excited to give you a little peek at the girl behind the business.
Tell me a little bit about your business. When did you start it? What inspired you to get it going?
I started my photography business in January of 2008. I had been pursuing a career in the field for the two years prior, going to school and working at a multi-photographer wedding studio, editing the work of some really incredible, award-winning wedding photographers. At the same time, I was working on the side to build my portfolio, with hopes of becoming a better second shooter and, eventually, a lead photographer. I turned to Craigslist and booked my first three weddings for $600 apiece.
I had been in the process of developing a business plan when I left the studio. I hadn’t planned on starting my own business for a few more years, but when the folks at the Knot offered me a great deal on advertising, I decided to take the leap, put up an ad for six months using my Craigslist photos, and if I didn’t get anywhere, I’d pull it. I booked three weddings within my first two weeks advertising and everything just started falling into place.
How do you balance life and running your business?
“Balance” is a very fluid concept to me, and one I find myself constantly chasing after. I run a small business by myself, so if I need time off, or if I’m caught up doing something else, there’s no one there to take over for me. I used to feel really guilty for not being available for clients 24/7, but I soon realized that placing those kind of expectations on myself was ridiculous and unhealthy. My work hours are divided between actually taking photos, and then running the back end side of things: editing, processing, design, sales, marketing, correspondence, financials, etc. For a long time, it really seemed like doing all of those things and maintaining some sort of life outside of work wasn’t possible, but I’ve learned to make it work.
Prioritizing has become really important for me. I don’t work evenings or holidays—that time is specifically reserved for my family. I also try to give myself 1-2 days off each week (you know, like a normal person) so that I’m able to recover and recharge, while also making time for maintaining my household.
Out of the remaining five days, I schedule my office hours around whatever shoots I have. This means that if I have a wedding on Saturday, and portrait sessions on Sunday, I’m only in the office for three days out of the week. There is a lot to be done during office hours, too, so I have to prioritize even further with whatever’s on my plate that week.
Developing boundaries has been really helpful, too. Around quarter to five each day, I try to make a list of things that still need to be done. As soon as I’m done with my list, I shut my work down for the day. I’ve found that by writing it all down, I’m better able to really leave work behind and focus on spending the evenings with my family. I also don’t have my email connected to my phone, and after five, I turn on the ‘do not disturb’ call feature for everyone who isn’t family or friends.
Does being a woman affect your business?
Absolutely! I’d say, as with anything else, being a woman (and a young one at that) affects my business both positively and negatively.
When it comes to boudoir, maternity, and wedding prep, I find a lot of clients who seek out a female photographer. All of those styles involve ranging levels of intimacy, and some women just feel more comfortable bearing all to a fellow woman. That being said, I know there are people out there who, on some level, think men are better photographers. I once had a client who confessed that she had been looking for a male photographer and was really surprised to discover that I was a woman because of the design and quality of images on my website (womp womp). She still booked me, and loved her photos, so hopefully I shifted her perception a bit.
Still, there are vendors who completely ignore me, assuming that my male colleague must own the business. There are also a number of fellow (male) photographers I’ve come across who just assume, based on my age and gender, that I was gifted camera equipment by a strong male figure in my life to keep me occupied while I wasn’t busy making sandwiches, but they’ve all been polite enough to turn my camera right side up and point in the direction I should click the button. Thanks, guys!
photo by Tatum Kathleen
What inspires you creatively?
My style of photography is very cinematic, which is a direct result of the inspiration I draw from movies. I also keep up with a number of other photographers with a range of styles and specialties outside of weddings. Mostly though, I draw inspiration from the people I’m photographing. Everyone has a story, and I get a crazy pride high seeing parts of that story translate into a photo.
Do you have any procrastination techniques that you always fall back on? How do you break out of them?
The internet is my procrastination tool—social media, blogs, news sites—it’s so easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole. If I’m struggling to get focused, I shut down everything and hone in on following one thing through from beginning to end with no breaks. That usually gets my productivity back on track.
Do you have any tips for other ladies who are looking to turn their passion into a business?
So many things come to mind. Network with other people in your industry, and people whose work you admire. If you need advice, ask, and if you’re short on cash, there are a lot of people out there who may be willing to trade (I got my dog through trading photography services).
Trust your own instincts first, and protect your craft—that’s a huge one. There are a lot of people out there who monetize their passions, and too often I think, the thing they once loved becomes unrecognizable. Don’t let that happen. Keep sight of why you loved it in the first place.
Pursue creative projects, challenge yourself, keep learning. And if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a break to clear your head. It works wonders!
Want to get to know Jackie a little better? Make sure you check out her blog, The PfotoShop!
If you’re interested in being featured in a future edition of Girl Boss, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.