This week in our HiveTribe Highlights series we’re meeting wedding photographer Victoria Murray. Having recently moved out of London to leafy Surrey, Victoria found herself questioning her business goals and has recently re-branded to ensure she is reaching the right clients in her new area, as well as taking on the role of TRIBE Boss for the Surrey tribe of Girl Tribe Gang.
Why did you start your business?
My work as a photographer is all about capturing journeys. Having been a bride myself I knew that there was something extra special about the start of the journey of a marriage and I wanted to work in an area where the good things in life were highlighted – love, friendship, happiness. Weddings were the obvious choice for me and complimented perfectly the family portraiture I had already been doing.
When did you realise the wedding industry was right for you?
Initially I didn’t think the wedding industry was right for me! I worried that it would be very cut-throat and ‘catty’, all of the things I disliked about my corporate career; I thought that I would need to sell my soul to ever be able to make my passion my career.
I had attended many workshops and networking events linked to the Wedding Industry, but it was only really when I found the BLOVED Hive that things began to click.
What mistakes have you made, and what did you learn from them?
Oh my goodness there have been plenty. In the early days I had many a head-in-hands moment as well as repeatedly wishing the ground would open-up and swallow me with things that came out of my mouth.
The biggest mistake I made when I began my own business journey was to try and struggle on alone and then investing in the wrong people. I honestly believed the hype that a six-figure income and fully-fledged business could be achieved in a matter of months by joining ‘here’ etc. The biggest lesson I learnt was to stop and take a step back. Building anything worthwhile takes time, any relationship we have in life develops over a period of time, the relationship you have with your business is no different – great businesses are not created overnight, although the ideas for them often can be.
As a result of all of the above I rushed into creating a ‘brand’ and convinced myself that I wanted, could and should cater to everyone. This was a huge mistake as it took me so far away from my ‘why’ and ultimately is what lead me to consider leaving the industry all together. What I learnt was to always keep my ‘why’ as the overarching reason for my business, it’s what I return to now if I need to make a business decision so as I know whether this serves my business and my clients. My ‘why’ is what keeps me sane.
Many wedding businesses start as a hobby and become something more. What advice do you have for someone about to make the leap to full-time self-employed life?
Have a plan
I was in a full-time corporate role when I decided to turn my passion into my career. Intending on doing something and actually making it happen are two very different things and for any business to succeed you must know where you are going and how you are going to get there. It took me a while to realise this.
Working from home, if you can, obviously removes costs of renting a space etc. but consider what this means for you. Yes, you won’t be paying for a hefty season ticket anymore but you will still need to be able to access Clients and Venues, you will need to pay for your web hosting, tax, national insurance, business cards and marketing etc. This is hard to allow for when you have few, if any Clients, at the beginning of your journey.
If at all possible I would advise those looking to make the leap to try and have at least six months of their current salary saved that they can live from whilst building their business. This isn’t to continue life as you did when you were salaried, but so that you can continue to have a roof over your head and eat! It is often these things that we forget to include when budgeting for our business but which really matter – it will also remove a huge amount of stress from you if you are not having to worry about money.
Find a Mentor and a Business Buddy
This really is my top tip. A mentor needn’t be a paid-for coach at the beginning of your journey as your budget may not allow (although if it does choose wisely). However, having someone who has been there and experienced what you are going through is invaluable. If they are in your industry then that’s fantastic but even if they are not you will be surprised by how helpful they are.
A business buddy or buddies is another huge must. Solopreneurship can be such a lonely place where it is often you and a computer when you are not seeing Clients. There is nobody to bounce ideas off of, have a coffee with, or just vent when you have that awkward enquiry. I have found some amazing business buddies through the Hive as well as Girl Tribe Gang which has introduced me to a whole host of amazing business women, all who understand the reality of working for yourself.
What support and advice have you discovered along the way, and how has it helped create the business you have today?
I found amazing support from other Wedding Industry professionals in the Hive Facebook communities, meetings and THRIVE coaching programme as well as the invaluable information and guidance in the podcasts created and shared by Louise.
I also really valued the advice to stay true to my ‘why’, to use this as the basis of every business decision, including feeling able and knowing when to say no to something.
With an amazing support and business buddy network, as well as staying true to my why, I am relaunching my business in 2018 to bring my business and my why together as one to better serve me and those I work with.
Do you think women can ‘have it all’?
I definitely think women can ‘have it all’. In fact, I think everyone can if they are willing to work hard for it and plan! Planning really is key in everything in life but especially in business.
Whilst I don’t currently have children I am married, I have nieces and nephews I see regularly, parents I love and visit, friends outside of the industry and a part-time job (currently) yet I don’t feel that I have had to sacrifice any one element of my life for my business. What I have learnt is how to manage my time better, how to be strict with ‘business ends at X o’clock’, and remembering that you don’t have to say yes to everything.
How do you find a wor
Plan. I know its easy to say and becoming a buzz-word but its so important from a business and a home/family life perspective.
Running your own business and balancing a family life is no more difficult than having a full-time job elsewhere and doing the same – the difference here is that you have the power to dictate the hours you work and when.
Planning isn’t just about the work hours though, its about time for you too. I plan in a date-night once a month, we don’t necessarily go out, but all phones/laptops etc. are switched off, no business is done or mentioned, and we get back to being a family again. In 2018 I am also working on planning better for myself too with the aim of allowing 1/2 a day each week to just be me – no business, no family, just luxurious me time. It’s something I was terrible at in 2017 and almost lead to burn out – making time for you makes you a better person and a better girlboss.
What is your version of success?
Success to me is waking up in the morning and not resenting work but instead being excited by it, knowing that the work I am doing is creating the life I desire, giving me the freedom to make a difference whilst also creating the family life we long for.
If I can make others (clients) happy whilst creating the same at home, that to me is success, as a happy family life is what it’s all about for me.
What is your number one tip for anyone starting out in the wedding industry?
Go for it! It’s not scary, it’s not over saturated, there is a couple for you whatever your style and approach, you just need to let them know you are here.
Be clear on who you are, what your style is and why you are doing this, your ideal couple will be looking for you and this is what they want to hear.
What’s next for you and your business?
For me 2018 will see a business change bringing together my Wedding, Family and Brand Photography under one name – my name. For a while my business was something to hide behind but that is not serving anybody. This year I will rename the business, share my story, establish a tribe of #girlbosses in Surrey and go back to my why, to serve both myself and my clients better.
If you’re at the beginning of your solopreneur journey like Victoria and need help and guidance to take your business to the next level, you can join the HiveTribe here. Not sure if it’s right for you? Come along to one of our bi-monthly Drop-In Clinics at the Hive where you can meet our members and hear how the #HiveTribe has helped them succeed.