Play with Sound. Music License: Summer Eyes by Airplanes
Confession: I just put Belle in the video just to brag about how cute she is. She's usually the only company I keep in my everyday work life and she's the best co-worker a girl can have (even though she just sleeps all day). Yesterday, I skimmed the surface of how deaf I am and already got tired of talking about my hearing loss so I’m moving on to the money makin’ stuff. Obviously, my hearing loss limited my job options when I was fresh out of college in 2013. With an economy that had also gone to sh*t, this artsy English major struggled to find a stable job to be proud of. No sense in sugar coating that because I know about 80% of you may relate to that time in your life. After doing some soul searching and teaching art at a school in Atlanta, Georgia for a year, I decided to move back to the Outer Banks and gamble on myself by starting my own business. In the Summer of 2014, Visuals by Helen was established. Best decision I ever made.
Creating a generic business name like Visuals by Helen was intentional: I wanted to be able to open myself up to additional visual opportunities beyond photography like graphic design, videography, marketing, etc. I wanted more than one thing to be passionate about. I had learned some of the ropes from another local photographer on the Outer Banks throughout high school and college and then I dipped into graphic design when I was in Atlanta so that opened a whole new niche I was fascinated with. After watching You-Tube videos, subscribing to every Adobe software, and taking an online business certification course at the Kenan Flagler Business School at UNC-CH, I was the owner of my own company in three months time. Now, I label myself as a self-taught photographer, graphic designer, and marketing guru. Funny how that happens right? I always had the belief: if you make something your homework, it takes all the fun out of it.
The first thing I do when I brand Visuals by Helen? I ordered about 3,000 beer koozies with my logo on it and made a promotional video because koozies and videos make everything look legit right? My theory was everyone likes free stuff and something pretty to look at. After rallying a gorgeous model named Katie, a talented hair stylist named Chelsea, and an amazing videographer named Jess, we went into the marshes of Wanchese, North Carolina and I took bridal portraits of Katie in a wooden rowboat. Looking back on it, it sounds nuts, but it was some of the best memories in my business! That video got me through two years of wedding expos with the Outer Banks Wedding Association —it was the perfect icebreaker with engaged couples I had never met before.
Check out the video:
After launching the video on my new Facebook page, I recruited followers and the awareness of my business spread across different facets of the internet. In the meantime, my entrepreneur parents, wanted to start over with their 25-year franchise restaurant on the OBX and make something of their own: Rooster’s Southern Kitchen. I volunteered myself as marketing director, designed the logo, the food and drink menus, and the initial website along with managing their social media and food photography. That’s where all my graphic design skills kicked in and then I eventually became confident enough to start selling myself to other small businesses looking for a contract graphic designer. A break in the photography rhythm helps me stay creatively inspired so that I am not just photographing and editing on repeat. My romantic and bubbly personality thrives on wedding and engagement photography and then my nerdy and tech personality thrives on the small design projects—so I get the best of both worlds.
So yep. I don’t make money by just doing photography. I don't make crazy money but just enough so I can do what I love and enjoy a life with my husband and dog. Sure, there are days where I have to rely on my brilliant husband for troubleshooting. Sure, there are days where I have a million questions but the internet is an amazing resource. Sure, there are days when I’m doing hours of my own invoicing and accounting that I want to pay a million dollars to never do that again. But that’s the small business life—you take on about fourteen different roles to make it work. So when you say "working from home is the life," that just depends on whether you're fully prepared to be responsible for your filling your own wallet.
Monday’s blog (and 4th day of my 30 workday blogging challenge): “How does my hearing loss affect my job, much less my everyday life?” Funny stories about how my hearing loss has helped and hurt my business. Once I accidentally left a bride + groom on the side of the road because I misheard what they said and one time I walked in on the groom going numba 2 even after knocking. Yup that happened. More details Monday.
Have an amazing weekend everyone!