Welcome to today’s freelancer / business chat – today we’re moving into the world of photography, with Andy Warner-Simpson from A.S Photography.
Andy heard about this interview series via a LinkedIn group we’re both in. If you haven’t explored LinkedIn, do – it’s great for finding old colleagues and business contacts and for forging new connections, and it’s a lot more professional and business-orientated than social networking sites like Facebook. LinkedIn Groups are a good way to make new connections, learn about your business area or business in general, and get your message out there – I highly recommend giving them a go.
Anyway, let’s meet Andy, and see what it’s like to be a ‘creative’ jumping head-first into the world of business, accounts and marketing …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is A.S Photography. We first launched in 2004, and provide a range of photography services ranging from wedding and portrait photography to commercial headshots and event photography.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I was working as a photographer’s assistant and felt very limited and restricted. As a photographer it is important to be able to work with your own style and ideas, so I decided to go freelance. As a photographer, I had no idea how to run a business, so it was really a big step going it alone. For several years I just took the work as it came and did not really take the business aspect of photography very seriously. As time has gone on I have had to adapt A.S Photography to the fully operational business it is today, rather than simply working as a photographer.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
Photography has been a love of mine since a very young age. I feel so lucky to have been able to turn my hobby into a career and make a successful business out of something I started out doing for fun.
Had you run your own business before?
As a creative, the idea of running a business had to be the most alien thing I could face. When I first started out, I thought it was simple: I take photos, I get paid and that’s that. It did not take long to see that the reality of running even a creative business is much more than that.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I jumped right into the deep end. I quit my assistant’s job, built myself a website and waited for the work to come in.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
The importance of marketing. At the beginning I really expected that I would have clients kicking my door down without any effort on my part. I sat back and expected the business to come to me.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Get off your backside, talk to people and find the work. The work won’t come and find you.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Saying I would have done anything differently would be wrong. 7 years in, business is better than ever. Our reputation has been built on our photography and our service combined and that was all built from trial and error. Without the errors we would not be the business we are today.
What are you glad you did?
Take that first step into the unknown. It would have been very easy to work for someone else and not take the risk involved in setting up a business.
What’s your top business tip?
As I have said a few times, you need to get out there and find the work. Expecting that just because you’re good at something, that will give you a good business is naive. To take talent and turn it into a successful business takes more hard work than I had ever imagined.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
A.S Photography is now 7 years old. So that alone, in any business sector, is a big thing. We have stood the test of time by staying as small as we can for as long as we can. While our client base and turnover have grown each and every year, all the photography has still been provided by me and the occasional freelance photographer when two photographers have been required for a particular event. This gives our clients the assurance that they will get quality tried and tested results from an experienced professional. Our services have always been very diverse, but in the beginning the focus was very much on the commercial side of photography. Now time is spent on all aspects of photography with a great reputation as one of the leading wedding photographers in the area, while still providing a range of commercial services.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
A.S Photography are now looking to find premises for a studio. The plan is in the next 12 months to have a fully equipped photography studio in Milton Keynes for our business headshots and domestic portraits. We will still work on location for many of our services but with the option of studio-based photography for those who would prefer it. We also have a very exciting project in the very early stages that I would love to talk about, but it’s too soon to say anything. Ask me again in a few months, and hopefully I can expand on this.
You can find information and examples of Andy’s work on his website at www.as-photography.co.uk, or call him on 01908 632 962.
Thank you for taking part, Andy, and good luck with the exciting new project!
Did Andy succeed in his aims? Read his update from a year down the line …