Realities of running your own photography business

Talking all things money, work/life balance, mindset and the day to day realities of running a photography business

I’m very aware that I don’t share a huge amount of behind the scenes stuff when it comes to the business. I find it SO much easier to share the beautiful images of my gorgeous clients than I do to talk about myself. But what I’ve noticed recently is that many people (including my friends/family) seem to think I’m living a different, perhaps more exciting and successful small business life than I really am.

Now, full disclosure – I LOVE my business and I am really *really* proud of what I have achieved – but with the highs, there are also plenty of lows! And so I guess I just wanted to give you a bit more of an honest insight into what small biz life has looked like for me these past couple of years and some of the things I have done to actually make it work.

Often I work from home in my PJs on the couch…sometimes I get dressed and sit at my desk like a grown up! Image credit: Lecinda Ward Photography

Often I work from home in my PJs on the couch…sometimes I get dressed and sit at my desk like a grown up! Image credit: Lecinda Ward Photography

What is REALLY involved in the day to day of running a photography business

Running a photography business involves about 15% actual photography. The majority of my work is editing, marketing, copywriting, accounting, education, administration, planning and customer service.

I think one of the BEST things I have done (and am continuing to do) for my business is investing in non-photography related education. I’m a podcast addict but I very rarely listen to photography podcasts – I listen to business/marketing podcasts. I have invested in copywriting courses, social media and SEO workshops and business mentoring (I’m going to write another blog post to talk a bit more about the best things I’ve invested in for my business soon!).

I also have a background in social work and administration so I started small biz life with a fairly solid grounding in working with and connecting to people, as well as having a fairly detailed and organised admin brain - both of which have been an enormous benefit. When it comes down to it, I think it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that in order to be more successful, we need to be better photographers - but you need to be able to do a hell of a lot more than take decent photos if you’re going to have any chance of running a successful photography business.

The work / life juggle - what that looks like for me

Me and my babies - Image credit: Amy Rushbrook Photography

Me and my babies - Image credit: Amy Rushbrook Photography

Our kids go to childcare 3 days per week - I work from 7am-4:30pm on those days. I do newborn shoots midweek and then try to schedule sunset/sunrise family sessions for the weekends. More recently I’ve started trying to keep one weekend free per month and book extra sessions in on the other weekends so that we can have one full weekend together as a family each month (I find it hard to switch off and be fully present at home if I know I have a shoot later that day).

I also try not to work nights..buuuuuuut, I’m failing (miserably) at that lately!

Having the kids in childcare those 3 days really is a godsend. As a mum, I think maybe it’s just hardwired into my brain to feel some level of guilt about it but I’ve come to realise that I am a MUCH more present and happier as a mum when I have set days for work and set days with my kids. I do try really hard not to work on the days I am home with the kids and I feel good about doing that when I know that I have my child-free days around the corner.

Also – having the kids in childcare gives me more time to focus ON my business rather than just working IN the business and without doing this I don’t think I would have been able to grow the business in any real meaningful way.


Money, money, money, monnney (monnnnney)

I contemplated not including this next bit, but hey, I feel like I’m on a roll and that it’s important to share…On average, I usually work around 50 hours per week in and on my business (when I actually sat down and calculated that, it was a bit of a shock!!)

After expenses, tax and super, the salary that I actually take home from the business is only JUST starting to break even with what I would earn working PART TIME in a social work role (which is what I was doing before I launched the business).

I’m sure there are plenty of people that could successfully work less and earn more that would be reading this and questioning what the hell I’m doing!! And sure, maybe I have some improvements to make, but this is just where I’m at right now.

But seriously, I really do believe that if you’re thinking of starting your own photography business (or any small business really) you NEED to do it because your passionate about it, not because you think you’re going to get rich from it!! Because the thing about working those 50 hours a week ? I freakin love it. Sure sure, some nights I would much prefer to be sleeping rather than editing, and sometimes I’m a living nightmare to be around because I’m feeling like I’m dropping the ball in all aspects of my life..but ultimately, I’m passionate about the work I’m doing and so it makes the long hours worthwhile. If I was in this to make a quick buck I’m fairly certain I would have thrown in the towel a few months in!

Getting my head around my business finances

On the topic of money, financially one of the best things I did was read the book profit first (thanks to the hot tip from my photographer pal, Lecinda!) – it gives you a really clear and simple way to manage your business finances. I’m embarrassed to say that for the first 18 months of business, I had all of my business income going directly into our shared personal accounts and I treated it *all* like my salary… I was, of course, aware that I would need to pay tax and I was conscious of making sure we weren’t spending everything and that there was enough in our savings to cover what I thought my tax bill would be – but it was all just guesswork and I never really had a clear picture of the businesses financial position. I also felt like I had to use OUR money to buy anything I needed/wanted for the business, so felt the need to run every purchasing decision past my husband first.

Now I have 4 different business accounts and each week I transfer a percentage of my income to our personal account (my salary) and then the rest gets divided into tax, super and business expenses.

Six months into this process and honestly, I can’t tell you how good it feels to have such clarity on the business financials! So mentally freeing!!

Around the same time we started following the Barefoot Investor for our personal budgeting and the powers combined of those two systems have been life changing! No exaggeration!

very rarely do I look this cool, calm and collected when working from home.

very rarely do I look this cool, calm and collected when working from home.

Living month to month

One of the really challenging aspects of running my own business, for me personally, is never knowing what the next month is going to bring – the business is still only 2 years old and when I look at my busy/quiet periods in that time, I’m yet to work out a really clear and predictable pattern.

Sometimes, I will book out a month and a half in advance and I always feel a huge sense of relief when this happens, because then I know next month is going to be OK. But more often I get to the start of a new month and I still have a few sessions to fill and I’m not going to lie, it makes me anxious because then I know I need to hustle to hit my targets for the month.

On that note – my salary is different every.single.week. Some weeks I have a bunch of invoices due at the same time and it’s happy days and other weeks …..nada. Getting used to that and adapting to no longer having a reliable/consistent income is hard and takes some time to get used to!

Mindset matters

The last thing, and for me, this is probably the thing I struggle most with…imposter syndrome. I tell people ALL.THE.TIME, not to compare yourself to other people, everyone is at a different stage of their creative / business journey…you should only compare yourself to where you were 12 months ago (that really is awesome advice) but maaaaaan, it can be HARD to practice what you preach!

It’s something that bothers me less now than it did 6-12 months ago and I do think I have gained a little more perspective and I have a bit more insight into when my self-talk is particularly negative and unhelpful (and irrational) …but honestly, there have been times where I look at my work and feel like I’m a complete fraud.. like, I’ll look at a photo I’ve taken and my self-talk is all -

“this is the worst photograph anyone has ever taken in the history of the world… who are you to ask people to pay you money to do this!??! Boo Jess, BOOOOOO!”

Friends or clients will compliment my work and I try and explain their compliments away -

“oh you HAVE to say that because you’re my friend”

“yeah, you think I’m talented but you haven’t seen *insert 10000 other amazing photographers* work… if you saw what THEY created, you would throw garbage at me!”

I have completely self-sabotaged myself and talked clients out of booking me for jobs that I haven’t felt good enough to do (I did this really recently, I’m embarrassed to admit). I STILL get nervous before sessions and sometimes lose sleep over feeling like I haven’t done a good enough job.

In saying all of that, there have been some pretty gigantic improvements in my mindset this past year. Although I still get nervous – I don’t get anywhere near as nervous as I used to and I don’t lose anywhere near as much sleep as I used to! When I get a booking enquiry now, my first instinct is not to reply and say “are you sure you want to book me!? Haven’t you seen X,Y,Z photographers work!?”.

I’m more confident than ever that I can produce images my clients are going to love and also fairly confident that I can provide an overall experience that will be enjoyable for them. That’s a REALLY nice headspace to be in.

I like to coordinate my outfits to the colour of my house, wherever possible.

I like to coordinate my outfits to the colour of my house, wherever possible.

PHEW…so there you have it… I have tried not to hold anything back here and I hope you have found the realities of my experience of small biz life either relatable or useful! There are many amazing and rewarding highs and ultimately I’m so happy to be able to do something I’m truly passionate about… but I just wanted to share that there are lows too - there are hard bits and some days/weeks/months there will be more hard stuff than good stuff !!

I’m going to put together another blog post soon, sharing some of the things I have benefited the most from and found the most useful since starting my business, so stay tuned for that one.

Also, if you want more of a behind the scenes look at business, photography tips/tricks and access to discounts and special offers, feel free to join my mailing list ! There is a discount just for subscribing and I never ever EVER would spam you with painful salesy stuff. Pinky promise.

photography business tips - the realities of running your own photography business - By Jess Worrall Photography

Win a Newborn or Family Photography Session !!

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please note this competition is now CLOSED

psst…guess what guys!?

I’ve teamed up with the wonderful Krystal from House of Harvee to GIVEAWAY a family or newborn lifestyle photography session (valued at $800) to one lucky winner on Instagram !!

It is SOOOO super simple to enter… All you need to do is -

1. Follow House of Harvee on instagram
2. Follow Jess Worrall Photography on instagram
3. Like this competition post on House of Harvee’s IG feed
4. Tag a friend on the competition post who you think would love to win this too !

Tag additional friends in separate comments for extra entries.

Run, don’t walk, as the competition ends on the 29th September 2018 at 8pm, with the winner announced on the 30th September !!

There are some kind of boring (but important and necessary) terms and conditions which you can read here .

Oh, and while i’ve got your attention, keep on scrollin’ down and check out the newborn photography session that I did for Krystal and her beautiful family after they welcomed their 3rd baby, Avery, into the world. Krystal is an INCREDIBLE interiors stylist and lifestyle blogger, if you’re not already following her, you really need to check her out (side note - I want Avery’s nursery to be my adult bedroom…i’d even sleep in the cot if I had to….)

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5 tips to help you prepare for your lifestyle newborn photography session

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1. What to wear 

This is hands down the most commonly asked question I get asked.  I really and truly believe that the main thing here is that you need to feel like yourself and you need to feel comfortable … and no, I’m not suggesting we do a session in your PJ’s (although, that actually could be kind of cool ...) but I definitely don’t want you getting dressed up to the nines in clothes that make you feel stiff and uncomfortable – keep in mind that for the majority of your session you’re going to be in your home, up on your bed/couch, cuddling your newborn baby and perhaps playing with your older children.  

I have created a Pinterest board which has lots of outfit inspiration, here –

Jess Worrall Photography - Pinterest Board

Also, a few other important things to keep in mind are -

•  MUMS, the single most important thing is that YOU feel ah-mazing and comfortable – so take this opportunity to buy yourself something that you feel a million dollars in. Tell your partner I OK’d it 😉  Once you have found something amazing for yourself, you can pick the other outfits to compliment yours (keyword here is “compliment” not “matching”! It’s not necessary for you all to dress in jeans and the same coloured white/black tops ... in fact, please don’t do that!)

•  Neutrals are timeless (but pops of colour are beautiful too and can really inject your own unique personality into your images)

•  Long flowy skirts/dresses or simple basics matched with textures (scarfs/kimonos/cardigans) photograph really well

•  I beg of you, please avoid wearing shirts with graphics, logos or lettering, or mixing too many different patterns. These all detract from what the real focus of the image should be (you) and often, date really quickly

• My all time favourite newborn outfit? A plain white singlet or short sleeved onesie. So simple and it allows for alllll the focus to be on your gorgeous newborn and their cute little teeny tiny arms, legs, feet, cheeks ... you get the drift here, right?  Plus, you can add colour and texture and extra prettiness with gorgeous muslins and blankets.

Melbourne newborn lifestyle photographer

2.  Preparing your home

We will not be shooting in every room in your home, so do not feel like you have to spend days tidying and cleaning your entire house. Generally we will stick to 2-3 rooms and this is largely determined by which rooms have the best natural light (these tend to be your main bedroom, living room and maybe a nursery/kids room). Although I do recommend a little bit of tidying and general decluttering, please don’t feel like you need to  present a show home fit for the covers of an interiors magazine – your home still needs to tell your story and show that you live there! 

I almost ALWAYS will shoot in your main bedroom, piling you all up on your bed together. With this in mind, make sure you have your favourite doona cover ready to go, or if you’ve been eyeing off the new Kip & Co range or latest Adairs catalogue, now’s the time to make that purchase!!  

The last thing to consider is the room temperature. Newborn babies tend to be a lot more settled when they are warm and they generally prefer it a lot warmer than us adults ... so on the morning of your session, if it’s winter, pump up the heating a few extra degrees for an hour or so beforehand or if it’s summer, turn off the air con! If we’re feeling uncomfortably warm, that generally means it’s the perfect temperature for bub which will hopefully result in a sleepier/more content baby (fingers crossed!).

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3. When to schedule your session

One of the things I love about lifestyle newborn photography is that there is not a strict timeframe to schedule in your session. For posed newborn sessions, it’s really important that the baby is settled and sleepy, so they can be easily moved into different poses, which is why it’s recommended that sessions take place within the first 6-14 or so days. For lifestyle newborn photography sessions however, this is not necessary and it’s not as important that your little one sleeps the entire time. I shoot newborn photography sessions with babies anywhere from 1 week to 3 months old and each age/stage has its own advantages.

In saying all of that, I know that many parents are super keen to have their baby photographed in those first few weeks of life when they are at their tiniest, and so if that is the case for you, it’s really important that you book your newborn photography session in during your pregnancy and also that you contact me as soon as you can once bubs is born so we can schedule the date of your session.

I generally find that if you and your partner are still on maternity/paternity leave, midweek usually works best for a newborn session as you are often inundated with visitors on weekends and it’s all a bit hectic. Currently I offer newborn photography sessions in your home in and around Melbourne, Tues - Thurs at either 10am or 2pm.

lifestyle newborn photography, Melbourne

4.  During your session

The chances are high that your bub is going to experience periods of unsettledness during your newborn photography session. As the mother of two babies who could barely be put down for 30 seconds during their first few months of life, believe me when I tell you that I GET IT! Newborns are wildly unpredictable and very rarely listen to reason (we all know that whoever invented the term "sleeping like a baby" was a cruel and misleading individual). But please let me reassure you that this is totally to be expected and not going to ruin your session!!

A few things I would suggest to help try to minimise your bub being really unsettled during your session are -

1) Be prepared to do some extra feeds/top ups during the session. Even if it’s not generally at a time when you would plan to feed bub, if he/she is unsettled, sometimes just a little top up is enough to make them nice and content (it certainly works for me 😉)

2) If you are putting your baby down for a nap before I arrive, consider dressing them and wrapping them in what you would like them photographed in. That way, if they are still sleeping when I arrive, we don’t need to disrupt them and risk upsetting them by getting them undressed straight away.

3) As mentioned above, try and keep the rooms we are shooting in really warm: uncomfortable for adults = perfect for newborns!!

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5. Older siblings

Awww, my favourites! No, honestly!! I love working with toddlers, they add such a fun and unpredictable element to sessions that I have learnt to wholeheartedly embrace! My number one rule for working with older toddler siblings is not to force them into anything, particularly early on in the session. For some toddlers, they really just don’t want a bar of their newborn baby brother or sister, and so getting them just to sit NEAR the baby, is a win! For others, it’s about protecting the newborn baby from the toddlers overwhelming love and adoration they feel, which often results in body slamming cuddles!  It’s a fine line to walk and although that can be stressful at times as the parent, my number one piece of advice for you during your session is to just roll with whatever the toddler is doing on the day. If your toddler is not interested in photos, initially I’ll focus on other photos first and then come back to the shots with the toddler in them. Only as a last resort and after I’ve exhausted all of my other tricks would we resort to bribery. It's important not to bring out the big guns too early (ie. if they have a comfort toy/dummy or favourite food that you think will get them onside, let's save that for when we REALLY need it and preferably leave it as long as possible before even mentioning it!).

Another benefit of lifestyle photography is that you don’t need to worry about trying to get them to sit still and look at my camera. Instead, you can just focus on cuddling/playing with them and doing whatever YOU guys do together that makes them happy.  Again, I have a 4 year old and 2 year old at home, so I know they can be extremely temperamental and that they generally have ridiculously short attention spans!!  Bless their young hearts ;)

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Having a bit of an idea about what to expect in the lead up to your newborn photography session can help things go a little bit more smoothly - if you have any other questions about what to expect, or if you live in or around Melbourne and would like to book your own newborn lifestyle photography session, please get in touch here  

For now though, feel free to peruse through some more photos from this gorgeous session!

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Jess Worrall is a lifestyle newborn and family photographer based in Melbourne. Jess specialises in natural, relaxed and unposed newborn and family photography. Jess sometimes likes to speak in the 3rd person, but generally just for blogging purposes, so please don't be too put off by that (I tend to not do it in real life).

Arabella - Melbourne Newborn Photographer

natural lifestyle newborn photography session

This sweet family welcomed their newborn baby girl into the world recently, and we spent a morning together capturing alllll the love in their beautiful Melbourne home.  One of the things I love so much about in home sessions, is that it's such a safe and comfortable environment for older siblings and it really allows for their ADORABLE personalities to shine.... allow me to make my point with the images below!!! 

Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with words this week, total overshare of photos instead !! #GIVETHEPEOPLEWHATTHEYWANTJESS

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Jess Worrall is a lifestyle newborn and family photographer based in Melbourne. Jess specialises in natural, relaxed and unposed photography. Jess sometimes likes to speak in the 3rd person, but generally just for blogging purposes, so please don't be too put off by that (I tend to not do it in real life).  From a business sense, it would be remiss of me not to add a little bit here about if you were wanting to book your own newborn or family session, that you should absolutely get in contact with me and we chat about any questions you may have !! Allow me to insert a handy little link to my contact form, to make your life that little bit easier!!