I am excited to share how I made the decision to open my studio. It has been a positive experience for me and I am grateful for the response it is receiving from both new and existing clients.
I had run my business, Yellowhale Photography, for many years as an on-location photographer focused on high end, boutique portraiture. I was very proud of what I had accomplished and the growth that my business had made in that time, but as I approached my 10 year anniversary, I found myself considering the ways in which I wanted my business to grow.
I began making lists, evaluating what has worked for me in the past and what I wanted Yellowhale to become. I thought about what I needed to do to create the business I envisioned. It wasn’t long before I realized that having a physical studio space was key to achieving my goals. By concentrating my sessions to one locale, I could make them more accessible for a broader spectrum of clients and ultimately enhance the service for my existing clientele.
I was able to find a gorgeous space with lots of natural light on the main street in our city. I am so happy with it! Because I am in the center of town, I have greater opportunities to network with other local businesses. In addition to the reception and studio space, there is another room which I can use for meetings and workshops. I can even open it up to guest speakers for interesting cross promotional events. Having a physical space allows me to become a part of the community and invites passers by to come in and learn more about what I do.
One of the surprising benefits of the foot traffic is the local business people requesting sessions for a modern headshot. Between work and social media, everyone needs a presentable, image of themselves that they can feel confident in. Having a studio makes it convenient for these clients to come in and have their portrait taken during a quick break throughout the day.
The majority of my work, however, is focused upon family and newborn sessions. New parents have so much to adjust to in the first few weeks baby is home and having to clean the house in preparation for a photo session just adds to their stress. I am finding having a studio is a blessing for these clients. It benefits my young families as well. Let’s face it, families are busy! By having a studio for them to come to, they are able to enjoy their session with their children in a relaxed environment which ultimately results in beautiful images.
The reception area is filled with examples of my work displayed on huge canvases, in custom frames and wall galleries. Having the physical product on display for my clients is essential to selling. My motto is: seeing is believing, believing is buying.
An added bonus of the studio is that I now have the space to display the full range of albums from my other business, the Dream Album Co. . Our product line has expanded in recent years and having the space to have it all on display for my clients to view is exciting. We also now have the space to have a dedicated shipping and supply room which streamlines our businesses.
On a more personal note, one of the things I am most thrilled about is the ability the studio provides for me to explore creatively. I now have a space where I can play with various off-camera lighting options and with the way the natural light falls in our all-white space. I find myself consistently inspired to experiment here.
Making the decision to invest in a studio can be a difficult one. You are required to completely change the way you do business. However, for me, establishing a studio allowed Yellowhale Photography to grow in the ways I had envisioned and I am excited by all the unexpected opportunities it has created along the way. I am looking forward to celebrating our future anniversaries here!
If I could offer advice to anyone thinking about opening their own studio, the following five things would top my list:
1) Don’t rush the process. Take your time finding your perfect space. If you are uncertain if a studio is right for you, consider sharing studio space with a complimentary business. Another alternative is to establish a meeting space for your sales sessions. Having a smaller scale space allows you the time to grow your business and add to your confidence and security before establishing your studio.
2) Resist the temptation settle. Find a space that is right for you. Make sure the location, the light and the layout all work for your needs. Holding out allows you time to build your savings until you know you have found the perfect spot. Settling for a space to satisfy your desire to run a studio can easily cost you more in the long run.
3) Having a substantial savings is your safety net. Six months salary and operating costs are a minumum, but a year is so much. The moment you sign the lease, you are responsible for your rent & utilities whether you are ready to open your doors or waiting for the renovations to be complete. Having money in the bank also protects you in months where you may not be working due to unexpected illness or injury.
4) Create a support team to surround you. Figure out who/what you need to best support you in your business so you can create a consistent revenue stream. It may be in the form of a team of people (think of an editor, session co-ordinator, salespeople, or housekeeper as examples) or services (child care, a dog walker or grocery delivery to name a few). Having a solid support behind you will allow you the freedom and peace of mind to make your business a success and enjoy your time when you are home.
5) Create a beautiful space for yourself, but allow it room to evolve and grow with you. You will want everything to be perfect for your opening, but remember as you settle in to your space, you will be adding to it. Just as your home has evolved with you over the years, so will your studio.
Opening a studio is a commitment that can make or break your business. Grow into it rather than jumping into it. Before you even look for a studio, ensure you already have the consistent income to cover your daily operating expenses plus what you would need to pay for rent and insurance.
When you can afford to open the best studio, that is the time to open the studio. Do not open a studio and then hope for the best.