What it’s like to run a business at 23

A lot of people ask how I’m so young, running a photography business full-time in Canada’s largest city and can afford to pay my rent. The answer… a great support system, a passion for what I do and the drive to succeed. But I’m still far from where I want to be.

I started April-Marie Photography at the age of 21. I followed my recently graduated boyfriend to Toronto from Niagara while I still had a year left of school to complete. I drove back and forth several times a week, going to school in Niagara while holding a part-time job and starting my business in Toronto. I had very understanding teachers who knew if I missed a class it must be for a good reason, and it was.

During this time I charged $25.00 for a shoot….which turned into $40.00 which has now turned into $225.00, and my client base is still growing. I have some of the most loyal clients .They are constantly helping me build my business by advertising for me by word of mouth, through social media and by distributing fliers and business cards. I could not do this without them.

Family portrait from my most recent Fall Special

Family portrait from my most recent Fall Special

I didn’t come from a family who could afford a $500.00 photo shoot once or twice a year so I try to keep my prices as affordable as possible. I still offer my clients shoots for $75.00 at certain times of the year. I can only do this by booking 30-40 shoots in a week and having them come to me in a park where the overhead is nil. When the weather doesn’t permit for outdoor shoots, I rent a studio for a day and book every last minute of the rental time in order to break even.

I never wanted to be a family photographer and still have bigger dreams, but you have to do what you have to do in order to pay the bills.

Speaking of bills…

Living in Toronto is NOT CHEAP! I consider moving back to Niagara with my parents about 2-3 times a month, but I know it’s not an option if I want to keep my business. Here is everything I have to pay for that contributes to my session prices.

Rent

Apartment/equipment insurance

Car (and no I could not run my business without a car)

Car maintenance

Car insurance

Gas

Student loans (because in order to be the photographer I am today I went to school)

Camera equipment

Lighting equipment

Reliable Computer

DVDs/Ink/Packaging

Stamps/Envelopes

Props (because everyone wants the latest trends from Pinterest)

Backdrops (A $70.00 role of seamless lasts about 4-5 shoots)

Internet

Advertising

Vendor Shows (Bridal and kids events)

If you’ve seen my car you know I’m not rich, and if I’m late for a shoot in the winter it’s very likely I’ve broken down or my car won’t start.

A photo from one of my first weddings which was actual a civil ceremony! Got me my first big wedding!

A photo from one of my first weddings which was actually a civil ceremony! Got me my first big wedding!

At 16 I shot my first wedding and was paid $100.00. It was a nightmare experience and I vowed never to shoot another one as long as I lived. Ya right…In 2014 I shot over 15 weddings and am on course to book 20+ in 2015. I’m always thankful for those couples who took a chance on me in my early days (I know I know, in 10 years these will still be my early days).

Not a day goes by that I’m not running my business. If I don’t check/answer my emails at least once a day I get more emails asking if I got the first email. I only have one phone line so often I receive texts and phone calls from 6am-12am! I rely on free advertising on sites like Kijiji where I post my ads at least 3 times a day to keep them on the first couple of pages. On top of this I have hours of editing and deliveries to make on any given day. Even when I go on vacation I edit and stay connected. I never realized how much time and energy goes into running a successful business.

 

The negative effects of running my own business….

Insomnia due to stress about money and not having a regular paycheck

Back pain from carrying my camera and equipment

Bad eyes from staring at a computer screen all day editing photos

OCD about checking emails and needing to stay on top of everything

No social life…my clients and their babies are my friends

 

How April-Marie Photography is getting better!

Come the spring time I will be hiring an assistant! Everybody wants their kids to be looking at the camera and smiling but sometimes I’m just not funny enough.

More backdrops & more props!

More locations for our seasonal specials! If you have a park or scenic area in your neighbourhood that you’d like me to hold a special at let me know!!

 

What you don’t know about April-Marie Photography

I donate my time and services to charitable organizations

I donate money to homeless charities in Toronto

I donate shoots for fundraisers in the city

I create customized photography packages to clients who ask for them

I will do anything to keep my clients happy including rushed orders, special deliveries and more

I give discounts to returning customers and those who give referrals

I am very excited to go into my 3rd year of business and hope to see each and every one of you again in 2015! If you ever have any questions, suggestions or ideas you know where to find me 🙂

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