I sat down with Angela Nief of Angela Nief Photography, LLC in a candid interview of how she developed her small business over the past 4 years. Her answers are honest, real, and certainly noteworthy of any aspiring entrepreneur.
On The Job Training is Priceless
Some 20 years ago, she began working for Darwin’s Photography with no experience other than loving taking pictures. Her initial duties were to assist him in the camera room, pose the seniors, and play with the kids. In the camera room, she learned f-stops and how to adjust lighting. Outside the camera room, she learned sales and marketing techniques.
Her warm engaging personality and eagerness to learn the photography business soon led her to assisting Darwin with weddings by shooting the finer detail work. Her main duties were taking shots of the cake, rings, and shoes. After working for this studio for almost 7 years, in 2002 she assumed more responsibility by taking all of the detail work, side work, and candids.
Negative News: Feeling Exposed
After working at Darwins Photography for some 20 years, the studio announced that it was time to close up shop. Angie was then faced with the hard decision of what to do with her professional life. Although she graduated with a degree in English and a minor in Fine Art, her only work experience had been some retail and the time she had in the photography business.
Angie says, “At this point, all I knew was wedding consultations, how to shoot a wedding or baby photo shoot, and how to do sales and marketing of photography.” At 46, she really didn’t relish the thought of joining the workforce again, so she bravely decided to pick up her Nikon and started off on her own.
Employee to Entrepreneur
Using personal funds and credit cards to fund her new business, Angie started blazing her own trail. In October 2015, she purchased new camera equipment, props, office equipment, and software programs. She frequented consignment stores, Home Depot, and Hobby Lobby to build up her props. For her software programs, she uses Lightroom Photoshop, Creative Cloud, and edits with ACDSee.
Best Marketing Tool for Your ROI
Return on your investment “ROI” – know this backwards and forwards.
Angie says one of her best marketing tools is sending out Vistaprint designed “preferred customer mailing post cards with current specials” and “referral business cards to repeat customers” offering free sessions in exchange for referrals.
Her social media presence can be seen on Facebook and LinkedIn, and she uses Constant Contact for her email marketing software. And being that she is mindful to not bombard a client’s email account with unwanted solicitations, she has found that periodically sending out a newsletter with updated information has been very lucrative.
Standing Out From the Competition
A business owner’s competitive edge is a calling card for success. What is yours? Angie says that “once most people have met me, they feel like they have known me for awhile and are very comfortable.” To meet her in person, you will find her personality is straight-forward, yet friendly and honest.
Angie’s warmth is what makes her so valuable to her customer base. Working with a photographer you are comfortable with and like creates more smiles and natural moments to treasure for years to come. For this reason, she encourages an initial meeting to make sure her vision and the client’s expectations are a good match.
Seeing Success Through a Different Lens
Success! It means something different to each and every one of us. To one person, it may look like overflowing money to buy whatever their heart desires. To another, it may be prestige and notoriety.
To Angie, it looks like having more time to spend with her husband and aging 89 year old mother – and her cats of course! Also knowing that the the person she photographed “walked away laughing and happy” is her best reward. Personal fulfillment makes her cup runneth over.
To be self-employed, you must ask yourself, “How do I view success?” Failing to determine this for yourself can leave you measuring up to someone else’s yard stick and creating a life that is not reflective of you.
Focusing on Successful Habits
When asked what habit have made her the most successful, without hesitation she responded, “I am incredibly organized. Everything is ready, everything is charged, and all is in place at all times.” Someone could call her for a shoot same day, and she knows she can be ready to take that order.
The main portion of her business is engagements, children and baby photo shoots, high school seniors, and family shots.
Biggest Challenge for Self-Employed
We’ve all heard the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side.” This speaks of green-eyed envy for what we believe another person has as compared to what we don’t have. When in fact, the grass is not greener – just different.
You might be asking, “What the heck are you talking about?” A lot of people dream of being their own boss, making their own hours, and being able to say “no” to something you don’t want to do. Freedom in the workplace. Yes! I want some of that action. But let me tell you, it’s not that easy.
Being self-employed puts a lot of pressure on the business owner, often leaving them working longer hours as compared to a regular 9 – 5 job. And when an employee gets sick, they just call in. A business owner doesn’t have that luxury. In the past year, Angie has had a back injury and other health problems that prevented her from taking as much work as she would have liked. This is what she sees as her biggest challenge – getting well and staying healthy so she can continue building her business up. Considering all factors before jumping on the “entrepreneurial” train is probably a smart move.
College Degree or Trade Knowledge
Angie states that although someone doesn’t have to be a college graduate to be a small business owner, it is “imperative for someone aspiring to be a new photographer to know every aspect of it.” She credits her Fine Arts degree to her being able to “see color differently and understand it.”
And although we currently live in a digital world, she feels it is important for photographers to know how to develop “old school.” She credits her editing skills as a large portion of her success – noting that she knows how to “dodge and burn” by adding high lights or low lights to a subject.
Advice For Younger Self
Her advice to herself 20 years ago? “I would have still encouraged my younger self to shoot, but to do so for the love of it and not the money.” With hindsight being 20/20, she reveals she would have probably pursued marketing or teaching English to the “littles” – like first graders.
She is currently remaining focused on balancing her work with her family life and personal time, saying that this is a “constant challenge” for most self-employed proprietors. But with faith, passion, and endurance, she is sure to find success at every corner.
The best way to reach Angie is to call, text, or email her to set up a consultation. You can access her website at www.angelaniefphotography.com.
Comment below if you have any suggestions for aspiring self-employed dreamers! Would love to hear from you!
About Today’s Author
I am happily married with one daughter and two step-sons. I have owned and operated a small wedding cake business for over 25 years and most recently started a new company handcrafting carved egg shells. A truly unique talent.
In owning and operating small businesses, I have personally experienced many successes and failures along the way that have made me a seasoned DIY entrepreneur. I don’t claim to be a professional marketer or consultant. Just consider me your new best friend that is sharing my personal knowledge and experience.
I welcome your comments and input, so please feel free to share. Each week, I post a new topic or interview with a successful small business owner.
Follow me, comment, like my page… so you won’t miss out!
Hope to see you next week!
Believe in yourself and your dreams!