February 2006. I had my nice little studio, plus the part time receptionist job to keep me going. All I needed were some clients.
There was no social media of course in those days to help spread the word. I had placed an ad in a local magazine but that wasn’t due out for a few weeks. As you may remember from the previous post, I called upon friends and family to be my “guinea pigs” to help me on my way, so there were lots of opportunities to test everything out before the ad went live and “real” customers started to book in!
And so it did.
As is often the way with advertising, the enquiries trickled in at first. One booking here, another there, and another, if I were lucky, three weeks later. I didn’t expect it to take off big time overnight, even if I did live in hope! I knew it would be tough going in the early days.
The part time receptionist job I was still doing wasn’t really for me, so three months in I found myself another local long term temporary job, working there a couple of days a week, which at the time fitted in well with the few bookings I was getting at the studio.
Then fate stepped in.
In late spring, I got a call out of the blue from a college asking to book us to go and photograph their prom. I said a very excited “yes” – but little did I know what I was letting us in for, especially with our somewhat limited experience at the time. It turned out to be quite a night!! Lee and I took our lights and backdrop to the venue to set up a studio there, and our youngest son came along to help – thank goodness! We sure needed the extra hands – it was utterly crazy!!!! I’m not quite sure how we made it through the evening. Although adrenaline and several wine gums helped, I seem to remember! It was absolutely exhausting, and we were frazzled at the end of it, but it was thankfully an overwhelming success – and we thoroughly enjoyed the buzz of it all!!
That was my first lucky break and from it came several new leads and clients.
Yes, business was picking up, but it was still early days. The expense of the studio was no way paying for itself as yet. I got to the point of wondering if I could afford to carry on, with keeping the studio at least, but after much discussion with Lee, we decided we had to give it a little more time. We’d ploughed so much into it so far, we simply had to persevere.
I was also getting requests for larger family groups to come in, but that first small studio just didn’t allow for lots of people at once. Rather than turn down these types of bookings, we took the bull by the horns and decided to move to a larger space, still at Basepoint http://www.basepoint.co.uk/locations/romsey. Fortunately the rent wasn’t too much of an increase and soon paid for itself as the extra space meant I could take on larger group bookings which I couldn’t before.
So by the summer of 2006 we had moved into Studio Number 2 !
Then along came another great opportunity.
A local school rang and said they were looking for a photographer to go in one October weekend and do mini-sessions with as many of their families as possible and they’d like us to do it.
Woah – really? Did I hear that right? “Why, yes of course, thank you so much!”
It turned out to be just the opening we needed and a fantastic weekend – if very hectic – 40 photoshoots in two consecutive days – yikes!! Completely shattering, oh yes, but we learned heaps. Not to mention, we met loads of lovely families, some of whom could well be reading this. You know who you are!! Delighted to say many of you are still coming in today, as well as over the years pointing several of your friends in my direction, which was, and still is, fantastic.
So by the end of 2006, things were progressing just fine. I had a regular ad in prime position on the back page of a local free magazine which worked very well at the time, along with referrals from folk who had been in during the year and were spreading the word. And as more and more people were coming in and telling their pals, the bookings really started to snowball.
I was so very glad I had kept on going and not thrown in the towel when things got tough earlier in the year. It became time to give up the part time temporary job that had been keeping me afloat. I’d been happy there, but the studio was now at the stage of keeping me so busy, there just weren’t enough hours in the week for me to do both.
By January 2007, one year in, came another defining moment. I had outgrown studio number 2. I desperately needed room to hang all my sample wall display products and photobooks. I had accumulated quite a few by this time, but there just wasn’t enough space where we were to show them to their best advantage. Also, ideally, a separate reception area.
We knew Basepoint had several workshops on site which were much larger, so decided to take a look at one. As we gazed around the huge empty warehouse, with its brick walls and stone floor, it was Lee I think, who said, “you know, we could make this work”.
And indeed we did.
We went home and planned the layout, then took a trip to B&Q to order board to make partitions and flooring, wallpaper, etc – plus lots of white paint! Then a lorra, lorra hard work over one weekend to put it all together, with the brilliant help of my lovely sister Lynne and her hubby. Shameless plug for Lynne’s page https://www.facebook.com/Lynne-Arty-Stuff
Back to the story … once all the building and decorating was done, I had a carpet fitted over the rest of the stone floor to give it all a more homely feel. Then added some comfy chairs and display cabinets for the finishing touches.
Phew! Before you could say “cheese”, I had this amazing new studio with its large fixed backdrop for taking photos (hooray, no more paper backgrounds!!), a neat little waiting area, and plenty of space for displaying all my products.
Golly. Dream. Come. True. Pinch. Myself.
And so our third studio at Number 45 has served me well to this very day 🙂
Needless to say there have been lots of changes in other aspects of running the business since those early days – the advent and huge rise of social media for one and so many advances in technology. More about the impact this has all had in another post!