How I Started My Portrait Photography Business

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start portrait photography business
Team Size

1

Revenue

Not Disclosed

Location

Dongguan, China

STart Date

Feb 2018

Meet the 15-Year-Old Entrepreneur Shirley Wang who turned her love for photography into a successful business. 

Shirley is a business owner, photographer and an author of a business book for teenagers. She shares a story on how she has started her portrait photography business and has learned a lot about the world of business and marketing at an early age of 15. 

It’s an interview you don’t want to miss.

INTRODUCTION

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED.

My name is Shirley Martin Wang and I am a 15-year-old freelance portrait photographer. 

I have also dabbled in other areas, such as shooting promotional videos for a factory during the COVID-19 outbreak and writing a business book for teenagers (my current projects). I am a high school student in my sophomore year, and I started my portrait photography business by shooting photos of my friends off my iPhone. 

Later on, I quickly established a photographer-client contract, launched an Instagram portfolio, decided on pricing and package (bundle) plans, and reached out for bookings. After two years, my portrait photography business has made me a part-time freelance photographer, and I often book weekend gigs in local bars or cafes during the weekends.

I have been passionate about photography ever since I could pick up a phone and snap a photo. I’ve never learned about photography in a classroom, but I picked up skills and tips/tricks from watching YouTube videos of other professional photographers. Currently, I am focused on writing a book, which is a business guide that specifically aids teenagers searching for their first job, wanting to start their own business, or want to learn how to work as a minor. I incorporate a lot of things that I have learned from my photography business, the global connections I have made on social media (making friends with social media influencers, bloggers, and YouTubers who launched businesses at a young age), and my general perception of what I think teenagers would want to learn from a business book that is designed to benefit them.

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My portrait photography business allows my clients (who are not models) to feel empowered and comfortable behind a camera lens while I aim to capture MOMENTS that they can remember.

WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?

I start off my day by reading emails, especially since I send a lot of interview requests for my book the previous night. On a daily basis, I finish my online schoolwork (in approximately 1-5 hours) and start writing my book. I look over my chapter outlines, and I try to finish 1000-2000 words per day.

My schedule has changed drastically during these past few months due to the coronavirus. I realized that my photography business could not function like normal, so the business has been put on hold. However, I have been booking future gigs and upcoming projects during the self-quarantine period.

My regular weekends (or sometimes weekdays), I schedule a photoshoot session with a client, and we go out to take photographs for around 2-3 hours. On the other hand, I occasionally have to take photographs or videos for local restaurants or shops, which I fit into my weekend schedule. I stay productive by scheduling photoshoots in my computer calendar and tick off my to-do list throughout the day.

THE JOURNEY SO FAR

PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.

I started my business in Hanoi, Vietnam on a Model United Nations trip with my peers and friends in early February 2018. I did mini-photo shoots with five of my friends, and soon enough, every person that came on the trip wanted a photo shoot. When I arrived back into the hotel room, I made a quick template with photo packaging/bundle plans that I could show to my future clients. Throughout the three-day trip, I made 500 RMB (70 USD)  from simply charging 5 RMB (1 USD) per photo (and based on my clients picking out 10, 15, or 20 photos from the different packaging/bundle plans).

After returning back to China, a lot of people were talking about “Shirley’s Photography Business” and possibly booking a photo shoot with me. I did not need any money to start, because I simply used my iPhone (or a camera, which was a gift from a relative) to shoot photos. I hired one of my friends (who was not a professional), who became my manager, to book photoshoots with different clients and advise me on certain aspects of being a freelance photographer. The feedback I got for my photography business was totally unexpected, and I started doing one photo shoot per week with different clients. 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?

Biggest Achievement: Personally, my biggest achievement was the process in general. For instance, when I shot an amazing photo of my client, I would be really excited about it because I was 

1) doing what I love and 

2) making money off of doing what I love. 

Having that opportunity to turn a passion into a possible money-making career helped me be more confident in myself and in my ability to tackle future opportunities.


Biggest Challenge: My biggest challenge would have to be getting my business off the ground and ready to go. Reaching out and getting clients was the hardest part because I was not really well-connected in my local community and I was (and am) very young. 

WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?

My main strategy was marketing myself: building a good portfolio, connecting with photographers and creative influencers on social media, joining Facebook groups with female business owners, talking to alumni who started their own business, telling people to tag me on social media (for the photos that I took of them), etc.

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?

My business has created a lot of opportunities for me to grow and expand in photography, videography, and become more experienced as a creative individual. My photography business has always been a stepping stone for me towards college and my future, and the experience that I have gathered during that process has motivated me to write a business book for teenagers. 

Business Insider with a Teenager book

Business Insider with a Teenager

Shirley's book is out. Order it today.

RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS

PLEASE RECOMMEND ANY RESOURCES AND TOOLS THAT YOU USE TO RUN YOUR BUSINESS.

Social media, especially Instagram and Facebook groups, have been the source of my success. In order to build my photography business, I had to learn how to use Lightroom and Photoshop to retouch and edit a lot of my clients’ photos.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKS, BLOGS OR PODCASTS? 

My favorite business book is GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso, who is the founder and CEO of Nasty Gal. Her book helped motivate me to start my own business and begin jotting down business ideas. 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

 

Push through the first few months or first few years of starting your business, because those will be the times that you won’t have a lot of customers or response from your community.

Eventually, more people will start seeing your business and want to work with you, but you have to begin by having a firm foundation for your business and how it operates.

As a 15-year-old entrepreneur, my biggest advice would be to BE PROFESSIONAL and BE PREPARED FOR ANY SITUATION. 

WHAT BUSINESS IDEA DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS? 

I would love to have an agency that represents teenage entrepreneurs.

Violeta Semenova

Violeta Semenova
Founder
theBizLadies

Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!

If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.

By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.

If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!

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