Everyone of us has a story. The story of where we came from, what trials we withstood, and where we are going in the future. We are all adapting, transforming, and changing constantly, it's inevitable. But what happens when that change leads us to completely changing our career, a career that leads to a significant pay cut? Some people will stay in jobs they know they don't like because of the money and benefits. Some people will stay because of what of what other people may think of that decision. Some people might stay because it's safe where they're at and it's scary to start your own business.
Dawn is not some people.
When I first met Dawn of Dawn Elizabeth Studios, I thought she was one of the sweetest people I'd ever met and I've learned so much from her in the short time we've known each other. She's not only business savvy but is just a great representation of how to be kind. She is the person who runs the San Antonio chapter of the Rising Tide society, "Tuesday's Together". This fabulous group of creatives meets in my studio every second Tuesday of the month and is great for connecting with other photographers, videographers, calligraphers, professional organizers, etc... this organization for small business creatives promotes community over competition. To say Dawn is warm and welcoming at these meetings is an understatement. She's the girl at the party who makes everyone feel like they're best friends within the first 5 minutes you talk with her. She's literally your favorite person that you haven't met yet.
She's also an a-mazing wedding photographer too (shut up, right?) and got her start not too long ago - two years ago, to be exact.
One thing you have to know about Dawn is that she's as organized as she is talented, and that's rare with creative entrepreneurs. It's probably due to her corporate job background.
When talking with her, she was very candid about her:
- 3 MISTAKES ALL BUSINESS OWNERS MAKE
- & 3 THINGS PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HER
Her journey as a photographer has been a bit different than most. She had this to say about how she got her start:
J O U R N E Y
"I worked in IT for the past 8 years, and I fell in love with photography from the technical side. I'm fascinated by camera settings and how manipulating something within the machine results in a different type of photo. When I paired that with my love of people and passion for capturing memories, Dawn Elizabeth Studios was born. I started this adventure in April 2015 and I have been full speed ahead since then. For the first time in my life, I knew I was doing exactly what I was meant to be doing and there is no better feeling than that. I love what I do, the stories I document, and the people I meet. It is truly a dream come true to be in this industry. After two years of hustling, I left my corporate IT job to pursue this full time and I haven’t looked back since!"
"After 2 years of hustling
I left my corporate IT job to pursue photography full time and haven't looked back!"
R E B R A N D I N G
"When I first started this journey, my business name was Moments By Foxx. It was a spin off of a nickname I had for many years and although I liked it, I realized that it was difficult for my clients to connect with me. I eventually underwent a complete name change and rebrand and I’ve been Dawn Elizabeth Studios ever since. While I love my current branding and do think I am going to keep it, I’ve made significant strides to make the voice of my business true to my personality. Let’s be honest, I’m a pretty sassy, get-sh*t-done kind of girl that can be pretty goofy at times. I want that to be apparent in my branding so people truly know who I am and I attract the type of client that wants that!"
Now to the good stuff:
M I S T A K E S
According to Dawn there are 3 Mistakes she sees a lot of small business owners make:
- "Be Proactive - Starting a business is hard, but it is even harder when new business owners kick back and just expect things to happen. I have seen many a Facebook rants from new photographers who aren’t booking, yet they don’t put in the hustle to get their business off the ground. Go meet other creatives in your industry, ask to shadow, attend meet ups (like Tuesday’s Together with Rising Tide Society), try new marketing ideas, build your portfolio. If it matters to you, you will make time. I fell victim to the “I don’t have time” thing for many months when I got started and I wondered why I wasn’t a successful business that could support me leaving my corporate job. Things changed when I realized that only I was in control of that. I started waking up at 4AM to work before my day job started and I pushed through a long season of hustle to get to where I wanted to be. Only YOU can decide to do that.
- Be Legit - I’ve always been a big believer in the “dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have” mentality. This also goes for the legal and legit side of your business. Do the research and take the steps to make your business a legal business early on. Get your DBA, open a separate bank account, use contracts when working with clients, pay your taxes, get necessary permits, learn how to manage your books, etc. If you want it to be a business, then you have to treat it like one! Your clients will value the professionalism. I promise.
- Enjoy the process - This ride is an adventure to say the least, but if I could go back to day 1 and give myself some advice, it would be to enjoy the process. I learned so much along the way, and I was so stuck in getting to the next step that I failed to celebrate the little victories. Be proud of your accomplishments. Have dance parties in your living room when you book a client. Give yourself grace and know that you will make mistakes. It’ll make this ride so much more fun."
3 things people need to know
I’m kind of an oversharer on social media, so I’m not sure that any of this isn’t already out there.
- I was a bride just a few months ago, so y’all, I GET IT. This wedding planning stuff is stressful, even for the most type A (me). I’ve made some changes in my business after I learned first hand how stressed out my couples get before their day.
- I take Apple Fan Girl to a whole new level. I used to work for Apple back in the iPhone 4 and OG iPad days where I taught workshops, one on ones and did technical support. I loved that job and I really think that company instilled my “go for it” mentality that has gotten me through this process. I may or may not have Steve Jobs’ “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” tattooed on my ribs… It sounds silly, but those words are exactly what I live by.
- I can’t think of a third but I’m a rule follower, so I’m going to fill out this bullet because you asked me to list three things :)
So how does one simply leave a corporate job for a creative one? Dawn has a lot to say on the subject and this may actually be helpful for anyone who is struggling in a similar situation:
"When I started my journey in corporate America, I never really thought I would leave. I was always the kind of person that enjoyed working for large companies (Apple, Texas Tech, then USAA) and I was motivated by it. When I started working for USAA, I honestly thought that I would work there until I retired. It is an amazing company and they love their employees so well - why would I leave?
When I stumbled into photography, it was honestly just something I did for fun at the time. I loved learning new aspects of the business and how to be a successful creative entrepreneur. My business was growing so quickly and I was working so hard to keep them both going. There was a point though where I found myself starting to burn out. It just wasn’t fun anymore.
When I asked Dawn what's coming up for her, she mentioned she's reaching out to other photographers via her blog. If you photographers out there don't follow her, you absolutely must! She has amazing images, her blog is an extension of her adorable personality, and now, some posts are specifically for photographers.
When I started talking to my (now) husband about the possibility about leaving USAA, it seemed unreasonable at the time. We set financial goals and thats exactly what we focused on for the next year. I found ways to make my two jobs work and I hustled harder than I ever have. When my gross revenue matched my corporate job, we had a serious conversation about goals and dreams. There was no way to describe it, but I knew it was time. If I didn’t take this terrifying leap, I knew I would regret it. I would rather jump and fail than never jump at all. I put in my notice and said goodbye to corporate America in June!
As for advice for someone in a similar situation, my best advice is to be smart and try to enjoy the process. It is going to be a long process and you are going to work so hard, but I promise it will be worth it. It took me two years before I made the leap, but I am so glad that I made sure I was stable before I did."
If you'd like to follow Dawn and her blog posts, the link is below.