Small Business Interview: Claire Dobson, Claire Dobson Photography
Meet Claire! The owner of Claire Dobson Photography a wedding, boudoir and lifestyle photography business. Claire is a full time photographer and mother juggling a successful business and motherhood at the same time. Her amazing work has been published in several online and paper magazines including Glamour magazine's wedding blog. I love how candid and honest Claire is in this interview sharing everything from how to get started with business to how to know your value when it comes to charging for your services and products. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services or products do you offer?
Hi, my name is Claire from Claire Dobson Photography! I am a wedding and boudoir photographer based in the San Francisco Bay area. I help people have an awesome wedding, do boudoir photo shoots and headshots. I also do 1 on 1 consultations with photographers on helping them have awesome business and marketing plans.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
I transitioned into being a photographer after working for my father who is a financial planner and had me filling out excel spreadsheets as my job! I was a new mom and single and I just had a nervous breakdown and had to change something. So I quit and decided I was going to go to art school to become a photographer. I was 24 and still didn’t know how to make good or smart decisions :)
Do you have any special training?
I did go to art school but I got my most useful training by making mistakes and learning on my own. I also have a degree in PR and Marketing that I feel has helped my business the most.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
Really being able to have the clients I have and being able to be a full-time photographer. Every time a new client walks in for a boudoir shoot and sees how beautiful she is, is the biggest accomplishment I could ask for. However, I have also had some professional highs like shooting Miss America and winning a Women Of Distinction Award. I have also been published in numerous magazines and on many blogs. One of my favorite publications was being published on Glamour magazine's wedding blog,
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
I was lucky enough to see profits pretty soon because my business expenses were so low. However, as my business grew and my overhead grew this started to fluctuate. About 2 years ago I decided I needed a solid plan to market and price myself that was realistic so I could stop living job to job or client to client.
How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?
This is a tricky topic and I could go on and on. I know a lot of newly starting professionals and photographers price themselves based on what other people around them are charging and this is the first way to go broke. I priced my work and services based on 1.) My expenses and 2.) How many hours and jobs I could realistically work and not have my clients and son suffer.
What mistakes, if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
I am not proud I have made every mistake in the book and then wrote a few chapters to add to it. My biggest challenges are financial and keeping track of my spending especially when it comes to marketing. There are so many options out there when it comes to marketing and a lot of them are maybe not the best for you or your business.
What I learned from my dad is that the first way to bounce back from a bad investment is to realize it is a bad investment then sell or get rid of it so you stop losing money. So I look at marketing or expenses the same way. If something is not saving me time or making me money I try to acknowledge it right away and then figure out how to stop it or get away from it.
I also really do not count any of my mistakes as a waste because I really learned a lot from all of them and I and my business would not be where it is today.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful small business?
Knowing what makes you different and stand out from your competitors. Self-confidence to be able to do things differently even when people tell you that you are crazy. And having a real plan and goals when it comes to marketing and financials.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Just do it and know why! Don’t worry about what you need to get done before you start your business or what you need to have mapped out. Chances are this will change as you grow and learn and all of those things will slow you down and or make it so you never start. The biggest mistake you can make is not starting at all. Having marketing and financial plans set are good to have when you start but they are really just uneducated guesses until you actually start and get out there in the trenches.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
Know your expenses. It hurts. It will sometimes feel like a punch in the gut. I hate this part of my business the most but this helps me know how much I HAVE to charge to stay alive and when I HAVE to say no to a project.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
Working from home makes this hard but I try to outsource as much as possible and I have a wonderful VA. I also stick to my work hours and my nonwork hours even when its hard.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I really want to be helping other creatives and photographers have a kick-assbusiness that runs its self and does not run them.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
I used to be a professional horse trainer.
Thank you so much for this amazing interview and for sharing all your insights Claire!
You can visit Claire's website at www.clairedobson.com