This month, in the Success Sessions, we settle in for coffee with Zoe Richards, Photographer and Business Coach.

Hi Zoe! Thanks for joining us. Tell us a little bit about you and your business. What inspired you to start your business?

I think my initial inspiration was actually about running away if I’m honest. I wasn’t happy at work and was dabbling in photography as a business. As I’d already run a business previously it seemed the obvious way to get out of the corporate life. However that approach really didn’t lead to success. After a few years I went back to working in the corporate world for a couple of days a week. Then, at that point, I realised I love working for myself, I love the freedom to create what I love, to help people, to put a smile on their faces, to remind them of happy times through the photographs I take. That’s when I became inspired to run my own business.


How would you describe your journey and how has having your own business changed things for you?

I’m on a roller coaster! It’s tough at times going up (usually when I don’t want to learn lessons and I get in my own way), very exciting at the top, and a bit scary of what’s ahead when going down. But it’s always a challenge – no two weeks are the same. I’m in an industry where there are a lot of new people coming in as photographers every day. And we’re also a very visible business. So there is a great deal of copying. When you do something different there is always someone there ready to copy you. That keeps me on my toes. It’s very challenging, but also very exciting.

How have things changed for me? Well, I prefer this me – I really didn’t like me towards the end of my corporate career. And I don’t think my family liked me either. I was dreadfully unhappy, putting weight on, always having accidents. I actually bumped into my old bosses recently and they didn’t recognize me at first. When they realised it was me they couldn’t believe that I looked so good, and looked 10 years younger! I think it goes beyond that though – I’m a more understanding person, I’ve got more patience, and I’m more inventive than I’ve ever been before. And I just love life!


What has been your biggest success so far?

Surviving the recession. When the recession hit my business took a nose-dive and I had to be flexible, work for amounts I’d never have accepted during the boom time, and change my business approach, all just to survive. But I’ve actually done more than survive as I’ve made a huge success of my business at the same time. I’ve worked tirelessly to keep going, and to be ready for the next boom time. And it’s worked.


Would you share with us the biggest lesson you learned?

Get out of your own way! When things don’t work it’s easy to start blaming other things, other people, the economic environment, anything but ourselves. But in truth when things haven’t worked in my business I can always find something I did or didn’t do that got in the way of my business being a success. I find I have to be harshly analytical and aware of things with myself and there are times I don’t want to look inwardly to find out what I did – but that direct honesty with myself is the one thing that has helped me progress and stay in business.


What keeps you motivated and engaged with your business?

I have the most amazing clients – seeing their smile, interacting with them, keeping them as long-term clients, that’s what keeps me motivated. Well, that and knowing that there are things I want my business to fund for me. My next aim for my business is that I can afford to tell my husband to leave his job. He has MS and I’d love for him to be able to enjoy his physically fit years. So I am working to the point where he does the finances for the business and is paid by the business, but he can do that work to fit around him doing things for himself first.

What one piece of advice would you give other small business owners and start-ups?

Set your prices at the right level – if you set them too low you will simply be a new start-up each time you raise your prices. Fear stops us from charging right, but low pricing doesn’t make a successful business – it creates an expensive hobby. So if you want to be successful as a business then create the right pricing at the start.


What’s next for you and your business?

During the recession I put my photography studio into a building I shared with others. Next month I am moving back into a building where I have my own front door. And I can’t wait for that. At the same time I’ve been helping other photographers in business do things in a way that helps all of us in the business of photography with business support, and I’m excited to be launching The Success Revolution in 2014 which gives coaching and advice to creatives in business.



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