Finally, the fourth edition of the RC&D mini series: Meet the Boss Behind the Brand! And I’m thrilled to have A.J. with us to share her passion for photography and her wisdom from years working in the wedding industry. If you’ve ever had an interest in turning your photography hobby into a business, this is a great place to start. Take it way, A.J.!
1. Please introduce yourself and your business.
Hi, I’m A.J.! Half of a husband and wife wedding photography team, mom to the cutest little girl (and dog!) on the planet, encourager to women creatives and founder of Darling Wedding Workshop! Nothing makes my heart happier than images you can feel and seeing other women achieve their dreams!
2. Where are you physically located and where can we find you online?
I’m based out of my home office in Wake Forest, NC, and my website is www.ajdunlap.com
:) We love to travel though, so you’ll find us on the road several times a year heading somewhere fun to explore!
3. A. How important has social media been for growing your business? Social media is what launched my business!! Thanks to some personal photos posted on Facebook years ago, people started contacting me for portraits and eventually weddings! I’ve run a 98% word of mouth business thanks to social media and happy clients :)
4. How did you get started photographing weddings?
Believe it or not, photography was never an interest to me! I studied math and science in school! But then my older siblings started having babies and I desperately wanted to freeze time. I saved up, bought a camera and started sharing their pictures on Facebook. That’s when people started contacting me to take their family portraits. Soon after I got my first wedding request, and it was during that wedding that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life! And I haven’t looked back!
5. A. What was one of the challenges of being a photographer?
The biggest challenge of being a photographer has been balancing my schedule. When you work weddings your weekends are gone. It’s important to make sure I balance that work time with time off during normal working hours or else I’d have no life. Especially now that we have a daughter! Spending time with her is much more important than spending time with my computer :)
6. How many employees do you have? Do you outsource any aspects of your business? (i.e. accounting, legal) No employees, just me and my hubby on wedding days. But we do outsource our editing and taxes!! It has saved me so much time having someone else edit my weddings. Time that I can now spend with my daughter or on other more enjoyable aspects of my business like running my workshop!! Accounting I outsource, because that stuff is confusing, haha!
7. What is one of your favorite parts about being being your own boss?
I love being my own boss, because I set my schedule! If I want to take my work on the road I can, or if I need a sick day, I take it! If my daughter needs a little more attention I can give it to her. That freedom is priceless!! The life of a work at home/stay at home mom is challenging, but fun! I have to balance short bursts of work with meal times, diaper changes, and play time! Having her at home with me, helps me break up my time just sitting at a desk, which is really nice!
8. What advice would you give someone thinking about starting their own business?
Find someone who is doing what you want to do, and ask them to mentor you! I chose the hard road of figuring it out on my own, but let me tell you I could have saved a LOT of time and energy by asking someone more established! Hiring a mentor will be worth every penny! That and spend money on branding!!! It’s so worth it! Having a brand that reflects the personal side of you will go so much farther than just taking pretty pictures.
9. Can you share a fun fact about yourself?
I love to paint! Not art, but furniture!!!! I almost always have some sort of house project going! My husband keeps asking me when we’re going to stop spending money on the house, and I keep laughing at his silly question :)
10. Sending snail mail can be a great way to personalize a message or stand out from your competition. When do you use snail mail in your business? I’m always mailing my couples!! From welcome gifts to thank you letters and Christmas presents. I love the personal touch that snail mail gives to my brand :) Who doesn’t love a surprise in the mail?!
11. What can you tell us about Darling Wedding Workshop?
Besides photography, my passion is helping women run successful creative businesses! Especially photographers! It’s why I started Darling Wedding Workshop. Empowering women to be artists, and do it successfully makes my heart soar!!!
Thank you A.J. for sharing the details of what you do and how you do it! Photos from your studio are always so stunning.
I don’t know about you, but this boss babe’s got me wondering if even I could be a successful wedding photographer! Just sign me up for a Darling Wedding Workshop and I’ll be on my way! Speaking of A.J.’s workshop, I’ll be posting some of the incredible photos from the shoot. You may even see a few pics of my lettering in there. Hint hint!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this interview in the comments. And if you’re an entrepreneur and want to share your wisdom, I’d love to hear from you, too.
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