Julie Ferneau is a San Diego based wedding photographer and podcaster. We met in the most modern of ways–in a Clubhouse chatroom! If you haven’t tried Clubhouse yet, it’s an amazing way to meet new people with similar interests during a pandemic. You can join our Photo Business Help Clubhouse meetup on Monday afternoons here.)
Before Julie Ferneau began running her photography business, she had moved to San Diego for a change from her life in Iowa. However, she found herself miserable and unhappy at a corporate job in financial services, and then insurance. She really, truly hated what she was doing–but she knew that she had always loved photography.
So, she took her time to prepare for the terrifying but exhilarating process of quitting her day job. Julie got a doctor’s note to take 2 weeks off, which turned into 4 weeks off. She started listening to what her body was telling her and started seeing a therapist. She leaned on the supportive people in her life. And after she quit her job, she started to feel like herself again.
After taking photography classes, practicing shooting, and getting her branding and business off the ground, Julie had a feeling that she was in the right spot.
“I was like, this is what I'm doing. I know where I'm supposed to be. And it's right here doing what I am”
As children, we aren’t always taught how to forge our own independent path in the world. The focus is often more on the corporate ladder, the traditional educational path, the degree leading to the full time job. Going from corporate America to her own independent photo business is a challenge that Julie–and many others–feel like they have to invent the template for as they go. It's a risk that not everyone will be able to afford taking, but Julie had the support she needed to do so, and she loved every minute of it.
“I was doing all the things business related and it didn't feel like work. I had to pinch myself a couple of times. Yeah. My money wasn't coming in like it used to. I didn't have paid vacation anymore, but like, I was happy. I was so happy”
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not alway easy (or possible) to quit your day job start your own business. But here's one piece of advice from Julie, which regular readers/listeners know that I LIVE by: USE YOUR COMMUNITY. Julie started networking and building relationships early in her career, and then she just kept showing up. She took opportunities as they presented themselves to her. Whenever she was invited to be a second shooter on a photo shoot, she said yes.
“Number one, [second shooting] was the best thing I ever did. I learned so much faster about all the things, second shooting. It was absolutely crucial for my path of where I am today, second shooting. It just did everything for me. I could witness and try things and do things on their time, not mine.”
The beginning of Julie’s career hit a challenge when she realized that she wasn’t putting her own business first. She fell into a routine of second shooting. It was easy to say yes to shoots that are already set up. But as a second shooter, she felt like she was valuing the lead photographer's businesses over her own. Looking back, Julie says “I should have said no more and I should have set more time on the calendar for me and my business.”
Now, Julie’s doing just that. She’s getting really specific about her ideal client. She shoots weddings, and she wants to work with couples who value quality photos, who work hard, and who enjoy travel and food and fashion and architecture. She’s rebranding her business to reflect that ideal client.
“I finally know who I am as a photographer. It only took me a whole year of quarantine to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.”
Julie’s podcast, Photo Spark, reflects the love for learning that got her starting in the photography business. She comes from the perspective of a student and helper, not an expert. Her show brings on guest speakers for all kinds of photo business topics, from SEO to marketing.
“It's just fun. My favorite thing about it is meeting people like you and learning their journeys and like hearing all about it.”
For me, the moral of Julie’s story is that running your own business can be extremely liberating. But it’s also HARD. From the photography itself, to the scheduling, to the website, to the social media, it’s easy to lose track of your goals in the overwhelming task list. Julie’s favorite piece of advice touches on this point. Her motto is “little by little.”
“If you set a big goal and you write that big goal on the piece of paper, that goal is hard to get to. But if you put tiny little goals to get to that big goal, you do them. I have a day planner and I have a goal planner and they are not the same.”
Writing down goals is one thing, but getting them done is another. That’s why Julie likes to break it down into smaller pieces. Accomplishing those small, daily goals WILL lead to bigger goals in time. Just keep at, because there IS room for you in this business.
Julie Ferneau is a San Diego based wedding photographer with stylish couples in the most epic places around the world. When she isn't photographing weddings, she's chatting with incredible guest experts on her podcast, PhotoSpark. Photospark is candid conversation about photography and business. She loves to help and watch people grow their photography business to the next level. When she's not working, she's hanging out with her fiance and two rescue pups or traveling to explore new places.
France Photo: https://rachaellaporte.com/
Confetti Photo: 656 Photography https://www.656photography.com/
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Julie Ferneau Photography