€2500 Average Sale! Finding Success in a Small European Farm Town with Wendy De Craemer
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What initially sparked your interest in photography?
“16 years ago I started my creative journey as a teacher. I loved being an art teacher and connecting with my students, making them see the world through different eyes. Being a Gemini, I found myself being stuck in this narrow-minded Catholic School System, and I noticed I was losing my spark of joy.
In 2005 I gave birth to my two eldest kids (just 10 months apart from each other) whilst my mother was dying of cancer. All of a sudden, time was fleeting and I felt this primal instinct to capture time and hold onto these precious memories. Not only for me but seeing my dying mum hold my firstborn, I just knew these photographs would become priceless to tell her story for the little boy that still had to be born after she was gone. To have a tangible document that showed my kids just how loved they were, even before she got the chance to meet them in person. Portraits that will take them back to those precious moments in time.
At the end of her living journey, she had this feeling of not having lived her best life, meaning she’d given up on her young girl passions and dreams for the sake of her family. So the last conversation I had with my mum was that she made me promise to actively pursue my dreams, to love people, and live a life of gratitude, meaning I had to use my creativity for it was a God-given gift that I needn’t neglect!
From that moment I learned the hard way that NOBODY IS PROMISED A TOMORROW! And from that day forward MY WHY was deeply rooted in that promise! If I could create that portrait, that experience of seeing yourself as other people that love you see you, and help you to connect to your inner voice and accept you as you are NOW, then I’d be creating so much more than photographs.”
How did you push past fear when building your business?
“Value and pricing were my biggest hurdles at the beginning of building my business! As Sue teaches us, pricing comes down to value! As a starting part-time photographer, I looked at the photography studios around me to see what they were asking!
€2.5 (equal to $2.7 dollars) for a 4×6! So that’s what I did. Little did I know back then, but I was soon to discover, that without the safety net of my daytime job, I was going to be the one paying my own bills! And that it’s not wanting to play shop, wishing you have money coming in that will keep your boat afloat when the tide is high!
My awakening moment…I had quit my teaching job, and my husband has his own job, so I needed to provide my end of our family income. No safety nets, savings gone, just me and my family, a big dream and taking a leap of faith! I had two little babies at the time, and I had fallen ill. I still remember feeling this overwhelming feeling of defeat because I had to choose between helping myself and go to see a doctor or putting food on the table form my family…FOOD WON! That’s the time I remember physically feeling sick, crying in the corner of my kitchen and my husband whispering in tears, “you need to turn this around babe.” I thought if I want to make this happen this needs to change and the only person who can save me is ME.
I needed to up my business skill-set, value my craft, value what I was creating for people, and most importantly also VALUE MY TIME spent away from my family & babies and set my prices accordingly! I upped my pricing in increments I could stand by but at least I stood for something! I knew my numbers and why my prices were what they were! So I had no shame in saying, “your order is €2500 ($2750 dollars), how would you like to you pay for that?” anymore. I knew what I needed to make to keep my boat afloat.“
Everyone has a favorite shoot – tell us about yours and why it’s your favorite.
“Leading up to a shoot we correspond via mail, phone, and in-person consultations. My clients always get super excited about hair, make-up, what to wear, styling, etc but this particular client kept quiet no returned calls or mail.
A daughter had gifted her mother a Mother-Daughter Portrait Experience, a day to enjoy together and celebrate the warmth and love these two women share. So I thought it odd they didn’t respond. I called her up only to find a woman devastatingly crying at the other end of the phone. The mom told me her beautiful girl had passed away in an accident just a couple of weeks prior to my calling and she hadn’t found the strength to cancel or even let us know about her passing.
I still remember her grief touching my heart in ways I simply can’t put into words. She wanted to honor her daughter’s wish because she’d found a to-do list in her daughter’s room, and at the very top of that list was “MY ZOOM PORTRAIT EXPERIENCE WITH MUM.”
After a long and deep conversation, I invited her to the photo studio, not to be photographed but to talk about her daughter. I wanted to learn all about this beautiful young woman, who she was and the bond they both shared. Fast forward, her mother came in, we talked, we cried, and I saw her light up as she talked about what an incredible soul her daughter was.
I asked her if she’d love to have Heidi, my sister-in-law, to do her hair and make-up if she felt up to it. She agreed, we talked some more, and I remember this overwhelming loving energy come over her as she relaxed and started to let go of all the tension in her body leading up to this moment. She looked up at me and whispered, “I think I’m ready now, to have my portrait taken with my little girl.” Unexpectedly! So that’s what we did.
I can feel the serenity at the moment still, the silence that embraced us all as she sat with her hands on her heart, opening her teary eyes looking to the camera with a little hint of a smile. My heart stopped and I became very conscious of my breath when I pushed the shutter. When she opened her hand, she’d been holding a little heart-shaped locket, within it a little bit her daughter’s ashes.
To this day, that has been one of the most humble, raw and beautiful moments I had the honor to capture. A portrait embodying strength, grace, and pure love!”
How has Sue Bryce Education changed your life for the better?
“My biggest inspiration is to this day is SUE. She guided me to become the creative businesswomen I AM TODAY! I will forever be grateful for the journey she put me on from her very first CreativeLive performance to this moment in time today!
It’s been an ongoing roller coaster ride of personal growth ever since I first started learning from Sue. I’ve upped my skillset and through her transformation platform, Sue has helped me work through my personal and money blocks. Her guidance and friendship have helped me move through my deepest fears and helped me have the courage in the most difficult of times, so I could keep good on the promise I’ve made to my beautiful mother all those years ago!
Sue Bryce Education is MY GO TO BIBLE when I need inspiration or simply need to go back a few steps and rewatch or listen to get the message on how to move forward.”
Many people struggle to find a balance between staying inspired creatively and running a thriving business. How do you find your balance?
“As my family and friends might tell you…I’m a WORKAHOLIC! My creative brain never really shuts down and even in my free time, I’ll still be thinking about work, looking through magazines, books, shops whatever for new creative ways to implement in my shoots, marketing, etc. You can ask Lynn that, even when she’s giving me a facial in our beauty salon we have the most incredible business talks & brainstorms.
What I love most in my free time, is what my mom taught me – to make every moment count with the people I love! And cooking a big, beautiful family meal is that for me. Being in the creative space of cooking together, sitting around the table with the people I love and admire most, having beautiful rich conversations, talking dreams, and creating memories!
I’ve been told that creativity finds you more easily in times when you are relaxed! So 2020 is all about that, creating these little moments of pure bliss in the midst of it all. To unwind and replenish my creative soul!”
How would you describe your business right now in one sentence?
“A beautiful space to nurture and empower souls.”
What do you think is the biggest misconception when people are trying to start their photography business?
“That this business is about them – the photographer creating photographs with the click of a shutter. But the photoshoot is just a little part of being in business my friend, it’s all about giving service, knowing your numbers of doing business, and putting the hard work in before, during and after the portrait experience.
My biggest advice would be to steer away from the “I want to be the rockstar” mentality. If you want to be in this business game for the long run let go of your ego and stop making it about you. That’s what I tell the girls or anyone who works here, leave your ego at the door. When the client walks in, it’s all about him or her, always!!!”
Explain how Sue Bryce Education helped you overcome obstacles in your business?
“I remember this Sunday afternoon so clearly – I stumble upon this inspirational woman talking about her journey, how she converted her garage into a studio, built this incredible beautiful body of work and business from the ground up.
She talked about her fears & struggles and in tears, I sat and listened, savored every word, every pose, every detail and mesmerized looked up to my husband and said, “SHE’S TELLING MY STORY!” I want to be her when I grow up! Here was Sue Bryce, a woman, building this incredible career, a business, creating a body of work that resonated with me for all THE RIGHT reasons, TALKING A LANGUAGE I COULD FINALLY UNDERSTAND!
Photography became the medium to tell a story, to share an emotional journey, and was more than just F-stops and ISO’s! ”
For someone starting out on their photography journey, what advice would you have for them?
“Keep looking for different angles – ALWAYS KEEP MOVING!
Be creative in your business thinking, always evolving and growing along the way looking for new ways to approach light, backdrops, outfits, styling.
Look for solutions instead of being stuck on the problem!
Give service and steer away from the, “I want to be the rockstar” idea. If you want to be in this business game for the long run let go of your ego and stop making it about you!
Connect with your clients, listen, REALLY LISTEN to what it is they want you to deliver, what their needs are! AND BUILD RELATIONSHIPS – it’s far easier to keep on serving someone that loves you, your work and what you can create for them than to keep chasing NEW clients!
Continuously and constantly get your work out there! Show the world what you can create for them!
Up your skill-set, value your craft, value what you can create, and most importantly also value your time and set your prices accordingly! Do it in increments YOU can stand by but at least stand for something!
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS & why your prices are what they are! Surround yourself with people who love seeing YOU grow!”
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
“I’d love to create the opportunity and financial security for my husband to join the business and see my business grow into an even more holistic brand. Creating the freedom to travel and create empowering portrait experiences in all these beautiful corners the world has to offer!”
Wendy’s Current Work
Wendy De Craemer of ZOOM Foto-Atelier