Homepreneurs is very fortunate to meet remarkably talented people that also own home based businesses. These individuals are featured as part of our ongoing success story feature. This story features a wonderful artist – Linda S. – and her photography business, Nature Restores Me. Though we have a common friend, Linda and I never met until a recent local arts show. I asked her to provide some details about her success and give tips for those interested in starting a home business.
In Linda’s own words: “I have always had a profound love of nature. I just love to be outdoors, whether I’m riding a bike, taking a walk, skiing, or in a canoe. And it doesn’t matter how bad the weather is, I can handle the cold, the rain or the heat. And the bugs don’t bother me. Just let me be outside!
For the past 10 years, I dabbled in photography. But two years ago, I took a macro class, and that changed everything. It opened up a whole new world for me. I noticed things about flowers, bugs and bird close-ups that were just astounding.”
Underneath some of her wonderful pictures please find our Q&A discussion:
The Beauty Inside & Learning How to Fly
All rights reserved – Linda Strickland
HP: Why did you start your own business?
LS: I had become increasingly dissatisfied with the corporate world. But I felt like I needed my job and couldn’t afford to live without it. However, after some health challenges happened to me, I was forced to quit my job and take some time off. I had never done anything like that before. But I can honestly say that the first 2 months were such a blessing, I didn’t even think about the implications of what I had done. I went out everyday, anywhere I pleased, and photographed all the wildlife and nature scenes I wanted to! And since it was May, spring was in full bloom and migrating birds were passing through. It was like heaven. I realized I felt more alive than I had in a long time. I had long toyed with the idea of being a nature photographer. I was already photographing nature on my weekends, it was a very enjoyable hobby. But after my corporate job was gone I started to think more seriously about it. I picked an accountant who showed me what was needed to start a business, and then applied to as many art fairs as would accept me. I have been doing this ever since! And I’m still learning so much.
HP: How long has your business existed?
LS: I began it in July of 2008, just in time for the recession!
HP: What are the greatest challenges you face?
LS: I don’t really have a mentor or anyone that could give me sage advice. I have just learned to ask questions of everyone I meet: other artists, framers at Hobby Lobby, store owners who can sell my photography, other business owners even if they are not in my field. I have found a wealth of information, and realized that most people are willing to share what they know. 2) The weather is also one of my greatest challenges. I lost a tent due to heavy rain, and had damage done to my pictures because of high winds. But outdoor fine art fairs are where I make the most money, so I have learned to rainproof my tent and move my panels in a way that blocks the wind.
HP: What advantages does self-employment provide?
LS: For me, it has been a godsend. I have been able to use my creativity to describe how I feel about the world. I never realized how stifled I was behind a desk, when other people assigned me tasks, and I had no say in what I would be doing. Even though it is hard when your day is a blank slate, and you have to fill it up, the possibilities are endless. And when you are doing something that you are good at, and other people appreciate it, your gratitude is always at a high level. And you see beauty in yourself and in the world around you.
HP: Do you have any tips/suggestions for those considering entrepreneurship?
LS: Never stop educating yourself! Talk to everyone. You will learn something worthwhile. Whether it is the person you’re buying your camera from, or someone you met in a nature preserve, or another artist who is selling on etsy or some other online store. It is important to be outgoing and create a network of friends that can help you. 2) Give yourself credit! I didn’t go to school for photography, so I am grateful for each success. 3) And don’t give up. If something you tried did not work out, learn from it and move on. When I hired Discover Network to help make my website more noticed by giving me hits on Google, it did not help. I was a new artist that no one had heard of and I hadn’t established myself on the art fair circuit yet. I decided that people have to see your work in person and you have to establish yourself before a website can start paying off. The people that know and want your product will then go to your website. That’s how it has worked for me so far.
HP: Do you use social media at all (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)?
LS: Not as much as I should. I have accounts on each of these, but don’t use them very often. This is something I want to work on and develop.
HP: Where do your greatest number of customers come from?
LS: Definitely my art fairs.
HP: If you could change one thing when you started, what would that be?
LS: I wish I had planned for this career while I still had a corporate job and had more money to buy expensive camera equipment, a good tent, and pro panels. If you are considering starting your own business, have faith in yourself and your product and try it first on a small scale. Buy the bits and pieces you need along the way, as you can afford them. And apply for a few art fairs and see how you do! Then you will know if this is something you could grow into. I met an air traffic controller who was doing photography on the side, and was doing so well he knew he could quit his day job and do photography full time. In fact he had already set a date.
HP: What are the rewards of self-employment?
LS: The greatest reward for me as an artist is that I am sharing a part of my life through my work. I know the story of each picture I have ever taken. I can share these memories with the customer if they want to know. Sometimes the customers share with me why they are buying a particular picture, why it has meaning for them. It is wonderful to have these conversations.
As a photographer, I get to be outside all the time. Since I like the outdoors, no matter what the weather is like, this is heaven for me. I get to be a witness to little miracles in nature, like watching a mama goldfinch teaching her baby how to fly, or finding a newly hatched dragonfly drying himself on grass stalks. It calms and centers me, and makes me a better person. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
HP: What sources do you use to fill in your knowledge gaps? Why?
LS: 1) The internet is a great place to find instruction for any type of photography, or even to find out what camera to buy. I discovered flickr on the internet (a photo sharing site) and met other photographers through this website. I also discovered IBET (Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts) which is a good resource to find out where birds are. 2) I like talking to other photographers and enjoy going on photo shoots with them, to see how they capture their pictures, and where they go. 3) I have also taken a few photography classes from other nature photographers, so I can find out the best way to do things.
For more information about Linda and her stunning nature pictures, please visit her website: www.naturerestoresme.com
Thank you Linda, for sharing your time, experience, and expertise. Best wishes and much success for your future endeavors!
Image Credits: © Linda Strickland and NatureRestoresMe, All rights reserved
By Dion D Shaw
Dion D Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs
Homepreneurs. New Day. New Opportunities.
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