Interview with Eryn Chandler – Photographer and Graphic Designer

Interview with Eryn ChandlerTell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.

I’ve always been an artistic person, ever since I was a little girl. When college came around I did the only thing that really made sense to me, I went to art school. In January of 2010, my husband Alex and I started having photo shoots here and there with our friends and family. Turned out we were pretty good at it and we’ve had LewChan Photography as a side business ever since (we both also had full time jobs).

Then in September of 2012 I gave birth to the most perfect baby girl there ever was. I struggled with the idea of leaving her in the care of someone else once my maternity leave was over. In January 2013 I made the heartbreaking transition of going back to work after baby and did so for 6 weeks until I was laid off. It was a blessing. I’m now home full time with my daughter and am working on getting our photography business off the ground. I also do freelance graphic design and write about 3-4 times a week in a blog I’ve had since February 2007. It’s called… you should pay me a visit sometime :)

What did you do before launching your own business?

Before I was laid off and started doing photography and freelance graphic design full time I was an Art Director at a telecom company in Austin, Texas. There were days when I felt creatively challenged but those seemed to be few and far between. I’d been searching for alternative employment in the area for the past 2.5 years but never seemed to find anything that would offer a better situation than I already had. I felt as if my skills were just lying stagnant, I was getting any better and my creative muscles were being stretched. That’s the exciting part about where I am now, I feel I can do whatever I want creatively.

How did you fund your business?

Luckily, running a photography business out of your home has very very little overhead. I don’t have a storefront I have to pay rent for or maintain and the only other employee is my husband, and I pay him with love and the occasional back rub. When we started in January of 2010 we started a business checking account for LewChan. We put every penny we made from photo shoots into that account. Since that time we’ve purchased multiple cameras, lenses, and other camera equipment without having to spend any of our other income. We had a decent chunk of change in that account by the time I was laid off just a month ago. Since then I’ve been using that money to advertise and get things off the ground.

How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?

I work anywhere from 20-30 hours a week these days (not including the 24 hours a day I devote to being a mom, ha). I suspect that number will go up once we start acquiring more clients and booking more photo shoots. It’s also a challenge for me to work in long stretches during the week day while Alex is at work. I find myself working quickly and dutifully while my baby girl sleeps and plays independently. Once my husband gets home we like to spend time together, cook dinner, and take family walks. Meaning, once the babe and the husband are catching some ZZZZs I’m usually in the office for an additional 2-3 hours before I call it quits.

I’d say at least 15 hours a week is spent in my home office. Thank goodness for laptops, I’m able to work from wherever as my daughter practices tummy time on her play mat.

How would you rate your success?

As far as our photography business goes, I rate our success on how many new potential customers email me on a weekly basis, on the creativity and quality of the photographs we take, and of course on the dollars we are able to deposit into our bank account.

With my blog I feel accomplished and proud when I see larger numbers day after day on Google Analytics and whether or not I’m receiving positive responses on specific posts I write.

What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?

Our biggest struggle has definitely been finding new business. I’d say 90% of our business comes from word of mouth. Thankfully, we have wonderful friends and family who have referred people to us or who have used us themselves. I can’t lie though, I get extremely excited when total strangers find us online and book photo shoots. That’s when I know we’re doing at least some things right.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

For me, I’m always wondering if I’m doing enough for my small business to be successful. I don’t want to spin my wheels for months and months only for it to get me nowhere. I would recommend speaking to friends, family, or contacts who have or are doing something similar to what you’re doing. How did they become successful? How are they dealing with the setbacks?

I also feel 100% better about where our business is going when I take time every day to do something productive for its cause. Whether it’s color correcting photos, updating our website, responding to emails, or searching for photo gigs on Craigslist, the fact that I’m actively trying to make us more successful sets my mind at ease. Put in the time.

How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?

This is tough, especially with a 6 month old in tow. Like I said earlier, I have to work in short, concentrated periods of time while she’s napping or quietly playing. And thanks to my mom having a part time job I’m able to work 2 times a week from my parents’ house while she supervises Olive for a few hours so I can get into a groove and be really productive.

Something that every person I know who works from home tells me is that it’s great for a bajillion reasons BUT it also has its minuses. A minus would be that my work is always close by, always a few steps away waiting to be completed and judging me.

No matter how much I have to do though, both with being a mom and a small business owner, I feel it’s SO important to take time for myself every now and then. Whether it’s watching half an hour of my favorite TV show, going for a swim, or practicing yoga. You need to look out for #1. So I try to treat myself well and hopefully the universe will respond back and treat our business well!

Connect with Eryn Chandler and LewChan Photography…

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