Lancashire based photographer Christina of Fish2 Photography is a friend and fellow CWS Creative, our paths cross personally and professionally and I’m always bowled over by the images that she captures in her work. I love finding out what motivated people to set up their business and how they manage it on a day to day basis, this is really what inspired me to set up the Start Up Stories feature. I hope you enjoy my interview with Christina, and don’t forget if you have any further questions just pop them in a comment at the end of the post.
Hi, I’m Christina and I am married to Rob. We have a little(ish) 17 month old crazy toddler called Ethan. I’ve been married for almost 6 years and I started my business back in 2008 which seems like forever ago now. I used to work for a local charity as well doing graphic design, photography and videos but late last year I decided to quit and to focus solely on the business.
If you ever meet me in real life I am what is referred to as a fiery red head (haha) and with that have the rarest hair and eye colour combination in the world with my blue eyes and ginger hair.
Tell us a little bit about your business
My business is called Fish 2 Photography and has been going for 10 years. I get asked a lot about why the unusual name and not use my own name like most photographers. Well when I sat down to think about what I would call my business I wanted to have something a little different and not just my name especially as I thought I might get married at some point and that would be a nightmare having to change EVERYTHING! When I was younger I used to get teased for having big eyes and I got called Fish and frog a lot so I decided to turn a negative into a positive and decided on Fish 2. There was never a fish 1 but the name also is initials for something else.
Once you knew you wanted to pursue a career as a photographer how did you go about turning it into a reality?
I decided about 5 years ago I really wanted to do this business thing properly and not just do bits here and there. I realised that I love capturing moments in people’s lives and I wanted to focus on their stories and helping to create memories.
I sat down and created a website, Facebook and Instagram pages and set myself a goal of being a fully functional business in 5 years time.
I decided to update my skills, as the last time I studied photography was at Uni, so I signed up to do an University of Arts London course and put every penny the business earned into updating my equipment and making sure I was all legal, insured and a member of several guilds.
I had (and have) great clients who passed the word around and for the first 2 years I relied solely on referrals. I now do a bit of marketing and attend a few wedding fayres but I still think word of mouth is the best way to meet new clients.
Like so many of us you have what we call a ‘portfolio career’ where you not only have one job or business but a few on the go at the same time. What do you do and how did it come about?
I am a bit of a Jack (or Jill) of all trades as I can do graphic design, film, edit and produce videos, paint, sew, make model space guns for a TV show (don’t ask), photograph basically anything creative I will have a go at and have probably done at one point or another. My passion is definitely photography although I need the other bits to help keep me balanced and feeling creative.
With this I have done many different jobs through the business when people have asked me, especially ones who have seen my other work, and I do love doing them. I especially love helping out other local businesses and charities and sometimes just can’t say no. I think diversity helps creativity but I always come back to my camera, it’s like a part if me.
What’s been the hardest part of your life as a small business so far and how do you overcome those kinds of hurdles?
The hardest part I think is balancing the finances and not beating myself up about silly stuff. I’m not a maths whizz so I have to think carefully about what I spend money on but also I need to help provide for my family. and in all honesty, some months that can be a hard thing to balance. The creative side is easy and I love going on shoots and meeting clients but anything legal or maths based I always get Rob to help me out. I was definitely born a creative and not an academic!
I run on black coffee and chocolate biscuits when I’m working, what couldn’t you live without?
I used to run of cake and chocolate but since having my boy I’ve become dairy intolerant (boo!) So I now run on soya hot chocolate (thank you coffee shops) and any cake I can persuade my husband to make for me…that and Haribo!
When running a business these days, you need to build a strong social media presence, which is your favourite platform and do you have any tips for running it?
I love Instagram, I love seeing other people’s artwork and their creative ideas and also just normal un-posed photos of people’s daily lives. I have a real love for moments and stories and Instagram does that well without any, or much, of the drama you’d find on Facebook.
I don’t really have any tips, just be you, you can’t go wrong then.
What is the best part of running your own business? Has there been a ‘pinch yourself to check it’s real’ kind of moment for you?
Yes, a few times. It sounds weird but I still think that whenever someone books me either to do a commercial shoot or to do a wedding or family shoot.
I think the best part is that I’m happy, I’m starting to live out my dreams and that’s amazing, I never thought it would happen.
I also get to control my work life balance. It’s hard at times don’t get me wrong but I got to see my baby grow up into a cheeky toddler at the same time as building a business. I usually get to work the hours that suit us as a family, spending some days with my boys where we can just play and have fun memories and some days working all day and night to get a job done. I honestly wouldn’t change it back to what I had a couple of years ago before I went on Mat leave.
Has being a parent influenced the way your business works?
Yes and no. I don’t let being a mum stop me doing my work but I do try and work in days together as a family or just mum and son days into the diary. Being a parent helps me understand families more although my sister in law has always called me the baby whisperer, I think it gives you a different viewpoint.
It doesn’t change who you are as a person but it changes your motivations. I actually looked at this in a small personal photography project I did a few months ago where I photographed mums in their lives – work, business, home. I wanted to look at different people’s perceptions of what a mum actually is and how we don’t lose who we actually are.
Running a business as a ‘one girl band’ means you have to be and do everything from managing your budget, to marketing yourself, to being good at sales, what do you do to manage your time and what tips do you have for avoiding being overwhelmed.
I try and have set days for set activities. Monday afternoons are usually admin and catching up. I spend a lot of time on shoots, editing or meeting clients so I squeeze as much in as I can to that afternoon/evening so I’m ready for the week ahead and I start planning for the four to six weeks.
My biggest tip would be sometimes just give yourself a break. Have a little extra time eating your lunch in the sun, read a little longer, play with your kids an extra 30 minutes. Whatever you do that fills your ‘tank’ is going mean that you are filled and ready to give everything to your work and you aren’t likely to burn out.
What’s been your favourite shoot so far and why?
Hmm.. this is a really hard one as there genuinely are so many amazing people I’ve worked with and special moments I’ve captured I’d find it hard to choose.
I think I’m going to pick with my son’s first birthday cake smash. We waited for years to get pregnant and for a baby to ‘stick’ that it’s incredibly special to me personally. I spent ages planning it and getting props and a little studio to shoot in that I will always remember the chaos that happened and the moments I captured.
He’s such a wonderful little boy and has such a strong character I can’t wait to annoy him with the camera for the rest of his life haha!
Got any new ideas or goals you’d like to hit in the near future?
I think my next 5 year goal is to keep growing the business. I’d love to work with more local businesses, especially run by women so we can build each other up, and continue to do weddings. I’m not sure what else life will hold but I’ll be happy if I can achieve this. The other things relate to buying camera equipment and I really don’t want to bore you with that!
Whether practical or inspirational, what is your top piece advice for anyone out there wanting to take that leap and start their own business?
Go the extra mile, take the hit, do your best. If you do this people will notice, maybe not right away but they will.
Treat everyone you work with respect and honour no matter if they’re in charge or you are.
A huge thank you to Christina for sharing her story with us, I hope you found it interesting and please do get in touch with her if you’ve got any questions, or leave a comment below.
Find out more about Fish2 Photography
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Morgana is a social media coach for small businesses and entrepreneurs, specialising in Instagram and Pinterest. Based in the North West of the UK, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She particularly enjoys a Netflix binge watch and cannot function without black coffee and dark chocolate digestives.