How I Quit the 9-5 Life to Build a
£2k/Month Photography and Personal Styling Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Tia Talula and I started my business Tia Talula Photography in 2013 when I decided that I no longer liked working in an office, and I wanted to take my own children to school! I then made a conscious decision that I wanted to work alone, without any employees and I wanted to work on my own terms. I then went about turning my passion for photography into a business.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I had worked for my family business in packaging since I was 19. It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but I fell into it after dropping out of university. In that time, I worked my way up from tea girl, to telesales, to accounts and then onto field sales covering London and the Home Counties. I also managed a team of staff at the head office.
When I started my own family, I began to realise that my high pressure job wouldn’t work well alongside my family life, so in September 2013, I made a decision to turn my hobby into my business. I started talking about my idea to friends, and they responded with “I’ll hire you” and one day I agreed and photographed my first christening for £25!
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
The first major challenge was that I didn’t have much money to invest, so I had to start with our small family savings. I told my husband that I needed to borrow £5000 and I would pay it back. I bought myself a laptop, a camera and two lenses. Although I had no idea how I would start, I knew that I loved photography enough to make a success of it.
I also had lots of brilliant competitors in my area, so I decided that the way I would get my foot in the door was through competitive pricing. My previous business experience taught me this and so I began to offer low-priced photography in exchange for growing my business. This approach worked really well.
I also joined a community group on Facebook in order to advertise my work so I could develop a new customer base outside of my circle of friends. I started with photographing children and families since I thought this type of photography would be the least pressure to start with, and if necessary, I could go back and retake photos if the customer wasn’t happy. It took a while working this way to build my confidence.
Who is your target market?
My target market has changed over the years as my business has developed. As previously mentioned, it was families and children in my local area who I worked with first. I didn’t want to travel too far and I didn’t want the pressure of working in brand photography whilst I had young children. Effectively, I wanted my business to work alongside my family life.
As my work started to become more noticed on social media, I started to receive more and more enquiries for various projects and I loved the challenge of exploring outside of my specialism. I took on weddings, christenings and events in addition to my children’s work and found that my business was really starting to grow. This was a great opportunity to increase my pricing and become more selective about the work that I wanted to take on.
As my children got older and I started realising that I was away every weekend with work, I decided to change my target market to clients that I could take on during weekdays while they were at school. I focused on entrepreneurs and businesses and from there my work slowly began to change.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I market my business solely through social media (mainly Instagram) and have also grown to the point where I am now an influencer, which is excellent since it provides more exposure and income. Where possible, I also shout from the rooftops about my work!
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Personality. I develop a connection with clients by remembering their names, paying attention to their needs. We speak on the telephone instead of through e-mail. I make the experience really personal, and show my clients that I genuinely care about their experience with me. I connect with them all on social media and maintain an ongoing relationship with them.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
I decided after looking after a team of 40 employees that I no longer wanted to employ any people. I want my business to be a low pressure job that works around my family, and I want to be full control of what I do.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I have loved my journey and don’t think I would change much. Each experience has allowed me to learn and grow at a pace that was right for my life at the time.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Having complete control over my decisions is my favourite thing about having my own business. Being able to select my clients and steering my business so that it works for me and the constant changes in my life. I decide how I want to earn my money and how much. The more I put in the more I get out! Sometimes I don’t want it to be high pressured so I ease back and reduce my workload. Having that freedom is invaluable.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
There are many! Having to work at abnormal times, whether it’s answering emails or having to work on a deadline until midnight. The constant thinking about strategy. Sometimes I want to leave my work at the office at 6pm and come home to my family, but it’s simply not possible with entrepreneurial life.
Wearing many hats in your business is also difficult. I am the sales manager, the administrative assistant, the accountant, and then I have to take the photographs!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I am always on the lookout for inspiring female entrepreneurs. There are lots of them on social media platforms and I take snippets from each of their journeys. Seeing positive figures inspires me to keep going when I feel like I can’t see a way through. In terms of books, I am a very big fan of Marie Forleo’s – ‘Everything is figuroutable, which is a New York Times bestseller.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I like the size of my business since it works well with my family life. I would like to develop the influencer strand of my business and I also enjoy teaching photography and business, so I hope to grow that more in the coming years. Inspiring and helping other women in business makes me feel really happy. Juggling children and working is a constant struggle so I hope to help those who are at the beginning of their journey.