q & a- lauren clark

Owning a business is hard. I was telling Luke just last night sometimes I wish I just had a 9 to 5… a place I could just go to and come home and leave my work at work. Is that bad?

I know that when I sit and think about it… that isn’t true.

Yes, owning a photography business is a lot of work. But, I do love what I get to do. And, I love the flexibility in my schedule even more.

I wouldn’t be able to be home with my kids as much. I probably wouldn’t be able to be a foster mom. I wouldn’t be able to be involved in different ministries or travel like I do. So many blessings I have because of this job! I am thankful.

I remember a few years back I went to a workshop for women photographers called Love Affair. It was one of the first times I could share my frustrations, fears, and questions as a business owner. It had a huge impact on my life to be there and talk to other girls in my shoes. The biggest thing I took from the workshop with was how important it was to have balance in my life.

One of the photographers there was my friend Lauren Clark. I have seen her make some huge changes to prioritize things in her life and business.

I wanted her to share a little insight with you!

Tell us a little about yourself?

I have been a photographer since I graduated high school. My dad mentioned that I should take out a loan, buy a digital camera and sell sports pictures to pay it off. I disliked sports, but went ahead and took his advice and started doing senior photos instead. This was in the days when there were very few digital portrait photographers in my area, I think there were 5 or 6 maybe, and being one of the first really helped my business take off quickly!

I married the guy of my dreams when I was 19 and took off doing wedding photography a year later. Two years down the road I was shooting 35-45 weddings per year and traveling the country attending workshops to learn more and network with famous photographers. By the time I turned 25 I had done over 1 million dollars in photography business, had thousands of “blogstalkers” and even had given out an autograph or two (yes, you can laugh, it was hilarious). My level of success was nothing attributed to anything special that I did, I believe it was all part of a great setup for my future testimony. Pride always comes before the fall.

As other successful photographers started to grow in my area I began to feel this unrest and fearfulness of my “stardom” falling and through a series of events decided to move to Stillwater, Oklahoma to resettle and “take over” the area with my photography. We bought a plot of raw land and began to cut trails and plan a long life of farm living there, and then I got pregnant. My first pregnancy changed everything! I began to see into my life more clearly and realized that it was all about success and how it made me feel. This wasn’t lasting and I was on the hunt for something greater, so I began to really search for God to see if He was real of a hoax. I knew that the deepest parts of me had to know truth or I wouldn’t teach it to my kids and so my journey took me into a whole new place of testing God and seeing that He was faithful.

This changed everything about my business. Before this, I wanted money, fame, accolades and more materialism to keep the cycle going. After my soul searching I began to care less about being known, less about my paycheck being so large and more about true relationships and living a life of faith. I know that God let me go through some tough things to make me stronger: my business almost completely failing in the next town we moved to, moving to another state and almost quitting completely and giving up to just edit for other photographers, to now jumping back in the game and not looking back. Kansas City is my dream market. The people are wonderful, and the scenery here is like nothing I’ve ever had the pleasure to photograph before! I’m now living my dream of putting my family first and working only enough to sustain our living. My kids get to see me all day and my weekends aren’t jam packed with other people’s special events. I’ve finally learned to set boundaries and it’s given my life a whole new level of happiness!

Where is home?

I’ve lived in 7 houses and 3 states in the last 8 years, so home is kind of where my family is, but I’m really crossing my fingers to be able to stay in Kansas City, Missouri for a long, long time!

What inspired you to be a photographer?

My Uncle was a professional photographer and I always was interested in his beautiful candid photos of our family gatherings.He lent me an old Canon AE-1 film camera in my freshmen year in high school and taught me about aperture and shutter speed.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to a woman looking to start their own business?

My advice is to focus on relationships. Without my photography friends in new areas I wouldn’t be able to make it without years of extra networking. There are SO many photographers out and about now that really the only thing that you can guarantee to give your client that someone else may not is a wonderful, relational experience. I’m talking about integrity, trust, understanding, and making them feel wonderful. You can advertise until you are blue in the face, but if you have a few people out there singing your praises then you will surely succeed.

What is your favorite part about owning your own business?

My favorite part about owning my own business is the freedom and the pride in having such a big responsibility. I’ve heard that the number one motivator for people is not money or power, but it is more responsibility. The more of it that you have, the more you are motivated to do well. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I have to run a household, cook, clean, teach my children about life and then run a business on top of it all! Being free to make all of the decisions and succeeding is just so fulfilling.

What is your least favorite?

My least favorite is taxes. And moving states.

What were your biggest lessons in the past five years that you would like to share?

My biggest lessons are ones that I’ve made terrible mistakes on. One was taking the relationship out of my photography. I got so busy about 5 years ago that I began to make everything as unattached to me as possible. I would send people pre-written emails, have them watch videos on how to order photos and pretty much became an automated system with very little human contact. I was making tons of money, but had very little fulfillment in my job. I put my family on the altar of success in the name of “providing”, when in reality all that I wanted was to feel better about my miserable life through the accolades of strangers. Put your family above your business and set boundaries. Now I am living on a small budget, driving a used mini-van, and living in a rent house but I am so much happier because I am placing my time and energy into my family and important relationships. I’ve also limited the number of weddings that I will take per year and per month and have limited the number of sessions per week to protect time with my family.

Any other tips or advice?

My other advice would be to find what you love! Even in photography, I went from being a “weddings only” photographer to mostly kids and families. That is what brought me the most creativity! Do a little soul searching and learn about yourself and what you love. Your life will be so full if you can learn to do what you love, but set boundaries so that it doesn’t take over your entire life.

And here is Lauren and her sweet family! Thanks so much Lauren!

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Comments

  1. This is so good! I have been struggling a great deal lately with my business as well. Thank you for the reminder that God is in control. I am so glad I got to meet you at that workshop in 2009 and lucky to have you as a roommate that weekend.:)

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