Half a decade. 1825 days. 5 years. It’s absolutely insane to me that I’ve had this little business for that long! Often I don’t even feel like I’m old enough to have a company that’s 5 years old. I started Emily March Photography the summer before my senior year of college at UNC. I was sitting on the big yellow couch in my living room when I decided that this was what I wanted to do. I had tossed around the idea for months, but part of me still felt like it was crazy. Start a business?? I’m 20 years old. I don’t know the first thing about running a business! But after years of being the girl with the camera and 6 months interning for Southern Weddings, I just knew that this was it. Nothing had quite captivated the hopeless romantic in me like wedding photography. It was the perfect marriage (not apologizing for the pun) of what I loved.
So, sitting on my couch, I thought “Heck, I’ll never know if I never try.” So I did the only thing I could think of to get a client – I posted an ad on Craigslist. Yes, guys. Craigslist. The chance that I was wearing pajamas for this momentous occasion is 100%. I remember picking all my favorite pictures. Scenes of Italy from study abroad. Portraits of my friend in Paris. Snapshots of campus. And – I kid you not – 20 minutes later I got an email from a girl named Jessica asking me to photograph her wedding in the Outer Banks the following May. It was one of the fastest answers to prayer I’ve ever gotten.
I wanted everything – my contract, licensing, business – to be legitimate. I made my first logo on Microsoft Word and built a little (awfully designed) website to show off my pictures. I met with a lawyer to draw up the paperwork to file for an LLC, and on August 18, 2011 I signed my name on the dotted line. Emily March Photography was born. The following summer I photographed Jessica and four other couple’s weddings. It still amazes me to this day that each of those couples booked me knowing that I have never shot a wedding before!
In the years that followed I poured my heart and soul into Emily March Photography. I paid my entrepreneur’s dues and worked 3 jobs at one point so that I could invest every penny my photography earned back into my business. I read books about leadership, entrepreneurship, photography and dreaming big. I did my best to exercise self-control. When I saw a lens or camera or workshop that I wanted, I saved my money, and I’m insanely proud that in 5 years, I’ve never had even $1 in debt. To this day, I think that’s one of the best things I ever did for my business. I took every wedding and session I could get my hands on and never said “no” to a single opportunity that came my way. Take head shots for my neighbor in the grassy lawn by our apartment’s parking lot? YES. I practiced, practiced, practiced. When I couldn’t ever get an engagement ring in focus, I spent an hour in my driveway photographing one of my rings until I finally got the picture I wanted. I battled intense discontentment at times and struggled with comparison. I started sharing my monthly goals to hold myself accountable, and with time I was able to check those goals off one by one. Then, one day in April of 2014, I checked off one of my biggest – go full time with my business. Brendan knows firsthand how much we wrested with that decision and its risks, but I can say with purest confidence that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The first two months after I quit my other job were two of the highest grossing months my business has ever seen, and I’m sure that was the Lord’s way of saying “See! I told you it would be fine!”
Fast forward to today and I can see that this business has given me so much more than I ever imagined. There are people I would have never met and experiences that I would have never had if this business didn’t exist. It’s fun looking at these behind the scenes pictures (nearly all of them cell phone pictures, naturally) and recalling all the stories and people (most notably Morgan and Tiffany) that were a part of them. I almost cried from happiness when a couple brought their new puppy to their wedding. I was actually a part of the greatest reception entrance I’ve had a couple do – I was on the pontoon with them as the sailed up to a cheering crowd of family and friends! Yes, it was awesome.
There are things I’ve learned that I would have probably never thought about if I didn’t start this business. I know WAY more about small business tax code and write offs than I honestly care to know. I know how to manage a team and lead them in a way the gets the job done and allows them to have fun while doing so. I’ve learned how to stand my ground, fight for what is best for my business and couples and not allow what other people are doing or think dictate my direction. I learned how to take a leap of faith and trust that my hard work would pay off and that the Lord would provide for us. I’ve learned to shoot in a medium that many people don’t even realize still exists. Being a small business owner has allowed me to take on so many different roles besides photographer. I’ve filled the shoes of marketer, social media manager, accountant, negotiator, bookkeeper, coder, and designer. And, if I’m being honest, when I started 5 years ago, I had NO CLUE I’d have to own those titles at one time or another.
It’s amazing to me just how much this decision has changed my life. Yes, it gave me a job I love, and I’ve met amazing people along the way, but Brendan always says one of the first things that made him want to get to know me was that I owned a business. I’m sure my witty charm and unparalleled good looks would have caught him anyway ;) but I love knowing that this business played even the tiniest role in our story. It’s been an incredible blessing for our marriage since then, giving me full control of my schedule to be flexible for him and providing an income that sustained us perfectly through medical school.
And truly, I never could have done this without him. Sure, I started this business on my own, but he has supported me in every way possible since day one. From second shooting (even when it was very inconvenient for him) to looking through the scans from a recent shoot as I gush over them to hearing out all my ideas. He’s held me accountable and challenged me when I was being lazy. He’s been my #1 fan who snaps me out of any insecurity or doubt, bolsters my confidence and encourages me to chase after my goals.
So, cheers to 5 years! I’m grateful for every single one of them and even more grateful for the people who made them possible. I’m grateful for the countless couples I’ve had the privilege to photograph and get to know. I’m grateful for the rich community of photographers I’ve called friends, who have helped me in a pinch, given great advice and have taught me how to be the best photographer I can be. I’m grateful for my parents who didn’t scoff when I told them as a college senior that I’d rather start a business than get a normal job or go to grad school like everyone else. And, most importantly, I’m grateful that the Lord not only gave me this talent, but also gave me my dream job. Photography has always been one of my greatest passions, but to see it become so much more than that is truly one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given.
Emily is a destination film wedding photographer. She loves natural light and is available to travel worldwide.