Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from food photographer and blogger, Matt Armendariz of Mattbites. Matt always knew that his career would revolve around food, someway, somehow, but the leap into his full time photography career was anything but easy. After a lost job and many hours of freelance later, Matt decided the time was finally right to launch his own business. Today, after two cook books, TV appearances and endless contributions later, Matt shares his career journey with us. Thank you, Matt, for giving us this glimpse into your career path! —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
My answer is a blend of so many various answers, but the main reason I decided to start my own business was that I had to. I should back up: I was an art director turned director of advertising for a big food retailer at the time, and part of my job involved coordinating food photo shoots. I absolutely loved being in the studio around food, and along the way i got bitten by the photography bug. I started teaching myself how to use a camera, and through blogging and contacts in the food world I began getting booked on photography gigs pretty soon on. I started taking time off work to shoot freelance projects, and slowly but surely I started missing more and more work at my desk job. I was at a very confusing crossroads: stay where I was comfortable or make the leap into the unknown and start my own photography business. And right at that exact moment I became a victim of the recession and lost my job. The next day I started my business.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
Well I knew it would revolve around food, and since I was dabbling part time in food photography as a freelancer I knew that my business would become opening my own photography studio. And since my husband is a food stylist, it made sense to join forces.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
There were two pieces of advice that were equally important to me in starting my own business. First, one piece of advice was to prepare to work harder for myself than I’d ever work for anyone else. And this holds true to this day, only a few years later of operating my own photography business. When you are your own boss there are no days off, no vacations, no keys to hand off to anyone else when you want to just turn it off. Of course this sounds scary, but the flipside is that I have an independence that suits me just fine. And I love what I do so I do not mind it being a part of my everyday life.
The second bit of advice I received was to be as honest and ethical in business as you would be in daily life. And to make sure to have everything buttoned up. It’s this reason I can sleep at night (thanks to an amazing accountant and agent, as well as the sage advice from friends and family!)
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Aside from capital, you’ve got to be prepared for the unknown and be ok with it. You don’t know what the business environment will be like in a month, and there’s no one to help you but yourself. And as a new business owner a truly difficult part was not knowing the rules or where to turn and having to figure it out as you go along. It’s one thing to run a business, it’s another thing to run a business in such a specialized field like photography that has a different set of insurance needs and tax policies.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Align yourself with knowledgeable people, be it staff or accountants or advisers. Also, even though I run my own business, I am NOT my business. I am still a human being that has a life and I’m allowed to make mistakes and not answer my phone. I’ve earned it, damnit!
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
There are failures every single day, as well as successes. But I don’t really focus on failure in my business experiences as they’re just mistakes and we all make them. Not saving enough for taxes, underestimating how much real hard work it would take to run it day to day, etc. But failure isn’t really something I think about or define as such.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
My greatest success in my business experience has been keeping it going with good revenue and with the ability to hire some amazing people at my studio. But my single greatest success is contributing sooooo much to taxes and working so very hard to give it to Uncle Sam. See how I tell myself these cute little things to make myself feel better? :)
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Being creative and running a business are two different things that must operate together, and if you have a stellar creative vision please realize that the day-to-day business requirements will be hard, taxing, and stressful. But sooo worth it. Read anything and everything you can, there are tons of resources online but also don’t forget to check your city’s chamber of commerce and small business offices for references, information and interaction.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
First: If you consider yourself a hard worker for someone else, triple that and then multiply it times seven for your own business. Do you enjoy working around the clock? Are you willing to sacrifice short term goals for long term success? Are you willing to breathe and sleep your new business endeavor? If so, let’s do this!
Second: Do you have a viable business plan? Do you have contacts and potential or existing clients? It’s not enough to just put up that “Open For Business” sign on your door as you must be prepared to market, network, and invest both time and energy into making your business work.
Third: Are you good at what you do? Are you an expert in your field, or even pretty damn good at it? This is important as the business world can be difficult and you must truly believe in yourself if you’re going to ask others to do the same.