Hey all! This week I interviewed a fabulous photographer, entrepreneur, and creative educator, Emily Tebbetts! Emily is the owner of a wedding and self-love photography business. She is passionate about helping individuals work on unconditionally loving themselves as they are, and uses her photography skills to showcase that! Her wedding photography is absolutely dreamy, and her clients are obsessed with her! Let’s be honest, I’m obsessed with her too!
I asked Emily a few questions about how she got into the photography industry and how she made her photography business her own. Read below about her experience with the legal side of her business too:
What made you start your own business?
Emily: I was always really into photography as a kid - my dad always was the family documentarian, and my mom was interested in photography too, so I think I picked it up from both of them! In high school, I discovered communities of other young photographers on DeviantArt and Flickr, and photography became a huge part of my life. I lived near NYC and found an up-and-coming clothing designer who hired me to photograph her line, and things continued on from there!
I went to college for Communications, and I continued to pursue photography passionately, but I never really expected to be able to make a living from it - I definitely had that starving artist trope stuck in my head!
But then, I won a nation-wide photography contest hosted by Sony and judged by a few professional photographers, like Nigel Barker, and I got to photograph Taylor Swift and star in a national Sony commercial with her!
It was an incredible experience, and after that, I decided that I needed to give my photography business a shot. I made a list of all the things I loved doing and was good at - both personally and photography wise - and weddings were a perfect fit! I threw myself into learning as much a I could and gaining experience, and it wasn’t long until I went full time with my wedding photography business!
Now, I’m a wedding and portrait photographer, but I educate aspiring photographers on the business side of things as well! I love teaching so much - the impact it has and the relationships it builds are incredible and humbling.
Have you ever hired an attorney to help you with your business, and if so, what did you need help with?
Emily: Yes! Several times. I hired an attorney right after starting my business to check and personalize a template contract I had purchased to use for weddings and portrait sessions. I also hired an attorney to help me decide whether to register my business as an LLC, and then again when I hired an employee and later an intern! Finally, I’ve used an attorney when I needed a business coaching contract drawn up, as well as a recent incident where I needed to send a cease and desist to a company that was using my image without permission.
What was one significant legal issue you ran into while building your business?
Emily: It wasn’t necessarily an issue (since I used an attorney from the start!), but definitely transitioning my business from a Sole Proprietorship to an LLC and hiring my first employee. I had NO idea how to do any of it legally or properly. I can’t imagine trying to navigate that without an attorney! There are so many little things to know and consider. My mind’s already so busy keeping track of everything going on within my business - I just didn’t have time or headspace to try to tackle that on my own.
What is one piece of advice you would give other entrepreneurs reading this when it comes to starting your own business and thinking about ensuring you are following the law?
Emily: Nothing can turn your life into a nightmare faster than an unforeseen legal issue. One of the most important things you can learn to do as a business owner is outsource the things you aren’t an expert in, the things you aren’t passionate about, and the things that other people can do 90% as well as you can. Hiring and building a relationship with an attorney you trust who knows the ins-and-outs of your area of business well is something that will pay off significantly in the end. That peace of mind and knowledge that you and your business are protected is priceless!
What has been the most rewarding part of starting a business for you?
Emily: I love the challenge and freedom of getting to build my life and my business in a way that suits me! And for me, a major part of that has been getting to provide services that matter deeply to my clients - that’s something I value and cherish. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
What has been the scariest part of starting a business?
Emily: The scariest part of starting a business for me was the unknown. I like to be in control and have a sense of stability, so giving up a stable 9-5 job to start a business felt like a big risk. I thought constantly about things like “what happens if someone steals my gear? What if my house burns down and my computer goes with it? What if someone decides they want their money back even though I did everything right? What if not enough people book me and I fail?”
All those things are legitimate fears, but fortunately, there are ways to mitigate all of them - getting insurance, having an off-site backup, having a solid contract, having an emergency fund, etc. I think feeling like I prepared as best as I could helped me really take the leap back then!
THE LEGAL PAIGE TAKEAWAYS
Emily is the absolute sweetest gal. She totally has a heart of gold and is spreading her passion for body positivity all over the internet. After reading through her answers here, here are my biggest legal takeaways.
- IF YOU’RE NOT AN EXPERT, FIND ONE!
- Emily made it clear that even entrepreneurs can’t wear every hat in their business. While we think we can conquer it all, legal issues just aren’t something to wrestle with. Hire someone early on to get your business set up the right way!
- YOU CAN REACH OUT TO MULTIPLE ATTORNEYS AND FIND THE ONE YOU’RE MOST COMFORTABLE WITH
- Emily needed legal help at different stages of her business. This happens all the time for small business owners. Feel free to check out various lawyers to figure out who can best serve you and your business needs. Once you find a good one, stick with that attorney because it is better when they have background knowledge on your biz before drafting legal documents for you.
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS RISKY, BUT YOU CAN MITIGATE THE RISKS
- Emily said it best that you will have legitimate fears as an entrepreneur, but that there are always ways to mitigate them and diminish the likelihood of something bad happening. Have a solid contract, protect your assets, and get insurance!
Thank you so much Emily for joining us on the blog! I know your story will help others in their entrepreneur paths.