1. Can you please tell us more about your business?
I own and run a lifestyle photography business called ‘Kate Rankin Photography’. I specialize in shooting families, babies, weddings and newborns.
Recently, I built a photographic studio to support my brand new, studio-based newborn business, called ‘Slumberlings’.
These two brands allow me to shoot both outdoors, using natural light, and indoors, using props and accessories. In a nutshell, I capture memories and moments using natural light and real people.
2. When, how and why did you start your business?
My very first photoshoot took place on 29 August, 2016. So in terms of business age, I am still in my infancy – however – in the last (almost) three years I have been fortunate enough to photograph thousands of amazing people across the country.
3. What is your role in the business?
Owner. Creator. Inventor. Photographer. Editor. Set designer. Stylist. Accountant. You name it! Being a creative, it may surprise some people that I have a very A-type personality and therefore live by the belief that if you want something done right, do it yourself. This obviously needs to change soon as the busier I become, the more I need to learn to let go and hire reliable and diligent team members to assist with the day to day operational side of things. I am looking at bringing more resources on board to assist with the day to day running of the company as well as to give myself a bit more time with my own family.
4. Where did you study and what did you study?
After matric, I studied a one year diploma in TV and radio presenting and journalism – absolutely nothing to do with photography! I did, however, work in radio for several years, then moved on to the corporate world and then started on the photography. I am self taught in both photography and editing and believe that you don’t necessarily need a formal education for everything in life – if you have a passion and a desire to learn, you can master most crafts.
5. How did you finance your business?
The bank of dad! My banks interests rates were exceptionally high, and the world of business finance was quite an overwhelming and difficult thing to navigate, so I worked out a finance deal with my father at a competitive interest rate. Despite what many think, being a photographer is an expensive gig, so the monthly repayments on gear and equiptment, as well as paying back a business loan and building costs can take its toll. I now finance new camera equiptment with my profits and save up for the really big ticket items.
6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.
I wake up between 5 and 6 and refuse to do anything until I’ve had a quick cup of coffee in bed. Kids and school runs aside (my husband and I toggle with military precision) I am either at a sunrise shoot or in the office by 7 am. Depending on what shoot, and how many shoots I have in a day, I also book out time to edit images, answer queries, send invoices and catch up on admin.
The days are long, but busy, and I spent a lot of time in front of the computer at night editing images or ordering prints, while the whole family sleeps. I work 7 days a week but am trying to limit weekend work to twice a month, to allow myself to spend time with my kids and friends. No day is the same so some days are spent in the office on admin whilst others are spent out on the field on shoots. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits routine!
7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?
This is something I have been battling with ever since I started my business. For the first two years I took on every single job, regardless of date or time and I experienced massive burnout. I was working a corporate job at the same time so I was basically never with my family and always working. I remember shooting a wedding when my second child was 27 days old, and I kept having to run to the car to express milk. It was chaos!
At the beginning of this year I made a call to outsource some nighttime work and also keep one weekend free, a month, for family time. Another big difference has been building my own studio and office which means I am now forced to lock up for the day, whereas before, working from inside the house, I had zero boundaries and would find myself at my computer at 3 am responding to emails or editing galleries albums. I am also non-negotiable about not working over important family birthdays or big holidays, such as Christmas.
8. What drives you and inspires you?
My absolute love of photographs. Nothing excites me more than getting home from a shoot, exporting my images and editing that one ‘wow’ sneak peek. I take my work very seriously and I like to think that it shows on my images. I am also driven by success, learning and the need to make enough money for good wine and school fees 😉 I believe you’re never too old or good to learn so I spend my free time browsing the work of other local and International photographers to learn from their styles. I also enjoy enrolling on short courses to learn new techniques and editing skills.
9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
2 am insomnia. My brain runs overtime in the wee hours and sadly, this is when inspiration hits. I’m also inspired by people and places around me – shadows, light, buildings, giggling babies. Where other people see things, I envision a photograph. I remember running a 10k road race with a friend, a year back, and I stopped dead in the middle of the event, pointed at a building and said ‘imagine shooting up there! I clearly can’t ever stop thinking about ‘that perfect photo’.
10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?
I am a firm believer in building a reputable brand, and I like to form strong relationships with my client. Going that extra mile (hopefully) ensures strong word of mouth which brings in great business. I also do a lot of social media marketing and try and keep my brand visible on the major social media platforms.
11. What is next for your business?
I’d love to grow into a little team so I can free up some more time for bigger and better ideas. I often have to turn away work due to capacity issues, so am always on the lookout for secondary shooters to shoot on my behalf. I run and manage a few companies social media profiles as a side gig, and would like to start growing this up as well as I believe my content and ideas, supported by beautiful imagery, is a fantastic additional for any business.
12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?
Have a vision, research the market and find your niche. As a ‘subtle’ feminist I have had my fair share of mansplainers and patriarchal encounters, and at times it has been tough to prove myself in a predominately male based industry. My advice is to surround yourself with other strong, likeminded women in your field (despite what many believe, there is enough work to go around and these ladies will become wonderful mentors and associated) and to share ideas, inspirations and learnings.
It’s also wise to work out your cost of doing business and price yourself – not according to what you could afford – but according to what you are worth. I still battle with this myself. Lastly, if it confuses you, hire an expert. I am a terrible bookkeeper so I have hired someone to do that work for me – if it takes you too long to do something for your business, rather pay someone else to do it. You will waste less time and therefore make more money getting a professional to assist you.
For more information: https://katerankinphotography.co.za/