Running A Successful Boudoir Business with Matt Mathews
I’ve always been a person who followed my gut. My mom always told me, “Follow your gut feeling. Your heart will always lead you to hurt.” So, I did just that. In 2012, I dropped out of nursing school halfway through the program, because my gut told me I was meant to do more with my life. I was meant to inspire people, I was meant to do something more than wipe ass and give bed baths, so I decided it was time for me to make a change.
I left nursing school not sure where to begin next. I was starting my business as a wedding photographer at the time, and things were going well—I was making money, making my schedule, and not having to listen to a boss (I was always bad with authority). I wanted to do things on my terms, and not working in a germ-riddled hospital was also a plus. I remember walking out of school that day and thinking, “Wow, I’ve just ruined my life. I have no college education and no backup plan. What if this doesn’t work out?” I had two options: I could hustle my ass off and make this dream a reality, or I could fail and depend on other people for my livelihood. The latter was not an option.
Can you guess what I did? I worked my ass off to build an incredible and successful wedding business. I was published in some of the largest wedding magazines in the country, such as Southern Bride and many more. I had some pretty wonderful experiences as a wedding photographer, but something was still missing. I hated being just another check off a bride’s list. I hated working every weekend for someone who didn’t value my art or my time. I was meant for more than that. My art was more valuable than anyone was giving me credit for. So, I began shooting boudoir. My business as a boudoir photographer skyrocketed as I had never dreamed it could have. I began booking sessions months in advance, making way more money than I could have ever imagined making as a wedding photographer, and I was changing women’s lives. I was doing so much more than I could have in my previous line of shooting. For once in my life, I was happy!
About a year into my boudoir photography business, I was being asked to teach from all over, to host workshops, to speak at events, and so I went with it. I taught my first boudoir workshop in Atlanta, GA in 2015. Here we are almost five years later, and I’ve traveled across the country to speak, teach and inspire. But how did I get here? I’ll tell you one thing—it wasn’t easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I also listened to my momma (that’s the Southern way of saying mom) and I followed my gut. I listened to that gut feeling I had, and I made the dream a reality. Now, I don’t say that lightly . . . it takes a lot of work, determination and willpower to make something like this become a reality. but you can do it if you want it bad enough.
Have you ever wanted something so bad that you could taste it? Maybe you dreamed about it over and over. Maybe people have told you that you will never make it. I’m here to tell you to follow that dream, chase it, tackle it to the ground, and make it yours. Don’t ever allow someone or something to stand in the way of living your dream. You are more powerful than you ever thought you could be. Stop getting in your way.
Now, with that being said, I would like to give you my five tips to creating and running a successful business. Settle in and take notes.
1. Get organized
Have you ever been on the hunt for something and can’t find it? What about a deadline that you missed because you couldn’t keep up or stay on track? I always tell students and other entrepreneurs that organization is key to a healthy business. Start with keeping a calendar. Write everything in this calendar—every appointment, every shoot, every meeting. Write it all down so you can keep up with it.
2. Create goals
When doing anything in life, whether becoming a photographer, a lawyer, or a chef, creating goals is important. Start with a small, easily attainable goal, and go from there. Once you can reach that small goal, then you can build and reach for larger ones.
3. Surround yourself with like-minded people
The phrase “community over competition” is there for a reason. Don’t be that person who thinks everyone is copying them or stealing their ideas, because guess what? That just makes you look like a whiner. Surround yourself with like-minded people who want to see you succeed. Having a community of supportive people is crucial when it comes to starting or running your own business. It gets lonely. I remember when I started my business, I would talk to my other photography friends—we would FaceTime all day as we edited and talked about life. Why? Because we don’t have co-workers like other people, and having that relationship with others is so important in this business.
4. Learn and understand where your strengths and weaknesses are
Everyone has something they are great at, something that makes them an expert in their field, but no business owner is an expert at everything. There is always something to learn and grow in. The day you quit learning and quit attempting to better yourself is the day your business dies. While you may have to play a lot of different roles in your business, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Learn what you are great at and learn the things you can work on. Once you know that, you can then focus your attention there to better yourself.
5. Learn from your failures
I can say that I’ve learned more from failing than I have ever learned from winning. When you fail at something, it doesn’t mean that your dream is over. It only means that you learned what to fix on the next go around so that you don’t fail again. We never question our mistakes when we win. Why? Because we did it right, or at least we believe we did. However, when we fail, we question everything. Why did I fail? What caused me to fail? What steps did I take wrong? Take those questions and learn from them.
Remember that no dream is too big. If you believe it, you can achieve it. I know, how cliché is that? But I promise you that if a gay kid from the trailer park can make it to where I have, I know for a fact that you can too. Get out of your way. Allow yourself to dream, to live, to fail, to learn from those failures and to be a better person than you were yesterday.