Hi, I’m Chava and I’m delighted that Judith approached me to share some of my experiences as a self-employed woman in business today. I have loved reading many of the previous posts and would like to share my thoughts.
I moved to the UK from Germany over 16 years ago and have made my home in the beautiful Cotswolds. When I met my partner David whilst travelling around Britain, the planned six month trip turned into a long-term love affair with a great guy and this wonderful country.
Welcome, Chava! Do tell us a bit about your business
I trained as a commercial photographer in the UK and, after qualifying, I spent quite some time assisting other photographers, from photographing the latest Range Rover cars and room sets to landscape work with the wonderful Joe Cornish. I never thought about this before now, but I think his gentle, ‘decent-human-being’ approach has probably shaped me more than any other colleague I worked with over the years.
My own photography couldn’t be more niche. I have specialised in photographing exclusively vegan and vegetarian food. I consider myself extremely lucky to combine two of my greatest passions; delicious animal-free food and photography. Veganism isn’t just the way I eat, it has become a way of life for me. I truly believe that I can make a difference with my work by changing people’s perceptions every day. It’s become my passion to show off the indulgent, decadent and delicious meals we eat every day without harming the planet or our health and without the unnecessary cruelty behind the closed doors of factory farms and slaughterhouses.
Over the last 11 years I have slowly but surely built up a strong client base of vegetarian and vegan organisations, food manufacturers and magazines that I support with striking visuals. Earlier this year I photographed the Vegetarian Society’s largest annual campaign for ‘National Vegetarian Week’ which reached over 66 million people.
Mouth-watering food photography is such a powerful tool, and shared values are a brilliant starting point for a successful business relationship.
What tips would you share with other business owners which might short-cut their journey to happiness being their own boss?
My best bit of advice to anyone going into business in a niche market is to follow your heart and do something you really believe in. You won’t think of your job as ‘work’. I feel truly privileged to work with my clients and grateful that I am able to collaborate with them to help shape a better future. I have two young children and I’d like them to grow up as compassionate, responsible human beings.
My other tip is to keep your overheads as low as possible. That way you can choose which jobs you want to take on rather than being under pressure to take on any job that comes your way. I would resent photographing screw caps for the sake of covering a big studio rental bill.
What did you struggle with most in your start-up phase, if anything, and how did you resolve that?
Being very principled about my subject matter meant that I needed to support myself with a part-time job to pay the day-to-day bills. I will not use my skills to photograph a juicy steak for any amount of money.
What have you learned about yourself while working solo?
Work does not come to me by itself. I need to go out there and make it happen. My partner David had been self-employed for many years before me and I saw how enquiries just kept coming in as the result of years of hard work before I met him. I know this sound totally ridiculous but it took me about six months to realise that I needed to be pro-active.
Did you choose self-employment or did it choose you? Any regrets?
I am not a natural at being self-employed. I like the security of a part-time job. Some people have the never-ending optimism of ‘something will turn up’ but I’m afraid that’s not me.
My two young sons have been my top priority when it comes to my work-life balance since 2007. Realistically, this has meant years of night-time working after their bedtime. In September however, my younger son started school and now I am so ready to invest more energy and time again. I’m really excited to see what the next few years will bring and feel more confident and energised than I have in years.
What are you most excited about in your business right now that you can share with us?
In October I started writing a blog and now I feel completely hooked – it’s the perfect antidote to feeling isolated as a self-employed person. Already, I have made many amazing connections with people around the globe and I love sharing my experience and knowledge to make this world a happier, more compassionate and kinder place for us all.
How can we find out more about you and your work, Chava, and become your fans and followers?
For samples of my work including published articles etc., my website is FlavourPhotos.com
I’m on Facebook: Facebook.com/FlavourPhotos
And this is my blog: FlavourPhotos.Wordpress.com