As a photographer, I have met some pretty badass photographer babes who are rockin’ their business. Jessica Rieke of J. Lee Photos stands out from the crowd—she has built a successful business and done it with an infectiously positive attitude. For #CallMeBossy, she tells us about the importance of confidence, building your business at a healthy pace and the enjoyment she gets by building up others.
“Understand your worth and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in photography. What led you down the path from advertising/marketing to photography?
I picked up a camera for the first time when I was teaching English in South Korea. I was so inspired by all the adventures I was on while living and traveling abroad, as well as all the incredible people I met. I started my photography business with humble beginnings in 2010, and it was only on the side. I always had a big dream of pursuing it full time, but wanted to take the time to hone my craft and have experience working in business, as I knew it would only benefit me later should I have a true desire to run a photography business full time. Fast forward to 2015 and at that point, I had a corporate/marketing agency career background for years at that point. I came to a crossroads where I was burnt out and working SO hard and SO much, but it was for someone else. At that point, with eight years of professional business experience, I really thought I would be able to launch something on my own and really see it take off.
What was the biggest obstacle to starting your business?
Hands down, it was being in a new city, without much of a network. We had moved to Los Angeles in February 2014, and the idea of starting a legitimate photography business out here meant that I needed to find community. It was my top priority, even more so than booking business.
What was and is the most exciting part of starting a business and being a business owner?
I love being able to make it what I want it. I’m able to put in a ton of hard work and get to see the fruit of that labor. I love the flexibility of it and the ability to build people up around me. I’m really discovering more and more that my previous professional experience is truly helpful for others in this industry, and so I love the ability to lead, coach and mentor others around me.
What do you see in the future for your business, and how will you get there?
I see my business growing at a healthy pace. I never have a desire for my business to be a huge bustling business with several employees working under me, but I do have a desire to be a leader in the space as it pertains to the business of running your business, mentoring people who are interested in tapping into this industry, all the while still shooting beautiful weddings and working alongside wonderful couples who are choosing to commit to each other. I would say another facet my business will continue to grow in is the editorial side, and I’d like that to be more of a shared focus, alongside the weddings I’m shooting.
What the best piece of advice for women who are interested in starting a business?
Understand how you are at a disadvantage and how to make up for that. I see a lot of women who are so-called passionate about female equality, but they do nothing to improve themselves to be respectable. They play into the role others have defined for them, and it shows. I spoke with someone recently who is a high-level executive in the medical industry and he interviewed two highly qualified candidates; one male and one female. He said that the female didn’t even TRY to negotiate her salary when the position was offered to her. The male, on the other hand, played it well and was able to see more than $50K salary increase. So the short of that is: Know how to negotiate based on knowing your worth, communicate well, seek further education (I don’t just mean college, I mean… be well read! Take some opportunities to go and expand your horizons, meet with awesome female mentors and learn from them, etc.) and maintain the utmost level of confidence. Confidence goes a long way, especially when you speak up for yourself. Understand your worth and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.