242: Photographer Danielle Finney Uses Natural Light to Bring Out Natural Beauty With Every Click

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242: Photographer Danielle Finney Uses Natural Light to Bring Out Natural Beauty With Every Click

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If you take a look at Danielle Finney’s body of work, you’ll see two common themes: warm expressions and joyful faces. Her signature style as a natural light photographer has connected her to clients and taken her places she never could have imagined.

Danielle originally began her professional career on the administrative track with aspirations to be an executive assistant because she had a desire to help people. And one thing’s for sure, she never saw herself doing photography full-time, even though she had taken a liking to it over time. It was just a side hustle.

Initially, her work was experimental and friends and family-centric — reaching out to them, trying new things, and learning by trial and error. And even after about four years of developing her creative eye, gaining clientele and finding her photography style, Danielle still didn’t see what she was doing as a “profitable means of making a living.” 

That was, until life gave her a reason to put herself out there and believe in herself.

And the rest is history! Now, after 13 years in the photography arena, she helps women see themselves in their best light through beautiful, joy-filled photos. As well as, teaches other photographers how to improve their natural light portraits and enhance their client experiences.

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Danielle Finney (Instagram) – @dfinneyphoto

Danielle Finney (Twitter) – @dfinneyphoto

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Danielle Finney 0:03

If I own my own business, it's not to do things that I don't want to do. So I'm not going to do things that I don't want to do.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:12

You're listening to Side Hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion projects a profitable business. And I'm your host, Nicaila Matthews Okome. So let's get started. Hey, hey guys

Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:28

Welcome Welcome. Welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here and today in the guest share, we have Danielle Finney, the founder of D Finney photography. Danielle is a natural light photographer and instructor based in Washington DC specializing in warm and engaging lifestyle portraiture. In short, she helps women see themselves in their best light through beautiful joy filled photos. When you check out her website or Instagram at D funny photo, you will see what I mean when I say Danielle's photos make you glow. They bring out this soulfulness, and a vibrancy that I have never seen before. And Fun fact, Danielle is the photographer who took my headshots the one you see in my profile photos on Instagram and Facebook. And if I have it my way, she will shoot my photos for the rest of my life. With over 13 years of experience, Danielle also teaches photographers looking to improve their natural light portraits and enhance their client experiences. In today's episode, you'll hear how Danielle got her start, and was able to grow her photography business to a point where she could go from it being a side hustle to making it her full time business. I also really love what Danielle had to share in this episode about the brand guide that she creates to help her clients know what to expect from a photo session and how to make the most of it. I think it's so smart. In addition, I love what Danielle shared about the adjustments she's made over the years to make her business more mental health friendly. So let's get right into it. Thank you for being here. I love chatting with you know, it's like old friends, like people I know, for so much fun. So I want to know, it's also fun, because I feel like this is gonna be discovery time for me. I don't know everything about you. And I love to know more about your background. So how did you get your start in photography?

Danielle Finney 2:30

my start came about through graphic design. So I was interested in digital scrapbook layouts, and editing other people's pictures and just making all sorts of stuff on a computer, I would date I would make like event invitations, programs, bookmarks, that kind of thing. And so that was really where my initial interest was. And then over time, because of the photo editing piece, I would have like ideas in mind. But I wouldn't be able to find photos that fit those. And so I was like, Well, let me just take my own pictures. So Originally, it was very experimental, like the full I was only taking photos just so I could have something to edit. But then over time, I was like, Okay, I kind of like this. But maybe if I paid more attention to what I was doing, I wouldn't have to edit so.

So, you know, just this is this is years years have gone by to where my work is at the point where it is now. So that's the story in a nutshell. Okay, well, of course, we

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:35

got to dig into that a little bit more. I would love to know more about your initial career path. So it seems like you kind of fell into photography, what did you initially want to be when you grow up, so to speak.

Danielle Finney 3:48

It's so funny, because listen, in high school, one of my favorite classes was, um, I can't even remember what the name of it but I think it was called office technology, which at this point, it sounds really ancient to say that is a cleanse. But he did all sorts of you know, things that would be done in an office. And I always liked the idea of working in office for superficial reasons on on one hand, because I like dressing up. On the other. I like that. Okay, so let me let me back up a little bit admin work. But that's the short answer to the question of the original track that I saw myself on. I liked that with admin work, I was able to help different people throughout the course of the day throughout the course of the week. So it wasn't like one main thing that I would that I would do like go to work and kind of just have this routine, it will be different. And so I liked that. So I had a couple internships doing admin work at a few different companies. And then so when I actually started working full time, that's what I was doing office management, you know, just don't all sorts of things in that realm. And so I saw myself on The track to basically wanting to become an executive assistant because I mean, you know, those are the ones that make money. And so that's what I that's what I really saw for myself. But at the same time, I was getting into doing more with my photography. But it was never something that that I saw myself doing full time, it was just something that I did on the side. Isn't that how it always is right? And it's so interesting that you were drawn to admin work. It's kind of like admin. They are the people who help everyone who has to be the problem solvers.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:37

Let me say the back. Yeah, like they're the backbone, admin workers are the backbone, they have to help, they have to figure out how to, I remember I started in admin as well. And one thing I remember old boss, saying to me is like, I want you to be my right hand. And I remember that is when I knew that I was not cut out to be in my mind

Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:01

I want to go home and forget about you for the weekend.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:08

Now, as he was doing this, on the side, what did photography side hustle look like for you initially?

Danielle Finney 6:12

So it was very friend centric, if you will, like I would, you know, just reach out to friends that I had, you know, say, hey, I want to try x y&z you know, will you be my model, or just take family pictures and maternity pictures for friends of mine, I looked at probably flicker was big at this point. And that was kind of the the photo community before Instagram and things like that. And so I would look at a lot of other lifestyle photographers work. And really just, I would kind of want to emulate it. Like, I like how those pictures feel. I want to take something that feels like that, or that looks like that. And so I would just experiment with my friends and family. That was it. Like, very, I know, you didn't mention anything about pricing. But very early on. I was super, super duper cheap. I remember, like thinking that $75 for like, unlimited, everything was amazing. Meanwhile,

I can't even believe that I did that. But listen, that was many years ago. Yeah. So because it wasn't what I needed for income. I was just very, very free with it. Yeah.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:17

And that is such a key point that a lot of us do. You know, when we don't need it for income, we can be a little bit we already feel intimidated to price sometimes and to charge someone and then we're like, well, I don't need the money. And that kind of thinking can make us really, really underpriced ourselves. So I think that's why it's so important that when you start a side hustle, and you know, for sure you want to make this into a business, that you start thinking, Okay, you know, you start learning, what is the value of this? And we all know that value at the start. Is that the value?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:58

What are you doing to get better? Was it just a matter of as you took more photos, you start to be able to tell what was good and what wasn't good? Yeah, it was it was very experimental. So I'm a trial and error learner. But I do not want to discount my brother. So I actually my brother was into photography for way longer than I was way sooner than I was. I remember. Growing up, we had like a little makeshift studio in the basement. And he would be I would be his model if he needed to like test lights or just test like little setups and things he wanted to do. But I will say that at that point, I had no desire for photography, because he was doing film photography. And that never appealed to me. So because you have to know what you're doing with film photography, you can't just, you know, click and be like, okay, I'll fix it later. Like, you got to wait to get those pictures developed. And then it look like trash. So you got to know what you're doing. So he did help me out. I will say though, that because my style was very like experimental and trial and error that kind of got on his nerves because he knew what he was doing. And so he's like, you have to understand. So trial and error, I would read different things. Like if I had something specific that I wanted to learn how to do better, I would look that up specifically. So yeah, just I would definitely credit experimentation is that as the biggest way I've learned and what was the investment like at that point? Did you go for the really expensive equipment? Were you just fooling around with graphs that you found? Like, what was it losing that let me tell you so one positive or you know, one of many of my brother already being in photography, I was able to use his camera. Okay. I was able to use his digital camera that helped but even before I got to that point, I was just using like a regular point and shoot camera, not a DSLR and really this is an important point that I like to tell people that wonder like well what camera should I get and what camera Do you use like your camera does not matter if you do not develop? If you're creative, I know, using those just kind of like beginner digital cameras that I had that really helped me to develop my eye. so that by the time I did start to use the DSLR, and like experiment with different lenses, I knew a little bit more what I was doing. Because if you don't, you're gonna end up with a camera that has too many bells and whistles that think you know how to use. What do you mean by like, develop your eye? What does that really entail? So that really means I guess how you see things creatively? How like, so if you were to look at a scene to be able to break that down, and like, how would you shoot that? What is it in that scene that you're seeing? How do you see things through your unique creative eye, we don't all see things the same way. And so for you to be able to capture what it is that you see in your mind's eye.

Know how many years into it work you before you actually set up a system, you know, a website or whatever it may be to start to get clients that weren't just the homeys.

Danielle Finney 11:13

Um, I think I was probably about two to three years. And and I'm saying I think because I remember my first website vividly, but it was really just a portfolio site. Like, it was not one that I was using to book. I just wanted to, like, showcase my work. And then I realized, okay, well, that's kind of pointless, like, you know, to be able to book and get people that are interested. So I think at that point, it was probably maybe like, three years after I started like, shooting. So let me tell you why I'm hesitating. Because my the time I started shooting, and the time I started doing photography full time, that was probably about three or four years long. And so I did have a website during the time that I had it on the side. But once I started going full time, that's when I really, you know, the major switches had to happen. So as you started to take it more seriously as a side hustle, and start to take on more clients. What happened? What made you decide to start taking it more seriously, I started to enjoy it like, so, let me back up a minute. The main reason I always told people for why I never wanted to do this full time was because I thought I would not enjoy it any longer. Always would tell people you know, you know, I want to keep it where it is, if I have to do this for money, I'm not gonna gonna like it anymore. And once I realized, well, really I got laid off. Like, that's what, that's what made me it kind of pushed me into doing it full time, because I had to at that point, but once I actually started doing it, then I realized, okay, well, this isn't so bad. I can still like this and make money off of

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:13

it. That's a real concern, though, that people have sometimes it's like, well, we do something and there's no pressure to make money. There's no hassle of having to price yourself to sign on prices, or go through all this rigmarole. You know, there's this fear that if we turn it into something bad, it's gonna be a pain. But that's not necessarily true. I mean, in all things in life, you there are some downsides. And there's some some some pain and some, some, you know, administrative work with anything. So it's not necessarily a negative, but there are some shifts required, right, like so, once you were laid off and you had to ramp up the theme, what were some shifts that you made in your business to formalize it, and to get more serious? So I'm gonna back up just a hair like, okay, when I got laid off, there was not an immediate shift. For me, that happened because I told myself, I still was kind of thinking, Okay, well, I'll do this until I find something else full time. Because when I got laid off, that happened in 2009, and the recession was a thing. And so it was not easy for me to find something right away. But I did not think that this could be a profitable means of making a living. I was like, Okay, well, this this is good for now. But when I couldn't find anything, I think it may have been like, maybe like a little over a year or something but I was still you know, shooting more and you know, getting more experience and modifying, you know, farming up contracts and just just becoming more efficient in time with with more experience. Then I realized, okay, I can do this, this can work. And a little thing about me is that I get overwhelmed when there are a lot of pieces. And so I always feel like, Well, I have to have all my ducks in a row before I start. Mm hmm. But I never would have done it if I'm not perfect, you know. So, being laid off helped me to kind of be thrown in there, so to speak. And I figured it out along the way, I kind of operate very intuitively kind of, for better or for worse sometimes. But yeah, it helps me to not feel like I have to strive after some arbitrary goal that set by someone else. It's like, well, how does this feel? this feel? Okay? And then kind of go from there? Isn't that amazing? how life sometimes forces us to boss up like, right? You want to make income this month? All right, well, and let's go from there. You mentioned that you know, you're getting more clients, you are firming up your contracts and things like that. Do you know anything about marketing? How are you attracting your clients at this point? So social media has definitely played a big role in the beginning. I mean, it still plays a role now. But even more so in the beginning, because this is back when social media was newish, and organic reach was legit. Like, yes, you can literally, you know, you can see who you follow. It was not as convoluted as it is now. So people in other states started to know of me. And then I started to like, do a little bit of travel to these places where I had like clusters of interest. And that wouldn't have happened without social media. So, of course, you know, it's nice to have people elsewhere. But you know, you want to be able to make money at home too. So that was a big thing on social media. And also just word of mouth, like people were really happy with the pictures that they had taken. And so then they, you know, referred me to friends family. So yeah, that was that was the biggest way that I marketed myself. Perfect, perfect.

As you started to see that social media was becoming such a big part of your referrals and people becoming aware of you, did you do anything different, especially now that social media is, you know, it has changed, and it's not as organic? Are there any specific steps that you took just to make sure that you continue to, to get that brand awareness?

Danielle Finney 17:37

So this is really changed over time? Because the short answer now is No. But previously, I can say that I just tried to share as much as I could, like, I just tried to share as many photos as I could, I really used to share a lot on my blog as well. And that, that helps me I think, at one point, I was like, the top Google search result for DC lifestyle photographer because of my blogging. And so yeah, between blogging a lot and sharing, you know, tons of photos are you share like full sessions so that people could see like, what the whole experience would look like, and trying to share more like behind the scenes and things like that on Instagram, and Facebook, that really helps. It's changed over time, because I really don't have as much of a, me I have the social media presence, but I'm not as active there as I once was.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:34

And I'm glad that you brought up the blog, because that is absolutely something that's just awesome that you have done to make your brand stand out. I mean, it's just so beautiful. And you're right, you go there and I don't know anyone that can go to the funny photography. And not think, Oh my god, I want her to take my pictures. If you let me know, cuz I don't think it's possible. So when did you At what point did you decide to start the blog?

Danielle Finney 19:02

That was an earliest thing, actually, because I was really just copying off of what I saw other people doing, I was like, Oh, they have a blog. This looks nice. I want to do that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:12

And so let me tell you the there was no original rhyme or reason until I saw the results. I was purely just sharing because I knew that that's what got people to want to work with me once they see what I did. And I was able to share you know, client stories and just kind of share more behind what happened in not just the photos themselves. When I really didn't have the ability to do it in the same way on social media, you know, the formatting is different and you know, you can share the picture you need to share some captions, but it's just not the same. So, yeah, so that was how I started initially, and then I started to share more about just different topics that interested me. I you know, talked about my mental health. I talked about things that inspired me It was just good to have a place where I could go more in depth on things about me and my clients. It's smart because it lends itself to, you know, having that SEO and people finding you when they're searching for these keywords like DC lifestyle photographer, did you do anything? additional this beyond just logging. But you know, were you intentional about SEO or that just came with time of continually writing up and showcasing your different sessions? What's funny is initially it was not intentional. But I would see other photographers put after the title of their blog posts, they will put, I'm trying to think let's say Toronto family photographer or Louisiana engagement photographer, they will put that category like after, and I just started doing it because I was like, Okay, yeah, that's interesting. I didn't know that. I did not know. And so over time, I realized, oh, duh, that's what like, Listen, I'm telling you, when I tell you that this was a very feely thing. Like, that's exactly what it was. It was. It was not a lot of initial research that went into things. I just knew that I wanted my work to be good. Like, that was the basis for everything. Hey, guys, it's Michaela here with a quick word from our sponsors. If you own a small business, this could also be the year you switch to a better payroll. gusto wasn't just built for small businesses, it was built for the people behind them. Their online payroll is so easy to use gussto can automatically calculate paychecks and file all your payroll taxes, which means you have more time to run your business. Plus gussto does way more than payroll gussto helps with time tracking health insurance 401 K's onboarding, commuter benefits offer letters access to HR experts, you get the idea. It's super easy to set up and get started. And if you're moving from another provider, they can transfer all of your data for you. It's no surprise that 94% of customers are likely to recommend gusto. here's the best part. Because you are a side hustle pro listener, you get three months totally free. All you have to do is go to costco.com slash s h p. Again, that's gussto.com slash s hp. I'm telling you, you're gonna love gussto Get started today. Many thanks to Skillshare for sponsoring this episode. No matter what 2021 brings, you can spend it creating something meaningful with Skillshare online classes. Because time is what we make of it. Skillshare is an online learning community that offers membership with meaning. With so much to explore real projects to create and to support a fellow creatives Skillshare empowers you to accomplish real growth. You can explore classes on marketing, freelance and entrepreneurship, graphic design, and so much more. I just checked out this really cool class called creativity unleashed, discover home and share your voice online. It was right on time and what I needed because it guides you through how to determine your individual value as a creator, how to overcome those insecurities that hold us back from creating content, and how to establish your core theme and more. It was also important as I grow as a content creator with Skillshare, you can find inspiration as well and learn how to express your creativity. Explore your creativity@skillshare.com slash hustle, I get a free trial of premium membership. Again, side hustle pro listeners head over to skillshare.com slash hustle to get a free trial of premium membership.

You have a signature style Danielle, you call yourself a natural light photographer. And your pictures make people it's almost like you can see their soul glow through their pictures like it is it just brings people to light in the best light ever. When did you start to develop that signature style? When did you realize that that was needed?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:20

um, I feel like I started to develop that light shortly after I decided to do this full time because my early work was was I feel like it was definitely darker than it is now. It was definitely influenced by just other people's work. Because let's face it, like in the beginning, I feel like a lot of creatives, we just look at others and we copy them.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:47

Enough Yeah, we think that that's the way like, we're trained to like go to courses, go to school, learn and do steps that we've learned. So it's not even like a bad thing. Like people are like trying to copy but that's what we're doing. It means to do exactly those steps.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:02

Yeah. So like until you are able to kind of get that confidence. So I was able to get that confidence to consistently see, like, I would see pictures that I took. And I was consistently being drawn to just warm expressions, joyful, you know, joyful faces. I did try to do like these, like serious mottley kind of editorial looks. And they were cool, the pictures look nice, but they were just cold, and they didn't do anything for me. And so I realized that, well, this, this isn't only for me, and I don't, I don't want to just do work for the sake of doing work. Like I want to do things that that I enjoy. And so I was able to key in on that. And then just see, well, how can I consistently get this from every person that I'm shooting. And just over time, I've been able to, really the the biggest thing is just making making my clients comfortable. Like, I have to make them comfortable for them to be able to relax. And for me to be able to get those warm and genuine and joyful expressions. And in terms of like, the lighting, that definitely came over time just was a learned skill, something that I would key in on different pictures. And I would kind of a similar thing to the similar thing to the expressions themselves. I was seeing this kind of light, and I'm like, I like that. That was an accident. How do I do that on purpose? I tell you practice trial and error. And so but it was because I was able to see it in my mind's eye. I knew it when I saw it for you. Yeah, and you definitely do a great job of making people feel comfortable. And you know, nowadays, in today's world, like everything is so filtered. It's almost like, even even your camera you can't even trust that your camera's taking an accurate photo of you like, Is that me? like is that really looks today? Or you know, is that just how the manufacturers made me look? So I think it's so refreshing to know that you're going to show someone in their in the best light and also their organic light in terms of like that is their skin color. It's not so put on me. I'm like, Wait a second. Color. Gray.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 27:19

Why Why am I so chiseled? Oh, so yeah, it's important now that you're doing this natural lifetime feed? Do you find that people come to you for that reason? Absolutely. Absolutely. Like, I don't know, that I ever kept count. But I definitely have there have been multiple people that have said that they want to work with me because of how well I like black skin, how great our brown skin looks, you know, just you make us glow. You everybody looks so happy. And that is an honor like linebreak fabric. That is truly my goal. And it's an honor when people when people can see that and appreciate it. And what phase did you say to yourself, like, I'm not going to look for a job anymore. I feel like it was probably maybe around like the two year mark after I got laid off. That's when I was like, Yeah, no, this is it. I was like we're gonna make this work. I know, my early years, I did not bring in a lot. But I knew that that was what I wanted to do. Like I, I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. And even though it was challenging, I knew that I would improve if I kept at it. And I didn't. Were you ever, you know, you mentioned that in the early years, you didn't make a lot. Were you ever concerned about that part, though. Like, I'm one person, I don't know if I can extend myself to enough people to make what I used to make, or I don't know if I can charge what I really want to charge like, talk us through some of the wrestling you had to do on the money side to figure out like, what will make me happy, what will make sense and also make me happy in order to not have to go back to my job. I will tell you that I had a major help. And my parents. I was not I didn't have my own place. And so I did not have that concern initially, oh, I'm not going to make rent this month. I'm not going to eat like I didn't have those concerns, because I wouldn't be taken care of. And not that I was most that was the word freeloader by any means, you know, definitely contributing is you know, helping to for the household to run smoothly. But I do that's a blessing. Like I'm very grateful that I had that. And so those early years where I wasn't making money, I think my first year I probably made about 13,000 my first year and I don't think that it was a full year because I had I had gotten laid off but either way wow low and and I realized like okay, well That was a bus, but I don't think I'm gonna like I already had moved past those super low numbers that I was charging. And even though the anxiety that I had about raising my prices, I knew that my work was good and continually getting better. So the early price increases were smallish. But definitely impactful. Because, you know, going from, let's say, 75 to, I don't know, 250. That's a decent jump. So early on, I was the apprehension was there. Over time, as I became more confident, not only in my craft, but as a business owner, I had to get over that, like, it's something that I used to I don't I don't do this anymore, because I don't really do business mentoring any longer. But when I would talk to my mentees to kind of walk them through their anxieties about raising their prices. Because it's a it's a real thing. And it's like, you never know how much you're holding yourself back until you raise your prices. And then you'll be surprised Oh, my gosh, people are paying this much to work with me. Yes. And they would have paid you that sooner had you? Right. Right. It's, I feel like it's just a work in progress, especially with us, as black women, because we

Danielle Finney 31:18

are notoriously underpaid. And just just all of the anxious thoughts and things that come along with that. So yeah, it's a work in progress.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:32

And speaking of guides, you do something that I find very unique as well, in that you provide this awesome brand guide that we create for your clients to understand just how to have the best photoshoot possible. Can you tell us more about the purpose of the guide? And why you decided to create it? Absolutely. Listen, I have been a guide making somebody for years. I have created wardrobe guides, I've created a guide, or guides for guys that be in the reason why is because I believe strongly in an educated consumer. So if you know more about what you're getting into, that can help you make the decision I may not be for you. And that's completely okay. But I need you to know what my process is like. So with the brand guide that you're referring to, that is definitely a labor of love, like I just updated it, because I think I first created it maybe about two or three years ago, okay. And the original purpose for that was to literally to showcase potential clients, what this process is going to look like, because it's not just you showing up and we snapping, if there is some planning involved, and I want you to be surprised about it, I want you to know. So So this helps you kind of walk through the process. And it also, it's not just for working with me, anybody can download that and really just kind of see Well, what should go into a successful session, regardless of the photographer. So even if your potential photographer does not have this process for you to walk through, you walk yourself through the steps, and the pictures will reflect that.

I found it really helpful because on the you know, end of the person who's behind the camera, or in front of the camera, I should say it is nerve racking, it's like you don't know how to pose, you got to figure out what to wear. Because you're like paying for the session, you want to make the most of it. But then it's like, oh, no, the whole thing. And so it's just really helpful to read through, okay, and to see and start to get these creative prompts of Oh, okay, this, this could work that could work. Here's what it's gonna look like, here's what I can expect and also come with my own questions like, Hey, I kind of you know, I'm envisioning myself in front of a colorful door, right? Like, what do you think about that idea like that, you know, to be able to, to thought partner like that with your photographer. That is just collaboration is key.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:04

Yes. And so yeah, I think a lot of times people come into it blind and that's why you see photos, where people are looking really stiff. really awkward. Yes. And I feel for you photographers, like how do you how do you combat that? That what a great question. Okay, let me tell you I for the most part and very, very, very fortunate that my clients allow themselves and I'm putting emphasis on allow they allow themselves to relax. I am in the process, but nothing will happen if you do not allow yourself to relax. So I have had a few clients where it's very difficult and really they just don't relax and so for me because I have a specific look in mind that I want for the photos and that you want which is why you book me you want to look joyful. So there are I have to guide Do I have to, you know, direct you and I don't, I'm not a super Posey photographer. And so, to help you to look natural, if you have not allowed yourself to relax, that takes, that puts a lot more work on me, because I now need to direct you into ways that look relaxed, even though you're not. So I don't know what other photographers do. But on my end, like, the biggest thing that is helpful to a successful session is allowing yourself to relax, like you got to trust your photographer. And it's sometimes in the process too, because we're having this dialogue right now speaking, you know specifically about working with you. And because we're having this conversation, and we're at ease, we trust each other, we're, you know, natural around each other. And this is me and you who, you know, like, this is like, first shoot, right? We didn't know each other for some long time. We weren't longtime friends that go back to college or anything like that. But this is just on just human connection level and you just being good at what you do. Even still, sometimes you're like, Oh, no, Danielle's telling me, okay? doesn't really look good, because I can't see it, right? But then you see it and you're like, oh, my goodness, how did you know to put me in that position. And I'm not putting me because you know, you hear I have to

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:18

get comfortable, you won't kick the snap until I get comfortable. But you saw it, you saw it in advance. And so I think that is just so incredible. And if I could I would carry you around for take all our pictures. But you know. So now let's talk about how you set your boundaries, because that's something I really, really respect about you. And I know that you over the years, you've had to make adjustments to your business to make it more mental health friendly. So can you talk a little bit about the adjustments that you've made and, and things you've had to unlearn to really make your business? mental health friendly? Sure. And yeah, I'm actually glad that you use that term, unlearn. Like, the biggest adjustment for me is realizing that I don't have to do what other people are doing. Like, and it's such a simple thing to say. But especially with how social media is now it's easy to get caught up in seeing what other people are doing and being like, Okay, well, well, that seems to work for them, well, maybe I should be giving that a try or you know, things like that. So, one of the biggest things for me, a few years ago, I think it was 2016. I was just really going through it. And so I went and I got checked out and I was diagnosed with bipolar two. Now over the years, I have been seeing a therapist and she kind of questions that diagnosis, which I'm okay with, like it is what it is you you got to you know, manage yourself regardless of what the label is. But having that experience taught me that I really need to take my mental health more seriously. And so in doing that, it helps me to kind of block out the noise, if you will, like there are I go for long stretches where I am not on social, or where I just say, okay, hey, I'm not going to be looking or doing anything for these months. And it's a, it's a thing that I realized I had to do, because exhaustion is a major trigger point for me, like I kind of shut down almost, and I you know, I still have to provide for my clients. And so I realized that I don't do my best for them, if I'm exhausted and feeling not great in the head. So to help them, I have to help myself. And so that's the that's the biggest thing for me is just being aware of the things that make me feel bad and not doing them. That it sounds so simple, but it's so key, and I am in that process myself. I'm learning that and I that's why I respect that so much about you. Because when you have a business that requires you to be on social media, okay, maybe not required, but it helps you helpful, right? It may be how do you? How do you balance that then I have made the switch to knowing a lot more via email. So I have a robust email list. And especially since I switched to the waitlist format for booking, I don't really have to promote myself on the gram or any other social platform to get bookings. And I am very grateful that the people that have or the people that I already have following me have made the switch obviously, you know, not everybody has come over and I'm completely fine with that. But enough have come over that have said hey, I want to work with you. And I'm going to follow the channel by which you're doing this now. That's my biggest change. That has happened. I really kind of use social media as an accessory. At this point, I do want to get back into, you know, using it more intentionally, but I really don't have the mental energy for it right now. So it will happen when it happens. You hear that? And can you also speak to? You kind of hinted at it a couple times, but um, you only offer the services that you enjoy providing. And if I can attest to this, I can I can go back to saying, hey, I want to, you know, have Danielle do all my family events from here on out. And I'm like, I've reached out to you and said, Hey, do you do events to baby showers? And you're like,

some people, you know, would be like, would make exceptions. And I'm not saying for me, I you know, I've got like, exceptions, but like, it's some people would compromise what they like to do, based on who's asking, but you don't do that. So were you always like this? Or was it something that you realize you had to do to protect your mental health? Yeah, it's a it's a combination, actually. Because I realized early ish, and when I say earliest, not early in my shooting career, but like, early in my businesses career, like, early in the day, if any, wants to beef, any photography was established. I had done a lot of experimentation, let's say like I did events I did. newborns, I did just about everything that I can kind of think of, in an experimental phase, because I was trying to figure out what I liked doing. And at that time, I was still making exceptions, like you mentioned, doing things for people that I you know, that I love that I that I care about that I appreciate.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:36

And realizing that No, I didn't like how this felt. So I think I mentioned before that I operate very intuitively. And I that was one of the ways that I started making that decision. Like, if I own my own business, it's not to do things that I don't want to do. So I'm not going to do things that I don't want to do. Can we have that on the loop? I think I'm gonna use that for a guided meditation. Yeah, you know, that's, that's what I tell people, right? If I'm speaking to them about their, their business, and they worry about like, well, should I offer this and should offer that and like, do you like doing it? If you don't, then don't even consider it.

sounds so simple, you guys, I'm telling you the mental gymnastics, it does not feel so simple when you're going through it. But when you own your own business, all of a sudden, you're faced with what you think you're supposed to do, you're faced with what you see other people doing, then you're faced with what you enjoy doing. And you have to make the decision of what's smart amongst all of that, because like, maybe

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:48

you have to do a little bit of what you don't like to do at first, right? Before you get to a comfortable spot where you can see some more things. But you have to determine at what stages you can do that until you can finally just say, Hey, I didn't start my own business. So that I could, you know, do a bunch of stuff like that is that defeats the purpose. So before we get into the lightning round, I'd love to know, what are some things that you're working on? What do you have in mind for the future of defini photography?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:24

right now my education services are on hold. I have a lot of people that asked like, Oh, you know, are you what are you going to be open up your mentoring again, or things like that, like, my education is on hold, because I'm right now in the process of like, reworking how these are going to be offered. I have a really a lot of really cool ideas. But I'm trying to think about kind of throwing back to your question earlier about what works best for my for my mental health. A lot of what I was doing previously with my education, it was very much beneficial for the people that I was teaching, but not so much for me like it took a lot out of me. So I'm trying to figure out, what's the best way to move forward in a way that works for me. And how I see Dave any photography kind of moving forward. Like I am not someone who wants to switch over to the education space and not work with clients anymore.

Danielle Finney 44:17

I love taking pictures I love seeing people's, you know, faces light up when they when they see themselves in that beautiful light and they're like, Oh my gosh, you know this, this is me. I love that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:29

I want to continue doing that. But I know that with just being me. I don't have a goal of working with hundreds of people every year like I am going to be like putting a cap on my services, which I kind of already haven't really with the waitlist. There's a limited number of spots that I opened up every couple months. Yeah. So I just feel like I'm getting to a place where I just want to be comfortable and coasts if you will. And I do want to do teaching on the side but not like as a you know, making a switch over to an educator. And just done a few sessions. Yeah, cuz teaching can be all consuming. At the same time as an entrepreneur as someone who is responsible for every dollar that comes in, you know, eat what you kill, how do you balance that? waitlist, that limited slots and availability with like, there's obviously unlimited income with limited slots, and one person. So how do you continue to grow your business? So I just actually made my biggest price jump at the start of this year, I think. And I feel like it was it was overdue. But the buisiness that I had last year really solidified that for me, I was like, Oh, I never wanted to because many people again, this is my cap, I've hit it. On 2020 you're talking about pandemic during a pandemic, where, with the pandemic stress on top of that, so yeah, I,

Danielle Finney 45:53

I realized that I pretty much hit my cap in terms of the number of people that I would never want to work with, again. Not in terms of I never want to work with them again.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:04

But you know, right. Right, when you stretch yourself, yeah, yeah, I did. And so now with me kind of mentally having knowing what is too much, it's just gonna have to be modified by my own rate increases. And so as my skill increases, and you know, my time is limited, I do seem and really, I feel like the loose goal that I've always had for deepening photography was to be a little bit more like a boutique kind of service, where, you know, I just, I just work with few people at a higher price point, I'm see it as more of an exclusive thing to work with me. Even saying that, which is funny, because this is not a small platform by any means.

Danielle Finney 46:52

Shout out to your listeners. Right, wrong, right.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:55

But I but I appreciate that. Because, you know, you think about the big name brands that only have a limited number of a certain item available. And if you want it, you get it, you know, you put the money aside, and you get it. And so that's kind of how I think about it. And it's funny, I used to tell people, like if they were asking, like if I had sales, and I would you know, no, I don't have sales sale. Does Apple have sale photography services? They tried it. I mean, listen, we know, it goes back to that thing to of what you were saying about not looking at what other people are doing. Because you know, the value of your services, you know, what you provide the level of care that you provide for your customers, and, you know, in your heart and also business wise, that value of that. And I hope this inspires other people as well to you know, go go through the phases that you need to in your business, like you don't have to go from zero to 100. You know, pricing like, as you're starting out at exit level, however, know that you won't always have to do a million sessions in one year, right? Unless you want to, unless you want to Yeah, make that decision, you'll know what's right, you'll know what feels right. And that's it. There's one thing I want you to take away from talking to Danielle, today, it's that thing of feeling I'm with you on that, like, at the end of the day, when it comes down to any decision. There's evaluating data and all that good stuff. But when it comes down to it, it's our gut. It's our gut and how we feel that makes that final call. So now let's jump into the lightning round, you're just gonna answer the very first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready? I'm ready. All right. Number one, what is a resource that has helped you in your business that you have to share with a side hustle pro audience? So it's actually not a resource, per se? It's a it's a book. I really enjoyed reading, Marie Forleo everything is figure out a whole book. I've been meaning to read that. Okay. Number two, who is an entrepreneur that you admire and why? I have a lot but you know, the one who does come to mind most immediately, I really do admire Angel. And I know that she's been on here before angel of the spice we Yes.

Danielle Finney 49:22

admire her because she too, has a very intuitive way of operating, you know, not too much. What's the word I want to say? Like,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:32

concern for her? And yeah, exactly. People are like, oh, Angel, we want this. She's like, all right, but I don't do that. Exactly. Exactly. And it makes such a difference. You know, if it's your business, you want to do things that work for you. So yes, I appreciate that. If you're not happy that's going to bleed out into your business and you don't want to be snappy and unhappy. Customers, right. So yeah. Number three, what is a non negotiable part? Have your daily routine, a non negotiable part of my routine now is moving my body. And it's and I say it that way because it's not necessarily exercise. Like it's not specific. It's just I need to move, whether that's stretching, doing some sort of, you know, walking or whatever it is, the pandemic is definitely affected. I feel like it's affected all of us in various ways, physically. But I just don't like how I didn't like how I was beginning to feel, you know, just just kind of stiff, and you know, so so that's a non negotiable for me. And number four, what is a personal habit or trait about yourself that, you know, significantly helped you when you were side hustling? I'm very observant. So I feel like that's, that's a that's a big thing. And that applies in so many different in so many different ways. I think I mentioned previously about how I will kind of look at what other people did and or look at my own work and figure out what was it about it that I liked? And what did I want to do more of? So that's it kind of on the creative side. But then on the business side, same thing, like if I saw things that people were doing that looked like it may work for me, then I will kind of go more into that and research a little bit more, give it a try things like that, but wouldn't see it if you weren't observant. So with that, number five, what is your parting advice for fellow black women entrepreneurs who want to be their own boss, but are worried about losing a steady paycheck? So I would say don't rush? Definitely still do the work? while it is still a side hustle? And not necessarily wait to? Okay, well, I can't do more on this until his full time like do the work. You know, put the effort in. But don't feel like you have to chase after the goal of entrepreneurship. If you don't know that that's your goal, because I feel like social media definitely has glamorized it tremendously. Oh, yeah. And it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work and a lot about people doing things that they don't know fully that they want to do just because they see others doing it. So take your time Don't rush your time.

And with that, where can people connect with you after this episode Danielle?

Danielle Finney 52:23

I am DFinneyphoto everywhere so my website is dfinneyphoto.co not com. And my blog is dfinneyblog.co everywhere else I am the dfinneyphoto. So that is dfinneyphoto on Instagram on Pinterest on Twitter. I believe it's dfinneyphoto on clubhouse as well even though I'm really not on the air, but

I have I have accounts on all of these places. But um, y'all can catch what's your catch when you catch.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:58

Well, thank you so so much, Danielle for being in the guest here. This was awesome. And you guys can catch all of the show notes for this episode over at side hustle pro.co slash episodes. And there you have it.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:15

Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that co slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business Tip of the Week. Again that side hustle pro.co slash newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon.

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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