Where It Began
I started The Headshot Studio in 2018. So much has happened in the world since then, that it seems like a decade has passed. I decided to wrap up my previous business which I ran for 7 years. I had always wanted to start a portrait photography business so decided to give it a shot. Portrait Photography is notoriously difficult to make a business out of. It’s a very niche sector, which unlike the USA, hasn’t been adopted by a big number of people here in the UK.
With LinkedIn turning from a laughing stock to a massive social media platform (the Microsoft acquisition helped!), I could feel the tide turning, people were taking their personal branding more seriously and felt the time was right. Most portrait photographers subsidise portrait photography with weddings, but having just left the wedding industry this wasn’t an option and I didn’t want to be a jack of all trades. I still vividly remember driving home from a family event with my wife, when we came up with the business name, The Headshot Studio. We checked the domain and it was free – I was ready to go.
When we moved into our house in 2014, there was a double garage at the other end of the garden that was crying out to be converted, so we did. Back then It was my Mancave but also a small working space to edit my wedding videos.
When I started The Headshot Studio, it would obviously be customer facing, so I reluctantly got rid of my 55inch TV and replaced that space with a clothes rail, and removed my 100’s of Blu Ray’s, replacing that wall with prints of my work – I made it look as professional as possible.
Like any business, the first year was tough. Clients trickled in, but being based out of my garage, my overheads were small – business is about playing the long game. Things picked up considerably in 2019 as my brand became more established and word of mouth and referrals got me work alongside my advertising campaigns. Enter 2020.
‘Some Virus from China…’
Momentum continued into the start of 2020. February was my best revenue month ever and things were looking good. Then we started seeing the news about some mysterious virus from China that had caused most of the country to shut down, and it was making its way across the world.
I remember the start of the pandemic well. I had finished a portrait session with Sandy Tang, who was the runner up in the Masterchef competition that year, the next day Lockdown had started. Cancelling all my bookings was heartbreaking. On the upside I got to spend a huge amount of time with my kids. I was able to reopen between lockdowns, but having to keep closing between future lockdowns was frustrating, but I followed the rules to keep people safe. The lockdown from Christmas 2020 to April 2021 was a real low point. Any momentum I had was gone – it was a long winter.
When I eventually reopened in April 2021 with some trepidation, I wasn’t prepared for how the trajectory of the business would change. Almost immediately the inquiries and bookings starting coming in. People were ready to get back out there, start doing business again and get their headshots done. I found a lot of people came out of the pandemic with a renewed sense of purpose, going for bigger jobs and promotions, some even starting their own businesses. I finished 2021 with a 6 figure revenue, remember that the first quarter was a washout due to the lockdown. Having started the year on such a low, finishing on this amazing high is the the kind of feeling only business owners can experience. Things went so well, that I decided to take the next big step.
Moving On / Moving In
I always knew that the garage setup for The Headshot Studio was temporary. It was fine, but greeting clients through my garden wasn’t very professional, and space was limited to the point where I couldn’t even put my lights where I wanted – both vertically and horizontally. I wanted my limits in my work to be my imagination, not how high my ceilings were.
My monthly revenue was at the point that I could start looking at potential studio spaces. I was looking for something very specific – open plan with high ceilings – and there wasn’t much out there.
We found a new office development in High Wycombe with a unit that was pretty much what were looking for and agreed to take it on. The space wasn’t finished, and updates from the frankly useless estate agents were sparse to say the least and after several months of waiting and broken promises, we decided to keep looking.
Then, in February 2021 a unit popped up online and we arranged a viewing the next day.
It was on a beautiful horse farm on the Berkshire/Hampshire border in the countryside.
As soon as we walked into the unit, we knew it was the one.
Large, spacious , with its own kitchen and potential changing room. It needed some TLC but our soon-to-be landlords were looking to renovate it anyway.
I asked for 24 hours to think about it but I’d made my mind up. I remember waking up in the middle of the night proclaiming to my wife – ‘LETS DO IT.’
Things moved quickly – within 3 weeks the renovations were pretty much done, contracts signed, deposits paid and Ikea rinsed.
To tell the truth, the experience was bitter sweet.
Sure, I was excited to be moving into this dream studio, but my anxieties and my imposter syndrome almost threatened to ruin the positive vibes.
Moving in cost almost £10k – what if I couldn’t make rent?
What if moving to a new area stopped clients coming to me?
It was all catastrophising and eventually the hard work of decking out the studio and it making it ours took over – I didn’t have time for negative thoughts.
After a slow first month and teething problems (trying to change my address on Google was a nightmare as was getting BT Broadband installed) July and August 2022 were two of my best revenue months since October 2021 (when I was still in the garage).
As I sit here writing this Blog, I look around the amazing studio and think about how far I’ve come in 4 years – the ups, the downs, the Ikea shopping.
Do I regret getting the studio? No. The first month here would have been a different answer, but moving back to my garage is not an option anymore, even if my monthly outgoings are much higher.
I’m shooting portraits that would have been impossible in the garage and seeing my clients’ faces when they step into The Headshot Studio, makes it all worthwhile.
Check out more of our work: www.theheadshotstudio.co.uk