Back to Business Week 2017: Hannah Mayo

Back to Business Week 2017: Hannah Mayo

Hi! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What was your road like to becoming a photographer?

Hi! I'm a South Florida girl with Maine roots. I got married young (19) to my best friend, and we like each other even more after nearly 10 years and 3 kids!

From a very early age I loved taking pictures and looking at them in magazines and books, but the art of photography captured my heart when I was a teenager, on my first overseas trip to Wales. From that point, I began shooting with a little film SLR and having my friend model for me. In college I took some digital photography and visual communication courses as part of my communication studies major, and decided to pursue a career in photography. I became a legal business and took my first paid client at age 20, and it's been quite a journey and adventure over the past nine years.  

When I'm not working, I'm reading with my kids or for myself, whipping up something delicious and healthy in the kitchen, trying to keep a garden alive, working on a watercolor painting, or seeking out a little peace and quiet (because I'm an INFP with 3 kids!). I have more interests than I can usually keep up with, and I'm quite certain that I've never been bored in my life.

Hannah Mayo Photography

Hannah Mayo Photography

When and how did you make the decision to pursue a livelihood involving photography, not just as a hobby? What was your mission at the start?

I had that desire while still in college, but it felt more like a distant dream than anything at that point. At the time I was most interested in photojournalism. Later I discovered a love for portraiture. I didn't trust it to truly become anything for me at first though, and even after starting my business I started graduate school for library science (while also working in a library). After one semester, and also finding out I was pregnant with my first child, I made the decision to throw myself into really learning how to run a profitable business as a full time photographer. I believed that I could have a career I was passionate about while having the flexibility to be home with my child.

How do you go about accomplishing goals you’ve set out for yourself and your business?

My business goals have changed drastically over the years along with my life. At some points notoriety or seeing my work in print were top goals. Now my wish is to work consistently with people who trust me and appreciate the way I see and capture things. I hope for each client to feel truly seen, and thankful for the beauty in their life, as a result of working with me.

Hannah Mayo Photography

Meeting revenue and income goals without feeling overloaded is so important and is a goal in itself. I would say my primary means of accomplishing anything I've set out to do has been to educate myself. If something interests me, I read about it and figure out how to make it work for me.

How do you find that “work-life balance”? What keeps you motivated?

Work-life balance is a topic I have thought and journaled about extensively. It has truly been one of the most challenging aspects of my job over the years. At risk of being overly vulnerable here, I have often questioned whether this work, and specifically running a client-centered business, is the best thing for my family and my own personal well-being. Sometimes it’s so hard.

I try not to put my work first in my life; my family will always be my top priority. But my clients and the art I create for them do matter to me a great deal, and it is important to me to give them the absolute best I can, while also loving my family well and attending to my own needs so I don't get burnt out (because then, no one wins). It is a tall order! I know any entrepreneurial mom out there can relate.

Hannah Mayo Photography

One of the most essential things I have learned is the wisdom of saying "no" at times—allowing myself to be selective about what is best for me and my specific business. It is impossible to do everything, so I aim for my "yes" to always be the best fit possible. Even though it's tempting to take everything on, I allow myself only a specific amount of work each month, that I know I can handle.

I would say my motivation comes from the fact that I've crafted a life and career that I truly love. When your heart is aligned with what you do, the motivation is built in.

What are your 5 must-have business tools for running a successful photography business? Why?
  • A journal (for brainstorming, dreaming, planning, and free writing to clear my head)
  • A budget, so I can allocate every dollar and know what money is set aside for what, etc. This is essential to the financial health of my business. I use You Need a Budget to keep track of this.
  • The Big Picture Planner from Design Aglow. I absolutely love using this to keep me on track with goals, and keep me organized and focused on a daily basis for both work and personal tasks.
  • Design Aglow templates. For welcome packs and many other printed materials for my clients, I love how easy Design Aglow's templates make it to create a cohesive and professional look in my branding. (I know I'm being such a fangirl right now, but it's true I promise!)
  • Squarespace. For a website that flows beautifully, fits my work well, and is easy to customize.
What’s your day-to-day workflow like? How did you develop a system that worked for you?

I have had to figure out what works best for me as a business owner who is also a homeschooling mother of three. So for one thing, each day looks different. There are days where I'm wearing my "mom" hat more than my "work" hat, and vice versa.

My workflow for each client is simple and has been developed mostly through trial and error, tweaking to make it work wheat for me while creating the best possible experience for them. I keep track of all workflow tasks in my Big Picture planner.

The Big Picture Planner

What’s your favorite thing about running your own business and being your own boss?

The flexibility and control, hands down. I have a career that gives me so much freedom to set my own hours, to give my best to my family while still doing work that feeds my create soul and contributes financially to my family. Having the option to say no when something isn't right, to change directions and to build a business that specifically fits me well, has been such a gift. And mid-week coffee shop lingering is a sweet perk, too!

What do you attribute to your success?

Hannah Mayo Photography

Hannah Mayo Photography

I have consistently worked to create work that is true to who I am as an artist and human, and just kept making more and more work, always trying to be better and strengthen my voice and hone my technical and artistic skills. And then making that work visible, sharing it in as honest a way as possible, hoping someone might notice.

It seems strange to even discuss my "success", as I hadn't really thought much about it or considered to be something that I've achieved. My own definition of success is probably different from many others, and definitely different from how I would have defined it when I first started out. It's not a number or popularity or something that can even be measured.

If someone was thinking about leaving their 9-to-5 desk job to pursue a life as a creative business owner, what advice would you give them?

I will not sugar coat it: running your own business is hard. But it has been so worth it for the freedom it has given me to do work that I love, and the freedom to create the life I want to live—one with my family and home life at the center.

I would also say that work-life balance is essential, and it takes discipline. When everything is all about the work, all the time, burnout is inevitable.

Hannah Mayo Photography

Also, don't cut corners. Never stop learning. Find a mentor and keep educating yourself.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I hope that I can be an encouragement, specifically to other moms out there who are also creative business owners trying to make it all work. We're told it's not possible to "do it all" while simultaneously receiving the message that we have to do it all or we have failed. It's neither. Do the best you can, trust your gut, learn to rest, and know that you can do this and you are enough.

 


Hannah Mayo PhotographyHannah Mayo is a South Florida photographer specializing in family storytelling and motherhood photography. She is a mother of three, amateur watercolor artist, and lover of the written word. She has enjoyed working with a variety of editorial and commercial clients, as well as many amazing families throughout nearly nine years in business.

 

 



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