Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tracy Whiteside, owner of Tracy Whiteside Photography, located in Elburn, IL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a fine art photographer that specializes in dark art and fantasy. The darkness is in all of us, and art is a safe way to face your fears. Fantasy art allows up to escape the darkness. My customers are generally artistic themselves and enjoy offbeat visuals and everything. They are independent, imaginative, and quirky. We often describe ourselves as weirdos or romantics.

Tell us about yourself

I have always been drawn to artsy things-fashion, flowers, and theatre. I worked most of my life in these areas. Drawing and painting are not something I am even remotely good at, so I never considered art until I picked up a camera. I was obsessed. Taking classes in New York, Chicago, and online with some of the best photographers available really made a difference in my work. Every day I am excited to try something new. I am never out of inspiration, and I am just as passionate 19 years later as I was the day I first picked up a camera. Probably more so. That's when you know you are in the right business.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

There isn't one single accomplishment, but I do love making my subjects feel dazzling. No matter if they are stepping into a creepy art piece or a magnificent gown surrounded by flowers, the collaborative environment always makes for the best image. When the client sees the final photographs and is thrilled, my heart is full.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The financial aspect can be troubling. I created a photo studio in my basement, so that makes life much easier. But not every business has that option. I have been doing this for so long now that I have everything under control. But I still have the urge to open a fancy studio or an art gallery. I really need to keep myself in check.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Avoid investing a great deal of money upfront. 20% of new businesses fail in the first two years, and 45% in the first five. Be realistic. Shop online. You don't need the most expensive everything. Most people aren't an expert at everything. If accounting isn't your strong suit, find someone you can trust that will work for a reasonable rate. Be sure to get a lot of referrals for anyone you hire-especially if they are handling your money.
  2. The customer is Queen. Or King. I am appalled at how many businesses treat their customers poorly. Not returning phone calls, having an attitude, and not saying "thank you." Good manners are free. Even if you have the type of business where the customer is unlikely to return, people talk.
  3. Be creative with everything. Your advertising, your marketing, your presentation, customer and employee rewards. Partner with other businesses. Don't be stale and do everything the way it's always been done. Stand out from the crowd.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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