Wednesday, May 20

11 Questions with Noa of Feather Love

Noa of Feather Love!

1. What was the turning point in your life that made you decide to work for yourself? What were you doing before this?
I always sort of did freelance work as a designer (graphic, web & flash) but I had a contractual flash design job for about a year and once that came to an almost-end, I freaked out and decided to move on this idea I was bouncing around in my head of being a wedding photographer. Plus I had really been grooving on working from home during that time- it ruled. As you know, being a bride makes you spend WAY too much time on wedding sites, blogs, and looking at photographers & their work. I was becoming convinced that I could do it. And as from the very beginning I had a style in mind that nobody else was really doing. I always did sort of work for myself but never like this. Most wedding photographers "ease" into it by keeping their regular day job. I did not.

2. What was your first concrete step after making that decision?
I went and got my fictitious business name, a license, and some business cards. Then asked my super-stylish friends (Josh & Kristen of Mountain Home) if they would pose for me, e-session style, so that I could show the style of work I wanted to do. Their session is still one of the ones people comment on the most. It was 100% my style. Then I started designing my website after that.

3. What did you find to be the most difficult thing when you decided to make your business your full time job? What one thing do you wish you had known before starting your venture?
I wish had known that I should be more fearless with my style and do EXACTLY what I wanted, not what I thought people wanted. I was always somewhat fearless, but I never went “the Full Monty” so to speak. As soon as I did though, I got tons more attention. I went to The Image Is Found's Shootshop & that finally convinced me to just do it all the way-- as Nate so eloquently put it "grow some balls", don't be "safe". Show your style. The most difficult thing when I decided to make it my full time job? Uhm, money. And plus it didn't feel that great to sort of be financially partially-dependent on someone else (Stuart was my fiancĂ© at the time) when I had been fiercely independent for so much of my life... but then I got married and I got used to the concept and you start to see it differently: it's not really depending on each other, it's each partner helping the other make their dreams come true. Stuart and I are very supportive of each others arts, careers, & dreams…

4. Who did you go to for advice? What resources were most helpful for you?
There was a small business center advice thingy downtown, they were ok. But honestly- I really need someone else to handle all that sort of business stuff for me if I want to remain on the creative side of my business. Taking care of that stuff is a pain in my ass. I can do it, but it’s like one or the other, both takes too much and my job already takes millions of hours every week. Oh, and there was also my dad and sister, both entrepreneurs who offered up advice. Other than that, most recently I would say Shootshop (The Image Is Found) was certainly helpful. Very pricey, but for me it was well worth it.

5. Being compensated fairly for a service seems to be a difficult thing for a lot of people starting out. How did you decide on pricing? Do you think you were fair to yourself in the beginning?
No, I don't think I have ever priced myself right- especially in the beginning. It’s hard for artists to put a tag on their work. At first, I really just wanted to get work. On May 15th though, when my rates go up, I feel like I will finally have a good competitive price list that’s still affordable but also reflects my originality- and that’s something people will choose to pay for if they want it. I feel like it also helps me choose my clients.

6. How did you get your name out there in the beginning? What was the most helpful marketing tool? What didn’t work at all?
Luckily I was a flash/web/graphic designer for many years before. So my website was probably the best thing I had at the time and I have always put all my heart and perfectionism into designing my web sites. The worst thing I ever did was take my first year's profit and blow ALL of it on a bridal bazaar because that's what other vendors told me to do. I didn't even book one wedding from it. And not only did it suck, it was lame too. There was really horrible photography there… so far from what I was doing & what I was interested in that nobody understood my work, at all. Bridal bazaar was like a gazillion zombie brides walking around having thousands of flyers being shoved into their hands and drinking their slurpee dessert-thingy’s from the booth next door all over my srsly expensive albums that I put every bit of money I had earned into. No thanks. Now the best marketing tool for sure in my opinion is the internets, blogs etc. Oh and they are like free, so that rules. I say, use what you have: if you can design websites, design yours... if you have a blog that tons of people read-- use it! Find creative ways to put your name out there. Especially if you are “different” or considered an “alternative” or “indie” wedding vendor. Bridal Bazaar might not be the place for you.

7. Describe your first “sale” or “event”? Did it go well? What did you learn from your first few endeavors?

It went fine, luckily. I was terrified, nervous as hell, but the gigs went well overall. Couple of snags like a bride's dad who didn't want to pay me full price etc. I learned very quickly to get FULLY PAID BEFORE A WEDDING, no matter what your client says or how sweet they are- you won’t be talking money with the bride and groom that day so get all that handled before the wedding. What I learned from the first few gigs was that it was really terrifying to do this dream of mine, but I wanted to do it anyway.

8. There are so many wedding-related businesses out there now. How do you separate yourself from the rest of the pack?
I make things look how I want them to look. What's pleasing to me, my eye, and my taste- not what I think is pleasing to others... if you are trying to please others, your job will never be done. You are the artist so they are depending on you to show them what’s beautiful from your perspective. Plus I am honest & I blog how I talk. I have nothing to hide... I think people want to see that, that you are human, an artist, so that they can feel confident in you based on who you are and what you do. I separate myself from the rest because I come up with new and fresh ideas that nobody else has done and my style is distinct. You can see a photographers work online and sometimes know right away who shot it. Like Max Wagner and Labor of Love. You know it’s their work immediately. That’s because they have their own style and they are constantly developing their art, and it’s obvious that they love what they do. I love that.

9. How do you keep things fresh? Where do you go for inspiration?
Your blog! ;) Well, I don’t go to wedding photographer's blogs to look at their work. Unless I end up seeing their work on another blog, but it’s important for me to look at other types of photography & art: fashion, music, vintage photography, films, magazines & album covers etc… Sometimes my dreams influence me, seriously. I am learning to trust myself more and follow my gut more as I continue to develop as an artist.

10. What is the most challenging thing about being your own boss? What is the most rewarding (besides, of course, being your own boss)? Challenging?
It’s hard to keep on top of business administrative stuff AND do all my editing AND be creative AND do my many forms of art... especially if you are a perfectionist. Eventually I will hire some peeps to help out. You HAVE to love what you do intensely because it takes many hours of your life. It doesn't feel like overtime when you really love it- you don't even really notice if you just worked 16 hours. In any other job, I couldn't wait to leave or be done for the day. Another really challenging thing is that all the stress falls on to your shoulders, there isn't some boss somewhere that has to deal with the stress but still guarantees you a paycheck at the end of the day. It’s a whole other kind of stress when it’s your business. You have to be pretty tough. That can be intense.... Most rewarding? Make my own hours. Work from home. Working with my husband and making art together! I can totally challenge my own authority and win sometimes ;) Being creative. Not having to work in a fluorescent-lit office all day. Taking breaks whenever I damn-well feel like it and for as long as I want. Taking a random day off sometimes... although most of the time it doesn't work- I end up working because I love it. Oh also, I get to make all the creative decisions and I don't have to consult in anyone or deal with what other people want, which is usually what happens when you work for someone else.

11. What advice do you have for people who are thinking about starting their own small business who may not necessarily have a lot of prior business experience?
Read the E-Myth. Follow your gut creatively. In the beginning it's usually just you so you have to do it all. Make up challenging creative projects for yourself. Even if you are afraid people won't like your ideas, do them anyway, don't be safe because too many others are and then you won't stand out from the crowd. Plus, nobody ever got anywhere from being concerned about what other people think. You need elephant skin! And maybe also keep your day job until you have enough business to quit it, too stressful otherwise. I would know. You have to know what your personality type is and learn to accept it & work with it to the best of your ability... Make it work for you! If you have had people call you "pushy" or "bossy" a lot in your life, you will probably become an excellent entrepreneur. It usually means you are efficient and can get things done. Once you accept the type of person you are, then you can use it to your benefit, in a positive way. Oh, and also another piece of advice: quit thinking about starting your own business and JUST DO IT! You don’t need to know that much, you can learn as you go- just like with anything else. One more very important thing: don’t ever half-ass anything. If you aren’t willing to do it 120%, you probably won’t be competitive enough to succeed.

Thank you, Noa! You have been such an inspiration and a great friend!


  1. Your blog is so pretty, I'm going to browse it a bit more...

    Thanks for stopping by My Island Wedding. Just making sure you cast your vote by clicking #11 on the list...

    Be sure to tell your friends/family/followers, etc. to vote for you too!!!

  2. i like it. noa, have you ever considered that we might share information with each other without being aware of it? i think like a little gnome stands on my shoulder and whispers in my ear, then he gets in his little car and drives down to san diego and whispers in your ear just to mess with us. sorry, i'll get back to work now.

  3. really really great you guys!!!!! thanks!!!!!!!!!!

  4. emilia- i heart you so intensely, thank you! :)
    Michael, gnomes- yes... except by the time the gnome gets over here he gives me answers that are muuuuccchh looooonnnggger... he probably gets bored during his drive down. haha. seriously though- it is kinda weird because i know we both handed our answers in before either of us read the other's!! (psychic anyone?)