She’s a high-energy, fun-spirited photographer who can make anyone look good. Please welcome Claire Hart.
Amanda: Claire, you’re one of my favorite photographers to work with, so I’m really glad you’re here. I am sad that we haven’t gotten to work together in a while because all the events have been canceled. We’ll talk more about that, but I want to start a little further back. I’m always fascinated by how few people, especially creatives, end up doing what they studied in school. In your case, you have a degree in nuclear medicine and biology, but you make a living as a photographer. Why did you make that jump?
Claire: Oh, I don’t know if it’s a why question or a when were you kind of forced to make that jump, but yes, nuclear medicine, a subfield of radiology for people that don’t know. If you’ve ever had a bone scan, a stress test, things like that. They basically inject you with small amounts of radioactive drugs and take pictures of you. So essentially, I’m a glorified photographer there anyways. But I had the unfortunate happy accident, I like to call it, of graduating in 2007 right when the economy crashed. So that kind of pushed me more into a creative field because a) there were limited limited jobs, you know. It’s one of those things where people have been in the field for 20 years, they probably have the same tech working at their facility for years and years and years, and there just weren’t many job opportunities. Then with the crash of the economy, people weren’t hiring, insurances weren’t covering these doses, there was a million things and there was just no work for me. But it kind of bridged me into pursuing photography a little more, which I had always done while I was in college just because it was a great flexible gig. I could say, “Hey, listen, I’ve got 40 hours of work I’ve got to do at the hospital this week. I’ve got three midterms to study for. Don’t put me on the schedule this week.” So I really love the flexibility in that. And then once my career kind of started taking off, and nuclear medicine was still not really hiring. Yeah, I just kind of bridge that gap and made it my full-time occupation.
Amanda: Did you ever have a job job?
Claire: So, you have to do like two years of internships essentially. And then I worked 16 months as a mobile tech across the southeast – so Georgia, Florida, South Carolina – going to different cardiologists offices, doing these stress tests, these hard exams in a kind of like an 18-wheeler, like it was like a mobile radiology office on wheels. And so we would just park outside of doctors’ offices, perform these tests, and then hit the road and so on, so forth. So I got about 16 months in the field. To be honest, I didn’t love the company. They weren’t following protocols, so I kind of had to step away from that. And then I also moved states, so then there was even less opportunity for me, and a state that I wasn’t as familiar with. So I kind of just bit the bullet and said, you know, I love photography, I love the flexibility, and love all the different stuff I can do in one given day, from a wedding to a newborn to, you know, nightlife – you could do it all in one day. So I like the diversity and I loved the flexibility. So it wasn’t as hard to transgress into that field, just because I had been doing it on the side. My mom’s also a photographer, so I kind of grew up with that mentality and always being her guinea pigs for shoots and things like that. So it wasn’t just like a stranger profession that I picked, it’s been embedded in my life for quite a while.
Amanda: Sometimes you don’t really get to choose your path. As much as we try to control things, it seems like sometimes they say, “Nope. You’re not going to do this. You will do this other thing instead,” which from the sounds of it is probably the better path for you anyway.
Claire: I call my degree my “framed piece of death” because that’s what it was for quite a while, but you know, no regrets. I’m still certified. I keep up with all my credentials every year. You have to have continuing education units, and I have all those so I could still go back into the field, but I think now it’s a little late. I probably don’t remember as much as I should.
Amanda: In the middle of that, how did you start getting working gigs as a photographer?
Claire: Um, well I guess, as you well know, I am a social butterfly and pretty much will talk to anything that moves. So, I was living at the time in downtown Fort Lauderdale and just going out a ton, and started going to a few musical venues, and just picked up some side work here and there. They knew I did photography and then that kind of evolved to more of the nightlife stuff. And around then, I moved back to South Carolina and worked for a company called Carolina Nightlife, and just ended up managing a bunch of photographers just because I had my own business, a different venture altogether. So I had always had photography somewhat in my system or doing it part time, whether I was managing people or photographing events. And it just kind of turned into full-time and hasn’t slowed down until, let’s say, March of this year.
Amanda: What I don’t like is when people say, “Oh, I’m just a freelancer. I don’t run a business.” Because when you are working for yourself, you are running an entire business. Yes, freelancer might have more of a connotation that I’m not being weighed down by anybody. But when you are working for yourself, you have to do all of the roles. You’re a photographer primarily, but you’re also a salesperson, a coordinator, a social media manager, and everything else in between. So how do you balance all of that so you’re doing the work that you have to do, but also all the things that allow you to run the business that lets you do all the work?
Claire: Well, I’m glad you brought that up, “just a photographer,” “just a freelancer,” because I have to get that in my vocabulary. My boyfriend reminds me all the time of the same thing – “You are not just a photographer,” or “You are a photographer, the greatest photographer.” No, he just hypes me up.
Amanda: I didn’t know that you did that. So good.
Claire: Yes, that is something I am working on. For me personally, I’m not a creature of habit, per se. But the only thing that I do find super helpful in maintaining all these tasks and coordinating is making lists. I make 100 lists, I make 1000 lists. I still have an old-school planner. I like to write everything down. I love the art of crossing things off. I’ve had too many instances where I lose a phone, and I’ve lost everything I’m doing for the next week. So, I definitely have to write things down. Sleep little, work a lot late at night, when I don’t have as many distractions. It’s a lot. I just have to make sure that my lists are prioritized by day and by week, and what I need to get done. I set a lot of alarms and reminders as well.
Amanda: This is good. Those are all things that I recommend to people who do struggle to keep the business side of things going. I need to find another word that’s not business, because I find that creatives don’t like that word. There’s that internal thing that’s like, no, business is bad. It’s boring. And I don’t want to do that. I’m free, and I’m creative, and I go do what I want to do. And you can do what you want to do. That’s one of the best parts about running your own business is you do have that freedom. But you still, most of us still have to do the work to get the work that allows us the freedom.
Claire: Absolutely. I’m so grateful I’m not stuck in a cubicle. Granted, my office is in my bedroom, but it overlooks into a nice beautiful yard and a hammock that I’m not laying in. But it’s motivation to get things done so I can go outside and enjoy the weather and things like that. So yeah, I would say definitely, just keeping yourself accountable. I mean, that’s a huge thing. If I’m like watching TV, which I rarely do, nine times out of 10, I’m like what’s on my list that I didn’t get done? I probably shouldn’t be doing this. But sometimes you just need to tune out and free your mind.
Amanda: The self-care time, or the personal time, is really important. For me, my two main hobbies got cancelled this year, because it’s concerts and travel. So I’m trying to figure out what I actually like to do. And that’s been a little bit tricky. I’ve always liked photography myself, more as a hobbyist kind of thing. I took classes in high school where it was still film. and so we had a dark room and had to actually open the can of film and develop it, and I miss the art of that. Not that digital technology is a bad thing. It’s amazing what it’s allowed us all to do. But now there’s that issue where, because everybody has a camera with them at all times, and they’re taking pictures of everything, there are a lot of people who now think that they are professional photographers because they’re selfie experts or they know how to take a photo of their food that looks good on Instagram. I know you’ve spent a lot of time developing your talent. And it’s different than just taking a quick shot with your camera and saying, oh look, this is a professional photo. No, it’s not.
Claire: Yes, I mean, I can tell you what ISO and aperture does, and I feel like a lot of people can’t. But a lot of people love to learn these things, which are really great. I’ve actually even done some teaching on how to take better photos with your cell phone, which is just crazy to me that, like, that would be a thing, but there’s room for everything. And there’s room for education, that’s for sure. But yes, I have had to fight many aunties with their iPads in the middle of the aisle while the bride’s walking down and, you know, ruining my shot, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to get the shot. And if that means thumping someone out of the way, nicely, to get that first kiss shot that I don’t get a second chance to get, then I have to. And that’s another huge thing, too, is just editing out people’s hands, like up in the air with their phones. It really does take over. I’ve had a few weddings where they actually had the people checking their phones before going into the venue so the phones were not allowed at the wedding. And it was probably one of the best ones I’ve ever been to because people were engaged, and they were in the moment, and they weren’t on their phones the entire time. So yes, technology good and bad.
Amanda: That’s one of those things that I never understand, because I go to a lot of concerts and, inevitably, I’m standing behind rows and rows of people. Or even if I’m, you know, second row, it’s the people right up front. And I’m always looking at them looking at the show through their cell phones, because they have to record everything, and they miss out on the moment. And I’ve had some really good moments because I’ve been the only person not on a phone. And there’s that eye contact you can make with an artist or something like that. To me, if I wanted to watch it through a screen, I’ll go home and watch it on YouTube later.
Claire: When are they watching these videos later? Like the people that record the whole wedding and the whole concert? Like, are you going home to watch these later? Or just for that one post and then that’s it? Yes, being in the moment is so much better. And especially now, like I’ve shot a few weddings where they’re COVID safe and they have masks on, and you really have to rely on the people’s eyes. And if they’re staring at their phones, then that makes it even harder. So I am loving the fact that things are smaller right now, and people are more engaged and, I think, in tune. And they’re making the most out of these moments that they get to spend with people, since everyone’s been kind of locked away for a while. So fingers’ crossed 2021 will be all about carpe diem, enjoying the moment.
Amanda: I hope so. I went to see a Dave Chappelle comedy show probably a year or two ago, and it was one where they actually took everybody’s phones and locked them up when you got there. You had to check it in. They gave you this little thing that locked so nobody could take their phones out, because he didn’t want any photos being taken. And I appreciated it, but I watched so many people go into a panic, like what am I going to do without my phone? And I think there’s a problem if you can’t make it for two hours without picking up your phone. And again, if you have kids at home, that’s a little scary because what if something happens? You want to be accessible, but at the same time, it wasn’t really that panic that I saw. It was more “Well, what am I going to post on social? I need to prove that I was here!”
Claire: “What do I do with my hands?”
Amanda: Right. Well, that’s my problem, when it comes to being photographed especially, because I’m very awkward. You know this. You’ve had me sit in for some test shots so you can fix your lighting and stuff, and even just sitting there when it’s not my photo, I don’t know what to do with my hands. I’m super super awkward with that. And I see people all the time that they have their signature pose. Or even when I was getting my headshots done my photographer was like, “What are you doing with your hands?” I don’t know! They just…you have to tell me very specifically what to do with that kind of situation.
Claire: Well, your photos say otherwise, because I thought they looked nice just sitting there on your lap.
Amanda: Well, thank you. But yeah, see, what you do, and being able to bring that out in people, it’s something that’s really, really important to be a good photographer. You have to be able to work with people, and all of our personality quirks, and to be able to get that right shot out of everybody. And I know one thing that you’ve mentioned in your bio is your southern hospitality. So I’ve seen firsthand how your personality draws people in. And I imagine that has helped you build really strong relationships. How have you developed that as a skill?
Claire: Well, I think mostly being raised in the South, you learn manners very much. “Yes ma’am. No, ma’am. Yes sir. No sir.” And I find a lot of that sometimes makes people feel uncomfortable out here in the west. They think I am degrading their age or some sort, and really it’s just a sign of respect. But I try to use my southern hospitality maybe to distract from people feeling awkward or not knowing what to do with their hands. You know, I try to make my sessions more of a conversation and an engagement versus “Sit here. Stand here. Do this. Smile. Don’t smile. Turn.” Granted, most photographers are kind of bossy director types, but I try to make it feel a little more natural just because a lot of people aren’t comfortable in front of the camera, myself included. You’ve seen me in front of the camera, and I am awkward as all can be, but hence why I hide behind the camera. But I think, you know, it definitely sets an ease for people and they’re not as worried. Because if you’re stiff and professional and businesslike, like you said, you know, sometimes that can deter people. But then I’ve had instances where people need that. They’re like, “Just tell me what to do get a photo. Get me out of here.” And so you kind of have to just use that ebb and flow to make things happen, or to make the client feel comfortable. So sometimes I think my southern charm helps that because I can be goofy and just really interested in them as a person. And sometimes that definitely helps for capturing an image that I might not have gotten if I was just director and bossy.
Amanda: Well, I met you on a job a couple years ago – we were working for a German company at CES – and I learned very quickly that we are similar and just want to get our jobs done and have fun in the process. And not only do you take great photos, but you helped us quite a bit when it came to getting attendees to speak on camera. Because I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people at a tech conference don’t want anything to do with that. I’ve had people literally run away from me when they see the camera, or I’ve approached them to ask if they’re willing to do a quick soundbite on camera. But you used to be a crowd engager for a living. So does that just come natural to you? Or is that something that you kind of learned? It seems like it’s just kind of who you are, like you said, miss social butterfly?
Claire: Yeah, I definitely love crowd engaging. If conventions were still going, I’d still do it. That’s the other side of the convention that I really like because, yeah, you’re kind of stuck in the same place, but you get to see so many people pass by. And it’s a lot of like small, short conversations, because granted, I’m trying to give them a T shirt, or sign them up for something, or learn about their business in about 20 seconds along with a million other people. But it’s kind of like being a car salesman. I don’t want to say it like that, but in the sense it’s like you’re gonna go out there, you’re gonna get the big fish, and then you’re passing them on to the finance person. And that’s what I love about those is I can have a fun, witty conversation with them and then move on to the next. So if someone doesn’t respond as well, there’s always 10 more people that will respond well.
And as I mentioned before, I don’t mind talking to people. I’ll put myself out there. And that’s kind of what you have to do at conventions, because you’re one of the thousand people in a booth trying to get a million people to come to your booth and learn about your information. And a lot of the ones I’m doing is I’m having people to come sit down for 10-15 minutes, and that’s a huge chunk of their day to try to get them to like, stop. So I use quirky things like, “Hey, I know your feet are tired. Come on, we’ve got a chair right here with your name on it.” Or my favorite is, I have impeccable vision, so I like to read people’s names from far away. So I’ll be like, “John! Over here, come on!” And then they think we’ve talked somehow in the past, and whatever that segue is to just like, get them in, I’ll do it. You know, “Hey, I like your t-shirt!” or “Go pack!” Whatever it takes to like, spark that initial conversation. And a lot of these things are so boring, they just want to talk to someone have a fun time, you know. It’s usually business business business, so if I can make someone smile or laugh along the 10,000 steps they’re walking in the day, I think that’s a job well done.
Amanda: Impeccable vision is the exact phrase that I was going to use to talk about this, because the first time that we work together, and we were outside at CES, and I remember that we were trying to get people to come do this thing, and nobody wanted to do it. And you would read somebody’s name tag, or their badge, from I don’t know how far away, but there’s no way that a normal human being should be able to read that far. But you would just start yelling at people like, “Hey!” and waving, and at first like, “What is she doing? She’s a little crazy. I love it.” But it really worked because you tricked them. And they were like, “Oh, this person knows my name. Maybe I just don’t remember her.” And then you’d reel them in and then we could jump in and say, “Hey, we just want to do this quick soundbite real fast.” And sometimes they didn’t like being tricked and they would leave, but sometimes it just was that split second where they lightened the mood because yes, they’re learning about all this technology, and maybe they wanted to be there or maybe their job sent them there, but it’s a lot. Something like CES especially, it’s one of the biggest conventions in the country every year. Or it used to be – I think that was the last job I worked this year. The last convention anyway. But when you have that many people crammed in all this space, all trying to look at the same stuff, I imagine it can be exhausting. I’ve never attended one as an attendee, I’ve only worked at them, but after a week of something like that, I want to just sit and do nothing for a little while to decompress.
Claire: The same for them as well, I’m sure. Just nonstop scheduling and just go go go, like Vegas does.
Amanda: And you have to be able to use those skills on two different levels. Because you have to engage with the end client and, obviously at the convention, those people you’re not paying them or they’re not paying you, they don’t actually want to be there. But when you are working on a wedding or for a company that’s hired you to do photographs, you have to deliver for them. But it’s also really important when you’re on a crew with a lot of other people, that you have that attitude. And that’s always my thing is production can get stressful, and it can get weird. And sometimes, the client might decide 10 minutes before you’re supposed to leave that they want to have this giant group shot outside.
Claire: What? That never happens!
Amanda: I think it happened two years in a row, if I recall. But it gets stressful, and that’s one of the things that I always do is I just have fun with it and try to remind the crew. Not by being that obnoxious “Oh, think positive!” person, but just doing something to make somebody laugh or have that conversation that kind of lightens that. I mean, this is what we get to do for a living, and there are a lot worse things, like you said, sitting in a cubicle. I always think if I had to be an accountant or something like that, I would go crazy.
Claire: For me anyways, I just love being outside and I love the flexibility, but some people need that structure and want that, so to each his own.
Amanda: So you do all kinds of photography. I know you work weddings, lifestyle, nightlife, food, pets. Do you have a favorite thing or type of event to work?
Claire: I love doing food, just because you usually get to eat at later, and I am definitely a foodie. But I would say I really do miss the nightlife stuff just because it was going into this place at midnight or one o’clock where it’s like already at its peak, you know, the highest of the highs. So there’s so much adrenaline and everyone is having so much fun, and you’re just trying to capture this essence of this place in the being. And I really do love that aspect because it would change every night. There would always be different people, different music, different guests, and things of that nature. So I would say that’s like definitely one of my favorites. But I think number one would be families, especially that I’ve had for numerous years. Like maybe I started with their newborn photography in the hospital, and now I’m doing their six-year-old birthday. It’s nice to see like families as they get older and progress, or have more kids or adopt or whatever. It’s just nice to watch these families grow. And I’m actually really looking forward to the holiday photos that I’m going to take in the next few months because, you know, I haven’t seen these people in almost a year. So it’ll be nice to just see how the kids have grown, and people, and how they’ve adapted to COVID. And hopefully, you know, the parents don’t look too stressed, or the school year has started, things like that. So it’s gonna be interesting. And a lot of these shoots I think are gonna change from, you know, normal outdoor venues to maybe their home. You know, a lot of people put time into redoing their places, or making their backyard super serene, things like that. I’m just really looking forward to seeing that kind of growth.
Amanda: Say do photography for a newborn, are you able to really develop that to where you are the go-to photographer that… sure, you take took these great photos when the baby was born, but now when they turn one, or they have this big event, do they normally come back to you? Or are you doing outreach to keep in touch with them to make sure that they remember that they need you?
Claire: I definitely send out follow-up emails, like I’ll probably have one go out this week that’s just like a reminder, it’s less than 100 days before Christmas. Because people get busy, and I’ve kind of found out now that a lot of parents are doing like New Year’s cards or something a little different to adhere to their schedules. But mostly if I don’t hear from them every year, maybe it’s every other year because the year before they just didn’t have time or they were out of town. But a lot of my clients are repeat customers that I’ve had for years and years and years. And I appreciate every one of you.
Amanda: Repeat customers are the best. Especially when they are excited to come back to you. The jobs that you and I have worked together, I’m not the one hiring you. But I always check the call sheet right away and make sure your name is there because I look forward to it, because it’s so much fun. And even though you and I are doing different things most of the time, I’ll see you from across the room like, oh good, there’s just another happy person here.
Claire: When you’ve got a good team, you got to keep with it.
Amanda: Yeah, you have to, because again, everything is this so fun. You mentioned that you enjoy nightlife. That is a thing I do not enjoy at all. Being an introvert, nightlife is not for me. It’s too loud. It’s too crowded. It’s too late. A lot of things working against me. But in the rare times that I’ve had to be in a situation like that, people watching in Vegas late at night is fantastic. So, there is some entertainment. I imagine being in those clubs doing photography, you’ve seen some things. Is there anything that stands out as one of your best Vegas people watching incidents?
Claire: I don’t know if I should share all the stories that I’ve seen, but I’d say EDC weekend can get really crazy inside the nightclubs. I mean, I’ve definitely seen the celebrities doing things they shouldn’t be, things like that. You know, typical. I feel like it’s like nightclub bingo. Okay, where’s the girl on her phone crying? Where’s the person who’s already taken their shoes off? There’s gotta be some couple fighting. Like, unfortunately, it feels like, yeah, I kind of see like the same situation. I think the nightclubs are way more tame than Fremont. If you get down on Fremont late at night, there are some things that will just blow your mind.
Amanda: That is true. You’re always going to see somebody naked that you don’t want to see naked on Fremont Street. I remember my nieces came to visit a few years ago, and they were still pretty young at the time, I think maybe the youngest one was 16ish. And I was really, really happy that they did not like Fremont Street. They didn’t like Vegas at all. I would love for them to come visit me and be able to see them more, but I was also relieved that they aren’t the type that found that exciting. Because it’s a shock to the system. Even when you’ve lived here for a long time, I think we get desensitized by some of that because it’s just what we’ve seen for years. But it’s not necessarily what I wanted for my younger nieces. And when they said, “I didn’t like it at all,” I was I was kind of happy about that.
Claire: Yeah, and unfortunately you can’t just go based on time down there. It could be four o’clock in the afternoon and you could still see that.
Amanda: This is true. This is true. So I know you love to travel for fun, but I’ve seen that you also use it as a way to expand your client base. Like you’ll go somewhere and then you’ll put it out there on social that you have some sessions available in that area on those dates, which I think is really, really smart. Do you see yourself doing more landscape and nature photography while you’re exploring the world? Or do you definitely prefer working with people?
Claire: I would definitely say working with people. I wish I was the Ansel Adams, or people like that, that could just appreciate the beauty in it, and take the time to set things up. But in my eyes, I’m already looking through a camera so much that when I’m doing these travel vacations, I tend to just book out my sessions and then put my camera away the rest of the time just so I can look through my own eyes. Take it all in, things like that. Granted, I do try to book when I go to different places. I like to have content because Vegas can get kind of old with, you know, the sparkly lights in the desert look. I really miss like the green trees, the grass, the nature, the water, the beachy type stuff. So I do take advantage when I’m in those places to book out. But I would say mostly I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.
Amanda: That’s another one of those tricky balance things, because I love to travel as a hobby. I don’t love traveling for work. Because as much as I like to travel, I also love being at home. So it’s this weird dichotomy there of, well, I want to see places, but I also want to stay home. When I do have to travel for work, I’m working all day and then I’m in a hotel room, then I’m working on day, then I’m in a hotel room, so it’s different. But I’m just like you – when I do travel for fun, I pretty much turn off the entire world. There’s always some level of work that I have to do just to maintain my regular clients and make sure that they know that they need me. But I love to be in the moment. But sometimes it works to my detriment because we are in this culture now where social media is very important, because you have to have a personal brand, and you have to show people all these things that you do so they know who you are and they want to work with you. And that goes against my nature quite a bit.
A couple years ago, I was in Dublin for almost three weeks. And I was there working on a documentary, but I had a lot of downtime. And when I came back, I think I had something like 13 pictures. That was all I took. And I realized the missed opportunity there. But Ireland, Scotland, places like that, to me, they’re so beautiful. And so you should take photos of them. But I am such a nature person, so for me when I’m there, I just want to breathe in the mountain air if I’m somewhere, or just look at the ocean or whatever it is, and take that in. And I forget sometimes that photographs are there for a reason. Like memories are good, but sometimes you want to maybe see something again. And I sometimes fail at that quite a bit and people are like, “Why aren’t you taking any photos?” I’m like, “Oh, right, I should remember to do that.” And sometimes now I have to assign people to remind me, especially on a job because I forget and sometimes people want to see what I’m working on, if I’m allowed to share what I’m working on. And I just I don’t ever think about taking photos, especially with myself in them. When I travel, I’m usually alone, so I don’t have anybody to remind me. So I need some kind of system for that.
Claire: Invite me along when you go to these European places, and I will just take the few photos we need.
Amanda: Okay, perfect. So how have things developed since COVID? Because most of what you’re doing involves people in large groups. And not a lot has happened since March in that arena. So what have you been doing to keep your business moving forward? Have you had to adapt or offer any different kinds of services? Or what’s been going on in Claire Hart’s world?
Claire: Well, I would say mostly trying to be COVID-friendly. So lots of outdoor shoots, me wearing my mask. I’ve done three or four weddings since March, all about 50 people to maybe 10 people at the most. And all the different venues in town are being great about keeping everything sanitized and separate, and everyone’s safe. So that’s been just the biggest adaptability, I’ve had to face is working with a mask all day where maybe my camera lenses are kind of fogging up, or my viewfinder is fogging up, and just trying to adapt to those kinds of things. 80% of my work is conventions, so obviously I took a big hit when all this happened. And I’m sure it’s not going to bounce back overnight. So just doing like little jobs, maybe like editing stuff that people have had for years that they just wanted touched up, maybe. I’m finishing a lot of long-term projects. I’ve started a cookbook called COVID Consommé. But I just actually moved into a new house and have a new kitchen that I love. So I’m kind of rethinking doing all my photos, again, just because this kitchen looks so much better. And those are things that I didn’t really have time for before. It’s always like, I’m going to do the paying job first before I finish my personal project. Or I’m gonna post on social media that I manage for other companies, but I’m not going to do my own. And that’s one thing that I’ve been really like focusing on is making sure that I’m making time for my business, too, and that’s not suffering. Because now I have no excuse that I don’t have enough time, because I have plenty of it. And then I think the other thing is like, I’m actually doing the start of a photo essay, that I had kind of brewing in my head for the last few months, and now I’m making it happen. But this is purely for my benefit. I’m not doing it for a company or a sponsor, this is just something that I want to see become full force, full completion, you know? So I’m really excited because I haven’t done anything for myself in so long. In terms of photo wise. So that’s exciting.
Amanda: I think that’s one of the biggest gifts in all of this mess that’s happened, and hopefully a reminder for all of us. Because I’ve definitely become aware of how much I’ve pushed my own projects aside. And it’s, in a sense, it’s a logical thing to do. Because if this person wants to pay you to do this job, that affords you more time and money to be able to work on the things that you want to work on. And I will never complain about being busy. But sometimes it just happens that I have all the list of the personal things that I want to do. And the paying work keeps me a little too busy for that. Or then I have a quick break, nut I really need to decompress and not work on another thing.
So the first, in the beginning of this… March, April, May or so, there was no work. And I spent about a month trying to help other people first. And then I got into this really great point where I’m like, okay, I can redo my website. And I can focus on this and start building this. And then, fortunately, I got another job working on a series that’s kept me busy for the last few months. But that list is still there waiting for me, and I’m really trying to make that effort to make more time for my own projects, too. And this podcast is a big one of them, because I love it. And also it gives me a chance to talk to other people, which miss anti-social over here doesn’t always get the opportunity to do, but especially in the current environment, socializing is still not a thing I can really do anyway. So this helps, and it gives me some extra content, which I am terrible at social media, as everyone knows, and I post maybe once a week if even that. And eventually I’ll get to a point… I’ve been saying for several, several years… where I’ll be able to put more stuff out there. But we’ll see. But I think we all, as business owners, need to remember to make time for ourselves to and make our own projects priority if they really mean that much to us.
Claire: Exactly. And you know what, I do a lot of social media for some local companies in town who want me to post like two, three times a week and honestly, I think it’s too much. I mean, you’re just gonna leave them wanting more with your one a week or every other week kind of thing.
Amanda: I always say I try to maintain a certain level of mystery, maybe a little too much. But it’s not… again, it’s not in my nature to think about, what is it about me that people might want to see? I’m not that kind of person. Where some people are like, “Oh, people will love to see this. And I’m doing this.” And they’re very me-centric, not always in a bad way, but I’m just not that way at all. And self-promotion is really uncomfortable for me, so that’s another thing that I’m trying to push beyond. Because at some point, I either need to hire somebody to do it for me, or I need to get over it. And I’ve made gradual steps to where it’s like, okay, I suppose if people are following me, it’s there for a reason. So I should give them something. Or even if it’s just a little sign to say it, you know, I’m still here, I’m okay.
So, if you had one piece of advice for other self-employed creatives out there, what would it be?
Claire: Oh, one? I have to narrow it down to one?
Amanda: You don’t have to. You can give as much advice as you’d like!
Claire: Always take time out of your busy schedule to relax, because otherwise you’re going to lose your mind, and then you’re going to hate the work that you’re doing. Stay true to yourself and your vision. I don’t know how many times I’ve had clients that want everything to look a certain way, and then in the end, they go with my gut instinct. I do feel like you should voice your opinion for your vision. Even if it doesn’t always work out, at least you know you stayed true to yourself. Follow up. I think that’s really important for your clients, your business associates, anyone that helps you stay motivated and successful. And volunteering or giving back to some charity at least like once or twice a year. I know, to me, that feels more rewarding than any paycheck that I can get. Especially if I can use my talents or teach people about photography. I just feel that, you know, in the end, when I lay my head down at night, like that’s something that I can be proud of and that really makes me feel good.
Amanda: I love all of it. I agree with everything you just said, and I’m glad I know you because we need more people like you in the world making people smile. Where can people find you in the social media land?
Claire: clairehartphotography.com and also on Instagram and Facebook.
Amanda: Claire Hart, thank you so much for joining me today.
Claire: You got it. Thanks for having me, Amanda.
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