Balance doesn’t exist, but you can still be a business owner and a mom, with photographer Rae Barnes
Susan talks with Rae Barnes, owner of Rae Barnes Photography. Rae is not only a professional photographer, but she is also a mother of four. Rae shares that she wanted to be both a mom and a business owner and they discuss how she does her best to balance both.
Susan Long: Friends, today I’m talking with Rae Barnes, owner of Rae Barnes, photography. Rae and I met in college and for as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an incredibly talented artist. We talk about everything from owning your own business, being a mom, balance and boundaries. I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to talk with her and I hope our conversation gives you the same boost that it gave me. Here’s Rae.
Susan Long: Good morning, Rae. How are you?
Rae Barnes: I’m doing well. How are you, Susan?
Susan Long: I am great and I am so excited to have you here with us today.
Rae Barnes: Yeah, I’m excited to be here too.
Susan Long: Friends Rae and I met in college. I was very thankful and very lucky that she transferred schools and she transferred to my school. She is a photographer and I think in a little bit of an unusual way. She has been a photographer since the beginning of her career, meaning unlike a lot of us who have transferred our skills around and found other things. Rae started out here, so friends, I’m just going to let Rae kind of take it from here and I’m going to let you run with it Rae. Tell us how you got started, how you knew that’s what you wanted to do. If you knew that’s what you wanted to do. Just let’s start at the beginning.
Rae Barnes: Yeah. So my journey is rather interesting. So when I was at Converse College with you, um, I really thought that I was going to either go into advertising or teach photography on the college level because both of those things were practical and I like to think of myself as a practical person. So I graduated and started pursuing advertising. Interning with the firm. And not long into it I got a call from the dean of the art department, at Converse College saying someone was looking for a student to photograph their wedding. And of course I always loved photography and I had studied it and pursued it, but wedding photography was always seen as the bottom of the barrel for artists at least at that time. But you know, being a recent graduate, I thought, what the heck, I’ll make a little extra money. So I photographed my first wedding straight out of college and I loved it. It took me about a year and a half to go full time. So I did have a couple different jobs in there. I also got engaged and married and moved to two different states in that year and a half before I went full time. But um, yeah, it was kind of wild road that has taken a lot of turns, but I can say that I have been a professional photographer since I graduated college.
Susan Long: I did not realize that wedding photography was seen as the bottom of the barrel and we don’t have to go down that rabbit trail, but I find that fascinating considering how much wedding photographers charge.
Rae Barnes: Well, so it’s not seen that way anymore. At all. In fact, I was talking with someone yesterday and they assume that if you are making your living as a photographer then you must be doing weddings and I do not do weddings anymore. Uh, I did that for eight years and I’ve been done for five. So.
Susan Long: So talk a little bit about that. How did that transition happen and what took you down this same career? Kind of, but a little bit of a twist.
Rae Barnes: Yeah. So several things happened. So I was very passionate about wedding photography. I loved it when I first started my career when my husband and I had just gotten married. We were in the Adirondack Mountains of New York and it was a destination wedding market. The locals couldn’t necessarily afford photography, but all of the people coming in that were having their weddings there were spending a lot of money and they could afford photography. So that was my market and it was great. It was really great for that stage in my life, um, for being a newlywed. I was very passionate about it. And then in 2009 I had a baby.
Rae Barnes: My last year before I became a mother was a crazy year. I probably worked 50 hours most weeks, sometimes closer to 60, I had someone on staff, I had a studio space, it was a six figure business it was crazy. It was really intense.
Susan Long: You were living the dream
Rae Barnes: Sort of. Accept I was exhausted. So then I had a baby and I was not prepared for how much that changed me and my life and my outlook on how I spent my time and working even 40 hours was no longer an option. So I cut back dramatically, and then my husband got a job in Philadelphia, so we moved in 2010 from that tiny little market where I was big fish in a little pond. Had the corner of the market was booking out a year and a half in advance to this huge city where there were tons of photographers. So, so, you know, to make a long story short, it took me about two years and two more pregnancies to decide that I could no longer do weddings and part of it was just because of the market. It was very different client in the city than it was in the mountains, obviously and part of it was just our life. I didn’t want to be on my feet for 10 to 12 hours so it was just a natural progression to move towards family photography and so that is a hundred percent of my income comes from family portraits. So you know, it was quite a rollercoaster making that adjustment. 2013 was a really slow year as I transitioned away from weddings into families but that was when our third child was born and I needed to be slow. So it worked out kind of a roller coaster and it worked out. I back up to a six figure business, but I only work 24 hours a week. So that’s amazing.
Susan Long: Yes, it is. Holy Cow. And you’re not exhausted. Well, maybe you are now because you have four children.
Rae Barnes: Now I have 4 children. No, but it’s a much healthier balance for me. It’s much healthier being balanced, having family time and it was time.
Susan Long: and I love that you have found a way to do that and also have not only a successful business but I would imagine have something for yourself that’s outside, ya know, the “Momming” thing. Which I love “Momming” too, but I love having something outside myself outside of all of that just kind of for me. And it helps when you can make a little money doing it.
Rae Barnes: Absolutely. Yeah, so even the years when I was pregnant and nursing and doing all of those Mom things, I never let my business go and part of that I think just is rooted from me being stubborn, but part of it is also because I have some very loyal clients and I just could not imagine letting them go and I also couldn’t imagine not having that outlet, not having that creative outlet. There are some amazing photographers out there that when they become moms seem to start focusing on photographing their own children and I just don’t find the same contentment there that I do in running a business. I want to run a business and I’ve always enjoyed that, so it’s always been a good thing for me even it was very part time.
Susan Long: Well talk a little bit about that. Talk to us. Obviously you’re very passionate about your business and being a mother. How do you, I guess, how do you make that work?
Rae Barnes: Yeah, so I think it’s taken me a long time to figure it out. My oldest daughter is 9 now and I feel like I’m finally getting to the point where I have a really great balance, so it’s taken me quite a bit of time, but honestly it just comes down to boundaries. I have an office in my home and I close the door when I’m in here, and even if I have a nanny here that’s watching the kids in the summer, that door’s closed sometimes its locked if I’m on the phone. I have very clear boundaries of this is work time and then this is family time. Um, I don’t check my emails. I don’t usually make phone calls. I, I very rarely make exceptions for certain appointments outside of those hours. Now I do all of my sessions on the weekend typically, but I’m never away from my family for more than three hours. Um, and so I think that that has really been the key to keeping us all kind of happy is having those boundaries.
Susan Long: Absolutely. And something, I’ll interject something here just a little bit because I know there’s a woman out there saying, well I have nowhere in my house. I don’t have a spare room for an office. Friends in launching this podcast. My family is also building a house, so we’ve got a lot going on and we’re currently in a rental home that has no extra bedrooms. We are using them all and so I have taken a very small closet. It’s actually a closet in our house and I have a very, very small desk and a little like wall shelf and a few things set up on those. So if you really want to find an office, you can make one in your home.
Rae Barnes: So for 5 years I worked off of a laptop. I did not have an office because where my current office is used to be the nursery. So I had a laptop and I would either hide in the basement, which is very dark and cold. Um, or I would go to Starbucks or the library or anywhere where I can find quiet. I, yeah, you just do what you have to do you. And I worked, you know, slower years. I worked during nap times, I worked after the kids went to bed. I didn’t have as clear cut bundaries as I do now because I was first and foremost mom during the daylight hours.
Susan Long: Sure.
Rae Barnes: Yeah. That was challenging. I wouldn’t trade that time for the world, but I also wouldn’t go back to that time for the world. It was hard. Yeah. You just kind of, just make due with what you have, that’s for sure.
Susan Long: So clearly you have set yourself up for success. You’ve done it over the years, but how do you define that for yourself?
Rae Barnes: So, um, success for me is a really interesting thing to think about, because I don’t view success as a destination rather a journey. I really, I personally feel my success is a balance of contentment and discomfort. So the contentment is contentment with all the accomplishments I’ve had, all the wins that I’ve had, seeing how far I’ve come, but no comfort in staying there. I don’t find comfort in staying there. Um, success is something I hope that I never just sit here and think, OK, I’ve made it. I’m successful now. I can just coast because I think that’s really dangerous place to be. I think complacency is a very dangerous spot to be, especially as a business owner, a small business owner, entrepreneur, anything you’re in, especially creative fields. Things are constantly changing. So there’s no time to coast.
Susan Long: Sure.
Rae Barnes: So its just a delicate balance to me of being content with what I’ve done, but not content enough to stay there.
Susan Long: Well, in that same vein then, how do you motivate yourself and how are you, I guess your best cheerleader? Like how do you, what is it that keeps you going?
Rae Barnes: Yeah, so I think it just comes down to my why, Why? If I’m ever feeling like I’m lacking motivation, I have to look at why that either the two levels of why, why am I lacking motivation? Um, is it because I’m doing a task that needs to be eliminated or delegated or renovated. Is it some task that would be better outsourced?
Susan Long: Yeah.
Rae Barnes: Yeah, I’m really big on outsourcing. I couldn’t do it in 24 hours a week. Um, I couldn’t do it all, but I have a team of people that I outsource certain things to. But there are certain tasks that just don’t need to be done. And then there are certain tasks that you kind of have to power through it, you know, you do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do and you just kind of push through those things and you know, then the other level is the why is why am I doing this, you know, thinking about I only want to work a 24 hour week right now because my youngest is two and my next youngest is about to go to kindergarten and I want time with them.
Susan Long: Absolutely.
Rae Barnes: You know, even if it’s just two days a week I take off and I want to be there to take my kids to school and pick them up. Um, so, you know, it’s job that I love, I really love what I do. I love working with families. I love helping them create wonderful pieces for their home, but at the end of the day it is a job. It’s very fulfilling, but my family is the most important thing to me and so my time away from them needs to be spent wisely and I need to be efficient and you know, pursuing the things that are going to advance my business and make money so that I can provide for my family really, you know, those are the two things that keep me motivated, keep me stepping forward.
Susan Long: So you have these, do you have any fun tips or tricks or books you’ve read or blogs you’ve read or podcasts you’ve listened to that have helped develop that side of yourself to know?
Rae Barnes: Yeah, so I think, that for me, there’s no one thing that I pursue a lot of things. So I read or listened to books. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I am part of a photographer’s mastermind group that is full of education. I’m full of different business organizations and so I pursue education constantly and I think that that helps keep me going. All of those pieces of never stop, never stop learning, never stop listening because even if I’m listening to a podcast with somebody who, you know, it’s in a completely different industry from me, I still can learn so much about how to better my business through other people. So I can’t say that there’s one thing. You know, one of my favorite books I’ve read recently was by, Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don’t Starve.
Susan Long: Oh yeah.
Rae Barnes: That was really, really a great read, especially as a creative entrepreneur because so often, you know, we have this concept of the starving artists. And he says, you need money to make art. Which is very true. My latest camera cost me over $5,000. So if I weren’t charging appropriately for my work I wouldn’t be able to afford my equipment or my computer or I wouldn’t be able to run a business if I didn’t charge appropriately. So that was really a great great book for me. But like I said, there’s so many different sources that I just every day am being fed by somebody different usually
Susan Long: That’s, that’s really fascinating. I love that and think, I mean, you’re not charging your clients, you know, $5,000 for one photo. So they saved a lot of money right there.
Rae Barnes: Although I do often have clients that spend that much, but it’s not on one photo.
Susan Long: Exactly. But they didn’t have to go out and buy the camera. Oh yes. We’ve done a few. We’ve done a few family photo sessions at this point. I am well aware of what they cost, but I’m also very excited when I get the results. So it’s worth it every time. And I know you’ve talked about doing traveling stuff in the past. I don’t know, you still, we still have not been able to get our families together for any kind of photography or just anything because I’m never on the east coast. Um, or if I am, I’m never out of the state of South Carolina, but one day, one day Rae you will photograph my family. I am bound and determined to make this happen. I love your work. I love your work. We’ve talked a lot about family, we’ve talked a lot about your work, but let’s pull back a little bit and talk about yourself because I hear you giving, giving, giving a lot to your clients, a lot to your business, a lot to your family. How do you take care of yourself? How do you put it down?
Rae Barnes: Yeah. So, um, I can’t say that I’ve mastered this.
Susan Long: No one has.
Rae Barnes: But as Moms, it is something that all of us struggle with. It’s so interesting because I’m an introvert and I work alone most of the time. Every once in a while I have my assistant in the office with me that most of the time. And often that recharges me being alone, you know, but I do have a job that can be intense and stressful. You know, running a business is not easy. And so I think for me it’s really making sure that I do get alone time. That is not stressful. Taking time to be unplugged, I really try to leave my phone at home, we go to church on Sundays, and it kinda annoys my husband, but I leave my phone at home so can’t text me an tell me where he is in the church somewhere in the church.
Rae Barnes: But I just love to leave that behind and stop looking at whatever I was looking at, you know, exercising, going to yoga is, is always really great for me. I love being outside, you know, every season it’s just a little bit different what I do to recharge. It’s really easy as an introvert to live in a vaccum, but we can’t do that. Even just going out with my girlfriends or one girlfriend meeting up, going out with my husband. We try to do regular date night. Thats just so critical for us because our dinner table is so loud.
Susan Long: I can imagine
Rae Barnes: I mean date nights are sometimes the only time we get to talk to each other. Like, oh, what are you doing, what are you doing at work these days? But it really is so important to seek out ways to be recharged. Because you get burnt out easily, otherwise.
Susan Long: Absolutely and I love that you brought up making time for your spouse because especially working and working late hours, getting this thing off the ground like I have been doing. We have seriously had to make an effort and having a toddler, a three and a half year old. We’ve had to make time for each other that we haven’t had to do in a long time and I don’t know that we ever had to do it like this and finding that, making that happen has been very, very, very important. So I’m glad you brought that up.
Rae Barnes: It’s so important to be intentional with your time. I think that balancing a business with the mom life has really forced me to be intentional and efficient with my time and I don’t mean efficient when I’m with my children. Sometimes you just need to sit there and be there. Or playing Chutes and Ladders. Candyland. Monopoly.
Susan Long: Yeah. We haven’t gotten to that Monopoly stage yet. I’m not looking forward to that part.
Rae Barnes: Monopoly Junior is a good start.
Susan Long: Oh, that’s right. There’s a junior that that would be easier. I know many of our listeners have heard you talk today. They’ve heard our conversation and they realize that they can do this. They’ve had this dream in the back of their head. Whatever that dream is, whatever that goal is and whatever about our conversation today made them think maybe. Maybe I can do that. So what action step, because we can talk all day long and talking is great, but until you take that leap, there’s no action. So what is that action step that maybe you would advise a friend to? What would be that next step that they would want, that you would suggest they take if they are looking to do something on their own outside the box? Just starting maybe from scratch?
Rae Barnes: Yeah. So there’s, um, I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve heard people say this, the title of this book over and over again, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.
Susan Long: I know exactly what you’re talking about. I haven’t read it either.
Rae Barnes: I need to read that. It should be my next Audible. Sometimes I just have to listen, but um, I love that thing. Feel the fear and do it anyway because just about every step that I take in my business that makes my business better is scary. It’s scary, but there’s always that fear that nobody’s going to come back to mewhen I make this change. Nobody’s gunna like this. You just have to kind of push through that and do it anyway. But like I was saying before, you can’t live in a vacuum, so I firmly believe in seeking out mentors, a mentor or an accountability group, or any kind of source you can find that’s really going to help feed you the courage to do this, but do it thoughtfully and intentionally doing research and then just take that first step, you know, you will find that community that you need to help encourage you to do it. But then just do it. Feel that fear and let it fuel you and just take that first step and you know, it’s not, it’s not a cakewalk doing something that is challenging obviously, but it’s absolutely worth it to do that, to pursue these challenging things because when you do succeed, it’s just, there’s, the payoff is so great, you know, and I wouldn’t trade where I, am right now for the world, I am just so thankful for all challenges I’ve been through. The hards times that I’be been through. There have definitely been some really hard times. Running a business. Being a mom. You know, there’s always challenges, life isn’t easy, but anything worth pursuing isn’t going to be easy. Right?
Susan Long: No, not at all right. Well Rae, do you have anything else you want to share with us before we close today? Is there anything that I missed?
Rae Barnes: I was thinking about one thing. If I’m speaking to anyone who is in those beginning stages of building a business or you know, becoming something new sometimes we all struggle with that confidence to take that step. And I was thinking about this and I know we mentioned, we’ve talked about this before Susan, this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I think culture right now. We really struggle with comparison that it is just like this virus this disease and it’s just come over all of us because we have social media that is constantly showing us how great everybody else’s life is.
Susan Long: Yes.
Rae Barnes: Yeah. It’s easy to get sucked into that. And uh, I would challenge anyone to just step away from it. Social media is, is it necessary evil. But you are looking at everybody’s highlight reel and nobody has it put together. Nobody has it perfect. Nobody’s living the dream 100% of the time. Life is messy. I just wanted to throw that out there to just, to not be in a comparison game of comparing yourself to where other people are, you know, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s no such thing as someone going from zero to 100 overnight. That’s my closing thought.
Susan Long: That is a fantastic closing thought and I really appreciate you being here today.
Rae Barnes: Thank you.
Susan Long: That was fantastic. Yes, absolutely. We will have to have you back at some point, but thank you again and we will talk soon.
Susan Long: Wasn’t that fun? I have so many takeaways from this conversation. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” What a great quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I’m tucking that one away. Friends, thanks again for joining us. If you liked this episode, I know you will be excited about our future guests, so go on over to itunes or our website and hit subscribe. I would love it if you would also leave a review as I’m excited to hear what you think. Also on our website, you’ll be able to find the links to the things we mentioned in the show as well as Rae’s website, raebarnes.com and social media info on Instagram at Rae Barnes photo and on Facebook at Rae Barnes Photography. Thanks again friends, I’ll see ya soon.