For 6 years my photography studio was based at the Riverside Business Centre in Lowestoft, an office building full of a wide range of businesses; from cleaning companies and estate agents to first aid trainers and financial advisors. It had car parking, a reception, 24 hour access and security, my office was on the ground floor so was easily accessible and I had plenty of room. I got lots of compliments on the set up that I had and the convenience of the location, so, why did I decide to leave?
We have one little person to thank for that... Errol.
When Nigel and I decided that we wanted to have a child of our own we knew that something would have to change with my business. I was spending just under £800 a month on rent at the business centre and we knew it wouldn't be financially viable to carry on paying that amount of money when I was off on maternity leave. Even when I came back to work after that my working hours were going to be cut down quite considerably, we don't have family around to help out with babysitting duties - apart from my grandparents for the odd afternoon here and there - so there was no way I would be able to commit to working enough to cover the rent and all of the other business costs in the little time that I was able to go to work.
It wasn't even a consideration for me to give it up, Nigel almost mentioned it at one point and I cut him off before he even had the chance to finish his sentence. There was no way I was going to stop doing studio photography, newborn photography in particular is my favourite thing to do and without a studio I just wouldn't be able to make it work. I needed a studio.
The solution was simple, we decided that we would move house and find one where we could build a home studio, a much larger outgoing to start off with but it would relieve that monthly rent burden and allow me to be home more with the baby. The idea was simple, finding the house was not! One of my main worries was that it would be seen as a step backwards going from having a studio in a commercial building to a studio at home, but we made sure we didn't compromise and 'make do' - it had to be an ideal set up if not we weren't going to do it. We had such a specific set of requirements it felt like we would never find a house that was suitable and affordable, but then we found 'The Library'. Moving into it was far from plain sailing - that's a story of it's own. I should probably take the time here to shout out Ange & Co for being the most amazing estate agents around, without them I would have definitely lost my mind! Please do check them out if you are wanting to put your house on the market! (They didn't ask me to say that, they really are the best!)
So, what was it about this house that we loved so much? From a work point of view it met my requirements perfectly; It had a room big enough to be used as a studio, it used to be the garage, (we converted it after we moved in), which means it also has easy access without having to go through the whole house. It is still part of the main house though which means it is warm, thanks to the cavity wall insulation and and underfloor heating, and has easy access to a toilet - right next to it actually!
Having the studio at home means that I have everything I need all of the time, and when I am working and my grandparents are watching Errol I am still in the house if they need me for anything, I don't know who that is more of a relief for, me or them! There has even been scenarios where it has been an advantage to be working from home, I had one session where we planned a floral milk bath but the baby just kept on putting the flowers in her mouth. Mum mentioned that she considered switching it to a bath full of strawberries as that was her favourite food at the time but decided to stick with the flowers. I happened to have a punnet of strawberries in my fridge so dashed to get them and we ended up getting some fantastic strawberry bath photos as well!
The other bonus to the home studio and saving the money on rent each month means that I can take on less work. This has been great for 2 reasons, firstly it has allowed me to spend more time with my family, something I wanted to be able to do even before Errol was born, but it also means that I am able to spend more time focusing on each of my clients. Having less photoshoots each week and less clients to think about each month means that I can properly devote my time to every session without having to clock-watch or rush any part of the experience. I now get to spend more time fine tuning the entire process to provide a refined and bespoke service, something I have always been passionate about, but now I really have the time to get stuck into it properly
The main thing for me was to make sure that I could provide a service that was just as good as what I was providing at the business centre, and in my opinion I can now provide an even better experience than I was before. So any fears that I once had about this being a potential step backwards are well and truly gone. I can't wait to continue growing Amy Louise Photography by providing a special service, and making everyone that steps through my door feel appreciated and well looked after, as well as giving them precious photos to treasure forever, of course.