Featured today is a lady whose work I have been admiring from a distance for a number of years. I first came across Lauren Setterberg via her blog, Glossary. While I was a student, I used to procrastinate writing my essays by reading her posts and poring over her amazing photos.
I then followed her on other social media, mostly Instagram though, because I love her posts. In February of this year, I found out that she was leaving her full-time job in advertising (where she was a brilliant copywriter) to pursue a career in photography.
Of course, I was beyond keen to see her new branding, website, and of course, her photos.
I emailed Lauren a couple of months ago to congratulate her on her new career and her bravery. As soon as I came up with the blog series concept, I immediately thought of her and had to email her to see if she would allow me to feature her on the blog. She enthusiastically agreed, and so, here’s the always delightful Lauren Setterberg.
Q: What made you decide to leave your job and pursue photography full-time?
A: For many years, I’d secretly dreamt of becoming a photographer but it all seemed… well, too risky and hard. In January, I went back to work after the Christmas break but I just felt burnt out to a crisp. I’d been working in advertising for twelve years and I was craving a break from the nine to…nine pm!
My 34th birthday was also approaching and I just thought, it’s now or never. I teed up some freelance advertising work so I wouldn’t be crushed by the financial pressure of depending solely on photography gigs but fortunately, they’ve kept rolling in! I really didn’t have much of a plan as I was so exhausted when I resigned. I just figured, if this doesn’t work out, I can go back to advertising but it looks like photography is going to remain in my future which has made me so dang happy – I absolutely love it!
Q: What gave you the confidence to take that huge step?
A: I didn’t really have a moment where I was like, “Right, totally confident and ready to do this now!” It was more, “Oh my gosh – I’m so knackered – I’m gonna be thirty-four soon – I need to just just give this dream a bash or I’ll regret it forever.” Not incredibly cheerful but that’s the gist of it! My friends and family had always encouraged me to pursue photography and their blind faith edged me on to give it a go 🙂
Q: What was the process you followed when starting to set up your brand?
A: Well, as much as I love me a good logo and shelves of pretty stationery, I think a brand is so much more than that. It’s really about the experience because if a client has a rubbish time and receives a crummy service, a pretty logo ain’t gonna save the day! I’ve intentionally held back from throwing twelve years of marketing experience into my business because I wanted to focus on getting my skill level up in the early months. It’s easy to make things look nice and sound nice but you need a solid service or product to match. I opted for a soft launch with minimal marketing because I wanted to grow at an organic, manageable pace. When I hit that one year mark, I may start to hustle harder!
Oh, back to the experience… I’ve always been an open book, and I feel that the more open you are in terms of your vibe and interests, the more likely you are to connect with your dream clients. My hope is that potential clients can see that while I’m madly passionate and focused on doing a good job, I’m also always up for a laugh! So in terms of the experience, I always try to make my clients feel happy, relaxed and secure because when they’re relaxed, the magic happens.
There’s so much more that I want to do in terms of creating beautiful products and packaging but it’ll all happen in good time. In terms of stationery and web design, I wanted everything to feel clean yet striking, feminine but not too girly, modern yet timeless, simple but slick… I hope it eventually looks like it was made by the gang at Kikki K!
Q: How do you manage your branding and make sure everything you do (from business cards, to packaging, to info packs) keeps in line with your brand?
A: Fortunately, I’ve learnt a lot of branding principles from working in advertising for twelve years but, like many new business owners, I’ve had to design everything myself (and I used to work as a writer, not a designer!) This sometimes means I don’t always quite pull off the vision I have in mind but I’m pretty chuffed with what I’ve achieved so far as a lone ranger! Mood boards are always a great place to start and from there you start to pin down your key colours, fonts and imagery style. It’s best to stick to a couple of core elements rather than using fifty million fonts and designs. When creating something new, I always review it alongside all the other bits to ensure that everything looks like it belongs together.
Q: How do you manage your social media commitments?
A: This is a funny one! I know there are real benefits to studying analytics and posting consistently at certain times of the day because I used to do that for work. Personally though, I’ve always been a little erratic with social stuff! Social media is amazing… it’s opened many doors for me, and I’ve made so many wonderful friends though it but I try not to get too hung up on stats and followers and likes. For now, I prefer to post when I’m simply excited to share something. I might become more disciplined about it in the future in order to have some order in my office! I used to plug away at every channel but these days, I really only have time for Facebook and Instagram and I love hanging out at those two spaces. That said, I’ll unplug from it all when I feel overwhelmed by too much… stuff! It’s really good for the soul to have a digital detox now and then.
Q: How do you motivate yourself to keep going when your inner critic’s voice gets a bit too loud?
A: Oh, that critic is a rowdy one! I went through a phase of wanting to quit every day because I didn’t feel good enough but I refused to because I simply hadn’t put in enough time yet. You have to practise and practise and practise, and slowly but surely, your confidence grows. I also realised I was way too hard on myself in the beginning. Now, I try to judge my work by my experience level, rather than comparing myself to people who have been shooting for twenty years.
Q: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned since you started your business?
A: Patience and determination are biggies. I wanted to “get good” quickly because I started this much later in life but “getting good” only comes with practise and practise takes time. I’ve been completely out of my comfort zone in many respects but I’ve learnt so much in the deep end! Honestly, the past six months have felt like one giant lesson in bravery. I’ve often had to steel my nerves but I’m glad I kept going because it’s been so, so rewarding!
I love Lauren’s real talk about starting a business and sticking with it when everything feels far too overwhelming. The lessons she shares can be applied to any business in any industry.
Thank you, Lauren, for your unflinching honesty and your consistent openness with your audience. Keep rocking out like the brightest star that you are.
Melissa De Klerk
Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi
Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.
You can contact her here, and find her on social media by clicking the links below.