We had the good fortune of connecting with Jesica Clay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jesica, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind the success of my business and my brand is definitely the consistency I demonstrate in my work and the love and commitment I show to my clients. Being consistent in all aspects of my business is so important to me because I want my clients to know what the exact client experience is that they’re going to get with me. My work itself, of course, requires a huge focus on consistency. I want clients to look at my website, social media, etc., and have a very clear picture of the style of my work. I like my work to look bright and crisp with some good contrast and pop, so the individuals who want this look are the individuals who will choose me as their photographer. For instance, if a client wanted a very dark and moody look, I simply wouldn’t be the right photographer for them. If my work is consistent on all my platforms, my work style isn’t hard to convey. I also want clients to look at my images and see joy and love immediately, whatever the event I am capturing. I want them to be able to imagine their own wedding day when they look at the images on my website, and imagine laughing and loving with their friends and family, while having complete confidence in my expertise, knowing I will get these same types of images for them! On wedding days I am “all in” with my clients. This means that I am not just there behind the scenes taking pictures – I am 100% involved in their day, and my main goal is to make my clients feel special, and to make their day the very best that I can. I spend almost the entire day with the bride, so it’s important that I develop a great relationship with her and make sure she feels comfortable with me! My couples’ wedding is so important to me and I want to deliver the very best experience I can by showing them the utmost love and attention!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What sets you apart from others? I believe the fact that I am genuine and real sets me apart from others. I am “me”, focused and attentive, respectful, fun, honest, and transparent, from the second they meet me on our first consultation, through to any post-wedding conversations. I can be loud if needed, I take charge on wedding days, and I am in control. This gives my clients such confidence and peace that they don’t have anything to worry about on their wedding day, knowing that I have their vision of their special day completely covered. They know there are no surprises and we have planned everything out, long before the wedding day. What you are most proud of or excited about? What I am most proud of is my drive to want to succeed with my business. I dove “all in” when I started this business full-time without having another job. I did so much research about starting a wedding photography business when I first decided to go full-time and found so many educators out there who I felt were literally speaking right to me. The educators were there for me right when I needed them. I learned an immense amount of knowledge in so many areas of photography, and I was soaking every bit of it in! I even flew to a 4 day conference in Phoenix a few months after my business had officially started, and I had the opportunity to meet many of these educators who to me, were celebrities that changed my life! As my business continues to grow, I will continue to use this same drive to serve my clients in the most creative, service-oriented manner I can. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, excited about meeting new clients, and continuing to develop on-going relationships with established clients. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? I was shooting weddings part-time about five years before I started shooting weddings full-time and legitimately started my business. So, I knew a lot about how to shoot a wedding and the logistics of that, but there was still so much I didn’t know. I did a significant amount of photography and business research. I worked hard at developing my own style my own way, and that has been a huge part of how I got to where I am now. Additionally, there is absolutely no way that I could be where I am today without my loving and supporting husband who told me one day to just quit my current (teaching and coaching) job and go full-time with photography. He knew how much I loved photography, how passionate I was about it, and he believed in me! That definitely made things so much easier, as I was then able to immerse myself 100% into my craft. How did you overcome the challenges? There have definitely been some challenges with my business. Learning how to manage my money all on my own, withhold income for paying taxes, and all the “boring other” things that creatives want nothing to do with were a struggle, and honestly, they still are at times. But, nothing beats working for myself and doing what I absolutely love. Knowing how to handle the financial side of my business is critical to my success. I could be having the worst week and then have a wedding that Saturday and everything that was challenging about the week just fades away. I immediately “turn it on” – my focus, my full attention, the second I arrive at a venue and see all the smiling faces of the bridal party, meet the mom of the bride, and hug the beautiful bride on her wedding day. It truly makes my day!! The love I have for what I do, knowing that I am capturing memories for my clients, helps me overcome any challenges I may come up against. What are the lessons you’ve learned from your business? The lessons I have learned from my business have helped me identify and prioritize my work and personal tasks, as I aim for work/personal life balance. Working from home might have been the hardest adjustment I have had to make. Suddenly being alone and feeling isolated at home every day was very tough. I was so used to seeing hundreds of people everyday at work and talking with my students, my colleagues and friends all day, so to go from that to it being just me and my laptop was very difficult. Then, we had our amazing son Sebastian, and his arrival changed everything! Now I had to make another adjustment, that of being a full-time business owner who worked from home, and also now a mom taking care of a baby around the clock. But you do what you have to do, and you learn to adjust and make things work for your business and your family. I learned quickly to make “business hours” for myself, even if they weren’t the normal 8-5 hours. I learned to work when it was best for me and for my schedule. I am a night person and once my son was asleep, I found time to work. I also wake up early before he gets up and I try to get in an hour or two of uninterrupted work time. I learned through a lot of trial and error though, while knowing that what works for one person, might not work for someone else. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story? I believe the versatility I had to develop in school as an athlete had a huge influence on the success I have had in my business. I grew up playing sports from a very young age through college, so I had the opportunity to meet and work with all different types of people and personalities, many of whom I’m best friends with to this day. I know playing sports made me a hard-working and better person, and taught me to better understand how people think and how people work. This knowledge of people has allowed me to become a better business owner, better able and willing to understand my clients wants and needs while also being able to work well with other wedding professionals and vendors. I am honest and transparent and I think people really appreciate that quality in me. I want my brand to reflect all of these things so that my clients always know they are going to receive a high end, hard-working, honest experience from me and my work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well my answer is much different now than it would’ve be a few years ago! Now that I have a child, my life has changed a bit. And to be honest, I am a home body anyways! We have a pool and love spending time at home! BUT I love living in Dallas/Fort Worth and being able to get so much out of all that it has to offer is great! I should take advantage of it more, I know. I actually live in Arlington which I absolutely love! I am right between Fort Worth and Dallas so I can get the best of both worlds within only a 20 minute drive. I love downtown Fort Worth, especially during the holidays. It has a relaxing vibe to it. I love Dallas as well and fine myself there more these days than Fort Worth-mainly for work. I love White Rock Lake and if I lived close to it, I would probably be there everyday. I’d get food and drinks packed up and sit on one of the docks by the water. It really is the best there and its so big. There are so many different areas on the lake to go and explore. Top Golf is always a must! At any of the locations! It is such a great place to hang and enjoy time with friends! Plus if you have a husband like mine who is obsessed with golf, its a win, win!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Hands down Amy and Jordan Demos, Katelyn James and Jasmine Star are my biggest influencers and educators. They are all wedding photographers and now of more educators and have helped me more than I can ever put into words. I would not be where I am in my career without them! They are all huge all over the country-world even in our industry and have helped so many. What I really love about them is who they are as people. Yes, I love all they have taught me but they all are just amazing humans that attract other amazing humans. I am in Facebook groups for each and have met so many amazing people in the groups. It really has been life changing and I am so very grateful.
Rebecca Tripp, Nate and Grace Photography, Kimberly Harrell Photography