While “starry-eyed and hopeful” may describe 21-year-old Nancy fresh off her photography degree, being equipped to run a business, price her services, and navigate the business side of running a business—well, that was another story. I guess even photography school doesn’t teach you how to do all that!
In today’s interview, Nancy shares her 12-year journey in the photography business, how she built a five-person team, and brought in multiple-six figures of revenue per year. She talks navigating massive growth all while becoming a mama of four! Her story will inspire all of us to sit down and define what success looks like to us in this season and give us the courage to pivot as needed to make sure the business we are building aligns with the life we want to live.
“There are seasons to your business and seasons to your life. It’s so important to reset what success looks like as your seasons change.”
As the founder of Nancy Ray Photography and host of the “Work and Play with Nancy Ray” podcast, my friend Nancy has been through just about every season as an entrepreneur. And with each one, success has looked a little different.
Turned down for a job just out of college, Nancy was forced to pivot on her career path. What may have felt like failure at the time turned out to be the opening of a door to start her own photography business.
She dove into learning all she could about wedding photography. She joined forums, did workshops, took weekend intensives, and of course, said yes to any and every job that came her way.
Soon, she had a growing photography business. And the challenge in this new season was figuring out how to run it.
“I never saw myself as a business person. But the more I had to do it, the more I realized I could do it.”
With the help of a mentor, Nancy looked at the financials in her business with honest eyes. She realized just how much she’d underpriced both her time and her services. If she wanted to succeed in this business, she was going to have to change what she charged to do it.
So, she went for it. She raised her prices, and eventually, the bookings came. Then, Nancy could hire more photographers, put money back into the brand, and really build the kind of business and the kind of life she wanted.
A few years in, Nancy’s husband left his job. Now, she wasn’t going to be their supplemental income; she was their only income.
“I sat down, laid out our budget, and looked at what I was bringing in over the course of a year. It helped me see what I was actually making and how I could pay myself regularly to meet our family’s needs. Seeing the numbers in black and white like that gave me a lot of peace about providing for our family in that season.”
By the time her husband took a new job, the seasons were changing for Nancy again.
“All I ever heard about growing a business was, ‘Go, do, earn, more!’ But as my family grew, that mantra wasn’t serving me in the same way. I had to change the mantra to meet the season I was in now. I had to change what success meant to me in this new season as a mom.”
Sometimes, redefining success in your season means making simple changes. And sometimes, it means making hard decisions you never expected to make. For Nancy, it was the latter.
“I had poured so much into building this business, but after a lot of prayer, I came to the realization that I wanted to pour that energy into my family. To do that, I was going to have to close the doors on the photography side of my company.”
Nancy had built an incredible photography business.
She’d hired employees and expanded her clientele.
She’d started a podcast and developed an education side to her company.
She ran it all for 12 years.
And then, she shut the doors when the season changed.
Maybe you’re standing on the brink of a new season, unsure of what it means for your life and your business. Maybe you need to make a basic change to meet this new season. Or maybe you need to go big, like Nancy did.
No matter what season you find yourself in, my hope is that taking time to evaluate the numbers, pausing to define success for yourself, and looking ahead to where you want to be in your life, your family, and your work will help you run into the new season with confidence and clarity.
“Even though it was hard, I made the decision to welcome a new season. And in it, I found harmony in my faith, my family, and my work. I found that seasons of rest give us room to get to seasons of running. And now, I can’t wait to see where I’m going to run next.”
Though Nancy and I connected years ago online, I had the privilege to meet her at a conference IRL a few years ago. She is exactly the genuine, real, warm, big-hearted, ambitious, and humble person you expect her to be from her amazing blog, podcast and work. I am beyond honored for Nancy to share her story with us today!
Press play to listen to the full episode with Nancy or click here to download the full transcript.
Nancy Ray is a believer, wife, mama, and host of the Work and Play podcast. After running one of the top wedding photography businesses in the Southeast for 12 years, she felt God call her to step away from that business and her team of photographers into a new season of motherhood and work. She now spends her time primarily caring for her four young children, recording podcast episodes from her closet, and continuing to fuel her love of entrepreneurship by mentoring others and reading endless business books. She offers courses and other practical resources online for living an integrated life of faith, work and play.
July 14, 2022