10 Q’s With Carmen Cay Photography

Carmen M is an introvert. She’s also the owner/operator of her photography business: Carmen Cay Photography – which is based in Jacksonville, FL. All bias aside, her photographs are AMAZING! Check ’em out – you’ll agree. Carmen’s charming story – coming out of her shell to build a socially present and successful business – is why we’re glad to be featuring her in this weeks: “10 Q’s With…”; our question and answer series that’s aimed at offering insight to our readers who are interested in the ‘Adventure’ of becoming: The Boss.

Q. Tell our readers about your business, your passion, and what it is that you do? What’s your story? And what sets you apart from other businesses in your particular market?

“I have a photography business called Carmen Cay Photography (CCP) that I started one year ago this month.”

“It’s not easy for me to distinguish what sets me apart from other photographers other than what I see through my lens and how I am able to capture it compared to others.  I am a natural-light photographer which means I generally prefer take photos outdoors.  I noticed many of my early clients were bored with the same boring studio type portraits which is why they came to me so I decided to distinguish from that type of photography and I am continually working very hard to keep it up.  Over the past year I have acquired contracts with several local businesses, providing product and promotional photos.  Recently, some of my photos have been purchased for book covers.”

“My father was passionate about photography and perhaps that’s what got me interested because I would follow him around in his darkroom.  When our family would take trips during summer vacations, my father and I would always go hiking and take photos along the way.”

Q. What inspired you take the steps to becoming your own boss? Is this your first/only business?

“Two years ago I worked at an in-patient drug rehab facility as a therapist. It was December, 2009 and I was sitting in the morning meeting. I found myself drifting off (as usual) and suddenly a very loud voice in my head started screaming “What the hell are you doing here when you could be in charge of your own business?!” I was tired of taking orders and I wanted to do what I loved. Two months later I quit.”

“Carmen Cay Photography is my first and only business, however, I’m in the process of building another one. I am creating a coaching business called (in)Focus. It isn’t quite ready yet, but my goal is to launch before summer of this year.”

Q. How much planning was involved prior to the start-up of your business? Can you offer some insight into that process?

“I think everyone probably has their own way of doing things and I am not sure if mine is very interesting. Once I actually sat down and started creating business cards, I realized just how much of the preliminary work I had already done for myself.  Here are a few things that were the most important for me:

  • Know what’s going on in your field.  The best thing I did before creating CCP was what I had been doing over the past 2 or 3 years. This involved bookmarking websites and pages, relating to photography, that interested and inspired me. I subscribed to blogs to get a feel for what others were doing so I could place myself exactly where I wanted to be – once I got started with CCP.  It was really important to me that when I put myself out there as a professional, I felt I could match up to photographers I admired.  I didn’t want to be looked at as someone that was just starting out. I wanted people to look at my work and be confident in the fact I knew what I was doing.
  • Read. I read a lot of books to help me get on track and one book stands out:  I actually won it by posting a comment on the MOO.com blog. The book was titled ‘Making Ideas Happen’ by Scott Belsky. Reading others success stories can really be encouraging. I still continue to do it even now! I also learned a lot about small businesses from the SBA.gov website because they have great articles about starting a business, business plan templates, etc.”

Q. In terms of running your business, what does a typical day look like for you; or is every day different?

“Most of my time is spent on my computer. I didn’t realize how much a huge part of my business would be spent online. It’s something one should really take into consideration when starting their own business because social networking and email is a very big part of running a successful business. My schedule doesn’t change very much and here’s what my day typically looks like:

  1. Check and respond to emails.
  2. Return any phone calls.
  3. Check my calender and write in any new clients or potential clients.
  4. Check my Facebook page and respond to messages and comments relating to CCP.
  5. Check the stats on my website/blog and on my Flickr pages.
  6. Create ads to post in various places.
  7. Edit photo shoots and create blogs.
  8. Take any photos I may have scheduled for the day.
  9. Edit. Edit. Edit.
  10. Read. Read. Read.
  11. Edit some more.”


Q. How many employees do you have and what went into hiring on more to your team?

“I am the full time employee of CCP at this juncture. I have a second photographer I am able to call on for weddings or a big photo shoot and he is paid hourly. Eventually, I would like to have another full time employee that can do all of the busy work so I can just take photos and edit.”

Q. What has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial adventure?

“Creating a website was really challenging for me. Finding someone I could trust was difficult. I didn’t have a lot of money at the start and that created another challenge. I didn’t know a lot about code and html which is why I finally decided to create my website/blog through WordPress. It was a lot easier for me to understand and I am able to update it as I want to – which would not have happened as easily had I created a flash website.”

“The other challenging part is marketing myself. I have to share a funny story: I decided as part of my “marketing campaign” I would occasionally drop a business card on the ground.  When a friend saw me do this, he asked me what the heck I was doing. I told him people will see my pretty card and pick it up, thus bringing me business. He laughed and told me my “marketing” campaign was nothing short of just littering. I’ve since stopped the random card dropping but I do always carry a business card (or 10) with me.”

“I also had to come to terms with the fact by creating a business that I am putting myself out there for people to observe and even scrutinize. I had to become transparent. I am an introvert and I sometimes have a tough time sharing with people what I do. I will be out with friends and my friends will end up telling everyone I am a photographer and even hand out my card! I get embarrassed. It’s something I have to constantly work on and be mindful of.”

“The time involved is another tricky thing. Knowing what’s enough and when to spend more time on it. I could sit in front of the computer all day and work on promotions and edit photos so knowing when to stop has been invaluable.”

Q. Besides the obvious of being your own boss, what is the most rewarding part about being an independent business owner?

“The most rewarding part: The limitless amount of creativity that exists.  I can go as far as I want in regards to creating. I am in charge which means if I want to take time off I can. I am accountable for how far my business goes and how successful I am. This added responsibility keeps me motivated to always do something better.”

Q. What motivates you? What keeps you going each day?

“I am motivated by many things. First and foremost my own environment and office area. I keep my space looking good with lots of happy things including candles, plants and flowers. I surround myself with photos of things that inspire me and things I love. Secondly I am motivated by feedback I get from clients and people that just genuinely like my photos.”

Q. How do you promote your business? Advertise? Endorse? Contests? Social networking?

“When I started a year ago I usually just posted new photos on my Facebook wall and hoped people would look at them. It worked but didn’t really get me a lot of business. I also posted to Flickr but that didn’t get me much business either.”

“One day I started asking myself what I would do if I were looking for a photographer. Did I know someone that knew a photographer was the first thing that came to mind, social networking second and then doing a basic Google search for a photographer in my area. I imagined someone at their desk at work on-line. I pictured where they were looking and what sites they were viewing and that’s when I decided to stalk Craig’s List. I found there were a lot of creative people advertising there so I decided to follow suit. I usually post an ad for CCP on Craig’s List once a week. This has actually pulled in quite a bit of business for me. So far I think word of mouth has been my best resource.”

“It took me a year after starting my business to create a CCP Facebook page. Again, I was a bit shy and I didn’t want to be one of those obnoxious people that only uses social networking for advertising their business. I am still pretty humble with marketing but just today I sent out a mass email titled “Shameless self-promotion” asking people to “like” my page…if they in fact, actually like it. 🙂  Speaking of shameless self promotion you can also like my page HERE. IF, in fact, you actually like it.”

“I also participate in blog discussions which often allow you to post your website on your post which is a free way to market yourself.”

Q. Has the Internet or social media helped/hurt your business?

“On one hand, the Internet is what keeps my business going. It’s the fastest way I know to share information with others and to market CCP. On the other hand, I think the Internet inhibits me in some ways. I sometimes think creating a nice flier and taking a walk around my neighborhood could help me gain clients as well, however, that’s a lot of footwork and a lot of talking. Then again, who wants to do that when I can click a button and send out an email to 200 or more people?”

To learn more about Carmen M and Carmen Cay Photography, please visit:

Website: CarmenCayPhotography.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/CarmenCayPhotography

About the Author: Daniel Ballard

Daniel is a Writer and Entrepreneur. He is Co-Founder/Main Author/Editor of BossStart and Co-Editor/Featured Author for BossStart's sister site, PauseStart, launching early 2012

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1 Comment + Add Comment

  • […] 10 Q's With… Carmen M of Carmen Cay Photography It's something one should really take into consideration when starting their own business because social networking and email is a very big part of running a successful business. My schedule doesn't change very . I imagined someone at their desk at work on-line. I pictured where they were looking and what sites they were viewing and that's when I decided to stalk Craig's List. I found there were a lot of creative people advertising there so I decided to follow suit. […]

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