We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Erica Ross a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Erica , thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today. If you could go back in time do you wish you had started your business sooner or later?
If I could go back in time, I would have started my photography business sooner. However, for a significant amount of my life, I never imagined that photography would be something I’d pursue professionally since it was just one of my favorite hobbies. I started taking photos for fun around the age of 12 or 13. For the most part, I only used the camera to take photos of myself and my family, but as I grew older, my mother upgraded my cameras, and I ventured off into taking pictures of nature and the world around me.
My interest in photography fluctuated during my college career while studying English for Corporate Communications (ECC) at Christian Brothers, but it wasn’t until the end of my last year of college, in 2017 that photography started to become more prevalent in my life. I started working for a nonprofit shortly after graduation, and I picked up my camera again for fun since I had a little more free time. To my surprise, that summer, a friend of mine saw some of my pictures online and asked if I could take a few headshots of her to submit to a modeling agency. This was the first time I was sought after for my photography work, and I was very nervous. Fortunately, I did a decent job on my first try, and that’s when I decided to take the craft more seriously.
In my spare time, I took on freelance gigs working with underground musical talent, models, and other creatives in Memphis. I officially turned Erica’s View into a business in May of 2020, and since then I’ve been able to do work for Memphis Fashion Week, and I’ve even had a few of my photos in galleries and businesses in and outside of Memphis.
If I could go back in time, I would’ve picked one of two options. First, I would have studied photography and business in college instead of ECC. This would’ve allowed me to sharpen my skills, learn the ins & outs of the craft, and learn more about the business side of photography. Therefore, by the time I was done with college, I could’ve started my own business with more knowledge, skills, and resources. However, if I didn’t choose the college route, I would have worked at a photography studio after high school to get hands-on experience, and once I felt confident in my abilities is when I would’ve ventured out into my own business.
Even though I wish I would’ve started the business process a little sooner, I don’t have many regrets about how my journey is turning out because it is giving me experiences I never imagined for myself.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I got into photography in 2017 by servicing creatives who were on the rise. I started out taking photos of up-and-coming models, musicians, artists, designers, and more. Since then, I’ve narrowed my scope of work down to portrait photography; photographing birthdays, anniversaries, professional headshots, and other commemorative moments. However, I have a growing interest in photo manipulation and more creative, artistic photography.
What I am most proud of is that I’ve been able to serve my community by providing them with affordable, high-quality photos that they can feel confident about. My favorite thing to hear from a client is, “Wow, I didn’t know I could look like that.” In my opinion, everyone can look like the superstar that they are. Sometimes they just need to see it first through the eyes of Erica’s View!
Do you think there is something that non-creatives might struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can shed some light?
Non-creatives might struggle to understand my strong desire for passion, freedom, and creativity over simply receiving a paycheck. This is not to say that I never anticipate my line of work to be very lucrative, but it is not my only source of motivation. During my journey of being a creative business owner, I’ve grown to love the culture, connections, and spontaneity of it all. I’ve had life-changing experiences, and I’ve met people of different backgrounds that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to if I pursued a traditional career. During this journey, I feel that I’ve been blessed to create myself and learn who I am on a deeper level. Having the opportunity to meet people in creative settings has been like meeting hundreds of mirrors for me to look into, only to develop myself further. To non-creatives, even if you don’t want to pursue a creative career, I would strongly suggest picking up a creative hobby for pleasure. The joy and freedom felt because of it is something hard to find in everyday life.
What’s worked well for you in terms of a source for new clients?
The best source of new clients has been word-of-mouth and the growing entrepreneur/professional market due to the pandemic. For the majority of my photography career, most of my clients have come to me for commemorative and/or celebratory photos. However, during the pandemic, more people were forced to change careers or become business owners and needed professional photos. Once I started with one client, word spread like wildfire and led me to work with more professionals, nonprofits, and businesses throughout Memphis. This taught me that good outcomes can stem from situations that might initially seem damaging.