Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Jenn Bays. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Jenn , appreciate you joining us today. Can you talk to us about a risk you’ve taken – walk us through the story?
Turn on any business coaching podcast, youtube video, or IG live and one of the key pieces of advice you’ll hear when going full-time is to have a nest egg. That you will want to save 3-6 months of your current income to prepare to leave your steady paycheck. However, I left my “cushy” 9-5 and ventured into the online world of being a virtual assistant. This was a shock to most who knew me.
You see the company I worked for at the time was the same company that my dad worked for over 20 years. It was the career that I moved from Florida to Kentucky to begin. I made good money and had incredible benefits but I didn’t have the flexibility that I craved as a new mom.
So, 4 weeks into my maternity leave I started my virtual assistant business. Six months later with hope and a prayer, I left the career I thought I would retire from and struck out on my own. I had just enough clients to cover 80% of what I needed to be bringing home and made up the remaining 20% in the first month of my business.
I believe that the lack of cushion or safety net pushed me that much harder to make it a success. Failure wasn’t an option. If something didn’t work I tried something different. Each “no” fueled my fire and desire to prove that I could make this business happen.
Jenn , before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’m a 32-year-old 3-time college dropout who took a $150 course and created a six-figure agency that serves photographers. I started my business as a virtual assistant working with anyone doing anything they would pay me for. My first long-term client was a photographer and I loved working with her business. I answered emails, scheduled photoshoots, and helped her structure her business to have more time for herself and her family. In working with her I found that I had a natural skill to assist photographers in their business.
It was 18 months into being a virtual assistant that I niched down to focus on working with photographers. Another 18 months and the agency was born. Success Beyond the Lens is now a team of 7 who help photographers manage, market, and automate their businesses. We have worked with over 100 photographers to help them grow and manage their businesses in the two years since our inception. We have grown from a team of 2 to a team of 7 and in addition to the agency have a podcast of the same name. We understand the importance of a well-rounded business and provide admin support, social media marketing, blogging, and CRM setups. Whether you’re a new photographer getting started or a seasoned photographer ready to scale – we’ve got your back!
If I could be proud of one aspect of my business-owning journey over the last five years it would be perseverance. There have been myriad disappointments, “nos,” challenges, and hiccups. Times when I wanted to burn the business to the ground when I felt like a complete failure, or like I didn’t deserve the space I held in the community. However, even on the hardest days, I didn’t give up. I may have cried, taken a day off, or gone for a walk but I came back and figured it out. I believe that is one of the key elements of a successful business owner. That you may need to reconfigure, rest, or redo your strategy but you keep coming back and getting it done.
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
I come from ten years of various corporate customer service jobs. From waitressing to being a retail store manager to a bank teller and then finally a transportation broker. Particularly in my last job I always brought work home with me. I was on call, problem-solving in the middle of dinner with my husband, and I didn’t feel like I was ever “off” even though it was a “9-5.”
For my first year in business, I worked ALL the time. It didn’t matter what time or what we were doing as a family. I brought my laptop everywhere, networking through social media, and taking sales calls regardless of the time or day.
As the business grew I realized I desperately needed boundaries. I didn’t start my business to work 24/7 or to be away from my family even though I was sitting right next to them. I had to learn that it was okay to have time off, that emails could sit over the weekend, and that my business wouldn’t burn to the ground by ensuring that my needs were taken care of too.
By taking care of myself I’ve actually had more available to give back to my business and my team.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
One of the defining moments of my life was when I moved from Florida to Kentucky. I was 23 and closing in on a year post-divorce. I visited a friend in Kentucky for a couple of days and fell in love with it. I moved up a month later to hit the “redo” button on my life. I had begun healing from my heartbreak and was ready to start over. However, it meant doing so in a place where I knew one person and hadn’t spent more than 2 days in. I went from working 3 jobs to barely make ends meet to working one job that allowed me a little room to stretch my battered wings.
It was daunting to start over in a new place, with a new job, and not really knowing anyone. But it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I met my now husband two months after I moved and have been here for over 9 years now.
- Website: https://successbeyondthelens.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/successbeyondthelens/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennbays
- Other: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/success-beyond-the-lens-podcast/id1503405336
Jodie Brim Creative Kirstie Goodman Photography