Where has the time gone? It feels like just two minutes ago when I quit my job at a photography studio and decided to take the plunge, setting up Nelly Naylor Photography all on my own. And, just like a flash, I'm here, four years later, reflecting on many incredible years of success.
I've come a long way over the years, so I wanted to share the story behind how it all started and my successes. Nelly Naylor Photography is my baby, I never planned to set-up on my own, it just kind of... happened! I was sick and tired of my job at the photography studio, I didn't feel fulfilled and I had little work/life balance. I knew it was the right time to quit, it was the BIGGEST and BEST decision I've ever made in my life. I'll be honest though, during those first few months, I was really anxious wondering if I'd made the right decision - choosing to quit a stable job and enter into the unknown. I knew I'd already built up lots of experience, so, I began offering my services, but during those early stages, I didn't really know where I was going with it. 5-years ago, I could have never imagined my business is such a success - I'm super proud! I started shadowing other photographers to continue learning new skills, but then I quickly built up a portfolio of my own after having a positive response from my very first clients - woohoo!
I began offering all different types of photography, just doing anything to bring in some cash. I soon found my niche though, particularly after discovering there were no specialist LGBT wedding photographers in the UK, I instantly knew this was the direction I wanted to take, and I've never looked back. When you become self-employed, nobody ever prepares you for the endless list of tasks you have to do from marketing to your accounts, but thankfully, I started to find different ways of doing things which worked for me. The bookings were flying in and for a start-up photography business to say that during their first year, they had weddings booked in, years in advance is pretty impressive - it was such a pleasant surprise! The impossible had started to happen, and my hard work was paying off. Being able to read the lovely reviews on my Facebook page from clients along the way is SO rewarding, and it brought me the fulfilment I'd been lacking in my life when I was employed full-time elsewhere.
In 2018, I'm still flying the flag for the LGBT community, proud to have built up a reputation around my unique selling point and not being afraid to try something new. I always knew I wanted to maintain my personal values when building up my business, and despite some problematic months along the way, I've continued to pride myself on offering a loving, personal service through spreading positivity and kindness. That's what I'm all about. I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my whirlwind journey so far, having never done a business degree, I'm really proud of how far I've come and how I've made this work.
Some of my bragging rights include being:
Featured on Channel 5 (Yes, on the actual telly! I even switched off Coronation Street to watch myself, and that's something.)
Asked to visit the House of Lords to shout about my photography success! (Lord Nelly at your service!)
Invited to discuss what it's like to be part of the LGBT community and share advice on 'coming out' on Sheffield Live
On BBC Radio Sheffield 'bearing all'
Featured as Virgin Media Business' Pioneer of the Week in 2017
Crowned as 'Runner Up' at the Hallam Enterprise Awards in 2017
Delivering a TED talk to an audience of over 250 brilliant people at The Sheffield College
Celebrating at hundreds of weddings and pride events across the UK with fantastic, lovely clients
Looking back four years to those first weddings I was booked to photograph, it's clear I was still experimenting with my style - which has now come on leaps and bounds. I also had a very basic camera back then, but, I made it work! Now, many people around Sheffield know me for my bright, fun and quirky style and I'm shooting on top equipment that I never thought I'd be fortunate enough to have a few years ago (pinches self)!
I built my first website on a shoestring budget, using photos from when I'd helped to shadow other photographers I admired at my first ever weddings. Fast forward to today, and my website is updated every month with hundreds of new photos - all of which are now my own, and it's everything I could have ever wanted it to be. I also remember setting up my Facebook page and feeling excited when I got my first like (from my sister), and now I've got one of the most massive followings on social media in the industry, with just under 2000 active followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Over the last year, I've run competitions, gone LIVE on Facebook from weddings and had fun interacting with my lovely community.
I'm not going anywhere anytime soon - I'm living my best life, and I'm already taking bookings for 2019/2020 and 2021. I'd love to hear from you! I've just started offering wedding videography and using drones too which brings a whole new perspective to the weddings I get to capture - wow! I'm also proud to mentor other students who are starting their own businesses, it's lovely to be able to give back and I never thought I'd be confident enough to do this when I started. I've had many incredible mentors over the years and I know what an important role they can have when you're starting out.
I'd like to end by saying a HUGE, HUGE, heartfelt thank you to all my amazing clients, family, friends and my gorgeous girlfriend Beth for believing in me and encouraging me, even during the most challenging times. Without you, I wouldn't be living the dream. I can't wait to continue photographing lots of beautiful weddings, couples, families, friends and pets in the future. Now, where's the prosecco? Cheers to you all!