Friday 26 September 2014

2Inspire Network Profile: Jendella Hallam Benson

When The 2Inspire Network discovered Jendella's project "Young Motherhood", it made sense to find out more about the creative talents of this amazing photographer. Her work has been shown around the world and her relentless work ethic is reflected through her exceptional body of work. She is truly an inspiration, read her interview and be inspired.


Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
Working mostly from home as freelancer, there really isn’t any typical day. If I’m not shooting, I try to start off the day with meditation and Pilates and aim to start work by 10am latest. I always work best in the morning so I try to launch straight into whatever needs to be done that day without distractions. Being a photographer can sound glamourous but the majority of the time you’re at the computer editing shoots, researching, planning and contacting clients, so I’ll be listening to podcasts as I work to keep me focused on things that can be quite tedious and even lonely otherwise.
I have to remind myself to take screen-breaks regularly, and also to actually take lunch breaks because I have a bad habit of just eating while I continue to work. It’s good to get up and stretch and also let your mind breathe for a bit by looking at magazines for general inspiration or reading a bit. Mornings are the real busy times because that’s when I focus best, but after lunch I allow myself to relax a little bit more. I try to finish work by 6pm, but if there’s a deadline or a backlog of work then I will often work until I feel like I’m in a good place to stop. The hardest thing about working from home is keeping the discipline to not just work through your evenings while you’re cooking, or watching films and meant to spending times with loved ones (I’m known to half-watch an entire film while retouching shoots until late into the night).
Shoot days can vary wildly in terms of schedule though, sometimes it’s crazy early mornings, other times you won’t have to leave until late into the day so you can get other work done before that.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I started doing paid photography jobs while in uni on the side and since then it’s kinda just carried on until I realised that I was actually running a business, even if I’m the only employee. I started it because I enjoyed it and realised that I could do things other people can’t do so easily. It was after working for an award-winning commercial photographer that things really came together a bit more because then I was seeing how the professionals conduct themselves and could model myself on them.
A Young Mother from The Young Motherhood body of work
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
It’s not directly related to business because it wasn’t a direct business decision, but holding my first solo exhibition was a big deal for me. I’ve always wanted to be an exhibiting art photographer since I was in uni studying all the greats, so to actually do it and have people come out and support it has been really exciting, and other work opportunities have come off the back of that.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Knowing how to price myself. When you’re selling your services, rejection is taken quite personally, as well as the doubt that you’re worth the money that you charge, so I really undersold myself and my skills for a long time, because I reasoned (wrongly) that any money is better than someone not hiring you because you’re too expensive, and I just wasn’t confident in selling myself. I’ve had to reassess my position a number of times but I think I’ve struck a better balance now in how to sell and price my skills.

What are your future plans for the business?
I want to move more into the art side of photography, that’s where my passions lie but that’s even more of a niche market, so I’m looking at different ways of generating income beyond simply selling my skills as a photographer, but looking at ways of selling my vision and aesthetic...if that makes sense.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would price my skills properly from the start and be more assertive in protecting the value of what I do.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
Because there is no plausible reason why they shouldn’t. The way the economy is at the moment there’s very few safety nets in very few places, and while you’re young you’re in prime position to bounce back from any mistakes or missteps you may make. You’re still discovering yourself and your potential, so it’s a great time to really push the possibilities to the limit.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
The best way to learn is by interning or shadowing others who are more established in what you want to do. There is so much to learn about the behinds the scenes stuff that will never occur to you initially. It’s also a valuable time of research to see where the money lies and how it circulates within the industry because there are a heck of a lot of talented creatives who are not getting paid properly, or paid at all and have to finance their lives and their talents with other jobs. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you wanna make a living off of this thing full time, you need to do some serious ground work. You need to be prepared to hustle as well. As much as the dream is to be able to do just that one thing, while you’re still building that dream that you’ve got do whatever you need to do. It’s best to work at this industry from many angles because not only do you pick up valuable skills that give you an edge, you just never know where your way in will come from.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
Marc Ecko is an amazing creative, visionary and businessman. I swear by his book ‘Unlabel: The Art of Selling You Without Selling Out’. I love how he’s turned what he’s passionate about into serious commercial ventures. I also love how at the heart of everything he’s an artist and he’s proof that art and business can mix and completely busts the myth that a lot of us creatives have about that. I also love Nicki Minaj, I think she’s such a savvy woman who is in complete control of her image, her direction and her bank balance. In a world dominated by men both in front and behind the scenes, she has grown from being an underground sensation to consistently one of the highest earners with choice endorsement deals, collaborations and the like. Simply watching her work her cross genre appeal is a serious lesson in diversification. A lot of people don’t like her image, music or whatever, but she’s about her business, and you have to respect that.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“You must act like it is impossible to fail.” – Ashanti Proverb
I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to them, but I’ll choose this one because it’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.


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