Business networking can feel scary. But everything changed for brand photographer Adele when she met a brilliant band of women who are making amazing things happen on zero sleep and an insurmountable amount of laundry!
Meet Adele Williams.
Hi, I’m Adèle, brand photography specialist and founder of SuperFunkyPenguin Photography. I co-host the North Somerset Hub with the absolutely lovely Amy Stevens from Anorak Cat. I love getting out and about in the woods with my children (usually foraging). My eldest Wildling and I are learning about mushroom foraging at the moment, which is a lot of fun. I also enjoy cooking and creating things (though “creating things” often gets translated as “fixing all the broken toys” these days).
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a robotics engineer when I was little – designing and making robots. I did go into engineering and stuck it out for nearly 10 years, but it wasn’t the creative dream I’d had growing up. I ended up in the defence sector (not robotics) as a customer-facing engineering manager. The endless, pointless meetings-for-meetings-sake was soul destroying. On the other hand, I always knew I’d set up my own business – I just didn’t know what in. It took me years to work out that my calling was my favourite thing – Photography. And specifically: photographing people!
What came first- the baby or the business? What was your route to becoming a ‘freelance mum’?
The baby came first. I felt well and truly stuck in my engineering job, and wasn’t sure how on earth I’d be able to manage without the pay. My husband and I – newly married – were saving for a house when we found out I was pregnant (about a year earlier than we’d intended). I knew when I went on maternity leave that I wasn’t going back, and that somehow I’d have to find a new path. I’d thought that having a baby would close a lot of doors for me, but absolutely the opposite was true – doors opened that I didn’t even know existed.
I went along to events and groups that I’d never even known about, and my creative side, suppressed for so long, started to re-emerge. I kind of stumbled haphazardly into my photography business, not really believing that people would actually pay me to take photos. I then became the official FM photographer for the meet-ups at Windmill Hill City Farm because the existing photographer couldn’t make it to the meetings any more.
This was great because I could get out, meet other freelancer mums just like me, and bring my little one along too. I’ve come a long way in the last 8 years, I’ve just moved in to a dedicated business premises, and I co-host the North Somerset FM hub. We’re still renting though! But I wouldn’t trade that dream house-of-our-own for what I’ve built up for anything.
How does it make you feel, when you step into ‘work mode’?
I’m absolutely passionate about helping freelancers and small business owners to put themselves out there as the face of their business, and showcase what they actually do. It’s something I struggled with in my own business for so long, and I know and understand the power of being visible. Usually when I’m chatting with a new client about what they do, I get a rush of ideas and inspiration. I can actually “see” the images that I’m going to take in my mind.
The shoot planning sessions are always great fun, creative and exciting. Every shoot day I still get nervous, even after all this time. Or perhaps it’s excitement? I prepare all my kit the night before so there’s no last minute stresses, and off I set with my shoot plan and a head full of ideas. I love looking at the space we’re using for the photoshoot, seeing how the light falls, the different locations around the space we can use, and working within that environment to create something unique and personal for my client.
It’s important to me to help my client feel comfortable, because this really comes across in the final photos. We chat and laugh and have fun with the shoot, so that their personalities shine through in their images. Having my camera in my hand feels like the most natural thing in the world.
Do you have any tips/advice, for anyone who starting up in business, when it comes to juggling business around motherhood?
I have so many tips I might write a book one day. They’ve all come from mistakes I’ve made in my own business, and learning the hard way how better to tackle things! A big one for me was that I decided to run my business as a “proof of principle” initially, but I never set any parameters. What was the measure of success? This meant that my test phase went on for about 3 years instead of 3-6 months.
In the early stages I was still surrounded by people who were telling me that there was no money in photography, that it wasn’t a career, and that I needed to get a proper job, so it took a while to understand that I was on the right track, and to commit to it fully – charging my worth and treating it like the real business it is.
The work-life balance is always a struggle, but I’ve recently switched to dividing my business year up into 6 blocks (excluding school holidays) rather than trying to do it quarterly. This way, my business is closely aligned with life, and I can better plan for what’s actually going on. I do still do some low-level background work in the holidays, but client meetings and photoshoots only happen in the term time.
Ok, reality check aside, I do most of my work while Lilly is at school so we can hang out in the afternoons. It doesn’t always work but that’s the intention. I also do some work in the mornings during most school holidays (except part of summer & Xmas) and continue to go into my coworking space once a week.
I had to learn to ask for and expect / accept help – I have no attachment to being a one woman wonder!
What is your (not so secret) super power? How does it help/influence the way you work?
I’m a very logical creative thinker. This means I naturally visualise photoshoots – the kind of images and the flow of the shoot, but I can capture that in a logical sense and write it down as a shoot plan which I share with my clients, so they know what to expect. I also have loads and loads of ideas, some usable, and some utterly bonkers. This comes in really handy when things happen and the business needs to pivot or grow.
Hopes & dreams- what’s your vision for your business/future and how are you making steps to make it happen?
I think growth is different for everyone, and there’s so much hype out there about creating 6 and 7 figure businesses. That kind of thing doesn’t enthuse or motivate me at all. I want to continue to help business owners step up and be the face of their business, but I realise there are limitations to what I can achieve on my own. I already work with the support of several other freelancers, but over the next couple of years I’d like to take on an in-house assistant and an apprentice photographer. I’ve just taken the first step and moved out of my shared home office and into dedicated business premises. A lot of things can be done virtually, but I know ultimately I need a little team around me in the same location.
Can you remember the first Freelance Mum meeting you went to?
My first FM meeting was as the stand-in photographer, and was June 2017. I was super nervous because I didn’t know anyone there, but I was also excited to be out and about doing something different. At that point it was a one-off, but I got invited back the next month… and never left!
Finally, how does it feel knowing you’re part of a group at Freelance Mum?
Freelance Mum is a wonderfully supportive group of ladies who “get it”, who totally understand the very real juggle of kids, family, business and finding our own path and our own identity, which can so easily be swallowed up and lost in the whole being-a-mum thing.
I always thought I hated the prospect of “business networking” until I stumbled into the Freelance Mum fold. It’s networking at it’s best: getting to know people over time, and making genuine connections. The Freelance Mum community have shared my wins and my wobbles, and I’ll be forever grateful for this brilliant band of women who are making amazing things happen on zero sleep and with an insurmountable amount of laundry.