FAN GIRL FRIDAY - HANNAH KEY / THE FRECKLED KEY

FAN GIRL FRIDAY - HANNAH KEY / THE FRECKLED KEY

If we were meeting for the first time, how would you describe what it is you do?

I am an artist and mental health advocate using light, imagery and paint to reconcile my reality of searching for, grasping for, and at times embracing light in the dark. When documenting families at home I often highlight the complexity and serenity of motherhood, allowing for the tension and ultimately the beauty of chaos and the moments of peace therein. Similarly, a common theme within my paintings is darkness and chaos with moments of peace of light.

How long have you been doing it?

Photography since 2011 and painting as soon as I could pick up a brush, ha!

What inspired you to, turn your passion into a business?

Honestly, I owe 100% of this business side of this to my husband. I have always been an artist, but turning my passion into a business was my husband's idea when, fresh out of graduate school (I have a Master's in Speech-Language Pathology), I started taking photos of my grad. school friends as they got married and had babies. Scott, my husband, casually said, "You know, you could make money doing this...." and the rest is history. He hired the lawyer who filed all of my paperwork and he continues to be my business coach in this crazy, pinch-me journey that I've been on.

If you could go back in time, what would be something you’d change from when you were starting out? Or what advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell anyone starting out to find what it is in your creative endeavors that gives you the most energy and joy and start focusing ONLY on that as soon as possible. I spent WAY too much time, like YEARS, dabbling in newborns, weddings, seniors, birthday parties, branding -- I was basically a camera for hire. About a year into my motherhood journey (c. 2016) I realized that my absolute passion was documenting the life of family, particularly the mother, at home. And it took me an additional 2 years after that to really LEAN IN. Now the type of photos I take are what I'm known for and the only thing I'm hired for - hoooorrraaaay!! Don't wait that long. Dabble for a year or two to really find your niche and then never look back!

What were the hardest aspects of starting your own business & how did you overcome them?

Up until about two years ago, I really struggled with believing that I was worth what I wanted to make. I kept my prices so low for years just not wanting to scare people away. But in the meantime I was working full-time as a speech-language pathologist and making pennies as a photographer on the weekends. When my daughter was born in 2015 I knew I couldn't continue to have two jobs, so I made the decision to not go back to speech pathology. It was at that point I realized I needed to actually make a decent living doing photography so I slooowwwwllly raised my prices a little bit each year. It wasn't until 2020, when I participated in Brooke Schultz's Love Soaked Family Photography Retreat and Mastermind that I really embraced the price point I knew I needed to be at all along. And now that I'm here I can't believe I waited so long, ha.

What advice would you tell someone who has big dreams but financially cant afford to create their own business?

1) Crunch the numbers right away. How much do you really need to live a reasonable lifestyle (key word: reasonable. You might have to ditch going out for drinks with friends after work every day for a while, ha)? How much do you make now doing your "day job"? Can you make it on less for a little while as you build your "dream job"? Could you consider going 3/4 time at your day job to focus a little more energy/make more money on your dream job? Figure out how much money you need to make in a year, divide that by 12 months, then use that number to determine how much of your day job vs. dream job you need to do to make the numbers work and eventually, with hard work and persistence and BELIEVING IN YOURSELF, you can quit the day job. Promise. 2) Be PATIENT. Building a business takes time. You cannot look at the success of someone on social media and assume they arrived there in 6 months. It's just NOT true. I would say that I've only been doing what I REALLY wanted to do with this business since 2020! That's NINE YEARS of just figuring it out!

Where do you find support for your dream and how do you keep your creativity alive?

I'm really fortunate to have a husband and a community of friends that are my biggest cheerleaders. When I'm feeling really down on myself or doubting my abilities as a creator my support team is a text away. I can count on them to speak truth to me and get me out of my head. As far as keeping my creativity alive, I find that just switching my medium for an afternoon is just the kick I need to solve a creative problem I'm having. For example, if I just can't seem to get out of a posing rut with my photography I will take a week and just paint. Stepping away from photography for that week gives the mental space to think through the problem while I'm sitting at my canvas. Similarly, just WALK AWAY. This could be literally getting out of the house and going for a walk or simply just switching tasks for a few hours to give your brain the space to recharge.

What is one office|business must have? A program or tool that was life changing when you discovered it?

If you're a photographer you MUST HAVE a client management software. I use Iris Works, but 17Hats and Honeybook are two others widely used in the photographer community. Secondly, as soon as you can afford it, hire an assistant. Good grief I was STRUGGLING with the admin side of my business so badly a couple of years ago. Then I hired an assistant at $20/hr to do about 2-5 hours of work for me a week and it was a GAME CHANGER.

What advice do you have for women who are still struggling to find their style/niche?

I believe that if you are really struggling to find your style/niche it's because you are still trying to mimic someone else or do what you think others will like or pay for. Mimicking another's work is a great tool in the beginning as you try to figure out what it is you're drawn to, but again you must quickly learn what it is that gives you joy and start refining that. People will be drawn to your passion about your work.

On your path to your current business, did you ever come across a moment where you doubted yourself? I think it’s human to sometimes lose all faith in ourselves and our ability to create. What would you tell someone who may be in this spot right now?

Over and over and over again. Even now. It is the creative's curse, haha. Again, my biggest source of support comes from my husband and close friends. If I'm doubting myself I talk to them. They will listen to my fears and immediately speak truth to me. My husband will even go so far as to help me come up with a plan to pull me out of rut. Find your people and bring them in. 

Who is one person in your field that you look up to?

Brooke Schultz (@brookebschultz) for photography and Sarah Donovan over at Stationery Bakery (@stationerybakery) for painting.

What is one workshop or conference/expo you’ve attended that inspired you so much, you would attend again?!

Brooke Schultz's Love Soaked Family Photography Retreat and Mastermind!!

What is your go-to tool of your trade that you couldn’t live without?

Lightroom, haha. Perhaps a lame answer, but I couldn't do this job without it!

Your Fave Preset Collection ( for those who edit their own photos)

VSCO, though I have tweaked a couple of their presets to better suit my style.

What is your MOST favorite project you’ve worked on?

For painting, I was commissioned to outfit an entire Lobby and Leasing Office for a huge downtown apartment building last year. They hired me to do over a dozen very large paintings. Man, the creative energy and freedom of expression they gave me in that project was so invigorating. Photography-wise, I truly do find each home I enter to bring it's own creative challenges. Stepping into a client's home not knowing necessarily what I will get makes me excited!! The challenges of navigating relationships and child's behavior as well as tricky light are really fun for me; I don't know that I could pick a favorite.

What is one tip you have for women who are struggling to grow on social media?

Honestly, my first tip would be to shift your mindset: Social Media is not everything, not even close. Over 80% of my clients come from word of mouth with the VERY occasional "I found you on IG". But, if growing your social media is important to you, I suppose "be consistent" is the best advice I could give. Be consistent in your voice. Be consistent in when and how you show up. Consistency breeds trust and trust breeds a followers.

IF YOU COULD EAT ONE FOOD FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IT WOULD BE: Chocolate Chip Cookies

2. THE BEST TITLE I HAVE IS:

a. Entrepreneur 

b. Influencer

c. Mom / Wife / GF

d. Friend

e. All of the Above



3. IF YOU COULD MEET ONE PERSON DEAD OR ALIVE IT WOULD BE: Iris Apfel!


4. MOST LIKELY TO BINGE WATCH:

a. Reality Tv 

b. Sitcom 

c. Drama

d. HGTV


5. ON MY DAYS OFF, THE FIRST THING I DO IS:

a. Go to the gym / clean the house

b. Sleep in

c. Bottomless mimosas at brunch

d. Check all social media

e. I try to do them all

f. Other

 

6. MY GO-TO OUTFIT IS:

a. Yoga pants and a hoodie

b. Jeans and a tee

c. A dress & heels

d. other I looooove a great pair of trousers and a fun, patterned top. Pattern mixing for DAYYYS!


8. SOMEDAY I WANT TO: Live in South France for a summer!

WHERE YOU CAN FIND HANNAH!

@thefreckledkey this is my website thefreckledkeyphotography.com best way for future clients to reach me is      hannah@thefreckledkeyphotography.com  

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