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Meet Trailblazer Rebecca Slater

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Slater.

Rebecca, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was 13 when my dad handed me a camera with black and white film loaded. We were about to embark on a cross country train trip to visit my grandfather who was quite ill. My brother had his Gameboy, I had a camera. We all had a LOT of hours to kill and I took a lot of photos.

I was 17 when I went on a mission trip to the Czech Republic. I came back with at least 20+ rolls of film to develop (and had my first taste of what ‘cost of doing business’ was like).

By the time I was 19, I purchased my first digital camera. I took the camera everywhere and started documenting everything. At age 20, I won a photo contest through Explore Minnesota Tourism and had to show up on tv. Shortly after that, I was asked to be the first student photographer in the Marketing and Communications office at St. Catherine University – (the college I attended). I worked alongside writers, editors, art directors and designers. While my side photography work was just picking up, I was still pursuing my degree in Exercise and Sport Science. I had hopes of coaching collegiate volleyball. As I approached graduation day, I’m May of 2010 – I was also looking at the Great Recession of our time…

So, I decided to start a business. Great timing, right? 8 years later, I’m a full-time photographer and a very part-time college volleyball coach.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
When I started, I never connected the fact that being a photographer meant being a business person. That made for a rough start- and a lot of time with Google search.

“Can you give me a bid for _____”
“Send me an invoice”
“We need you to fill out this form for taxes”

Gasp. Taxes?!

Make sure you learn the business side as well as you do your art.

Charge something, anything for your work. People will be able to find $25-100 in their budget to pay you. By the time you get enough “experience” – you’ll actually be able to raise your rates! It’s really hard, if not impossible, to raise your rates from $0 to $200/hour.

Diving in extra deep – Who you choose to be your life partner – will be one of the biggest, most difficult decisions… but also rewarding.

I had gotten engaged at the end of college- and at the start of my career. I couldn’t pay half the rent. I had days upon days without consistent work. But, things started to pick up. I strung together as many jobs as I could. I was figuring it out. Unfortunately, be wasn’t willing to wait while I figured it out. He wanted me to try something else – go back to school and get a regular job like he had.

I had to trust my gut – I knew I was on to something good. I needed time to build relationships and my portfolio. Our engagement ended and I was crushed. I thought about quitting all together – but failure was not an option. I found roommates, I picked up a part-time retail job, I coached club volleyball and picked up shifts at camps all while I built my professional portfolio.

I met my now husband in late 2011. He lived 3 1/2 hours away and we did the long-distance thing for 6 years before getting married in 2017. We traded weekends of when we’d visit, set up times to have phone dates, and a few years in – he started sacrificing more and more weekends to assist me at weddings. Eventually – I was able to cut all the part-time work and focus solely on photography.

My husband understands that there will be late nights, long weekends and odd jobs that I’ll pick up. He’s taken it on himself to read some business books and help me with my business budget.

He isn’t just on the sidelines cheering – he’s involved, yet respectful of ‘my business’ and my art. I’m ridiculously greatful for all the things he is and does.

I know that takes a lot of his energy, time and commitment. I know that will shift when we have kids. But, so will my business.

That kind of involvement isn’t for everyone. I would encourage you to talk to your partner about expectations you have for each other when it comes to your career journey. Are you expected to grocery shop and make all the meals? Will you need to attend all of their work functions? What does time off look like? Communication is key. Have those tough talks early and often.

I know that I cannot and should not expect my husband to be my “everything.” I have other friends in the industry. I meet with them – we discuss business and life. My husband and I get together with friends and spend time with family. I set my camera down – and I put my out of office on my email.

But, I don’t have it all together. This last two months the number of photoshoots doubled and my time for editing was cut in half. I was behind (in my personal terms) in delivering images to clients. 8 years into my business I’m in another growth spurt and I have to figure out how to best handle that – all while keeping my clients happy.

It’s been a really exhausting few months and I have to fight this feeling that I’m disappointing people when in all reality, I’m not- I just needed to give myself more time to edit and clearly communicate the timeline of the job. The clearer the communication from the start – the better the situation will be.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about By Rebecca Studios – what should we know?
I enjoy working with people. Usually, the follow up to that is “but what do you specialize in?” People.

People who make events happen.
People who create art (on paper, canvas, or in the kitchen).
People who form relationships, fall in love and then make families.
People who run businesses.
People who are teams – and do activities together.
People who pursue their passions.

So, if I have to choose a specialization, I specialize in people.

I’m probably most known for my higher education photography. Through the people I’ve met at colleges around the area, I’ve followed those folks to capture their weddings, families, and beyond.

What sets me apart?

I haven’t set my camera down in 10 years.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Rebecca Slater, By Rebecca Studios

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