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LOCAL STORIES

November 21, 2023 at 10:23:53 PM

Coming Full Circle Later in Life

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It's never too late to reinvent yourself!

Published on:

November 21, 2023 at 10:23:53 PM

Ignite Business Insider shares the stories of businesses that are making an impact in their local markets. We highlight their stories in order to inspire entrepreneurial growth and to let readers learn more about businesses across the world that are growing and scaling.

Featuring

Linda Holt

Owner

Linda Holt Creative

Thank you for taking the time to sit with us and share your story. Can you share a little bit about you and your company?

The short story is that I am a former professional photographer, turned interior designer, turned smartphone photography educator. I have come full circle after two separate careers, first as a photographer and then as a designer.

A question so many people are interested in, is how you got started. Can you share a little bit about what you were doing before this, and what that moment was like for you when you decided to start this new journey?

For a little over twenty five years, I worked as a professional photographer. I had a large studio in downtown Boston and my specialty was shooting commercial head shots for actors, models, and public figures.

Then two things happened somewhat simultaneously. The first thing is that after twenty five plus years of lugging around heavy camera equipment, I suffered from severe chronic neck pain. After visiting multiple pain and spinal specialists, I was given a career ending diagnosis that if I didn't put down the heavy cameras, lens, and equipment for good, I would be facing spinal fusion surgery.

At around that same time, the recession of 2008 hit. My photography business came to a slow grind and my studio overhead became more stress than I could handle. So, the recession, along with my diagnosis was the moment when I decided I was done with photography. I packed up all my equipment, gave up my beautiful Boston studio and enrolled in local community college to pursue my second life long passion which was interior design.

I opened my design studio, Linda Holt Creative, in 2011 and I offered full service interior design. I was happily chugging along and then Covid hit. It was during lock down that I pivoted once again.

After being asked by my designer friends, more times than I can count, I created a smartphone photography class just for interior designers, stagers and home professionals. I found I actually loved teaching and thus was born my online business as a smartphone photography course creator!

Let's take a little bit of a detour, and rewind the clock a little bit. What did you want to be as a kid? And how did that influence the person you are today?

As a kid I had so many interests that every year I wanted to be someone different. I went through a phase of wanting to be an architect, a photographer, a handwriting analyst, a dog trainer, a painter, an interior designer and a scientist.

When it came time for college, I chose interior design but my very practical Dad would hear nothing of it saying that interior design could be my "hobby" but not a profession. In fact, he was against me pursuing any creative field believing it was too hard to make a decent living as a creative.

Back then, most kids obeyed their parents so off I went to college and got a degree in Marine Biology. Being interested in so many different things and topics, has continued with me today. I am a lifelong learner and I'm still as curious today about a wide range of topics as I was as a kid.

Have you fully let go of that childhood dream? And where do you see yourself going in the next ten years?

Well, I definitely have let go of being a handwriting analyst and dog trainer, and obviously I'm not working as a marine biologist. It was only a few years after graduation, and after pleasing my parents , that I went back to school on my own dime to get an education as a photographer.

Then back to school again in my 50's to get a certificate in interior design. Now today those two passions have merged and I have the privilege of doing both. As my husband is getting ready to retire, and the possibility of extended travel is on the horizon, having a fully profitable online business as a smartphone course creator is my goal going forward. They call it the laptop lifestyle but I call it freedom.

Now, I have found that with successful people, there is always someone pivotal as either a mentor, parent, teacher, or someone that you look to for advise, that helped set you on this path. Could you share who that person was? And what impact that had on the person you are today?

I credit coaching as the most valuable thing I did to become the person I am today. Up until my fifties I was a painfully shy and had trouble talking to anyone outside my immediate circle. Years of coaching pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and with each painful step, I became more and more self confident and a more outgoing version of myself.

If I had to single out two people though I would have to give credit to Tobi Fairly who coached and encouraged me to incorporate photography into my business model. The second person is Adam Japko of Esteem media who asked me to present at the Design Blogger Conference in 2018. It was a pivotal moment because public speaking was the most frightening thing I could imagine. It took me nine months of daily practice and hard work but I got up on that stage and survived. Now, five years later, I do public speaking regularly and I barely even get nervous!

What was one take away that you learned from that person? And how did it translate into your business today?

My one takeaway is that I can do hard things. I am now very aware that in order to grow as a business owner and individual, I have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have also had some unexpected events in my personal life to remind me that life is short. I am very aware that I have limited time on this earth and I don't want to be one of those people who has deathbed regrets of not doing more with their life.

When we work with businesses, we focus a lot on their "Why?". What is your "Why"? What is the driver behind your company, and why you and your team wake up each day and give it your all?

My "why" used to be helping my clients improve their quality of life by improving their home environment. Today my "why" has shifted and I am passionate about empowering interior designers and creatives to master their smartphone to get magazine quality images. I want to dispel the myth that the cellphone is not a "real camera" and that you absolutely MUST hire a professional to capture your design work.

Let's dive deeper into your products and services. You already gave an overview, but how do your products or services help your customers? And what makes them different from your competitors?

I offer multiple online smartphone photography courses. Most of them are created specifically for interior designers, stagers, and influencers. I know there are a gazillion photography classes to choose from, but as far as I know, my courses are the only ones created by a former photographer- interior designer, for interior designers.

Let's unpack that even further. Let's pick one aspect of your business. What makes it so unique? And how does it change you or your customer's experience?

My signature class "Smartphone Photography for Interior Designers " has literally changed lives. So many designers have reached out to me saying that after taking my class, they were able to take all their own photos of their projects. I'm not claiming that professionals are no longer needed but many young designers, especially those just starting out, do not have the budget required to hire a professional.

Plus let's be honest, most designers do not get the coveted luxury projects that are going to be published. Many times it’s not worth investing in a pro to shoot those projects. Lastly, with all the copyright issues going on in the industry, shooting your own project allows you to have full rights to your images.

Let's dive into your customer's journey a little bit. Can you share with us, how do your customers discover you and your brand? What are their next steps? And what is the experience you would like to see your customers go on, when working with you and your brand?

Most designers find me either on social media, hear me speak, or discover me from being a guest on a podcast. Those that are interested then go to my website, see my offerings and either decide to purchase a class or follow me on IG for my weekly smartphone tips.

Let's rave about your customers for a minute. Can you share a story about one of your clients or customers, that either touched your heart, or made an impact with you and your team?

Oh, so many I can think of. One in particular I can think of is a fabulous designer who also writes a weekly blog. I remember cringing slightly at her photos in her blog and on social media. They were not very good. All of a sudden I noticed her images were looking really good. The quality was like night and day. I was wondering if she had hired a team member to do all the photos. Out of curiosity, I reached out to her, and complimented her on the photography. I was so surprised (and happy) when she she told me she had purchased my class and it totally transformed her photos. I felt like a proud mom! Shortly after that, she DM'ed me that I saved her upwards of $7K because she shot two big projects herself instead of hiring a professional. The best part...I would not have known they were NOT shot by a professional. She is my one of my most improved students.

Everyone likes an inside scoop. What detail or secret about either you, or your company, is something most people might not know? 

That "making money while you sleep" is a big fat lie. Running an online business is as much work or more, than running a design firm. Creating a class is the easy part, marketing it and selling it is a whole lot of work!

Final thoughts. What feeling or benefits would you like your customers or clients to take away when working with you and your team?

I want anyone who purchases one of my classes to feel like they receive huge value. I am always working to improve my courses, listening to feedback, and tweaking things for delivering the most value in the least amount of time.

Designers are busy, and no one wants to watch fifty videos in order to improve their photography. I personally have purchased classes like that and it drives me crazy. Don't waste thirty minutes of my time when you could have told me what you wanted to in five minutes!

Lastly, I want my clients to feel like they can reach out to me anytime. I am very accessible and respond to all texts, emails and DM's.

Last question. How can people find out more about you and your company?

Thank you so much for sitting with us and sharing your story.

Thank you! I am always grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for photography and interior design with others.

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