HoneyBook member Tony Wodarck spends his days as Hurley’s Digital Marketing Director and moonlights as a wedding photographer at night and on weekends. He started his photography business two years ago by selling $10K of friends’ surfboards on Craigslist for a year and using the money to buy professional camera equipment. Ever since, he’s run a profitable business that’s booked out for the entire year. He’s also passionate about giving back—25% of all his photography proceeds go to charities of the couples’ choice. It’s no wonder he was recently named as one of the top 20 On the Rise Image Makers of 2018. Here, he shares how he overcame the challenges of starting a business from scratch, where he finds inspiration, and the life motto that keeps his two careers from feeling like double work.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Tony Wodarck. I live in San Juan Capistrano, California with my wife and two kids (Sicily, 2, and Roman, 5 months). I’ve been shooting photos for fun for over 15 years since I learned on film in high school with my dad’s camera. I started my business two years ago focusing on couples and wedding photography.
What was the biggest challenge you faced early on in your business?
I had so many questions when I got started. I knew how to shoot photos and edit, but that was about it. I had no idea how to price myself, write contracts, create an LLC, do taxes, run client meetings, market to brides, create a business website. It was a lot. Luckily, I found the Rising Tide Society about two months into getting started, and I made a lot of great friends who helped mentor me. I immediately started to pay it forward as much as possible. As I learned and experienced things, I tried to share it with others through workshops, mentor classes, blogs on my site, my Instagram and going live on Instagram.
How do you use HoneyBook in your business?
HoneyBook is like having a personal assistant. I work full-time at Hurley (the surf-clothing company) as the digital marketing director and so I’m stretched pretty thin at all times. Having an app send me reminders, send out online contracts and online invoices, collect payments—everything—has been huge. It took all the parts of my business that I stressed about and simplified and streamlined them.
Where’s the craziest place you’ve ever had a shoot?
I started my photography as a travel photojournalist. I’ve been to over 22 countries and been completely around the world. In college I went on Semester at Sea which was a 100-day trip around the world from the Bahamas to San Diego, completely circumnavigating the globe. I was the design editor of the 124-page coffee-table book and was able to work with a ton of talented photographers and pick the best photos that told the story of the trip. It was a great experience getting to see the world and work with other like-minded creatives.
What’s been one of your most successful projects? What made it so successful?
Every single wedding I shoot is a major accomplishment for me. My couples put so much trust in me to document the most important day of their life, and I take it very seriously. I have a ton of fun, but it takes a lot of planning and preparation to make sure we’re all able to have fun and not be stressed. That makes for the best photos.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find so much inspiration in other photographers on Instagram. I know it can be a problem for others in comparison and wanting what others have. I definitely feel it with the people who I follow who travel a lot and live in vans. There’s definitely that passion inside me to be doing that, but with a family and kids and a full-time job, it’s not realistic. So I try to find joy and excitement in my local area. There’s tons still to explore just in my 50-mile radius. I also get a lot of inspiration from TV and movies. I love how filmmakers compose scenes and edit. Art like old paintings and museums are a big inspiration for me. I went to art shows weekly in San Francisco in college, but unfortunately I haven’t had that opportunity as much anymore.
What’s your favorite part about creating educational content for other small businesses?
Helping others succeed. Hands down. Most of the people I help are talented. I feel like the reason you get into photography is because you love to take photos and have some sort of talent for it. It’s all the business-side and marketing that are daunting for people. Helping people get that part of their business together, processes in place, pick the right gear to create what they want, that’s what excites me.
Any pro tips on how to use HoneyBook?
I’ve got my contact form set up on my site and direct all inquiries there. It keeps all my jobs together in one place. I have my pricing brochure setup to automatically input the information in the invoice and contract. That streamlined workflow is crucial for me. Especially when I started out with paper contracts and trying to scan documents and accept checks. Now I’ll be at my main job at Hurley and look at my phone and I’ve got a notification of payment. That’s the best feeling ever. It’s like I have someone else working for me while I’m working. The best tip I give to people new to HoneyBook is to leverage HoneyBook’s amazing customer service. Take advantage of the client workflow automation software, get your workflow set up and you’ll be set to start making money and spend less time doing admin work.
What’s the biggest thing you learned from previous jobs that you apply to your work now?
I studied graphic design in college so that’s helped for all of my marketing needs like my website. I have been working at Hurley for 10 years now, which has really helped me understand websites, driving traffic, marketing myself, etc. I’ve also done a lot of event marketing, managing events like the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, The Hurley Pro in San Clemente and the Australian Open of Surfing in Sydney, Australia.
What’s something that’s surprised you recently in your work?
I feel like I’m hitting a good rhythm with all of my couples. I think the more I can earn the couple’s trust early on, the more fun we’ll have and the better the photos turn out. I love my candid shots I take that are the couple naturally interacting with each other. That takes a lot of work for the photographer to get the couple that comfortable in front of the camera. That’s something I’ve been working on and super proud of lately.
Do you have a life motto you apply to your business?
My dad always told me, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I really believe in that. I love both of my jobs so much. I put in a ton of time and all my passion into both, but I wouldn’t trade either for any other job.
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- The Ultimate Business Toolkit for Photographers
- From Offering Free Shoots to Going Viral: Photographer Lindsey Roman Shares Her Business Journey