I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Bates. He is a wedding photographer from the UK. Marc started his journey in 2016 after a battle with mental health problems, and then he decided to turn his side hustle into a full-time business. Although there were some tough times, in the beginning, Marc has flourished as an artist and a business owner. In 2018, he was named Best UK wedding photographer at the UK Wedding Awards.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Since my first wedding in 2011, photography had just been a side hustle business. But in 2016, I changed that. After leaving a terrible job and a toxic work environment, I began suffering from mental health issues. There were some dark days and most of the time, I couldn’t get off my sofa. Eventually, I began to recover and I knew that I had survived for a reason. I asked myself one day, if I could do anything with my life what would it be? The answer was simple–to be a full-time wedding photographer. So I went for it and the rest is history.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I can remember making the decision in October of 2016 and I was so excited, I would say to myself “well done, you’ve done it!” Unfortunately, when the end of the month came around and there was no monthly paycheck, I was like “Oh no–what have I done? I have no money coming in.” This went on for a little while. I would say that the first 12-18 months were the hardest. There was just no momentum and no inquiries. I was constantly worried about money and having to scrape by month-after-month. I basically had no life.
Everyone around me was settled, in their work, their relationships, and here I was late 30’s leaving a job to work for myself. I had plenty of drive and ambition, but I had no direction and really didn’t know what to do first. But I learned how to weather those tough times.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I think early on, I cultivated a mentality where I knew I would succeed. I just decided there was no other option. Failure wasn’t an option. I felt like this is what I had wanted, this is what I had been asking the universe for. Now that I had it, it was up to me to make it work and make my business a success.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Today is a different story. I never thought that wedding photography would be anything more than just a side hustle, yet now I cannot imagine doing ever anything else. I look at how far I have come and what I have achieved since the end of 2016, and I am so grateful that I decided to start this journey.
The reason I succeeded was I committed fully to this endeavor. I was all in–nothing was going to stop me! I learned that once you give 100 percent of your time to anything, you will make it work. If you are committed enough and you want it enough, you will get there.
Everyone told me how hard wedding photography was to get into, how oversubscribed it was, and how there were too many people already doing it, but if you are good at something, it doesn’t matter how many other people are doing it. The best always rise to the top.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Aside from my photo style, I think what makes me stand out is my personality, as well as the level of commitment I have towards my work and my clients. Additionally, I will do just about anything for the perfect shot.
When you book me as your wedding photographer, we are on a journey together. I make it a point to be close to my clients. It is a special bond because what we create is forever. The images are a part of my clients’ histories. That special bond continues on your wedding day, and again, I make sure I am involved in the whole day. I am by my clients’ sides, not only to take their photos but to support them both. Many of my clients say that it was like having their best friend take their wedding photos, which is a wonderful compliment.
This year, I had two brides who were desperate to have me as their wedding photographer. They were on opposite sides of the country on consecutive days. After a full day with one bride in Wales on Saturday, I drove through the night to be with the second bride on Sunday.
On another occasion, a bride changed her wedding date to one where I was available. Grooms have asked me to help choose their tux, and one of my brides and her family invited me to join them for Christmas dinner. That was amazing.
I take my job seriously because this is the most important day of my clients’ lives. I never forget what an honor or a privilege it is to do what I do. In return, my clients know that they will receive something very special. The people that book me love my work and want me as their wedding photographer.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Something I have learned this year, in particular, was the importance of looking after myself–both physically and mentally. The most important relationship we have is with ourselves and like any relationship, it requires time and attention.
We know all the basics when it comes to looking after ourselves–getting enough sleep, having a healthy diet, and engaging in exercise, but what is also important is to treat ourselves. We should take the time to buy ourselves gifts, do things that we enjoy, and make time for things that make us happy. It is all about our state of mind. When I am working, this is time by myself, but when I step away from work, I make sure I am spending time with myself.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There is a list of people that have supported me on this journey, but the first one is Sinead De Hora. Sinead was my business mentor from 2016–2019 and without her, I would not be where I am today. She taught me patience and to trust the process in everything I did. She taught me how to break down big tasks into manageable pieces. But most importantly, she taught me about how to stay focused, how to deal with negative feelings of self-doubt, rejection, or disappointment. My business and sanity have remained intact because of her and I will forever be grateful that she was a part of my journey.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have never been more at peace than I am now, and I think that a beautiful by-product of that is I find myself actively looking for ways to give back to the world. I try to help people as much as I can as often as I can. I encourage others to be kinder and to look beyond themselves; to do for others and to pay it forward.
What do you wish you would have known before starting your business?
- Be prepared for your personal life to be left behind.
- Don’t forget to put money aside for the taxman. The first year I didn’t and it wiped out my savings.
- Make sure you have a sense of your own worth. This is something I struggled within the early days and I massively underpriced my services.
- Work smarter, not harder. It is not the amount of time, but what you do during that time that makes your business successful.
- In the end, everything will be just fine, my friend.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would want every person working to give their time and volunteer at a charity or charitable organization. They would be allocated a certain number amount of hours in their working month/week.
I work with a few different charities from feeding the homeless at Christmas to photographing charity events, and what I have gained in exchange for my time is some of the greatest experiences of my life!
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