How Sean Audet Turned a Hobby Into a Six-Figure Business

How Sean Audet Turned a Hobby Into a Six-Figure Business

There are many different paths to entrepreneurship, and Sean Audet’s story is one you’re sure to enjoy. He didn’t set out to be a business owner. Instead, he kind of fell into it, almost accidentally.

In this interview, Sean shares how his interest in photography grew, and how he started taking work on the side while still holding a full-time job. Eventually, Sean’s photography income grew, and now he earns a six-figure income doing work that he enjoys, all while benefitting from the freedom and flexibility that come with being his own boss.

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Sean started his business on a whim (he didn’t even view it as a business!).
  • His startup costs were no more than $100 to $200.
  • Sean focuses on delivering great work, which leads to repeat clients and referrals.
  • The freedom and flexibility of self-employment are important to Sean.

Overview

Business Name: Sean Audet Photography
Website URL: https://www.seanaudet.com/
Founders: Sean Audet
Business Location: Canada
Year Started: 2018
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: Variable, depending on the project

How much revenue does the business generate?

An average of $10,000 per month.

Tell us about yourself and your business.

Hey guys! My name is Sean Audet and over the last few years, I’ve built an award-winning commercial photography studio that specializes in food and product photography. We’ve worked with clients from over 20 countries around the world and have collaborated with everything from small startups to multinational brands.

When I first created the studio, we almost exclusively shot food photography. Over time, though, we began to branch out into food-related products, beverages, and other small items like cosmetics and home goods.

Since I started the studio in 2018, it’s grown from a small, part-time experiment into a full-time career that brings in around $10,000 to $11,000 a month.

Sean Audet at a photo shoot
Photo courtesy of Sean Audet

How does your business make money?

Primarily, we sell photography and videography production services to businesses for advertising.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

To be honest, I started my studio on a bit of a whim! 

How and when did you launch the business?

At the time, I had spent the better part of a decade in the hospitality industry working in fine dining restaurants and was transitioning into academic and research work for a local college.

Within the college’s culinary research department, I started an initiative to provide our clients with simple photography for the products and recipes we were developing. I made a proposal, sourced some equipment, and before long, photography became a regular part of my day-to-day responsibilities. Over time, I started to look forward to that part of the job.

It wasn’t too long after that I borrowed a friend’s camera and started experimenting with photography on my own time, as well. Soon, I’d signed myself up for several online freelancing platforms and before I knew it, I’d started a small part-time business.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

The start-up costs were almost zero. I borrowed a friend’s camera and purchased a few budget lights from Amazon. All in, it couldn’t have been more than one or two hundred dollars.

Arum product photography
Photo courtesy of Sean Audet

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

Through freelancing websites like Shutterstock Custom, Fiverr, and Upwork.

What was your first year in business like?

In the very beginning, my business was essentially just a series of profiles across various freelancing websites. I didn’t even really see it as a business, at the time. To me, it was just an experiment and I didn’t go in with any strong expectations.

The first year was all about building up my skills and my portfolio. I didn’t pull in very much revenue, and I was only putting in 10-20 hours a week since it was still just a side business.

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

It wasn’t long before I was making enough money to support myself, but it took probably 2 to 3 years before I started to see some strong traction. 

I think a big part of this can be attributed to lucky timing. I had built a decent portfolio just in time when COVID-19 first hit. Online sales exploded and suddenly the demand for e-commerce content became huge overnight. Our revenue grew quickly in a short period, and at that point, I built out our equipment and processes to accommodate more ambitious clients and projects.

The number one thing we’ve done to grow the business is deliver great work and excellent service. That’s what keeps clients coming back, and it’s what drives referrals. 

Tell us about your team.

The team really shifts and changes depending on the needs of whatever project we’re working on. On the smaller end of things, it might just be me and my studio assistant.

On the larger end of things, we’ve had as many as a dozen people on set at once. A team might include assistants, stylists, makeup artists, models, creative direction, etc.

As part of the post-production process, we may also hire out to help with retouching, graphic design, or 3D modeling and rendering.

What are your future plans for the business?

As the studio grows, though, I’d like to continue expanding our local network so we can accommodate a larger volume of work and get to collaborate with other talented professionals. I live in a relatively small city, but I’ve learned that there are some great folks here.

Product photo by Sean Audet
Photo courtesy of Sean Audet

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

When I started making enough money to support myself. I already really enjoyed the work, and I knew the business would give me a lot of personal freedom, which I really value.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

When an opportunity comes along, jump on it!

So far, I’ve made a point of taking just about every opportunity that’s crossed my path. I’ve always been determined not to have regrets about taking risks. Even when things don’t work out, I’m happy knowing that I made the effort and that I learned from the experience. If you don’t try new things, you’ll eventually stagnate.

Also, it’s important to know your limits and recognize when you need a hand. You can’t do everything, and other people are better than you at certain things. Even if you’ve made it this far on your own, you need to learn how to leverage the talents of others if you’re going to grow and scale your business.

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

As far as fiction goes, I’m a big fan of Frank Herbert’s work. As for non-fiction, I’d recommend Ryan Holiday

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