Zoë Morley is a very talented photographer who uses her creativity for worthy causes. I wanted to get her on the show to talk about the challenges that she’s faced in fundraising her charity projects and how she overcame them.
This topic has been on my mind recently, especially with the bushfires in Australia; a community has come together and brought their skill sets to help people who are less fortunate than them and if you’re just seeing the finished product on social media, the process can seem easy. But so much hard work goes into these projects and I think it’s important to look behind the curtain to see exactly what it takes to run a successful campaign.
Zoë is a Sydney-based photographer who has been shooting weddings for seven years. She made her break in a pretty funny way. She worked as a flight attendant but had a background in photography and so to shortcut all of the grunt work of being a second shooter, etc. before she could start booking weddings on her own, Zoë put on a big fake wedding with her cousin (who’s a model), got a wedding dress from Grace Loves Lace, invited all of her friends and used the photos for her portfolio, which helped her book her first year of weddings. The really funny part is, she’d never even been to a wedding before (just like me…).
Zoë used the portfolio to get 20 bookings in her first year but it wasn’t through social media – she used Google AdWords. Not many photographers know how to use this, so understanding power of Google Ads can be a gamechanger. This is something I teach my workshop students – everyone else will be competing on Instagram but if you know how to use AdWords, you can fill up your year pretty easily.
Zoë also focuses way more on running her business than racking up Instagram likes. She’s more interested in caring for her clients, packaging, getting her name out there and optimising referrals, keywords and online bookings from Google.
Zoë was born in South Africa and always wanted to give back to that community. When she was 19, she spent three months volunteering at an orphanage called Nonjabolu that cares for the children who have been abandoned because of HIV/AIDs. She had her first film camera with her and took photos of the kids; when she got back home, she raised support to put on an exhibition to raise funds for the orphanage. She managed to get a big review on the front page of the Arts section of the Sydney Morning Herald which boosted awareness and she ended up raising $20K for the orphanage.
Ten years later, she thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool to revisit that project’? She wanted to photograph the kids who were now teens and young adults and see how their lives had progressed.
Zoë ran a Kickstarter campaign and only expected to cover flights and accommodation but ended up raising $11K, which paid for travel and putting on the exhibition. But there were so many unforeseeable challenges in actually getting back out to South Africa and finding these kids, all of which she goes into on the podcast. She’s really open and honest in our conversation and she talks about how she suffers from anxiety and self-doubt. It didn’t matter how many people were telling her that her work was great, she still lacked confidence and doubted the quality of the images that she took.
Even though her photos were accepted in the Head On Photo Festival – a life dream of hers – as you’ll hear on the podcast, the pressure that she put on herself took a big toll on her mental health. She lost half a year’s worth of income, as she didn’t shoot weddings and outsource her editing and got so stressed that it affected both her mental and her physical wellbeing.
South African-born Australian businesswoman Gail Kelly opened the show and although Zoë had expected a maximum of 100 guests, on the night over 200 people showed up. Everyone was really supportive, she sold lots of books and prints and ended up raising $32K.
This money was used to change people’s lives. She split the money between the orphanage Rehoboth, an AIDS hospice and a crèche, all of which are in desperate need of funding.
Even though the night was a big success, Zoë found it hard to acknowledge this and still doubted her work. It shows that creatives are often self-critical and can we can be our own worst enmeies.
I asked Zoë what she would do differently and she had three pieces of advice for anyone planning to run a fundraiser:
I was really honoured that Zoë shared her story with me and gave us all an insight into the hard work that goes into a project like this. You can check out the photos at Nonjabolu and follow her on Instagram.
And I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has left reviews on this podcast – it’s so amazing to read your feedback and hear what you’re getting value from these episodes. Please be sure to tag me at JaiLong.co if you share the podcast on Insta and I can join in the conversation.
One more thing – my Posing & Lighting course is out now and it’s the biggest project I’ve ever worked on! I’m so excited to share it with you guys and I can’t wait to hear your feedback.
Cheers guys, see you next episode 🙂
I’ve got live workshops coming up in New York, Los Angeles, Melbourne, and Sydney – there are still tickets left and I’d love to meet you in person and help take your business to the next level.
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