Tabitha Arthur runs the Wellington photography business, Tabitha Arthur Photography. She specialises in taking modern, flattering headshots of her subjects – highlighting the inner and outer beauty of people, and making them feel ‘damn good’.
Tabitha chats with the Leap about her photography business, operating remotely during lockdown, empowering people to find the value in themselves, and how finding Hnry changed her outlook on tax.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for a living!
My name is Tabitha Arthur, and I run a business called Tabitha Arthur Photography. I’m a photographer specialising in portraiture, basically. I take modern, flattering headshots through to contemporary magazine-style portraiture (think Vanity Fair magazine).
Clients come in and they enjoy a beautiful makeover with a professional hair and makeup artist from my team, and then they have a professional photo shoot session with me. I reassure my clients that they don’t need to have watched 17 seasons of America’s Next Top Model, and know how to pose. It’s about the experience, so I guide and coach my clients every step of the way.
What do you love most about your work?
I always want to get to know my clients and the reasons behind them wanting to have a photoshoot. Often it’s maybe on their bucket list, or they’ve gone through big changes in their life, or maybe they’ve got kids and they want their kids to have a photo of them one day.
One of the last clients I saw before lockdown had been going through some hard times, and she and I had what I call a ‘tears and tissues’ session. It’s really powerful when people see themselves reflected back. They see this strength, this wahine toa looking back at them. They can see their history and they’re like: “I am strong, I am a kind and warm person and I can see that in this photo. They can see these different facets of themselves reflected back in the photo.
Another client wrote me this email that was just beautiful, which I brought to my hair and makeup team. She wrote to me to say that her fiance and her friends would say lovely things to her, but she could never understand or believe why. And then when she saw her photos, she realised: “Ah, I can see what others see in me. I can see that I am beautiful, I am kind, I am fun, I am sassy, I am sexy.” She could see those things reflected back at her. It’s a fact. It’s right in front of her. It’s indisputable. Things just sort of opened up for her.
Clients get to experience so much more confidence through our shoots. They’re able to go out into their relationships with their partner, their family, their friends, their colleagues and feel more uplifted, more empowered. They can walk into their boss’s office and say, “I’m really good and I deserve that raise.”
How does that feel, seeing so many different types of people come into the studio and working with them to have those revelations?
Oh, I have the best job in the world. And the more I do it, the more incredible it is. The more I do it, the more I have to give. I could never go back to any other sort of job. It’s such an honour to be able to do this for clients.
Earlier this year, I opened up the studio to my hair and makeup team so that they could really understand what it meant to be one of my clients. They all took turns making up each other and stepping in front of my camera, just to experience a little slice of what clients would experience, so when they’re talking to clients they can really understand and speak from the heart about that process.
That really helped me truly value what I do. I used to struggle with even saying the word ‘money’. When asking for money, or sending an invoice, I would sit there and struggle with what number to put on the invoice, struggle to press ‘send’ on that email, struggle to even have those conversations.
I came from a scarcity mindset where sayings like “money doesn’t grow on trees” were common. So I guess I didn’t realise that that wasn’t really the case around money.
The only limited resource we have is time. Time is the most precious thing. Money is going to always be there for us and I was essentially pushing it away because I didn’t value it. I didn’t understand the true value and the exchange of energy. And so when my clients are wanting to pay me, it’s because they are paying me an equal exchange for what I’m giving them. I get that balance now, and the more I do this, the more I’ve been able to truly feel that.
Speaking of time and money, can you talk a bit about your lockdown experience?
As a portrait photographer, I obviously wasn’t shooting. Instead, I used the lockdown as an opportunity to take a pause and look at what I’ve achieved and where I’m at in my business, and where I want to head.
I used lockdown as an opportunity to smarten up my processes, look for areas that I know I’m not so strong in, and learn and upskill, so I can create an even better experience for my clients going forward. The term ‘pivoting’ is one I often hear overused these days. But I feel like I used lockdown to really plant my foot in the ground and dive into all sorts of areas of my business to learn and grow.
Obviously it’s tricky because the money flow just wasn’t there. With my business, I was starting to see some income consistency. I was about to do my biggest month in sales, and looking to double it the following month, and heading towards my goal of doing $330k in a year – which is where I want to head as a business.
I didn’t have the business knowledge when I started, and I have a business mentor now, so I was really seeing where I could go with my future and seeing what was possible, having dipped my toes in the water for the last few months. I’ve tested it, and now I can see that it’s working, and I can scale it up.
I was ready to go ahead, and I had all of these clients lined up, but I then had to reschedule everything. It’ll happen, I’ll reach that goal, but it’ll just take a bit longer than I was expecting.
There are always things that can go wrong, and this pandemic is a particularly unusual thing, obviously, and it affects the entire world. It’ll take us a while to fully recover, but there’s no reason why my business won’t continue to be a valuable part of people’s lives – those people who value what I offer. And so I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can do with that.
Running a business comes with heaps of complexity and admin, but hopefully Hnry helps you get your time back to be able to focus on your work. Can you describe that before and after feeling, when you found Hnry?
I talk about this all the time! The way I used to visualise tax before Hnry was me lying in a foetal position in the corner of a darkened room, holding myself and rocking back and forth – that was me if the word “tax” was ever mentioned to me. The word “spreadsheet” gave me hives. I found it so confusing and so hard and impossible.
With all of these terms, I’d ask what does any of it even mean? Nothing would stick in my mind and I had a really fixed mindset around tax and anything to do with it. I resented tax, and I resented having to pay tax on any of the small amount of money I’d get.
But then I started to learn about it a bit more. The more tax I’m paying, the more money I’m actually earning – so that’s awesome, number one. And number two is that a third of what I earn wasn’t even mine anyway, so I needed to build that into what I was charging, because that just isn’t mine. It’s tax.
When I discovered Hnry, immediately I thought that it looked friendly. It looks not all technical, not at all like the IRD website (which looks like the most unforgiving, official, scary thing).
So what’s it like using Hnry?
Hnry is so friendly and accessible for a creative person such as myself. And I’m able to ask dumb questions in the chat box, I’ll get a response back from a real person in the team so quickly: a response from someone who is so kind and has humour and will help me out and they’ll either answer my question personally or turn me onto articles that have been written by the team. And so they always answer my questions and they never make me feel stupid. They’re just so fun and kind, which makes me feel warmer towards Hnry. I love the friendly emails that come through when I’ve been paid by someone, the lovely relaxed language used, or the cute emojis that make it feel fun.
When I’m earning money, it makes me feel great. It’s fun, it’s welcoming, it’s enjoyable. Chasing clients for money sucks. It’s the polar opposite of the energy I want to have in my business. And I’m sure most people feel the same way.
When Hnry sends out the overdue invoice reminders, I get to be hands-off. I get to feel like the good guy. It’s automated – it doesn’t feel like a bad thing.
I also love the ease of use. When I’m chatting with clients about the photos they’d like to buy, I can sit there with my phone and the Hnry app, and it takes me a couple minutes to rustle up an invoice. My client receives it and they can choose right then and there to pay. It’s absolutely game changing. When I’m on calls with clients, I can sit there creating an invoice, I can send it to them, and then check that they’ve got it.
And how do you feel about tax now?
One of the biggest things for me about deciding to go with Hnry is that you guys actually take the tax out as you go. That was the biggest thing. When I joined Hnry, it felt like all of the weight was lifted off me. I felt so much lighter, and now I carry zero stress about tax. I’m in the creative field and I know people that have got in trouble with IRD and owe money and all of that. I never want to be that person, and having that stress taken out, it’s just awesome. It feels so freeing.
With Hnry, I won’t have a tax bill. And if I do, it’ll be miniscule.
In almost every conversation I have with people, I will go on and on about Hnry.
It’s that life-changing for me.
Photos supplied by Tabitha Arthur Photography