Social enterprise, teaching abroad and Twitter, with Claire Watson

18 Sep, 2019 | Podcast, Season 1

For this episode I’m joined by Claire Watson, a commercial photographer who runs her own photography business, Claire Watson Photography, and studio in Leith. Tune in for our chat about how teaching English abroad prepared her for life on the local networking circuit, and working one-to-one with clients to allow them to relax and connect. We also dug into her strategies for building real relationships – on Twitter of all places. Claire helps her photography clients understand how to share their marketing messages using images online.

Originally Claire considered becoming a wildlife or sports photographer. After spending some time abroad teaching English, in Mexico and then in China, Claire came home to consider her options. Wildlife photography seem to require a lot of uncomfortable situations and long-term dedication to getting small bits of material. On the other hand, sports photography was very focused on equipment, lacked creativity, and became extremely competitive right around the same time.

Learn networking skills by teaching abroad

Fortunately for Claire, her work as an English teacher had prepared her well for networking, and so she was able to make connections and join the Edinburgh business community as a commercial photographer. During her time in Beijing, the teachers were part of the sales process. New potential students were placed in her class. It was Claire’s job to help them relax enough to learn something and have an enjoyable experience. These skills are very useful to here while networking, and also while working with clients!

Setting up a Social Enterprise

Although she enjoys her work, Claire doesn’t yet feel like she has found her niche. Currently she’s working to set up a social enterprise focused on educating 7 to 12 years old in a way which supports their mental well-being. It’s a very influential period for most young people, and if they remain engaged and excited about learning at this stage, it leads to better long term outcomes – fewer mental health problems, better job prospects and so on. The plan is to work with experts and young people to create online content which adds to the classroom learning experience, and is adapted to work well for all children, including those with additional learning needs, like autism or dyslexia. Some of the adaptations, like sticking to a structure, and using clear graphics and fonts, help all children to learn, so there are benefits all round.

Business content should be accessible to everyone

This is a good approach to take to business content as well. Regardless of your specific customer group, the information on your website, or that you share on social media, through newsletters, and in other ways, should also be accessible and considerate of a wide range of different needs. In Claire’s own work, she works best when communicating with people in person. During a photography session, she coaches people on how to stand, where to look, what to do with their faces and so on. Some people pick this up easily, but others are not used to thinking so much about their own bodies, so she has to adapt her explanations and coaching to suit different people. 

Networking and Twitter

In terms of her marketing, Claire still does a lot of networking. At many events, everyone in the room gets a chance to introduce themselves, and she always uses this as a chance to get people to sit straighter and feel better about participating in the group. Outside of events, Twitter is Claire’s favourite place to connect – which surprised me! It suits her because it’s a very information-focused platform, and also because she can connect with people who she meets in real life. For example every Tuesday, she joins in with #TuesdayTunes, lead by Dane from Streets Ahead Social. At other times, Claire shares photography content from authoritative sources, and her own photographs of whatever catches her eye. Her main ‘strategy’ is to be helpful – every time she sees an opportunity to help someone out she will make sure to point people in the right direction.  

“You’re always part of a community and the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”

ConnectED – networking in Edinburgh

The first time I met Claire was at a regular Edinburgh networking event called ConnectED. It’s on every week on a Tuesday morning, and it’s free to attend. You can find all the details on the ConnectED Eventbrite page. Claire organises the speakers for the event – every other week – and posts updates and chats in the ConnectED LinkedIn group as well. The event is a great introduction to networking, for people who are new to Edinburgh or to running their own business. It’s a very friendly group, and a great place to go to bump into Claire (regularly) or myself (much less regularly!) 

In terms of marketing the event, it’s longevity is the most successful tactic. The event page on Eventbrite brings people in and lets people know it’s active. It’s also been blogged about before, and has a Twitter page, and so in terms of search engine optimisation, it’s pretty easy for people to find. My favourite thing is that it’s a weekly event, so you are never too far away from the next one.

How to get your visual marketing messages right

Because Claire already knows so much about presenting businesses online, I asked her to share a tip with us on the podcast. She said “Ask yourself: who is looking at your marketing and social media? What does your potential client want to see?” It’s easy to get stuck in a trap of projecting yourself without considering how it’s received. If people are looking for a local service, for example, there’s no point choosing imagery that pitches you as an impressive global enterprise. 

” Ask yourself: who is looking at your marketing and social media? What does your potential client want to see?”

Head shots and commercial photography in Edinburgh

Claire is always happy to meet new people and chat about their photography needs. Her head shot sessions are fun, and affordable, and you can find all the details on the Claire Watson Photography website.

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