I'm Ali - a photographer who built her business from the ground up and wants to help others do the same.

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Using a Passion Project to Build Your Portfolio

May 11, 2020


When the idea of Despite the Distance first started toiling around in my head, I didn’t see it as a marketing opportunity. I saw it as an opportunity to practice my photography skills in a ton of different lighting scenarios with a large variety of subjects. Okay, so you’re probably confused…what even is Despite the Distance?

Despite the Distance was a passion project of mine I began planning in 2017 when I first started my business. In case you didn’t know, I am a military spouse. We move every three years, sometimes more frequently. There are a lot of small and a few large struggles…and while the service members often get the credit for making the sacrifice, I wanted to shed light on the struggles that the spouses and families of service members face as well.
I created a survey that I posted in all the local military spouse Facebook groups for all service branches and hoped for the best. The response was AMAZING. Each spouse had so many stories that varied from each branch, MOS (job), and relationship. As I narrowed down the field to 30 participants (one for each day in May, which is Military Appreciation Month + me), I started formulating how I was going to approach them to try and get their photo to give their story a face.

Everyone that was involved was so willing to accommodate me in their home, place of work, or other place (one session took place at a kickball field!) so that they could share their story with me. It was amazing!
In doing this project, I made a ton of great friends in my same community PLUS I gained some very loyal and loving clients that have been my greatest cheerleaders since the very start of my business!

If I had understood exactly what I was doing back then…remember I had literally just started my business when this idea came to life…I would have understood that I could have used the project as a marketing opportunity by targeting my ideal client–a woman in her early 20s-mid 30s looking to document major life milestones, including maternity, newborn, wedding, engagement, and documenting the time at that particular duty station, so therefore a military spouse!

Thankfully, even though I wasn’t well pointed in my marketing strategies, I still somehow fell into some luck and created a great network. Not to mention, it gave me great content that those spouses could share across their own personal networks to showcase my initiative as a military spouse in loving on other military spouses.


Moral of the Story: Take something you’re passionate about (ideally something that your ideal client is also passionate about) and turn it into a project that will help you establish connections that will eventually become profit for your business!

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