Elle Drouin is the founder of the Styled Stock Society and the human behind @mochiandthecity. After several years working as the Director of Marketing & Digital Strategy for e-commerce businesses, Elle launched her own business to focus on helping other women build brands that are as profitable as they are pretty.
Elle currently runs the Styled Stock Society, a stylish stock photography membership for female entrepreneurs, as well as works as a commercial photographer for beauty and lifestyle brands.
Tell us about your path to becoming a freelance product stylist, photographer, and marketing strategist.
I studied business in college and started my career in finance before pivoting to work in marketing for a few years. When I first started my business wonderfelle MEDIA in 2015, I offered marketing consulting services, launched online courses, and created other digital products. In 2016 I created the Styled Stock Society because I wanted to create a subscription based business with recurring income to smooth the ups and downs in between course launches, but I quickly realized that I enjoyed styling and photography more than constantly launching courses or working with clients one on one.
I never planned to be a full time stylist and photographer but at the end of 2016 I felt like I was being pulled in too many different directions, so I decided to focus on the parts of my business that brought me the most joy. Since then, the Styled Stock Society has grown to over 1,000 members and I’ve worked with dozens of lifestyle and beauty brands to create custom imagery for their marketing channels. I also started an Instagram account for my dog @mochiandthecity around the same time as I started my business - and while it started as a fun creative outlet, it has grown to the point where I’ve had the opportunity to shoot ads for brands like American Express and The Ritz-Carlton.
In the beginning of your freelance career, how did you attract your first good clients?
Knowing that I wanted to start my own business, I actually started a blog sharing marketing tips while I was still working a 9-5(ish) job. I built up a couple months worth of content before I ever launched a services page so when I was ready to take on clients, I already had an audience that I could offer my services to. For the first couple of months, most of my clients found me via Pinterest - they would come across one of my blog posts and end up hiring me after learning more about my services.
You run three different businesses, how do you balance the needs of each business and/or do you have any tips for being your most productive?
While I have 3 different businesses, there are many things they have in common. I batch all of my tasks so that I can focus on one type of thing at a time across all businesses. So for example, I have one week every month that’s my “content creation week” - so this is when I’ll style, shoot, edit, and upload all of the images for my clients, for the Styled Stock Society, and many of Mochi’s images as well. I’m much more productive when I can get in the zone and STAY in the zone so it makes the most sense for me to spend a few days focused on a task rather than do a little bit each day or week.
I couldn’t live without Asana - I use it to manage all of my projects! I map out everything at the beginning of each month so that I always know exactly what I need to do when I wake up and I don’t have to waste time figuring out what my priorities for each day are.
What has been your greatest struggle as a creative business owner so far?
My greatest struggle has been accepting that there isn’t usually a clear next step. When I had a corporate job, there was a hierarchy to things so I started as an assistant and worked my way up over the years with regular promotions. There was always a next step or next level to strive for that made it easy to figure out “what’s next”... but when you own your own business, there are no promotions. There’s no one to tell you what the next step is so you have to figure out what that is for yourself. It’s liberating in a way, but I’m the type of person who likes to feel like I’m progressing towards something specific so I’ve struggled with not always knowing what’s next!
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
As much as possible, I try to automate or outsource the things that I hate doing! I’ve found that I’m a much happier person when I don’t waste time worrying about things like bookkeeping or failed transactions. I’m lucky that I have a great support team to help with a lot of the nitty-gritty business details, but with that said, there are also going to be some things I have to handle myself. I have “CEO week” every month where I address any of the business issues that need my attention so that the rest of the month I can focus on creating content, marketing, and serving my clients and customers.
What are your favorite ways to stay creatively inspired?
I travel (almost) every month which always helps to fuel my inspiration but in general living in NYC keeps me creatively inspired. There are so many different people doing really amazing things in this city and I find myself constantly inspired by all of the other business owners around me!
If you could give one piece of advice to your "just starting out self," what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to get REALLY specific. I think a lot of newer business owners (my former self included) are afraid to really niche down and get really specific about who their target audience is - but my experience has really proved that the more specific I am in targeting a specific group, the better I can understand their needs, and the better I can attract and serve them.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Discipline, perseverance, and courage.