Our interview with Janina Shank on Personal Branding Photography and Entrepreneurship
Despite studying for a Bachelors and Master’s degree and exploring many career paths, Janina Shank decided it is not fulfilling to work 9-to-5. Her free-spirited and creative nature led her to turn her passion into a business after moving between countries.
Owner of Janina Shank Photography, Janina is a personal brand photographer based in Munich, Germany, helping female business owners to reflect their brands and build trust with their audiences through photography.
Janina’s entrepreneurship journey was filled with sacrifices, and she invested a great deal of time in it. Besides being an entrepreneur, she is also a wife and mother of two girls. Janina loves traveling and her aim is to work with aspiring female entrepreneurs from all around the world.
1- Can you tell our readers about your background?
Born in Germany but raised here and there, I lived most of my life abroad. Though part of me loved the adventure of experiencing new surroundings, the constant changes left me feeling lost, not knowing who I was or what I wanted.
I have a Bachelors and a Masters in nothing related to photography and I tried many different career paths, always to find that something was lacking. I had respectable jobs and great employers, but the work simply didn’t fulfill me.
Meanwhile, I could feel that I was meant to be doing something creative and I had a deep longing for independence and freedom. And so I kept switching jobs, hoping to find my purpose.
Finally, after years of feeling lost, I took the leap and started my own business as a personal brand photographer. I turned one of my passions (photography) into a business, coupling it with my love for female empowerment and entrepreneurship.
2- What inspired you to start your business?
My desire for freedom and purpose. I wasn’t willing to stay in the comfort zone of my 9-to-5 and live a life that wasn’t fulfilling. I had this intense desire to do something I was passionate about, something that would give my life meaning.
3- Where is your business based?
I’m based in Munich, Germany, but I love to travel and work with female entrepreneurs worldwide.
4- How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
After deciding to become a photographer, I spent some time trying to find clarity on what type of photography I wanted to specialize in. I knew that I wanted to niche down on one thing. I didn’t want to become a photographer who does it all. My goal was to become an expert at one thing.
Once my focus was set on personal brand photography, I dedicated my time to education. Before even trying to become visible and working with clients, I spent the first year with business coaches and taking courses geared towards personal brand photographers.
5- What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Having a community of like-minded people, and investing time and energy on social media.
6- What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Time was (is) definitely my biggest challenge. I’m an entrepreneur, a wife, a mom to two small girls, a daughter, a friend, a sister, etc., and I also have my own needs and desires.
I’ve found it very hard to find the time to take on all these roles, without feeling like I’m failing someone in the process.
Some of the most important things I’ve learned along the way are setting strict boundaries, learning to say ‘no’ and trusting my intuition.
7- What personal sacrifices have you made throughout your career?
Working many, many evenings and weekends. Not going out while others are. Spending less time with my kids and husband (yes, I feel super guilty about it). Saving every single penny (no more shopping, no more coffee-to-go, no more expenditures that aren’t absolutely necessary, etc.) in order to invest in my business.
“I firmly believe in community over competition. I trust that the people who feel attracted to my vibe will come to me, and the people who don’t, won’t. And that’s exactly how it should be.”
8- How do you stay focused?
Having a clear plan of what I want to achieve the next day, and knocking those things out FIRST.
9- How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
The beauty of personal branding is that we each have our own story, we’re all unique in our own way. And that is our biggest competitive advantage. There are tons of really talented photographers out there, and yet – there’s only one of me.
I firmly believe in community over competition. I trust that the people who feel attracted to my vibe will come to me, and the people who don’t, won’t. And that’s exactly how it should be.
10- What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
My network of like-minded individuals and fellow entrepreneurs. That, and forming and growing genuine connections on Instagram.
11- What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Go after that dream, and don’t settle for your comfort zone. The timing will never feel right and you’ll always want to perfect one more thing to feel “ready”. But your dream will only ever be a dream if you don’t take action.
12- What’s the best work-related advice you’ve ever received?
Mindset is EVERYTHING. Our beliefs determine whether we fail or succeed (thanks, Marie Forleo).
13- How do you manage self-doubt?
When self-doubt creeps in I take a step back. I drop what I’m doing and take some me-time. I tend to go for a walk, listen to music, read my affirmations, or exercise. That usually has a pretty immediate effect.
14- What’s your favourite app, blog, and book? Why?
I’m much more into books than I am into apps. There are tons of books I love, but a few that have really helped re-shape my mindset and belief system are “Everything is Figureoutable” by Marie Forleo, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear and “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks.
15- What’s your favourite business tool or resource? Why?
My books on mindset and business, my network of like-minded entrepreneurs, and Canva.
16- Could you name a woman who’s inspired you the most?
There are so many inspirational women that I’ve learned from, but there are two that I would like to mention here.
My mom: While my dad was extremely busy working his corporate job, my mom organized and handled all our moves (there were many) to different countries, where she didn’t speak the language or know anyone while raising two kids. She taught me to embrace change and never be afraid of it, a very valuable lesson when you want to start your own business.
My mother-in-law: She was raised in a very conservative and traditional upbringing, but wasn’t afraid to follow her intuition from a young age. It was expected of her to stay home and take care of the household/family, but she went to law school instead. She became a highly-respected professional in a heavily dominated male environment while raising three kids, running her household, and leading a happy and loving marriage. She has taught me to believe in myself, not to keep myself small, and that life isn’t there to live up to other people’s expectations. And one more thing – running a successful business AND being a mom, it’s totally doable.
17- How do you balance work and life?
To be honest, this is a hard one for me. Because I truly love what I do, it often doesn’t actually feel like work. So it’s hard to pull back. I have it very present not to overwork myself, but I’m still in the process of finding my balance.
18- How do you unplug from work?
Going for walks, hanging out with my family, spending time in nature, traveling, reading, taking naps, exercising, chatting with a close friend. And turning off my phone.
19- What do you have planned for the next six months?
I want to increase my visibility with SEO, focus more on Instagram and Pinterest, and add a blog to my website.
20- How can our readers connect with you?
On Social Media: