Emily and Noah Ballard are our first Catch couple to be featured. Despite incredibly busy schedules, the Ballards take immense pride in the work they do and in their family. We spoke with both of them about their careers, how they use Catch, and what it's like to be self-employed while juggling parenthood.
Tell us a bit about the work you do and how you got started.
Noah: I'm a full time San Antonio police officer and on the side I have my own real estate team. I started real estate in 2016 because we bought our first house and it was…interesting. That made me think that I could not only do this, but that I could probably do it better. I’m one of those people where I see where things are wrong and not done correctly and rather than complain about it, I like to just do it myself and that way I have no one else to blame.
Emily: I’m a photographer and March will be my 11th year in business. I love it. I started in college with friends near Chicago and then we moved to Texas seven years ago and I kept going with it. I do family photography primarily. Initially I dabbled in weddings, but I discovered that’s not really my thing. I love kids and families so it's great that I can make that my main focus.
What are your goals for the next 3-5 years both as a couple and in your work?
Noah: In 3-5 years I’d like be a broker running a full strength real-estate team. I’ll be testing for my brokers’ license later this year. I'm also hoping to be a detective over at the department, and ideally, we'll also be living in our forever home. The other things are have a baby, list our house and to build a custom home.
Emily: Hopefully when we're able to build our home, we'll be able to build a studio. That would be big for me. I don't do any studio work right now and I do have situations where it would be great to have that space. I know clients would really like that. And renting a space just isn't a good option for us. We'd like to build it and make it what we want.
It's also about getting to a point — there's this threshold in photography where you start by charging what you need to in order to make it, but then you get to a certain point where you can charge more and actually have fewer clients and have them be more meaningful. I'd like to be at that point where I have fewer clients than I do right now, but be potentially making more because I've crossed that threshold where people know me and love my work.
How do you use Catch? Do you use Catch together or separately?
Noah: We have separate Catch accounts. I tried to do a joint account but that didn't make sense because we have two completely separate businesses. I initially did the books for her and for me; I was the accountant. I think I saw Catch on Facebook and I thought it was really cool. I knew it would be great to free up a lot of my time because previously I had to calculate everything all on my own and it was incredibly time consuming.
Emily: It caused a lot of "not good" conversations. [laughs]
Noah: So we use it for the tax withholding and time off, primarily. We also use it for the time off. The plus is that now it's out of sight out of mind.
Emily: We went to Colorado this year and it was just so much easier to pull up our time off plan and say "there's that money we saved" and then just pull that money out to go on that trip.
What's it like to be a couple where both of you are self-employed?
Noah: It's actually great and we're definitely not the only ones. There are a lot of police officers who have side businesses. The broker who started my brokerage was a police officer who is retired. We're all Type A and have drive, plus it beats putting on the uniform and working over-time. Plus you have something easily to transition to once you retire. You don't have to worry about retiring and then being like "oh what do I do now?" — I already have this business running on the side so I can easily retire and then just go into that.
Emily: When we first got married he was doing a lot of overtime. And like he said, that meant he was coming home then putting that uniform back on and going back out there in those situations -- and I'm generally pretty stressed during that time he's gone. With real estate, I don't worry about him being gone doing that work. It's just a lot better for our family. Plus, we homeschool, so we're able to do that because I have flexibility in my work. It just makes sense for us.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone starting out in your field?
Emily: Education and then getting yourself legal. People assume you can just jump into it from an art perspective, but you need an education. And not even just a sitting in a class type education. I don't have a degree in photography but I spent a lot of hours attending workshops, watching videos, and actually doing stuff. Doing that was so important and then the next step is getting legal. If you're going to accept money from people you should be doing the right business tactics and filing taxes and everything that comes along with that.
Noah: I'd say: have drive even if you don't want to have drive that day. It takes a lot of drive to get started in real estate, but once you have a close network and some referrals it becomes a snowball effect and it becomes bigger and bigger. I wrote a book called the "The DIY Real Estate Agent". It talks about different skills and platforms I used when I was starting my business.
There are a lot of ways realtors outsource their work — Catch is outsourcing a portion of accounting — but because I was doing this on the side and didn't have much money, I ended up learning to do all sorts of stuff myself. Emily taught me how to take photographs, I got into drone imagery, got a license to fly a drone, learned about marketing and social media, and I found a lot of free platforms like Catch. All this is to say, have drive to do the things that need to get done, and make sure you're living and breathing real estate and everyone you're talking to make sure you're bringing up real estate.