Now don’t get me wrong, money is important. I need it, I do like it and if I didn’t have it I would be living on the street. Thats a given, but, when I gave up my Full time job which paid a good salary, had holiday pay, bonuses and sick pay, I didn’t do it with money on my mind.
I often get asked from people about when and why I made the transition from being a part time photographer in full time employment, to being a fully fledge self employed photographer.
I guess looking back now, the why I did it is entirely different to the why I love it now. I’ve said this before on my live feeds, my Vlogs and in my workshop that I earn less money now than when I was 19 years old in my first management post. But you know what, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I get to take my kids to school everyday, I virtually work whenever I want, I spend more time with my wife than I’ve ever been able to and I do a job I love. And you would have heard that old saying… “Do a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
That is true, sometimes, but don’t get me wrong. Being a photographer is an extremely tough job to do full time. I’ll get back to that point soon.
So the reason I made the jump from being a full time retail manager to being a self employed photographer was very simple. If I didn’t do it when I did, I never would have. I would have spent the rest of my life thinking “What if” and at the age of 27 I did not want that sort of regret hanging over me for the rest of my life. I’d been running my photography business for 6 years alongside working as a Branch Manager and a Retail Manager responsible for several Millions of pounds in sales. Working 60-70 hours a week, then coming home and editing, shooting weddings and meeting clients. It’s fair to say that at this point I was an awful husband and a non existent father. Looking back, I’m ashamed. But at the time, I thought this is what I had to do. I had to earn £30k a year, I had to provide, I had to be the bread winner. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
As I said above, the reasons why I enjoy being self employed now have totally changed. At first it was the novelty, the pride, the boastfulness almost that yes, in fact I am a photographer. No longer would I tell people that I was a photographer with a full time job as well. That novelty very quickly wore off and the shine soon went when I realised that actually although I have this novelty, I STILL have to provide for my family.
Now in this instance I was very very lucky to have such a supportive father who sat me down when I made the decision and said, “Here is a pool of money, when its gone, its gone. Draw from it what you need to help you get to where you need to be.”
Without that financial backing, I would not have been able to survive and within 6 months I would have had to get back into full time employment to support my family.
When that novelty of being a “pro” wore off, and that money quickly dwindled month after month, I realised that this was not easy. At times it was not fun. I went from month the month seriously worrying about how I would pay my bills.
Planning became an essential part of my business, when it had never needed to be before. In the previous 4 years of running my business, it didn’t really matter if I was earning a lot, or anything at all, because I had my salary to fall back onto. I spent days at a time, with the help of my father once again, writing plans and bringing it back to the simplest form to understand what I had to do in order to earn £x for my salary. I still follow this model and it looks something very similar to this;
If I do the following, I can pay my bills, live relatively comfortably and shoot what I want when I want outside of these jobs;
- Take two wedding bookings per month
- Shoot two weddings per month
- Run one full day workshop
- Run one studio creative night
- Shoot one commercial headshot session
- Shoot one family portrait
Within those 6 things, I could generate enough revenue to cover my studio rent, my bills, my mortgage and have some disposable income left. If I did anything over and above these things, it was a bonus.
Now the reason I planned this way was very simple, it became easy to figure out that If I didn’t have a wedding the next month, I had to replace it with something of equal value. Whether that be shooting two commercial headshot sessions, or whatever, it became much simpler to figure out where the money needed to come from.
So what does being self employed mean to me now? Why is it important to me and what has changed.
Well as I said before, I see my kids now more than I ever have. Sometimes they’re little buggers and it seems as though I see too much of them, but most of the time they’re awesome little humans. My relationship with my wife is the best it has ever been. We’ve been together more than 10 years and we are still madly in love. So being able to spend her days off with her, rather than seeing each other twice a month when our days off coincided is a huge bonus.
Thinking time, personal development, growth, whatever the hell you want to call it has enabled me to improve my abilities without comparison. If I was still in the day job, I would not have been able to push my self to learn new skills and techniques, to make the connections I have made and really push my brand as I needed to. It’s a little bit like the speculate to accumulate model. I speculated not with cash but with time, time to push myself and develop myself. I think this has definitely paid off.
I now work in different parts of the market I never even touched while working full time, and have managed to shoot some jobs I never thought imaginable. That part is down to taking the time to make brilliant relationships with the right people.
This blog isn’t intended to say, “Look if I can do it you can too” because everyone has entirely different circumstances, bills to pay, families etc. What I would say though is that if you’re thinking about it, what is stopping you?
If it is money, use something simple like my model above to see what exactly do you need to shoot to cover what you need to earn. Figure that out, then figure out what do you need to do to get that.
I can honestly say this is the best thing I’ve ever done. Don’t get me wrong, its not all plain sailing and even now, this month I’ve had a big job cancel at a days notice and three jobs not pay on time which has left me with a massive cash flow problem. That sort of shit does happen, and its how you react that will help you stay afloat.
If you want to work as a full time photographer I think there are a few things you need;
- A strong support network of people who believe in you
- To surround yourself with likeminded creatives
- The drive to push on when things get tough
- To not be afraid to ask for help
That last one, I’m not good at. I never have been, even when I was in employment my Superiors would always feed that back.
I’ve still got a long way to go, I’m still learning, but what a journey to be learning on!