I left my day job in 2010 to pursue my dream of being a full-time photographer. The learning curve was steep. The first few years brought with them overwhelming situations, beginner's mistakes, sleepless nights, comparison to others, and a constant feeling of inadequacy. The glitz faded quickly when I realized owning my own photography company was about 20% photography and 80% office work.
Fast forward five years and I've settled into my industry a bit. I wouldn't trade my first years for anything. I don't ever want to go back to them, but I'm grateful for all they taught me. But, what if I had to go back? I think about that question often. There is so much I've gleaned through the school of hard knocks...truths that I wish someone would have just told me at the beginning. So, if you are on that starting line of pursuing your passion as a career, I think these 7 simple habits are vital to both the morale and health of you and the day-to-day of your dream job.
1. Develop a creative community.
You cannot do it alone! I cannot stress this truth enough, especially if you are a one woman (or man) business. There is so much value that comes from investing in a community of like minded creatives. I spent the first two years in business afraid to reach out to other photographers solely because they were my competition. The truth is there is more than enough business to go around. Some of my richest friendships in the industry are also my closest competitors. We sharpen each other and encourage one another regularly. Sometimes I wonder what pitfalls could have been avoided had I invested in fostering those relationships sooner.
More than likely you will not stumble upon success. You will build it, one step at a time, one day at a time. Evaluate where you want to go and start preparing. Make a road map for getting to your destination. A vision without a plan is simply a dream. Dreams become reality when we are willing to put pen to paper and make them happen. It takes brainstorming, commitment and preparation. Oprah Winfrey said "I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity." Start building momentum, gain experience, invest in your education, and keep the energy going. When the wave of opportunity comes you will be ready to ride.
3. Be Wise, Save.
When we were newlyweds my husband and I bought an owl shaped piggy bank at a thrift store. At the base of the ceramic owl's feet are the words Be Wise Save. It does not get more straightforward than that. And everyday that owl stares me right in the eyes, reminding me to steward the finances well. Finances can be one of the most stressful parts of stepping out on your own in business. As you start generating revenue, save for the dry seasons. Keep a reserve for when you hit a slow patch. Our company is approaching our slow season that lasts about two and half months. It's a lot easier to face the bleak times when we've prepared for them financially.
4. Give Back Intentionally.
I just wrapped up a meeting with a non-profit I'm photographing for this fall. We are planning some really exciting stuff; and I'm doing it for FREE. Why? Because I'm passionate about their cause, and I love that I can use my talents to invest in their work. Early in business I would jump at any opportunity to do free work for any non-profit that came knocking on my door. I ended up overworked, uninspired and bitter towards the projects I was doing for free. I wasn't passionate about most of them; I was committing to them out of fear; fear that if I said "no" I would miss out on a connection or opportunity to collaborate with someone else I would meet in the process. I learned the hard way that its vital to set boundaries and know your limits in terms of what you can do for free. By intentionally choosing the causes I contribute to, I work better and produce higher quality content for their mission.
5. Move Forward.
Don't be paralyzed by perfection. Perfection is a trap. Perfection is the enemy of great. Are you launching a new site? Don't wait for perfect. Get it up and running and keep moving forward. Hold yourself to a standard of great not perfect. When we wait on perfect, we will always find something else that needs to be fixed or changed.
Make room for rest. The best way to avoid burnout is to rest regularly. I know that's hard to tell to an entrepreneur just starting out. Work is always on your brain. But rest is crucial to the longevity of your company and creativity. Take a day or two a week to focus on anything but work. Do things for fun, turn off the computer, have good conversations without your phone on the table, breathe fresh air. Life is richer when you discipline yourself to rest.
7. You can do this!
You can. You are capable of more than you think...that's all there is to it!
Abbey discovered her passion for light and photographs as a child, and was introduced to film photography in the dark room of her high school art class. She’s been photographing weddings since 2010 and is co-founder of Loft Photography. The West Wing, Pride & Prejudice, and a glass of red wine paired with deep conversation are a few of her favorite things. She believes there is no such thing as having too many leather bags, or pearl earrings. Beautiful light, quiet mornings, river days and plane tickets to anywhere make her happy! Follow her on Loft's Instagram and her personal Instagram.
Photo Credit: Loft Photography