5 Decisions I Made Before Quitting my Day Job to Work For Myself | New Orleans Wedding Photographer
That’s a phrase I have said more times than I can count since high school, through college, and all through my 8-year career of working in public education.
But this Friday feels different. This “Thank goodness it’s Friday” marks my final Friday as an employee. Starting tomorrow, Saturday April 6th, I am officially a full-time self-employed business owner!
I launched my photography business in the Fall of 2017 and at the time, I had NO CLUE if I would ever be able to make this side gig my full-time business so quickly. Before I decided to go full-time, these are five decisions I had to make first:
I consciously trained myself to push towards fear and anxiety when I felt it creep in. Anytime I started to get nervous I would switch “I am nervous” to “I am excited” and move closer. I knew that if I was uncomfortable it meant I was growing and I knew I wanted to grow quickly. This got easier over time and now I look forward to being put into situations that force me to grow.
I did not shy away from investing over 15k into my own business in my first year of operation. My very first full frame camera I bought on interest-free credit after calculating how many shoots I’d need to book to pay it off in full. Then, whenever I would shoot portraits or a wedding, I tucked away a percentage for taxes and the majority was leftover to reinvest into my business. Between buying gear, training, and traveling for new educational opportunities, investing in myself has been a HUGE expense and one reason starting my business while working full-time has worked so well.
There were plenty of times this past year when I have agreed to jobs before I had all the ideal equipment or expertise to be able to execute the job at the level I wanted to. I was always clear and transparent about this with potential clients and then I stepped up my game (and equipment and knowledge..) and rose to the occasion. Sometimes this meant buying new gear, while other times it meant asking friends and family to practice with me for hours so that I knew I could nail it in the moment with clients.
From the very first month of launching my business, I always treated it as a business. I took my branding and web presence seriously (paying for products and staying up late to self-teach web skills) because I knew that it was the first handshake I had with my clients. Because of this, I was able to jump in and carry the presence of a professional from the very beginning. When people asked me about my photography, I always spoke of it as “my business” instead of “Oh I just do some photography on the side.” I figured, if I can’t take myself seriously, who will?
This one was probably the hardest of the decisions I made. I knew that growing my business meant that I would have to be selfish. I would have to think of myself first, including saying no to friends and their social invitations because I was working on a project or client deadline. It meant I had to lean on my wife to do more around the house while I was working two full-time jobs. It meant asking my wife to prioritize ME and MY business. It is scary and not easy to be this selfish, but I cannot see another way I could have grown my business to be a success this quickly. I am so grateful for the support and the opportunity to be selfish this past year, especially knowing it has now put me in the position of being my own boss and thus increased the flexibility I now have for those close to me.
Today is a big day for me! I thought I would be terrified but actually all I can feel is excitement. I know I these decisions I have made and the clients who have already booked me through 2020 have set me up for success. I’m ready for this!
The newest full-time photographer,
P.S. If you are out there, thinking of making your passion a side-gig and eventually your full-time gig. REACH OUT. I love chatting business and strategy and will happily help you problem solve and get moving on your goals.
P.S.S. Thank you. Thank you for reading this. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for sharing my work. Thank you for everything. I am misty eyed thinking about how full of gratitude I am. Thank you.