Becoming a Wedding and Family Photographer
Almost 10 years of Working at ‘Self Employed and Loving it’
Sometimes a Leap of Faith is All You Need
This is not the blog post I intended or planned on writing. I wanted to share my experiences and what I have learnt about photography and running my own business with the intention of helping others who may be at the beginning of their own journey, whether it be photography or another business idea. To demonstrate what I have learnt and where I feel I am now with my business, I need to talk about how and where it all began.
I have been a Staffordshire wedding and family portrait photographer for almost 10 years, I’ve been reflecting on how this actually happened a lot lately, because it suddenly hit me, that I have been doing a job that I love for nearly 10 years and what’s more, I didn’t and nor do I plan to give it up anytime soon.
Working for yourself and being your own boss is exciting, sometimes a little terrifying, but extremely rewarding. I often get emails from photographers who are just starting out, asking for help or advice and I don’t always feel equipped to offer advice. What worked for me, may have happened by chance or by luck, or there may have been more to it than just luck. The more I think about it, the knowledge I have now about running my business and being a wedding and family portrait photographer, far exceeds what I knew 10 years ago, maybe what I have learnt can help others. If I can inspire someone who is unhappy in their current job, to take an opportunity or a chance then maybe I am giving something back, I wouldn’t have got here without the people that helped me along the way. The best thing about being self employed is that you get back what you are prepared to put in, there is no middle man reaping the rewards of your hard work.
When it comes to Wedding and Portrait Photography at the beginning, I felt like I was trying to walk in someone else’s shoes! I tripped and tumbled head first.
A bit like falling in love I suppose.
Love at first sight, what a great concept! Not something that ever happened to me before (unless you speak to my husband and he will gladly tell some elaborate tale of how I fell for him and pursued him!).
Everything I have ever loved, I have grown to love, so It was a surprise to me that photography, once I discovered it, was an instant love. I didn’t feel a need for it before, I enjoyed taking photographs of people, but I never imagined that in 2016/2017 I would be in my 10th year of self employment and in a job with so much variety and job satisfaction or one that I had stuck with for so long. I didn’t realise that I would develop this need to document life around me and the lives of others who let me.
Know Your Worth, Whatever Job You Do
In the 5 years after graduation, I had 6 jobs in automotive logistics. The longest contracts being about 18 months for two of those jobs, the rest were all 6 months contracts. Nothing ever made me want to stick around for long.
Apart from the team of people I worked alongside there was nothing that gave job satisfaction or made the job enjoyable.
The hours were long it left me so tired I would fall asleep on the sofa well before 9pm most nights and the stress levels were so high that I would often get a churning sick feeling in my stomach at the thought of what Monday morning or the rest of the week may bring. It wasn’t unusual for me to sit in the toilets on my lunch break and have a good cry, although it wasn’t really a ‘good’ cry ; I was exhausted and felt nothing I ever did at work would be good enough. It was really affecting my self esteem and my self worth. Something needed to change.
I don’t remember being told I was doing a good job (individually or as part of a team), we literally stuck our necks out every day to meet targets, reach deadlines, deliver to the customer on time and never a ‘thank you’ or ‘good work’. People do not assume they are doing a good job if they are never told they are, quite the opposite, they feel deflated!
To cut a long rambling story short, in 2007 I married my husband and bought a camera. Lots of people were getting married, I took some photos and I asked if it was possible to tag along to a wedding of a work colleague to try and take a few shots at her wedding. She said yes!
Fast forward a year and suddenly I had 20 bookings for weddings, admittedly not paying very much, but enough for me to buy some new equipment and due to some personal circumstances, in September 2008 my husband and I decided that leaving my job was a risk worth taking. It was making me feel miserable and very low. If photography didn’t work out, then it would just be a 12 month break from Industry.
I did 32 weddings that year.
We made sacrifices to enable it to work, we managed with one car for a few years and invested everything I earned back into my business to make sure that I was using the best equipment I could afford. I spent less time taking pictures and a lot of time learning about websites, SEO, blogging, social media, accounting and lots more to enable me to run my business and make it work. My health immediately improved, within a few weeks I lost over a stone in weight, I was able to have a balanced and healthier lifestyle. I could walk the dog for an hour, have breakfast and be sat at my desk by 9am. I slept better and the work related anxiety was gone, I did my job with a smile on my face.
Most importantly, being self employed gives you back control. You decide how much and when you work, you set your own realistic and achievable targets. You work for yourself but you also work for your clients who appreciate everything you do for them. You ensure they have a great client experience. It may feel lonely at times, but you don’t have to work in isolation; there are hundreds of photographers who are also self employed who are willing to make up a very large and supportive community, you can be part of that community too.
Quite Simply, YOU are in charge of your own destiny. After years of feeling confined, suppressed and limited, it is liberating to be in the driving seat.
Have Faith In Your Own Ideas
I’m an ‘everything happens for a reason’ kind of girl and sometimes ‘change’ happens, beyond your control. Change forces you to re-evaluate where you are and it enables a new path or direction. I believe these opportunities come up all the time, sometimes they are less obvious. Sometimes you just need to take what is right in front of you and grasp it with both hands, it may be a leap of faith, it may be absolutely terrifying. But the opportunity and possibilities may go beyond your own imagination and be incredibly worth it!