'What if?' - 3 part Series | When is the right time to go full-time? Part 3

September 29, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

{photo taken by Adina Brown-Selner in my studio}

Part 3: When is it the right time to go full-time?

This is a personal question and it's differently applicable to each person. So what I can tell you? I can tell you when I knew it was the right time for me. 

...Right for me to quit my full-time job in marketing and take that leap. There were several factors. Because trust me, I kept my full-time job hustle for 7 years AND did photography too as a part-time hustle... and that worked out ok, until two things happened:

1. I had booked 16 weddings for 2010. I knew that meant I needed to either quit my job in Marketing, or QUIT MY JOB IN MARKETING. Haha. I wasn't going try to take on 16 weddings AND work full-time. For me, having two kids and a family, that wasn't going to work for me. It was one or the other. I had sat on the fence long enough.

2. My sister had passed away in 2008, which rocked my world and shook me to my very core. That loss made me face so, so many tough questions directly. Tough realizations, right in my face. The biggest one? LIFE IS A GIFT... and it's SO SO SHORT you guys. The brevity of life? It changed my focus. Life is too short not to do what you love. LIVE YOUR DREAMS. Who you want to be? We get to become that by choice. We are the only ones responsible for our own destiny. Because the truth is, crap happens to us all. We only are allowed to ALLOW and choose our reactions.

Honestly? In 2009 I sort of fell apart personally. I was angry with God for taking my sister. I didn't like my life. I felt angry in general at all of the bad things that had happened to me. I was a victim. I allowed myself to be the victim. I allowed it, no one else. I lost myself in working all of the time, staying busy so I didn't have to confront my fears of living a dream I wanted. {photography} Stayed busy so I didn't have to think about what I had lost. I realized in that dark, hard year that I could take all that hurt, all the loss and either sit with it, or I could use it as a tool to carve something out of myself I had never imagined. To really dig deep into my soul, and find my reason. We can use our pain against ourselves or for ourselves. I lost myself for awhile. But....not forever.  I turned all of that loss into a cathartic process. I started digging into photography, I started finding my why. This is why my website logo has a monarch butterfly. This is where my why started. I used my pain to propel and fuel my dream. I started planning. I started saving what I earned from each session I was shooting and putting it into camera gear. I paid cash for everything, didn't charge any of it into further debt. I bought as I went and used what I had. I got my business vision and branding down. I decided I was going to take the leap and jump into the dream pool. And I did. No more sitting poolside. You guys I was the longest poolside sitter I know. 7 years, of fear, doubt, irrational beliefs. Losing my sister made me lose my fear. Made me lose the questions. Why the hell not. Let's JUST DO THIS. 

I had shot long enough that I had built a client base. I was supplementing my income. I was on my hustle. I had bought my gear. I had the insurance and was paying taxes.. it was time to LLC. I knew I would make less, and I did those first two years. But eventually I made more than I did at my old job. AND THAT - that was hard earned. There is something priceless about the pride that accompanies that. But even more so? That you told your fears to kiss your ass and faced potential failure in the face and said.. "try me".

May 10, 2010 was my last day in corporate America. I walked out of that door and I smiled the whole way to my car. I knew that even if I failed? I had tried. I could live with that. I couldn't live with the regret of NOT TRYING. I drove away crying. Tears of happiness. Tears of relief. Tears of pride. I knew my sister in heaven was proud of me for finally taking the leap. And in my heart, I believed I could do this and succeed at it. I knew she would be there along the journey. And she is. 

If I could only tell you how many times I've seen monarch butterflies while working, shooting a wedding, on my way to a wedding. There are always signs that I'm doing what I should be. I always think, even if I lost something and someone I loved in my life, that pain directed me to this. And the faith I carry says, there is a greater plan, just trust, just allow...

Fast forward to 7 years later, 7 years full-time... I'm doing it. I'm owning my hustle and I love this job. Finding balance is hard at times, this is just the truth of running any small business. You are the wearer of many hats. And sometimes the juggling leaves you worn to shreds. I am still learning every day. I know I have much to learn, I will never arrive, nor should I. This is a life-long quest of learning and passion for this craft. But your love and pride for what you have built with your own hands? It keeps you going. The right time to go full-time is personal. And you should be asking yourself a few questions before you do in my opinion: 

• Can I afford to quit any other job before jumping into this?

• Do I have a why? Is there a reason in my heart and soul for wanting to do this work?

• Am I producing consistent work? Am I finding my style? 

• Do I have a portfolio built already based on shooting for free and client work - have I been charging and increasing my rates as I advance? 

• Do I have experience and confidence to go into any lighting situation and get the photos I need? 

• Do I have the gear to adequately go into any lighting situation and get the photos I need?

• Do I have backup gear? Multiple cameras, lenses, flashes, batteries, etc?

• Do I have a logo, website and a social media presence built off of portfolio images I shot for free to gain experience?

• Do I have a way for clients to contact me? Working hours set?

• Do I have an accountant/tax ID? Do I have business insurance? Am I involved in photography groups, continued education, workshops, mentoring? 

• Do I have a business bank account? 

• Am I patient. Do I love people. Do I feel life is a gift. Are these moments sacred that I document? Even the minutia - does it matter to me? 

• DO I HAVE THE DRIVE? How bad do I want this? 
 

{If your answer to that last question wasn't 200%? Don't do this. Because your love for this craft will keep you afloat when the business side of it is tough. And there will be days - I promise you - that it will be.}

Also - if you lack one of these above, opportunity says, seize the day! You can do it. 

One of the most important things I can say moving forward is ... keep making time for your craft JUST FOR YOU. Shoot JUST FOR YOU atleast once a month if not once a week. Don't lose your reason of why you fell in love with this artistry.

Fill your heart, and keep filling your heart - even before you fill a wallet. Your heart must drive this job more than any bank account ever will. If you lose the desire to fill your heart through photography, eventually it will show. And the bank account will show it too. 

If you take the leap, be ready, plan... envision. And then take it. Arms wide open. No hopping or baby jumps, LEAP. At the end of the day; it's difficult to do this dream thing, to make it work, but what a tragedy if we don't try? 

Lastly, I wrap this up with a quote that has DRIVEN the last decade of my life. It's so SPOT on. 

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." Steve Jobs


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