There are the obvious benefits to being your own boss. You control your own schedule. You decide what direction you want your business to go in. You deal with your clients directly. The business is 100% YOU. Then there are the not so obvious obstacles to being your own boss. You control your own schedule. You decide what direction you want your business to go in. You deal with your clients directly. The business is 100% YOU! Everything is on your shoulders. You must have self-discipline to get things done on your own time, all while wearing 100 different hats. I am my own editor, creative director, location scouter, accountant, marketing material designer, client care and customer support team, the photographer, and so much more!
When I first fantasized of launching my own photography business, I wanted to hit the ground running. Cool. But now what!? I had never taken a business class before in my life! What were the necessary steps to make it a legitimate business? Where was my first client going to come from? What portfolio did I have to show them!? It was hard because I didn't have someone telling me what had to be done and when the deadline was. That was my OWN job. I was now my own boss.
The day I decided that this was really going to happen, I immediately started researching. In the next week, I designed a logo for my business, ordered business cards, created a website for my portfolio, created a listing with a large online wedding vendor company, and started the steps to open up my business as a sole proprietorship. I did it all on my own. The first year was slow, as expected, but I never sat idle. I had a vision of this business taking off, and I knew that if it did, I couldn't be unprepared for it. I was on my computer every night researching what else I could be doing to push this even further. I designed and ordered albums to show prospective clients, I drove around the outskirts of my city scouting out new photo locations, I updated my website constantly until I was satisfied with it. I never stopped. I was getting good at the self-discipline needed to boss myself around and get to work when it seemed there wasn't much to be doing. Once my business finally took off to be full time, time management became my main focus. The hardest part was wanting to edit and deliver images to clients on time, yet I didn't want to lag behind on promotional materials and marketing. And in addition to that, I had to figure out accounting and taxes! There was not enough time in the day.
I realized that being your own boss is extremely hard. (But no one said it wouldn't be) I give up weekends and my social calendar for work. I wake up early, roll out of bed and into my office to answer "a few emails", and then realize 4 hours have gone by in the blink of an eye! I find it hard to "shut off" work as a business owner. I'm constantly checking my email and thinking of new ideas for my brand. I have realized in this past year though, that life is about BALANCE. I have learned to take breaks during the day, and even "claim" certain weekends throughout the year for myself as non-working days. ("Sorry, I am not available that weekend for a shoot!"). I try to do at least two big trips a year, just for myself. I have found that finding this balance of work and play has made all the difference in my productivity and creativity.
Advice that I would give aspiring photographers would be to understand this is not a glamorized job. You will get calls from brides the night before the wedding. You will have to spend money to make money. You will have bags under your eyes from editing and album designing all week. You will spend your free days driving around for hours finding new and beautiful shoot locations. But all of this will not go unnoticed. Also, know when it’s time to hire help! I have personally found a good balance in my business where I can comfortably take on a majority of the work, but I know that I am not superwoman, and that balance might not last forever. When your business has grown to the point where you need to hire outside help, whether it be for editing, shooting, marketing, etc, make the move and hire someone! You will not regret it. And MOST importantly, give yourself personal time. Take breaks, go on a vacation, don't answer emails after 6pm. You are your own boss!
While the self-discipline to work for myself is hard, seeing what I have accomplished, a business that is all my own, is so worth it.
Shelly lives in Southern California and photographs love portraits up and down the coast, as well as all around the world. She focuses on the "in-between" moments, and is obsessed with travel. She also loves good scenery, hiking, new experiences, interesting compositions, golden hour light, and all puppies of the world.
To view more of Shelly's work, visit her here.
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