Leap in, with eyes wide open

So as I have discussed on this blog before I moved to being a full time self employed photographer ( not strictly true... read on to find out why not ) in October 2017.  This was quite a brave leap into the unknown, but I had a plan.

First off I will apologise for this being a long wordy blog; I will put a pretty picture at the bottom as a reward if you make it that far.

To provide some background to the story, I have spent my whole working life up until late 2014 on the design side of the construction industry, either designing buildings or running / monitoring their construction.  In this time I worked for 17 different companies, in 4 countries, performing many different roles from Building Inspector to 3d modeller to Project Manager.

In August 2014 I decided that I wanted to do something productive with my new found passion for photography ( which had only been burning since 2012 ) and to help pay for the increasingly expensive gear that I needed / wanted to buy.  So I contacted Eva Bradley ( who was about the only local wedding photographer whose name I knew ) to see if she needed someone to help carry her bags at a wedding or 2, and maybe take a few photos at the same time.  Now bear in mind that I had up to that point never shot any people photography, and in fact spent most of my time trying to get people out of my landscape photos.  Eva must have seen something in my photography that she liked because she asked me come along to help shoot a wedding with her in November 2014.

Fast forward through the next 3 wedding seasons where Eva and I became a team, and I not only took on more solo shooting of parts of the wedding day, but I also took over the post production of the wedding photos.

To allow me to shoot and process weddings I reduced my hours at my main day job over summer, and for a period of 8 weeks in Jan / Feb 2017 I worked solely as a wedding photographer.  During this time I realised that I had lost my enthusiasm for the construction industry as a full time job and needed a change, and photography seemed the logical career choice.

So over the winter months of 2017 I started to look at what my options were, and how I could transition into full time photography. 

I thought that there were 2 things that were in my favour to allow a change in career:

  1. I had a 2017 / 2018 wedding season worth of work locked in, and
  2. with the construction industry being busy and having a demand for the skills and experience that I had I knew that I could pick up work in that industry if I needed / wanted to.

So I made the decision to leave the security of full time employment at the end of October 2017, and enter the exciting world of self employment.

Here we are 7 months later and things are going well;  I make less money than I did in my previous 9-5 job, but I am making enough to live well, and the photography business is building. I also made the decision in April, after 6 months away from architectural work, that I would still like to keep my hand in that side of things, so I quietly put the word out that I was looking to pick up architectural contract work, as and when it suited me and fitted around my photography work.  So for the last couple of months I have been doing 4-5 days a month of work for the local DHB and other organisations, and I have been enjoying getting back into that industry, but at a level that I choose, and where it doesn't impact on my photography business.

This mix seems to work well for me, both from a monetary side but also allows both sides of my brain to feel utilised.

So the moral of this long story, if you have managed to read this far, is that if you really want to change your career, or make a change in your life direction, you need to go for it, but you should also make sure you have a plan B ready to go if things don't work out as you hope. That is not to say you go into the new career / role with an 'it probably won't work' attitude, but you need to make sure there is a way back to 'safety' if the dream doesn't turn out as you think it will.  

Also you should do as much research as possible about your dream job before you decide that it is what you want to do, as things aren't always what they seem.   For example I have read articles from professional photographers who say they spend as little as 5-10% of their time taking photos, and most of their time is spent on business admin / finding work / networking.  Most jobs aren't as glamorous as they seem from the outside.

In short: Leap in, with eyes wide open.

This photo has been on my mind for the last couple of days so I will end the blog with it: