“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” - Napoleon Hill
I’ve been scared since the moment I knew I wanted to be a photographer. But for me in the fight of head versus heart the heart always wins. At the age of 16, I decided I wanted to be a photographer and that I wouldn’t let anyone else’s opinion about it stop me. It wasn’t their decision to make. Although no one’s opinions stopped me, they sure did sway me. I heard it loud and clear when people told me that it wasn’t a good idea over and over. The constant questioning and being beat down by others when announcing my choice in major made me uneasy, unsure, and quite terrified that I was going thousands of dollars into debt only to major in a program that would leave me with no career, no money, and no way to pay off the student loans I was about to rack up.
The fear everyone had for me turned into paranoia I instilled in myself. Ever since I made the choice to major in commercial photography, I have done absolutely everything in my power to end up successful. After 5 years of chasing every opportunity and conquering many challenges, I’ve realized no matter how much I accomplish, I will never see myself as having “made it”. Maybe my 17-year-old self would classify my current position as winning, but 22-year-old me now says we are nowhere close. Funny how perspective changes as you grow. I’ve had success in the past five years, but every time I reach a goal I realize a new one already lies ahead. It’s a never-ending chase. I’ve blown past even those far-reaching goals I thought were quite unrealistic when I set them a few years ago. It’s incredible what you can accomplish when you try your absolute hardest to get there.
I’ve always had a hard time slowing down or saying no to things when it comes to work, and it’s because of that overwhelming fear of “what if everything everyone told me about being a photographer becomes true?”. This started toward the end of my time in high school when I took senior photos for over 50 graduates in my class in a single summer. Then it spiraled out of control when I got to college. I took every opportunity that came my way: Majors, minors, certificates, study abroad programs, maxed out credit hours, on-campus jobs, workshops, internships, clubs, magazines, exec positions, photo contests, networking trips, and god knows what else. Although I really enjoyed everything I involved myself in while at school, I overworked myself way too often. I would become so overwhelmed with work and such little sleep that I would make myself physically ill by the end of a difficult week… which was a lot of my weeks. I didn’t want to let go of anything I involved myself in because I was having so much fun with it all, but I eventually realized I couldn’t keep treating my body like I was. It didn’t matter if people relied on me or if I would let others down or if I enjoyed everything I was doing. It was obviously too much. I had to do what was best for me. And would you look at that! Quitting a few things didn’t stop me from getting where I am today.
This same dilemma has been especially hard to overcome since entering the freelance world. It’s just like college right? But now the stakes are ten times higher. When I say no to things, it’s not experience that I’m letting go of anymore. It’s income. It’s not a friend or professor I’m letting down. It’s a client. In the past six months of working, I will admit that some of those unhealthy working behaviors have come back. I worked right up to 300 hours during the month of September. I didn’t mean to. I’m learning as I go, and September was a huge lesson for me. My weekdays were almost entirely booked out for 10 hour photo assisting days. Then, I figured I could retouch once I got home from assisting. A few hours here and there wouldn’t hurt, right? And weekends were for senior portrait sessions, typically 3-4 senior sessions each weekend. Well... retouching jobs from the month before came back with loads of revisions and add ons, senior photos from last month ended up having to be rescheduled due to inclement weather, and with the variability of photo assisting days I had some days where I was on set for up to 13 hours.
Again, all of the work I was doing was very enjoyable, but when that much piles up the overwhelming sensation overrides the fun of it all. Lesson learned: never book out a completely jam-packed month because who knows what could happen with weather, an over the top client, or things outside of your control. Looking back on September, there were probably a few things I could’ve said no to that came up after I knew I was booked. I would never cancel on a prior commitment, but I definitely could have declined some of those requests that arose mid-month. But it was hard to say no because I knew that so many people relied on having me available and I didn’t want to let them down. Since then I’ve done a few things to lighten my work load. I have been politely declining requests when I know I will be crossing that line of overworking myself, blocking out specific ranges of time in my calendar for retouching revisions, and I increased my senior portrait package prices in effort to receive fewer bookings. October has been a much better month because of it.
And November has been even better! One of my favorite parts of freelancing has been having a flexible schedule. I know, I know, I worked 300 hours in a month! How is that flexible? I’ve found that a large part of being freelance is being okay with periods of up and down. It's kind of like the traffic in LA. Sometimes you're driving 90mph, then coming to a dead stop in seconds, sitting for a while, and speeding back up only to slow down again. But, I can schedule myself off whenever I need a break! I've taken six vacations this in the past six months in between work without any guilt because I still made a great salary each month with the variability of work and the prices I've worked myself up to. If you get the I have to get out of Ohio itch every month or so like me, maybe the freelance life is right for you, too.
I feel like so many people don’t really know what freelancing is but have a strong interest in it, so I wanted to start writing about it. Educating is one of my biggest passions in life, right up there next to photography, women’s empowerment, business, and writing. I’ve wanted to join all of my passions by creating a blog since the moment I found out what I was passionate about. In fact, this has been at the front of my mind for so long that I have a running journal of all of the topics and questions I want to cover.
I’ve written down all of the things I’ve learned that have shocked me. I’ve written down all of the questions friends came to me with in college. I’ve written down questions I’ve overheard from other freelancers on set. I’ve written down everything that has scared me about starting a business and then I did it anyway. I’ve written down everything I wish I was taught in college that I had to teach myself. I’ve written notes on everything that I’ve learned that I think others could benefit from knowing. And I can’t wait to share it all. I want to be transparent in the topics I cover.
One of the most frustrating parts of the creative industry to me is the secrecy factor. No one shares their rates, their photo locations, where they learn from, how they got the shot, how they broke into the industry, how they're making a career out of what they do... That drives me crazy, and do you know where it all stems from? Insecurity. No one is going to steal your shot or your job or your knowledge. There's enough of all of that to go around. There's an endless possibility of photos to be taken. There's a massive need for most creative jobs right now, hence everyone being overbooked.
And there's more knowledge than anyone could possibly consume in their entire lifetime out there for you to learn... This was another reason that it was so hard for me to finally start this kind of education platform. It's already been done a million times by a million other photographers. Why not read from one of them? But I realized that no one knows what I know, thinks how I think, creates how I create, or will teach how I teach. So, if you like me as a photographer or a person, maybe you'll like me as an educator too.
In no way am I claiming to know everything by starting a blog. In fact, the situation is quite opposite to that. Despite nearly everyone I have met telling me that I need to start a YouTube channel or blog or anything to start sharing information, I’ve put this off for so long because I felt like I wasn’t far along enough as a photographer or business owner, but who says I have to know it all to start sharing what I know so far!
This blog will be interesting to anyone in the creative or photography industry. However, I really want to focus on freelancers and people just starting out in the creative world as I feel there is a huge lack of information tailored to these groups, especially in the business and financial zones, even for those of us who went to school. I can’t wait to share everything I’ve learned with you all, from the freelance life, taxes, business, photography, branding, lighting, production, time management, networking and anything in between.
I will be sharing what I know while also learning alongside you all. There’s always something new to learn and I hope that you can find that here.
I've started a Facebook group for all of us to talk about these topics and for article suggestions. Join here.