A few months ago, I read an Onion article titled Find The Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life. While the Onion is a comedy publication, the sarcastic sentiment of the article resonated with me: “It could be anything—music, writing, drawing, acting, teaching—it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that once you know what you want to do, you dive in a full 10 percent and spend the other 90 torturing yourself because you know damn well that it’s far too late to make a drastic career change, and that you’re stuck on this mind-numbing path for the rest of your life.”
Running my business full-time has been a dream of mine for several years now. Everyone I know in photography (or with any small business for that matter) started out gradually, testing the waters to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are, what business model they’re going to follow, and to develop a vision of what success looks like. My initial career path coming out of college was public policy, and my education and experience brought me to Washington, DC to pursue that path. Many great things came out of it including a good Federal job that’s taught me all sorts of cool and crazy things about our education and criminal justice systems, and it’s where I met my wife when we were both just interns with big dreams of changing the world (she might still have a chance).
Meanwhile, something new was sparked inside of me when I purchased my first DSLR as I was finishing grad school and brought it on a trip to Israel and Egypt just before moving to DC. I took five-thousand photos on that trip. “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”, according to Henri Cartier-Bresson – I’m glad I got half of that out of the way. That trip, and the kinks in my photography it hammered out, planted a seed that grew — capturing the world, both places and people, slowly became my passion and I found a way to monetize it into something sustainable.
As that passion has grown, I’ve wrestled with the decision to leave my day job to focus all my efforts on this business. While I mostly enjoy what I do during the work-week, once you figure out what your true passion is, it ruins you for everything else. All this has driven me to take the plunge to focus on my business full-time.
Still, why didn’t I make this decision years ago? It’s been said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet” — that point has finally come for me. After many hours of planning over several months it’s become clear that my prospects of success outweigh my risk aversion (risk aversion can be a good thing, without a little bit of it we’d do crazy, reckless stuff all the time). The final decision wasn’t easy to come by, and judging the “right time” was a tough call, but I’ve been fortunate to have both creative and business input from a trusted group of colleagues, friends, family — not the least of which is my loving wife. I’ve had strong support from some wonderful clients, who’s business and support were absolutely critical to this transition.
So, what’s going to be different going forward? For my clients: The main difference will be my increased availability to provide photography services. For me: The main change will be more time to do what I love — Producing quality images that meet my clients’ needs, whether it be commercial, portrait, or event related — Translating to more happiness.
Another big change I should mention, for both myself and my clients, is my new office space. I’ve established a studio space to work on strategy, shooting (when a studio is preferred), and post-processing. While I’ll still have a desk at my new full time job, it’ll be my desk with my hours working on what I’m passionate about. And since I’m doing what I love, I can’t really call it a job, can I?
Finally, I want to take the time to thank all my friends, family, colleagues, and clients that have pushed and supported me over the past few years. I’ve appreciated all your feedback, both constructive and positive. It’s helped shape me and get me to this point. I’m looking forward to new adventures and learning more than I ever have before!