A brief glimpse into the first 5(ish) years of running my business.
I don’t know what I am doing. I’ve learned a lot, but not nearly as I should have. I’m in debt. A lot of debt. But I am living a fulfilled life, and am happy. For the most part. The appeal of working for yourself, doing whatever you want whenever you want, just sounds too good to not go for, but how the heck do you get successful? Clearly photography is not the answer. Sure, I own my own home, truck, boat, tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. But remember that part where I said I’m in debt? I’ve had to work a full time job to keep up with this, on top of running a business. This has its own set of issues. Clearly, 40 hours of every week is already spent at my “day-job”, which means that’s 40 hours a week that can not be spent on my dream. I am lucky enough to have a fairly relaxed and flexible job that allows me to spend a bit of time on my craft, but the main goal is to be free of the constraints of a “day-job” and be able to focus more on what makes me happy, and thats creating images.
Over the last few years I’ve had few hard-times (thanks to the day job) and fewer successes. The latter I could easily blame the day job, but the truth of the matter is its my own laziness that has held me back. And I am hoping that by writing this out, and presenting it publicly, I can make a change in my habits that can make my dreams become closer to reality.
On the subject of successes, they come few and far between. One to note would be getting published in an international snowboarding publication. That feat alone was spectacular, but for the fact that going into that season our goal was to do just that (more about this adventure to come). Another was something that I finally decided to do this year, a calendar. Neither of these made me wealthy, or even really put a dent in my ever increasing debt. Maybe even more importantly, they did give me another boost in my drive and desire to continue on this path of self employment.
I mentioned the successes are few and far between. Thats because for now, thats all I got. Those are the two that stand out the most. Of course there have been other great things that have come from this lifestyle, but those are the two that stick out the most at the time of writing this. So what about some of the bigger mistakes? I say bigger, because I have made plenty of them and I could write for weeks on that subject, so to keep this light, I’ll mention a couple.
First would be bad investments. One of the dumbest things I think I’ve spent money on was radio ads. Now before you laugh too hard, or count me as a complete moron, let me quickly explain my reasoning. We live in a small town and I have found that getting your name out and being known takes some time. This is because when I moved here there were a number of photographers who have already been established and have careers in similar fields that I love to shoot. This made me think that perhaps getting the business name heard on the radio, it might spark some interest in folks and the phone would be ringing none stop! Well that didn’t happen. It was nice to go check the local news sites online and see a photo of mine with the logo on their front page, as well as having friends tell me they saw and/or heard my ads. Great, but I need more traffic than my friends.
One of the other problems I find is in todays digital age, everyones a photographer. With the easy accessibility of cameras, and living in such a photogenic place, its not hard to take a nice picture. But then, what makes a nice picture!? There’s too much that can be discussed on this topic alone, that I am not even going to dare. Amongst this over saturated market are the free- shooters. Keeping in mind I’ve shot plenty for free, more than I should have I am sure of it, but there’s always a lesson to learn, and as I’ve continued to chase this dream of mine, I’ve slowed down the free work. However, I have been affected by others giving their work for free, and I can’t help but wonder if its my karma coming back to me.
We’ve begin a new year, and with a fresh start this year I am going to focus more on the business and try to make it a bit more sustainable for my lifestyle. Try to make an earning in the areas that I am passionate about, but knowing that I will likely have to take those less desirable jobs. This, all in a quest for “living the dream”.
So, what the hell am I doing? Chasing a dream. Hoping to live my best life, and in this, I hope to leave this world a little better, and hopefully enrich the lives of those closest to me, and maybe even a few far far away. And with this, I hope you come back to read a bit more of what I’ve got to say, and I hope that I can inspire you in one way or another.
Aurora over the Mendenhall Glacier