Back to the beginnings
Why on earth would I start a business in the middle of a pan dulce you ask??
There's really no logical explanation. I wish I could tell you that I was prepared and planning on it for a long time, but the reality is that I had no idea that I would start a business and go full-time as a photographer.
It just happened to me.
Let me paint a picture for you. You see a twenty-something year old woman working at a well-known coffee establishment. Every single morning she makes you coffee at 5:30am. You ask her how's life going, she says she just graduated and is waiting for the pandemic to chill out so she can move onto bigger and better things. You mindlessly say good luck to this obviously tired, minimum wage worker, you grab your coffee, and you're on your way.
This was my daily life. As someone who had just graduated, I was constantly asked when I was going to move on and get a "real" job. My number one reminder was the exhaustion my part-time job left me with. Number two was dealing with Karens on a daily basis, but that's not the point. I had been at my job for over 2 years, getting minimum wage, and I somehow still wasn't enough for my superiors. I was tired. My soul was tired. I had absolutely no direction for all of 2020. I graduated college, which is something I looked forward to my whole life, but then I was left with nothing to do about it. I can't tell you how many meltdowns I had because I just wanted to leave this job and work a 9 to 5 at a boring office. I wanted stability, above minimum wage pay, and quietness.
SO I QUIT
It got to a point where I just couldn't do it anymore, I was completely drained. I'm honestly surprised I stuck it out as long as I did. And so I did it in October- I took a RISK! Me? I am sooo not a risk taker. I'm a 6w5 so I crave stability (shoutout to all my loyalists out there). But staying at the job was detrimental to my mental health and my overall happiness. The original plan was to finally do some photography for a month, and then get a full-time office job. Oh, I was so naive.
I kept getting more and more photography opportunities and I eventually started to create them as well. The holidays rolled around and I told myself, okay I'll look for a job in 2021. I applied to dozens of companies but the few answers I did get were rejections, which I thought was a little weird because these jobs didn't even require a degree. Fast forward to today, I am, and have been for a little bit, a full-time professional wedding and portrait photographer serving Orange County and Los Angeles, specializing in microwedding and couples!
It has not been pretty though. People closest to me know that these past several months have been quite the journey. Don't get me wrong- I love my job. I get to create art that makes people feel beautiful and happy, I get to be a part of the most important days in people's lives, and I get to connect with so many amazing people with different backgrounds.
The most important thing that I've learned as a small business owner is to be okay with risk (I'm still learning this). I have never learned how to take risks and accept failures, so this has been quite a confusing time to say the least. I have extreme moments of doubt when things are uncertain, but I also have moments of celebration and feeling accomplished. Overall, I can see how far I've come as a business woman and as an artist. I've only known the "art" side of photography but being on the business side is a whole new world to me.
I'm also learning that community is everything. Being a freelancer can get so lonely at times, especially since I don't have coworkers to bounce ideas off, get advice from, or to keep me accountable. Luckily, the photography community has been mostly accepting and values community over competition. I constantly try my best to uplift and encourage other photographers in my area, because I know how hard it can be. I especially have a soft spot for young photographers just starting out. I definitely didn't have any photographers that helped me when I started shooting a few years ago, and I really wish I knew how to approach people I looked up to.
When giving advice to new photographers, I usually think, "ha me? I barely know what I'm doing!" Which is like only partially true. I have major imposter syndrome and it's hard for me to be proud of my own work or efforts. So when I get compliments or get asked questions about how to be a photographer, I don't feel qualified. Which sounds ridiculous, because it is. However, I'm lucky enough to have a great support system that always reminds me that I am, in fact, qualified.
To wrap up this long tangent, I've learned a lot and have had to adapt during an incredibly uncertain moment. But the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know. Which is great, because I don't think there's a better way to build a business.
Edit: A One year update
Reading back on what I wrote earlier this year is sobering. To be reminded of how hard it was in the beginning for me, and to see how far I've come as a business, artist, and person makes me so proud of myself. And grateful. This year has been so fun- all the people I've met and the relationships that have formed because of this business kept me going. I've learned through lots of trial and error, but I'm excited to see where this business takes me in the next year.