I have a lot to be thankful for.
- A beat up, old car that I don't have faith to drive more than a few minutes from my house.
- 2 chipped teeth that have needed work for a couple of years but I still can't afford to fix.
- My chipped teeth directly affect my confidence and have probably cost me a job or two.
- I fail more than I succeed. A lot more.
So why did I start off with that bit of depressing information? Because I want for people to understand exactly where I'm coming from and how I got to where I am now.
I first started my photography business in April of 2010. I had been living and working in Atlanta for a few years when suddenly everything turned bad for me. I lost my job that I liked (kinda, but it paid well). I put down a first months rent and security deposit for a house to move into that I found out was a scam at the moment that I pulled into the driveway with all my stuff. I had no place to live so I made a few phone calls and found out that my friend Jini was looking for a roommate. The problem was that I just spent almost all of my money on a house that I never got into. She let me in anyway and I used my unemployment to get caught up with her and pay rent for a few months while I got reacquainted with the area.
I already had experience in film and photography and really wanted to do that as a way to make money down here because it's what I loved. BUT I couldn't afford equipment
In April I got my tax refund and used that money to buy my first DSLR and a decent lens. Not a good lens but something better than the kit lens and started taking photos. Eventually Jini moved to Boston and I had to find another place to live. That was stressful but I found something.
That something turned out to be a trailer that I shared with 3 other guys that had all just graduated from high school along with one of their girlfriends. My share of the rent was about $200 a month. I was an adult with a masters degree sharing a trailer with 4 kids all under the age of 21. Why? Why would I do that? The answer is simple. I was building my business and it's all I could afford.
Sometimes I couldn't even afford that. You see, I was doing so many jobs at $40 or $50. I was doing them for free but I didn't want to do the work that you'd expect from a $40-50 photographer (though looking back I'm not happy with much of it) I was working 80 hours a week and usually struggling to the very last day of the month just to pay my bills. But every month I did and every month I resisted the urge to just give up. At any point I could have gone and picked up, "just a job" but made enough money to be comfortable.
And that's where I'd be right now and this blog wouldn't exist. None of the beautiful photos that I've created over the years would exist. I wouldn't have worked on an important Breast Cancer Awareness project last year. I wouldn't have sat and watched my clients literally gasp when they see a shot of themselves for the first time. I wouldn't be joyful and I wouldn't be happy. My purpose would not be being fulfilled.
Now as my business is growing and my rates have steadily increased Im looking forward to moving into a new place next year with 3-4,000 square feet of studio space for me to shoot in and create beauty. I still have chipped teeth. I still need a new car. I still don't spend much on myself.
I put every dollar that I get back into my business. I have the best equipment around. I take expensive workshops. I spend money on the studio and on wardrobe. I spend money on advertising and I spend time working with models to use for advertising and doing free work for charities and community entities simply because it makes me feel good. In 2016 I also plan to get my dental work finished (finally!) but I still may continue to rent cars when I need one.
I literally have no money but I'm building something and one day I expect to get the rewards from the hard work and the sacrifice.
I'm not as impressed by guys like Donald Trump that inherit millions and build it into billions quite the same way that I'm inspired by the story of the guy earned a dollar and then earned another dollar saved it, invested in something he loved and turned it into a life. To me, that's impressive because that's what I'm trying to do.
Do you have that drive? If you want to build your own business you're going to need it. There will be times when you don't know if you're going to be able to eat. There will be times when you realize that you're killing yourself basically for free. There will be times when you ask yourself if it's worth it and for a lot of people, it's not and for others it is. Are you willing to wake up at 6AM and not stop working until 10 that night? 10 days in a row? Are you willing to not see your friends? To have no social life? That's reality for the first few years.
Photography, is more than just getting a camera and a Facebook page.
You're going to fail. I've failed on so many things that I've tried to do. I've failed on projects that I really wanted to do but that just didn't work out. If you're afraid of failing you're never going to succeed at anything meaningful. You always see my successes but you don't see the fails. That's how I learn and without it I wouldn't have ever created the underwater photography, the beautiful boudoir, the senior walking out of the smoke from a plane in his cap and gown. I fail but I don't fear it. I welcome it. I learn from it!
Being good at business just isn't enough. You have to bleed for it or you're just not going to make it.
Unless someone is giving you things, you have to work hard. You have to sacrifice or you won't succeed. That's true for business and that's true for life. And when you do succeed, I want you to be thankful, thankful for the things you have and even more thankful for the things you don't have but drive you. I also want you to relay your story so that others can be inspired.
Much <3 and thank you for reading.
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