One of the most exciting and scary experiences for any person in their professional life is the transition from clocking in at your full-time job to running your passion as a full-time business. By no means am I a business coach or expert, but what I can bring to the table are the practical and powerful ways I was able to fire my boss and hire myself to spread my passion and joy to the rest of the world as a career.
First, and foremost, I am a photographer in Atlanta, GA and never went to school for film or photographer, let alone even owning a camera to dabble with. Although, having started a marketing consultant company in college after writing and publishing a book, the skills techniques I developed then to help grow my business, also helped grow my photography business immensely. I am saying that to highlight the fact that if those strategies could work between a marketing consulting business and photography, no matter what creative or professional industry you’re in, if applied well to your craft, it could very well work for you.
Here are 4 simple strategies that helped me go full-time in my small business:
1. Goal setting
When I first started photography, as crazy as it sounds, I set a goal for myself to go full-time before the new year of January 1st. This gave me about 7-8 months to make that happened. Whether it actually happened or not wasn’t really the big idea behind that concept. There’s a saying that says, “don’t let failure get to your heart and success get to your head.” Meaning if I wasn’t able to accomplish doing photography full-time in 7-8 months, that is why we have been blessed to be able to start another goal again. The most important part is actually setting the goal.
A mentor of mine would always tell me that if what I wanted to accomplish wasn’t dated on a calendar than it is not a goal it is merely a wish. It took me sometime to really understand that but when you think about it, it perfectly makes since. A goal is different than a wish. Like a genie who grants wishes, a wish doesn’t really take any planning or strategy on your part. You simply ask the genie and the wish is granted. Now, here on earth life doesn’t work that way. You must be clear about what it is you want, set a date, and run for it. This dating your goals strategy will push you, because who doesn’t like to win. (Key point: there is no right or wrong time-line for your goals, but be honest with yourself. Is the time-line just way too unrealistic? It should be somewhat reasonable but scary enough to really make you get to work.
2. Social Media
This is such a large topic within itself but I will just specifically talk about the power of social media and a few ways to utilize it in your favor that have helped me. For starters, many people like to think they are doing themselves a favor by staying off social media. I only think that’s true if you allow it to control your life. Just because we don’t understand how to effectively use it doesn’t mean we have to run from it or not stick to it long enough to learn how. Whether we like it or not, especially if you are in the creative fields, social media is just where the world’s attention and eyes are constantly and where your work can consistently be exposed.
So, I figured out a plan and schedule to post consistently on social media. Whether it’s once a day like me, or once every 3 days or even once a week, you should be posting with a schedule and around the same time if not the same time for every post. This helps with so many things I never really thought about in the beginning. People will start to get excited to see what new content you’re working on and will post next, creating relevance to you as an artist or professional. Your following will start to grow allowing for other “potential clients” you may not have otherwise been able to reach. Your work can now inspire and impact the lives of people in many more places as it possibly gets featured and re-posted. Even more importantly for you, it creates a level of accountability to continue to stay creative and consistent with your own work in general because you are on a schedule.
3. Create Work For Yourself
Yup! Exactly what it means. Go out and create more work for yourself rather than just waiting to be booked. In no way is this a competition but I just think it’s a good point to observe, I have friends that have been doing photography for years and years waiting around to be booked, while I am constantly looking at my calendar and filling it up with work. And yes some of that work is free even after going full-time. For example, let’s just say there is a certain client you are really trying to target with a style and look you are wanting to move towards to but don’t really have a lot of content for that. It’s kind of like throwing an extra cookie in the bag for a customer at your expense, but realizing the return of investment charging for that cookie would never produce.
I have reached out to couples do simply “couples portraits” but keeping in mind the style and creativity I’m wanting to create which becomes a win win situation. They have these beautiful memorable photos that they will most likely post and share for all of their friends to see (a new audience you never had) and also you have content you can share and expose that is aligned with the direction you are going or wanting to go. Now, of course the rebuttal is, but, Myles, I need to put food on the table and can’t afford to do that at all. I don’t really agree that even a full-time photography can’t afford to still do certain strategic gigs for free, but if it helps, the last tip is what really helped me solidify going full-time.
4. Create consistent income using your same passion
So one thing I have learned over the years is that many people can not stand the thought of not having a paycheck guaranteed to them every two weeks, even if it means working their entire life doing something they are not passionate about. And I don’t mean you’ve learned to love and can do well, I mean your calling, what fills your soul, what you think about constantly while you are at work or not at work. But, it totally makes sense, I get it. It is scary. I guess for me, it’s just motivation. Just like Will Smith said during an interview, his biggest fear is fear, feeling afraid of something. So, he pushes himself to attack it, overcome it, motivate himself. Although, if that idea doesn’t really resonate as well, and in your specific time of life, just not practical with kids and a mortgage, etc., then here is a tip for you.
I knew as a wedding photographer and portrait photographer the income wouldn’t necessarily be regular. Frequent doesn’t always mean regular. The invoices and checks can definitely be large but I wanted to think of something I could still do within my field on a regular basis that would generate income, and I’d still love doing it. For me, that was working my way into photographing for UberEATS. Is it still photography? Absolutely! Regularly on a schedule? Yes! And best of all it’s so fun traveling to different restaurants, learning about their stories, and obviously the variety in foods to eat here and there. Maybe your industry isn’t in photography but you can still set up something. For example, a dancer. Let’s say this dancer earns income from different gigs she frequently gets around the year. Although, frequent there are still times where earning income to save money long term or for any reason might be of concern. So she finds a way, once a week, still in dance, to teach dance. Maybe her own dance classes or at some kind of club, gym, school, or even online. Finding a way to create regular income other than just frequent can really help with better calculating retirement, or vacation trips, extra expenses, or just anything in general as even our business profiting can profit up and down.
Hopefully these 4 simple strategies can help kick in some ideas to not only help go full-time if you aren’t already but just help with growing your business a little further full-time or part-time!