I can’t believe I’m writing this, but this year will actually mark FOUR years since I left my full time job. I was lucky enough to be able to leave my desk job a little over a year after shooting my first wedding, and as scary as it was to take that leap, I think it’s been one of the best adventures of my life! I love watching others start out on that journey, but I know it can be a difficult transition if you’re not careful. Here are a few things I’d suggest anyone consider before deciding on leaving their 9-5!
Where/how you will get health insurance
I remember calling my mom and telling her that I was planning to make the leap and quit my desk job to be a full time photographer. The first thing she asked was “What will you do for health insurance?”. Oh mom. Always so practical! This is so important though and it’s something that a lot of people may not think about. I used to work with some benefits information corporate job I left and know that lapsing coverage can make it tricky to get insurance again in the future, so that’s something you might not want to do. I’m lucky to have health insurance through John’s day job, but not everyone has that option. Though typical jobs have this benefit deducted from your paycheck ahead of time, this will be something you’re responsible for now and you’ll have to budget for it accordingly.
What will be your barometer for success?
It’s important to think about and decide on how you’ll gauge how successful you’ve been as a full time photographer. How will you know if it’s working or not if you don’t have some kind of way to determine how you’re doing? My barometer for success was based on numbers. I knew what I needed to make to sustain my life every month AND what it cost to run my business. If I was booking x amount of weddings in x amount of time, I’d meet that. If you need help deciding what your goals should be, check out this post!
What’s your game plan for the extra time you’ll have?
Having time on your side is an obvious benefit to running your business full time. But if you aren’t used to working for yourself or working independently, you might struggle a little bit with the lack of structure that can come from being self employed. I did pretty well with this, but I think having been homeschooled from grade 7 on really helped with that. When you’re homeschooled, you kind of get used to having to police yourself when it comes to doing your work and getting motivated. Self employment is a lot like that. Yes, I can binge watch Jane the Virgin all day. Or I can write blog posts and package client gifts. Or, I can do a little of both!
What do you plan to do with your extra hours now that you don’t have somewhere specific you have to be from 8am – 5pm? I wrote out a long list of goals and projects that I wanted to work on with my additional time. With my list in hand, I felt like I had direction and like I was really maximizing my newfound time.
What are you willing to sacrifice?
I remember feeling so many things when I made the decision to quit my day job. Anxiety. Fear. Excitement. Joy. One of the biggest feelings was determination. I was so determined to make it work, or go all out trying. I hated my full time job. I just wasn’t cut out for that kind of environment. I knew this was what I wanted with all of my heart. I was willing to sacrifice having any kind of “fun” in our lifestyle. Dinners out, movies, new clothes, vacations, etc. I even cancelled our Netflix and my Birchbox subscription! That’s what it meant to me to be able to leave my full time job barely a year into my business.
There were times back then when we struggled because I was still building the foundation of the business and wasn’t charging much. But the sacrifices we made never felt as difficult as they would have if I didn’t want it as much as I did. So you have to ask yourself….what are you willing to give up if you have to? What are you willing to sacrifice? How far are you willing to go? And, what’s your spouse, if you have one, willing to give up? John and I are a team, so he had to give up Netflix and Jimmy John’s, too for me to try to make my dream work. Not everyone’s spouse is ready to give up takeout sandwiches and binge watching, so you’ve got to consider that.
What’s your backup plan?
I hate to be a downer, but you’ve got to be practical. If it turns out that you hate being self employed, or it just isn’t working out, or you aren’t where you need to be financially, what’s your backup plan? Mine was two-fold. I could always get a part time job if I needed to. And if that still wasn’t enough, the worst case scenario would be going back to a full time desk job. I didn’t want either of those things though, so instead I hustled. I booked boudoir marathons and winter mini sessions to fill my downtime even though my goal was to work in the niche of “wedding” photography. I did family photography, product photography, and most importantly, stayed humble and remembered that it’s business. I never had to resort to my backup plan (knock on wood!), but I’m glad I had it because knowing it was there helped calm my fears during some of those tougher times!
There are so many things to consider when deciding to make such a big change, but these are just a few things that helped make my own transition a bit more smooth. It’s been such an amazing journey being a full time wedding photographer, and I’m grateful for every day I get to do it!
The last thing thing I wanted to mention is, not everyone is cut out to run their business full time, and that’s also totally okay. I think that’s why it’s important to consider the things I listed here. Maybe you don’t WANT to sacrifice your Netflix and dinner dates and you’d rather work your full time job and keep your photography business as your side hustle. That’s totally fine. No judgement here. It’s all about doing what’s right for YOU. At the end of the day, you’re the person you answer to. Not society. Not the “industry”. Not your peers. Not Sallie Mae. (Okay, maybe you do still answer to Sallie Mae. Bad example). The point is, life’s way too short to live on someone else’s terms.