Although I’ve been a photographer for over 10 years, my first 9 years were as a staff photographer for Trinity Mirror Group, photographing news and the supply of images for media usage.
I enjoyed all the ‘staff’ benefits such as a company car, equipment allowance, holiday pay, sick pay, pension and all the things you get when you’re on the payroll. As well as photographing news I was also photographing babies and family portraits in my spare time and at the weekends. I loved this side and I wanted to build on it with the dream of going it alone. That was the problem, at the time it was a dream and I didn’t have the confidence to up and leave the comfort zone and security of full time employment.
Then I got made redundant.
In March 2016, I along with all the staff photographers were made redundant. We were switched over to freelance contracts and were being booked on a week by week basis (and still are). With a toddler just about to start school, a new house that we’d just moved into and were renovating, the timing was, well, less than welcome.
Fear kicks in
I went through all the same feelings of fear and self-doubt anyone else would. All I knew was how to be a photographer, I didn’t know anything about business, marketing, finance etc. All I had was my photos and I was scared. I’d been thrust into a whole new world and didn’t know how to turn a talent into an income. I also didn’t know how to value myself.
Kick up the Back-Side
In a strange way, being made redundant forced me in to a situation that I most likely wouldn’t have taken on myself, due to fear and self-doubt. But I’ve learnt that despite how scary something may be, you just simply have to ‘do it’ to ‘learn it’. You have to be prepared to fail and realise that failing sometimes is just part of the process of learning. Looking back, my fear of failure actually prevented me from moving on.
In the last 12 months I’ve learnt more about business than I ever would have had I stayed as a staff photographer. Most of all I’ve had to learn to value my work. Anyone in the creative industry will admit to having found it difficult to value their own work which is a very ‘fear based thinking’. I learnt very quickly that fear can drive a lot of bad decisions but also fear can be very quickly overcome if you change your attitude towards something.
Get a mentor
I also took some time to invest in a mentor, in my case I linked up with a great photographer named Carolyn Mendelsohn . Carolyn spent time with me giving me the confidence to tackle some of the business elements of being a photographer. Sometimes all it takes is a ‘chat’ with a peer to help you see things more clearly. Whatever your industry I’d highly recommend finding a mentor, stop feeling like you need to learn everything yourself when you have an industry around you.
So here we are, a year down the line and have I nailed it? No I haven’t.
I never will, because being in business is constant learning and it will go on that way. This is really important to remember because if you aim for that elusive ‘nailed it’ status then you’ll always feel inadequate in some way. Instead, I chose to measure my progress by small improvements. Things like comparing my images today with images from say a year ago. I also compare my marketing, business knowledge and various other skills to check for improvement. If you do that, you will see that you’ve flourished,
Whatever your industry, if you’re already self- employed or looking to start a business, do it. Find a mentor, try not to be fearful, and most of all be prepared to fail from time to time and accept that failing sometimes is part of the learning process.