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I love that my work hours are flexible. I have a nine year old son I enjoy spending time with so I schedule my work during his school day, and schedule only one photo session a day on the weekends. I miss having newsroom colleagues, but have joined a photographers networking group for creative support. I also regularly get together with clients or potential clients for coffee…
My favorite thing really about having my own business is just that — that I can take the skills I’ve acquired over 20+ years and do something different with them. I can provide storytelling images of children that will be cherished by their families for years to come.
I love when we are done with a project and our clients express how happy they are with the final results. I am an affirmation junky and love when what I am doing makes others happy. It is really gratifying to do work that people respect and appreciate. It is amazing when a client gives you creative freedom to run with your vision.
I had a hard time at first with the identity shift out of newspapers. I considered journalism a calling. I had been a journalist for a long time, and transitioning towards running my own business had many unexpected challenges. I realize now that I will always be a story teller and journalist at heart and that I will continue to create images that speak to our social, economic, and cultural condition. The amazing thing has been how many people have wanted me to do this for their family, company, publication, etc.
I’ll admit it’s been hard to wake up every day motivated to do all the other stuff you have to do when you’re not shooting. I’m not one of those guys that jumps out of bed in the morning ready to tell the world how awesome of a photographer I am. I started the year marketing my butt off, but then I got busy and the marketing unfortunately took a back seat. I can’t emphasize enough how important marketing is and I know very few photographers who do enough of it.
Eric Larson & Jen Sens
We love working together on every project. Brainstorming, traveling, shooting. We’ve worked hard at creating a niche that keeps us working for great clients who are still willing to fly us to shoots. The fact that we get to do it together is a dream.
That said, it’s still a tough road to hoe, and you pay a certain price for living the dream. We don’t get paid vacation. While our friends and family think our life is a vacation, we work our butts off and the travel that we do isn’t something I would slip into the vacation category. We have to force ourselves to schedule downtime, somewhere where cell phones don’t work. And when we do, we usually turn down paying jobs for it.
The same applies to things that most people take for granted, like making dinner plans with friends or, here’s a big one: having kids. Sometimes we feel like we live to work, but then we realize that most people feel this way, and at least our job is something we are very passionate about. We are always thinking about our photography. This can put a strain on even simple things, like trying to enjoy dinner (which we’ve made a no business-talk zone). We’re slowly learning how to balance the business with the personal — otherwise we will go crazy.
My favorite thing about what I’m doing now is the freedom I have in my life. I used to have to commute through rush-hour traffic twice a day to get to my work and then drive all over town for assignments. That has been cut down a great deal. But my favorite thing is still taking pictures. I still get a thrill when I capture a great moment or a striking image.
The hardest thing to adjust to is probably coming to the realization that it’s not just about great photography. You really have to work at the marketing and promotion, and those things were all new to me coming from a journalism background.
I rarely work the holidays now and after almost 9 years of working the Saturday shift every week, it is really nice to have some of them off (I only shoot 30-35 weddings a year and some of those aren’t on Saturdays). The hardest thing to adjust to would be the ebb and flow in income, with lots of checks arriving from April until September and sometimes none in slower months like December or January. I had to learn how to budget my annual expenses better, expect the unexpected, and save more money than I think I will need so I still have enough to cover the bills through the slow season.