What 2 Years of Running a Business Full-Time Have Taught Me
The life of an entrepreneur/ freelancer/ business owner/ self-employed person (however you identify), is a rollercoaster ride! No two day feels the same. The uncertainly is nerve-racking but exciting, the opportunities limitless when you put your mind to it and the hours are endless yet the reward feels amazing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s crazy to think this time 2 years ago I made the decision to leave full-time employed work as a graphic designer & marketing manager at an opera house and take the plunge to go all-in with my little photography business. It’s the best decision I made! Here’s what I’ve learned in 48 months since taking the plunge.
Not one to stick to the norm
I think when I was little, I knew I was an extrovert and loved performing in the lounge to Spice Girls hits (dressed up as Baby Spice of course) and loved capturing people’s attention with creativity, performance and art. I hadn’t really grown out of that as a teenager and now as an adult running my own wedding, commercial & #girlboss photography business and invited to guest speak at universities to share my story, I still get to perform and create art in one way or another. Choosing Graphic Design & Photography as A-Levels at Bridgwater College and a BA Photography degree at Solent University I think I knew all along I wanted to express creativity in my own way. It’s no wonder I’ve done things a little differently compared to my family, all of whom work in education, either as a lecturer, aspiring professor or encouraging students, they all work in the academic world. Me, on the other hand, felt entrepreneurship was the route for me.
Had anyone really done it before in my family? Nope.
Was that the norm of a young female British Asian creative arts graduate to set up their own business? Probably not.
Did it stop me? Hell no!
And despite people telling me to my face I was going to fail with my photography business or that I didn’t know what I was doing, we never know what we’re capable of until we try! After all, I wasn’t really one to stick to the norm!
The highs are electric and the lows can be pretty tough going
After 2 years of running my business I decided that I have to try going full-time as a freelancer and put my whole heart & soul into it. My time and attention were always divided and torn between work, life, relationships, family and it was a lot to balance. In the middle of wedding season two summers ago I decided that I just had to take the plunge. These past 2 years have shown me how amazing the highs can feel and how the lows can be pretty tough going.
Things like… when you’ve connected with a client like never before and know working with them will feel amazing and you tell yourself this is the reason you set up your business because of this one client/customer or completing that dreaded task but did it with a positive attitude anyway or just had simply had a great day in the office… yup, the highs do feel electric! You might find me dancing around the home office in my colourful shorts & t-shirt giving virtual high-fives to my virtual office co-workers (or the bootyshake if I’m in full celebration mode) as I know all that hard work paid off and being your own boss just feels so awesome.
On the other hand, the lows can really hit you hard especially when you pour your passion, soul and life into your business, nurturing it to grow. When something goes wrong it can really hurt and you need that inner strength and resilience to pick yourself up again especially working alone from home and needing to give yourself a pep-talk after a tough day. After all you’re the boss and no one else is going to do it for you. Those days as a business owner are particularly tough. Though after 2 years full-time I can say the highs far outweighs the lows and make it so worth being your own boss.
My 3 takeaways from running a successful business full-time for two years
1. Being super passionate about what you do
It’s the passion, emotion and the love of storytelling is why I love doing what I do. Meeting people from all walks of life, their love stories, career aspirations or life journey is truly inspiring especially as a photographer. Being 100% invested in your business, your role and sharing the love and joy with your clients is what propels me to do more, work harder and keep growing. Not settling for just okay but aspiring to evoke emotion and connection with your clients.
For me, it’s about the happiness they feel when they see a photo from their wedding day which they didn’t realise happened or captured and knowing they can look back at that image in years to come. It’s about the confidence seeing yourself in a photograph and feeling empowered by your own image whether on your own wedding day or a Girl Boss Session and how having your photograph taken made you feel beautiful, sexy and strong because we all deserve to feel gorgeous! Helping to share the many incredible stories that are yet to be told through the power of photography, a universal language, is an amazing feeling.
Share what you do loud and proud! On social media, online, to all your friends and family, to the new people you’ll meet, in your job title… share your passion with the world.
2. Getting involved with your community & finding your tribe
As a one-woman business, there are times when you can feel alone and not knowing whether there’s a shoulder to lean on. Finding a community of people who get you, your struggles and can help you grow not just as a business but as a person is so important. Community is not necessarily the ‘neighbourhood watch’ but the people you identify with or understand you. Whether that’s your friends or family or looking outwards to an online community or networking group. I’m fortunate to live in Southampton / Hampshire where there’s a growing community of creativity and entrepreneurship.
These are some of the groups who’ve helped me and are putting the positive vibes out there:
- The Hampshire Wedding Club
- ONLE Networking
- Hampshire Women’s Business Group
- Elevate You
- Being Freelance
- Shoots Like a Girl
- Shoot, Chat, Edit Repeat
- Creative Growth Southampton
3. Expressing gratitude to those who’ve helped you on your journey
Although you could say I’m a self-made woman, no one can truly do things on their own and it’s the support and love from my clients, network, my other half, family and friends that help me grow a successful business. I’m so grateful to have such an incredible job in getting to create beautiful art and share people’s stories and having clients who trust me to photograph such precious moments in their life.
Not just my clients, but the organisations that have invested money to kick-start my business when it was just an idea and to provide a platform to take my business to the next level. My big shout out goes to Solent University, Somerset Art Works, Solent LEP and IPSE for investing your time and money into my little business, thank you!
As mentioned above, finding your tribe and turning up to those networking meetings or engaging in the community to show your support and sharing your knowledge, tips and advice to fuel the industry is equally important too. I also love making new friendships from these groups!
So those are a few of my takeaways from running a business full-time for the past 2 years. If you are thinking of doing things little differently such as setting up your own business or planning your own wedding and doing it your own way AND being a total #girlboss whilst doing it, I’d love to hear from you!
Discover more about my wedding photography experience
Find out more on my Girl Boss Sessions and the amazing women photographed and their stories
Photographs by the fabulous Holly Cade Photography for my very own Girl Boss Session!