Hey everybody!  Thank you so much for tuning in again this Monday for our First Year blog series!  Originally I was going to be writing more about marketing but we had a great question on Facebook a couple of weeks ago from Kelley of Kelley Norcia Photography that has been coming up quite a bit lately and we felt it would be a really great thing to talk about.  I promise we’ll get back to the marketing stuff next week.

So, here we go…

What does it take to get to a point where you are ready to go full time?

Business Mentoring by Bellingham Photographer Joe and Patience

On the surface this seems like it would be really easy answer and it’s one where a lot of people throw out financial figures and the number of weddings or sessions required to get there but it’s a lot deeper than that.  There is a lot more personal stuff that has gone into our transition from part time photography business owners to being full time for the last year.  It wasn’t an easy decision for us to make and I’d really like to talk to you about all of the things that pushed us to a point where we were ready to go full time.

First things first though.  This is going to be different for everyone.  I really wish we could offer some kind of checklist and once you hit all of the boxes you’d be ready to take the leap but in all reality it just isn’t that easy.  I’m going to talk about what it took for us to go full time in hopes that it will resonate with you or maybe offer inspiration to reevaluate certain aspects of your business, your full time job or even some of the mental or emotional parts of making such a huge life change.

I feel like there were three main parts to this for us.  The first was financially based because it would have been a huge mistake to leave our jobs if we didn’t know if we would have enough work to pay our bills and survive.  The next thing that came up was the growth of our business.  At some point you will find that your full time job is limiting your ability to put the time into growing your business.  Sadly, the last part of this equation for us was some personal stuff that took us a lot longer to see than it should have.  In a lot of ways I feel like the personal stuff I’m going to write about in this post should have been the top thing on this list but I was so focused on my other jobs and providing for my family that I was missing the most important thing in my life.  I was missing out on life with my family.

Business Mentoring by Bellingham Photographer Joe and Patience

We’ll start with the financial stuff.  If we weren’t confident that we could make enough to get by for the next several months our leap into full time leap would have never happened.  In all honestly, this was a pretty long process too.  It took us 5 years from starting our business until we hit the point where we really started to consider taking it full time.  All of that marketing through referrals stuff I talked about in last week’s post took years to build.  I know it can be a lot of work but don’t give up.  We worked a lot of really long hours between four jobs to get to the point we’re at now and I want you to know that it is worth it.  

When our income from the photography business surpassed our income from our full time jobs was the point where things started to get pretty serious.  Patience was the first to leave her job a few years ago while I stuck with my full time job until March of last year.  We wanted to make the transition as financially comfortable as possible.  Having the full time job gave us the financial opportunity to attend a couple of different workshops to build our skill as photographers as well as improve our understanding of running a business.

Business Mentoring by Bellingham Photographer Joe and Patience

We also knew it was time to go full time when our mindset shifted from our photography business is getting in the way of our full time job to our full time job is getting in the way of us having the ability to grow our photography business.  This was a major adjustment in our life and one that came with some pretty big sacrifices to the careers we were previously pursuing.  I was in a sales position with Walton Beverage and actually had to resign my position because I was getting calls from the accounts I managed while we were shooting weddings.  I never expected to give up opportunities I had worked so hard for but when it meant that we would be able to pursue something we loved doing so much it was an easy decision.  

Another part of that is the amount of time available to build our business.  When I moved into the sales position I was in it really limited the amount of time I could commit to our business.  It was a huge risk to take when I requested to resign and to move back into the previous position I held but it was completely necessary in order to continue building our business while also enjoying the financial security that the job gave us.  That move allowed me to leave work at work as much as possible so we could focus more of our energy on our business.

Ultimately the business got busy enough that there was no way we could continue to grow without some drastic changes.  When you hit a point where it is impossible to devote more time to growing your business it’s time to take that chance.  This might be a hard thing to see though.  I was working at three jobs, my retail job, the Air National Guard one weekend a month and our photography business for about four years.  There were points during the summer where I was working over 100 hours a week and going months at a time without a single day off.  I should have realized a lot longer than one year ago that this kind of work schedule was having a huge impact on our business’ ability to grow.

There was literally no more time that we could devote to our business because we were stretched so thin.  We had all kinds of big plans and projects we wanted to work on but they ended up sitting on our ever expanding to do list.  It was a terrible place to be and the only way to get through it was to leave my full time job.  You have to look at it in a way where you see what could be getting done and how it could have financial benefits if you were able to focus your energy in one place.  I really think if I was able to look at things this way earlier on it wouldn’t have been so out of hand with the hours I was working.

Business Mentoring by Bellingham Photographer Joe and Patience

All of the stuff I have been talking about has a huge part in knowing when it’s time to go full time but the next part of this is what really pushed us over the edge.

We had worked for years without ever taking a break and when we finally did it was, it was life changing.  In January of last year we took our first vacation since we were married.  It had always been my mindset that if we worked as hard as we could now that maybe we could get far enough ahead that someday we could start to enjoy life.  The thing I was missing completely was that if I stayed on the path we were on I was going to miss out on some of the most amazing things that were already happening.  Abbee and Noah are only going to be kids for so long and it would have been the biggest mistake of my life to continue working at a rate that would have caused me to miss out on their childhood.

Our trip to Hawaii was amazing!  It was the first time since our two day honeymoon to San Diego in 2005 that Patience and I had taken an actual vacation and it was even more meaningful that our kids were able to be there with us.  This trip was the strongest push for me to really consider going full time with photography.  It was the first time I was really able to see what I was missing and to see that if I didn’t stop I was going to lose so much with my kids that I would never be able to get back.

If you’re in this boat I strongly recommend giving it a shot.  If you’re not ready to go full time with whatever business you are trying to grow you might need to make some tough decisions.  If you already have a good job that you enjoy it might not even be a bad idea to cut back on your personal business.  If you’re willing to push through this tough season to get to where you want to be you should go for it.  I don’t know exactly what other people are facing but I know from my personal experience that I there are things I will never be able to get back because I held on so strongly to the “work until it kills me” kind of mentality.  Your family is worth so much more than any job will be.  I know without a doubt that if we wouldn’t had made this change to our life when we did I would regret losing out on so much more than I already did.

Business Mentoring by Bellingham Photographer Joe and Patience

The last part of this big transition was also family based.  Not long after our trip to Hawaii we spent a few days visiting family in eastern Washington.  I know a lot of us get into the daily grind where we see exactly what is in front of in terms of what we need to work on and accomplish but sometimes we miss the bigger picture.  Through our hours and hours working we were missing the fact that our family was worried about what was happening in our work life and really supported the idea of us making full time photography our only career.  This meant the world to me!  To hear my parents talk about how they believed in what we were doing and that they knew we would be successful had a huge impact on me and was the final push I needed to finally make the decision to go full time.

I really hope our experience can help you in making some of these big decisions.  I know that there are some really hard times and that it doesn’t seem possible to give more than you are already giving but if you take a moment to step back and look at the bigger picture you might see that you’re a lot closer than you ever realized.  This was definitely the case for us.

Next week we’ll be going back into marketing.  We hope you have an awesome week.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Personal Fear

Financial Fear

Marketing Part I