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The First Year | Taking Risks

This week we are talking about taking risks and it couldn’t be coming at a better time since we just signed a lease for a studio a few weeks ago.  I’ll just let you all know up front that this is also a very therapeutic post for me because a decision as big as signing a lease and committing thousands of dollars to something that we have never had as an expense is something that was incredibly difficult for me.  I just hope you know that while I hope this helps you as much as possible I also hope it helps me just as much.

First, I do want to say that I’m extremely excited about having a dedicated place of employment now.  I mean this completely seriously!  The place we moved into is incredible! 

One of the biggest challenges for me with our decision to go full time with our photography business was learning to be comfortable with the risks we had to take in in order to make this dream of ours a reality.  The earlier posts on Personal Fear and Financial Fear dealt with my fear in going full time but didn’t break our decision down into the step by step positives and negatives of what it would look like when we were making that decision.  

I think it’s very, very important to take your heart out of these matters and to make educated, well thought out decisions.  I completely understand that it isn’t possible to completely separate yourself emotionally from making life altering decisions but it has really helped me to look at how my big decisions would look from someone else’s, non-attached point of view.Bellingham Wedding Photography by Joe and Patience

This is what our process of weighing big decisions looks like.

These are the positives of sticking with my job at Pepsi and allowing photography to remain as a side job.

Having a steady income.  How many of us make our decisions based on a steady income?  There really isn’t anything wrong with this.  A steady income is what provides a roof over our heads and food on the table.  It’s something that I was really tied to and for good reason.  As the sole provider in my household the steady income I was making was what provided all of the basic necessities of life for my young family.

It felt comfortable.  Knowing that I was being taken care of and that the company I worked for cared about me and the work I was doing was really important for me.  Over time with just about any job it’s easy to become comfortable with where you are with your employment.

I had a good reputation and was being offered opportunities to advance.  After working for Pepsi for 8 years I had built a reputation of being a hard worker who was dedicated to doing my job as best as I could.  I had also been offered several advancement opportunities during the last few years of working there.  Knowing that my bosses trusted me and wanted to see move into higher responsibility roles within the company was a huge positive for me.  It meant that I had the ability to give my family a more comfortable life.

Next are the negatives of continuing to do what I was doing by working for Pepsi full time while our business remained as a side job.

It felt comfortable.  I realize you just read that being comfortable was a positive but there’s no reason that things can’t be a positive on one hand and a negative on the other.  This is the perfect example.  Sometimes when you get out of your comfort zone you are able to realize you are capable of doing things you didn’t think were possible.  

I knew our photography business had a lot of potential but there was no way I was going to see how far it could go without putting myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to provide based solely on our business.  On the outside and through social media I’m sure that things look perfect but to be honest, we have spent hours and hours praying that we would have the courage to continue and the wisdom to learn from our mistakes.  We have lost a lot of sleep and had some pretty rough times as a couple.  It definitely hasn’t been comfortable but it’s been in this discomfort that we have been able to work through our problems and build our business.

The lack of time with my family while I worked three jobs.  I guess this one doesn’t really need a lot of explaining.  There were days where I would work from 4 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, go home to change clothes and immediately leave for a session and then leave for my military duty when we finished taking photos.  I barely saw my family.  Out of all of the negatives in doing what I was doing, this one was at the top of the list.

There was little room for our business to grow.  Just like maxing out my working time and losing time with the family, the same thing was happening with our business.  It was in a position where we didn’t have any more time available to allow the business to continue to grow.  We had maxed out it’s potential and our business was still trying to grow despite our huge time limitations.

I was exhausted.  Even when we found time to spend as a family if we had an afternoon free I was so worn out that I didn’t want to do much.  As a dad to a 4 and 6 year old this just wasn’t an option.  My work schedule had put me in a position that I wasn’t only sacrificing time with my kids by being away but also when I was home with them.

Based on all of these positives and negatives and the huge push from our family we decided the risk was worth it.  If we continued down the path we were on something was eventually going to break and while there’s always a chance for things to become really difficult in running our business and relying on it full time it seemed like the risk was worth it.  Not only that but the timing was really great.Bellingham Wedding Photography by Joe and Patience

The next big risk we have taken is the decision to move into an office space that’s separated from our home.  A year ago I didn’t even think this was going to be something we would consider but after seeing what running a full time, support our family from home business and the struggles with it that we faced it was time to take the idea of a studio seriously.

So, on to the positives and negatives with the positives being first.

Distraction free workplace.  This is the biggest positive to having a place away from our house to work.  I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t get distracted from their work when they are at home.  There are always dishes to do, laundry to do, kids wanting to play, sweeping, vacuuming…  the list could go on and on.  Our home is one huge distraction for us and it got worse when we decided to give the bedroom we were using as an office to our son Noah since our daughter is getting to the age where she needs her own room.  Distraction free is a huge deal to us and an office space was the best option to give us undistracted working time.

More drive to complete projects due to us paying for the space.  Here’s another big one.  Financial pressure can give you a lot of motivation to complete big projects and we have a lot of big projects to complete.  The fact that we have to now book an extra session every month to pay for our space while also taking home the same amount of money is a huge motivator.

Separates us from the market norm.  In our first 6 years of business we have spent a lot of time in coffee shops!  A LOT OF TIME!  The problem with that is that we all spend a lot of time in coffee shops with potential clients and occasionally we run into each other as one of us leaves and one of us arrives to meet with the same potential client.

Time will tell on how this theory works out but we have the feeling that inviting people into a place that is branded for our business and has a unique look that is very specific to us will pay off in a big way.  Like I said though, time will tell.

Availability of an indoor shooting space in the PNW.  We didn’t get a big office but it definitely has the potential to be used as a shooting space in emergency, rainy day situations.  If we don’t have any other options we will be able to do smaller sessions with couples or small families which is going to be amazing!

We can separate our home life from our business life.  Our struggles with separating our home and business life have been incredibly hard to deal with.  It seems like I would sit down at the computer to check our email, check our Facebook, edit a few images, whatever…  When all of our business related stuff was at the house it was always calling at me.  There is never an end to the work that can be done and having a way to step away and live in a way where we can work undistracted and enjoy our home life undistracted is a really, really good thing!

And the negatives…

It’s a big added expense.  This is a huge one for me!  The added expense of paying for an office, paying for the internet at the office and paying for the lights to be on at the office is terrifying.  If having this space doesn’t motivate us to take advantage of the positives it’s just making us more poor.

We now have to drive to work.  See ya later working in my sweats.  Now we get to look the part and dress like responsible business people.  I always hear from people how much they love working from home because it’s so comfortable.

We work next to restaurants and coffee shops which makes it easier to spend money.  Our new office is one door away from one of the best pizza places in town.  We walk by every day with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our hand and have to to smell that amazing pizza.  The temptation is a killer but saving money is a much bigger deal to us than eating that amazing pizza.  I am definitely concerned that the ease of going somewhere to eat and the quality of restaurants available within walking distance could damage our ability to save.

With this business decision there are a lot of positives but they are only applicable if we take advantage of them.  It will be easy to continue doing what we’re doing but the fact that things were so hard working at home should give us the motivation to work even harder now that we can limit distractions and give ourselves the financial motivation to follow through.
I hope our process in making these big business decisions will be helpful.  Like I said before, it helps me a lot to take my heart out of the matter and make fact based decisions as much as possible.

Thank you so much for reading!  We hope you have a great day!

If you want to check out the other posts in this series you can get to them with these links…

Personal Fear

Financial Fear

Marketing Part I

When Were We Ready?

Marketing Part II

Learning from Setbacks

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