Here’s another Q&A from The Big Q. This time we’re talking about making the jump from full-time job to full-time photographer. If you’ve got questions you’d like answered, I’d love to help: leave them in the comments.
Q: When you first made your decision to become a full time adventurer/humanitarian photographer what scared you the most? Did you have a full time/regular job before that? How do you get the balls to make such a move? I have a full time office job with good pay, and I’m good at it, but I just don’t feel any connection with it. Instead, I think about photography everyday, every hour, and almost every minute. I have been planning my extraction strategy for a while but since I have a mortgage and family to support, I get butterflies in my stomach to just jump and make the move, even if it feels like this job is sucking the life out of me. ~ Luis
Luis, first, way to go for articulating this, and admitting both your desires and your fears. I think that’s the hard part: coming to grips with the need for change. Change is hard. Most of us get more than butterflies in our stomachs when it comes to change. Change promises uncertainty. So stop looking for it (the certainty). It’s not there. Adventure is there. Meaning is there. A great story is there, because story is all about change. That’s the first thing I need to tell you. Nothing I say will make this less exciting (read: terrifying).
You asked about my story. It was similar in some ways. I saw the need to change. The desire to do something different. Unlike you I had already been living off my creativity. I was a comedian for 12 years, and that’s not what I would call a regular job. But it was full time, and leaving it was still hard (see previous note about change.) But in some ways it was different. I had no family to support. There was, in some significant ways, less on the line for me. But it probably didn’t feel that way at the time. Change is change. Fear is fear.
But change doesn’t have to come with a jump, and I think that’s where people get stalled. Imagine you’re on a 30-foot cliff. You want to get into the water below. You could jump, and many of us do. We like the jump, in part because of the excitement. But that’s not the only option. Walk down the trail, one step at a time, and the water gets closer with each step. Sure, it’ll have it’s own challenges, but jumping is not one of them. So, what are you doing now to grow an audience, find clients, and bring your product/service to market? How are you spending your lunch breaks, or your evening time after the kids are in bed? How many clients do you have now? That’s your step-by-step. And you’ll put that extra money into the “one day I’m going to get in the water” account. And one day, free from the need to have jumped, you’ll wake up with too many clients to keep doing both the “real” job and the moonlighting gig. You’ll have money in the bank. You’ll have tested the waters a little with proven clients and some of the early mistakes out of the way without costing too much. And then you’ll dive in.
You asked what scared me the most and how I found the balls to do this? What scared me the most was not changing, not doing what I knew I needed to do. I had a great career in comedy but eventually it wasn’t meeting the needs and desires of my soul and I needed to change. I found the balls (ladies, forgive the weird, too-macho metaphor) the same way you will. Look down. They’ve been there all along. Change or don’t change. That’s up to you. But don’t be mistaken: it’s not the jumping for which you need your balls. That just takes legs and the will to change. And you can do that step by step as easily as you can jump. Forget jumping. That’s not the goal. The goal is getting into the water. Do that any way you can. That’s what takes balls. And you’ve already got them.
We’re going into Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada – have a wonderful week with those for whom you’re thankful. We’re still driving home to Vancouver. Today we hit the 19,000Km mark on this roadtrip – it’ll feel so good to finally get home in 3 or 4 days! Happy Thanksgiving, friends.