This past week I took some time to reflect on how thankful I am to have been able to spend the past 4 years building my own photography business full-time.
Even saying those words brings a smile to my face and an insane amount of joy and gratitude to my soul. 10 years ago, I never would’ve seen myself here. 8 years ago, I would’ve laughed at this possibility. 6 years ago, I was praying for this dream to come to life. Each year has built upon itself to get me here and I truly can’t believe it most days.
I haven’t shared my full story here before, so now is a good time! In 2010 I graduated from University of Maryland Baltimore County with a B.A. in Graphic Design, B.S. in Information System – Web Development and minor in photography. I had originally concentrated on Computer Science, but changed my major upon realizing I was more interested in the creation and design side of things. A senior year internship landed me a job as a Marketing Specialist and Junior Web/Graphic Designer at a Non-Profit after graduation. While working 40 hours a week, I was devoting nights and weekends to my photography business. One of the perks of having a reliable job was being able to work towards a MS in Marketing at John Hopkins for 2 years. To say it was all draining would be an understatement!
I invested pretty much everything I made from shoots back into my business – buying gear, watching trainings, and all of the other startup costs related to a photography business. By the end of 2014, I was eager to jump into photography full-time but unsure of how it would all work out.
I was constantly stressed, tired, and burned out from working all the time. I remember talking with Ruth about whether I should give up my passion, in order to focus on my day job. That was a low point for sure, but I’m so glad I brushed those thoughts away. That fall, things unexpectedly became different at work, but not for the better. All of the sudden, my boss of 5 years decided to leave the company and there were some major changes. With the new Director assigning more demanding and time-consuming tasks, I was completely spread thin. I was so stressed. There were times I felt overwhelmed and helpless to get it all done.
In the Spring of 2015, things reached a breaking point. It was a Friday and I went to work like every other day, but it was the last day before I would call myself a full-time photographer. It was strange and a little uncomfortable to sign some HR papers and pack up all my stuff and leave, but I remember driving home after that thinking, “I should be a lot sadder than I am right now.” I immediately felt peace and joy knowing that the cause of so much of what was making me unhappy (working a full time job that I was no longer passionate about) was gone. That night I slept beautifully.
From that point on I woke up very happy and content. I woke up so dang excited to be able to pursue my dream as a photographer and business owner full-time. I was 100% nervous and yet 1000% sure that I was where I wanted to be and where God planned for me to be. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind, but some of the best years of my life so far.
I’ve seen God’s favor in incredible ways as he’s guided my path and my business into opportunities and places and levels I couldn’t have imagined. I wake up every day with a hustle in my heart that fuels me to keep going in this crazy entrepreneurial world.
I’m thankful for every thing big and small that’s been a part of the past four years—rejections, triumphs, magazine features, blog features, taxes, failures, plane tickets, Instagram likes, lazy days, missed opportunities, new friends, industry relationships, trainings, and more. Every single piece has molded me into the business owner I am now and will continue to be!
FEARLESS – my word for 2017. A word that challenges me as much as it makes me hopeful. When I chose this as my word for 2017, I wasn’t thinking of it as me being “without fear,” but more so “fearing less.” I’ll be the first to admit that I can easily be crippled by fears and doubts – which leads to what-ifs, excuses, letdowns, and talking myself out of so many things in life. So, I challenged myself this year to just inch toward minimizing my fears, coming to terms with what exactly are the roots of my fears, and then facing them head on. Baby steps. Doing one thing every day that scares me until the fears slowly go away.
Today is a celebration of the last 6 years and anticipation of the next many years I get to do this dream job! It’s also dedicated to everyone that’s supported me in any way over the last 6 years. Specially my loving, supporting, and faithful wife; you have shown me love in ways I’ve never seen before and for being my business partner. THANK YOU so much. I don’t ever want to take this time, this life, this dream for granted.