I never in a million years imagined growing up I would run my own business. But with a lot of hard work, and a good amount of luck, I managed to turn my passion for pictures into a full-time profession. I am beyond grateful to get to do what I do every day, but as with all things in life, nothing is without its drawbacks. While everyone has different experiences, hopefully, this gives you some insight and things to reflect on if you are considering starting your own business.
The most obvious perk of working for yourself (hopefully, anyway) is you get to do what you love. I really genuinely love taking pictures. I love working with families old and new and documenting their relationships. Even editing has become a huge therapeutic outlet for me that I look forward to (which is good because I spend way more time editing than shooting). I lost my grandfather this past year, and it was the first big death I have experienced in my life. The weekend he was transferred to hospice, and ultimately passed away, I was slammed with sessions. I wasn’t able to be with my grandpa that weekend, but I thought of him and how much he loved my business every second while I prepared for my shoots. It was a dark, heartbreaking tear-filled weekend. But every evening at sunset (and one afternoon) I got to meet with a family for their session and be reminded of the beauty and joy in this life. It was huge in a way I can’t put into words. Doing something you love makes all the difference in the world.
Working for yourself, you set the rules. You get to decide what is appropriate, and what is not. You get to have as much of a voice on issues that are important to you as you wish, without fear of being reprimanded by your boss. The whole no boss thing is another obvious perk. There is no stressing and explaining why you did XYZ for fear of getting fired, or humiliated, or yelled at by a superior. Sure there is the fear in terms of what your customers think, but if you have a job involving any customer service that fear is still present, it’s not exclusive to small business owners. You also get to make your own schedule. I am able to attend events at my kids’ school and spend time with my toddler during the day because I (for the most part) decide when I work.
I think it is safe to say most small business owners would agree that one of the hardest parts of running a business is that you have to always be on. Whether you’re responding to an existing client or trying to bring on someone new – the pressure to respond NOW is fierce. I feel like there is always a text message or call or email that needs to be answered, and it needs to be answered immediately. I’ve lost track of the times I was out with friends or family and I wound up ignoring my kids and company to respond to a work email. When you’re the only employee you are customer service, marketing, worker-bee, bookkeeper, scheduler – all departments all at once – and there is always someone or something needing your attention.
Another big downside is the unpredictability of your income. There is no paycheck to count on. In my world, a rainy week can cost me hundreds of dollars I was counting on, and similarly, last-minute sessions can turn a slow week into a full one in an instant. There are weeks/months when I feel like Oprah and other months when I don’t make enough money to cover my mortgage. It’s a balancing act of budgeting and uncertainty – which can be super stressful.
I have a toddler who is home with me during the day. Which means on the days when I have more work then I’m able to get done in the ‘evening’ (8 pm-2 am) I have to ignore my son (and the laundry, and the dishes, and all the chores) and sit at my computer working all day. I don’t care what anyone tries to sell you, there is no magical middle ground balance solution here. Last week it meant he got into the acrylic paint and ruined the carpet in his sisters’ rooms. Usually, it’s less detrimental and he only leaves about 4 half-eaten apples, spilled water, toys, and toilet paper thrown all over the house while he runs up our water bill by overflowing the bathroom sink washing rocks unsupervised. Being a WAHM is not Pinterest-Instagram worthy, I can tell you that much.
At the end of the day, I love working for myself. I love running my business. I can not imagine doing anything else. But I don’t want to fool anyone down this path with the expectation that it is all roses and butterflies.