3 lessons I learnt as a self-employed freelance photographer
"What are your plans? Have you been looking out (for another job)?"
"I'm not intending to find another full-time job."
My boss thought I was crazy when I tendered my resignation without securing another job. Most people thought so too.
It has been four months since I left the corporate world, a world where I've stayed far too long - four years to be exact. I've never enjoyed being in an office, ever since my mother brought me to hers when I was eight. How did I manage to endure four years of that? I wonder.
But those four years weren't wasted years, they were painful, but certainly not wasted. In fact, I've learned some valuable skills and life lessons from the work I've done and people I've met. They had a purpose in my life. The experience hardened my resolve to break free from the shackles of the corporate world and take charge of my life. The experience amplified my desire for freedom - time and creative freedom.
Of course, being self-employed has its challenges. I've heard of some of these before, but it's quite different to hear somebody else's account and experience it for yourself.
Systems are everything. Create one and stick to it.
In the corporate world, fixed hours and hard deadlines instilled a false sense of discipline. I detested the inflexibility of a strict system when I was an employee, but have come to realise how important this is, especially as a self-employed. It's so easy to procrastinate when you have no boss breathing down your neck, pressing you for submissions. Hence, it's crucial to create a system and stick to it. You don't have to work 9-5 like a salaried employee, but be sure to set time aside and complete some solid work every day. Use that system to help you get things done and end the month better than when you started (it could be a fatter bank account or a new skill acquired). Admittedly, I haven't quite attained this level of discipline but I'm working on it, and this post that I've been sitting on for a while is a good start!
You may need to work on other things to stay afloat while you build your empire.
I tell people I'm a photographer but I don't only do photography. I take up videography and video editing jobs that also help to pay the bills. Some people may consider this a dilution of focus but it's not. In fact, having some stream of income while building up my core business helps me to focus better on photography without worrying about monthly bills. It also helps that videography has to do with cameras and isn't all that different.
Creating content is fun and exciting, but marketing is what keeps you alive.
You can be the best photographer, writer, musician, or videographer, but if nobody knows you or what you do, you will never be sustainable. How do you reach the people who would need your service? How can you use your skills to help someone solve a problem? There are many artists who think that producing great work is sufficient, and that someone will discover their work eventually. This is not wrong, but rather than waiting passively, why not wait proactively?