'5 years down! Here's to many, MANY more.'
This past weekend marks the 5th year anniversary of my entrepreneurial journey. YAY! It's so crazy to say because of how quickly that flew by. The last 5 years have been a rollercoaster for me, both personally and professionally, filled with so many peaks and valleys. But I am learning daily to count it all JOY! And I can't help but to praise God for it all.
I think people have this misconception that entrepreneurs start businesses knowing exactly what they want to do and how to do it from day one. Well, that is not at all my story. And even though I loved taking pictures, I never thought it would actually be my career. I get asked all the time how I ended up in Photography. So I thought it would be fun to share my story.
In May 2010, I graduated from Howard University with a degree in Communications. Though I took photography classes in college (it was actually my minor), it has absolutely nothing to do with my career choice. My teachers actually told me I wasn't creative enough and gave me mostly C's. In hindsight, I think the problem was that I was taking classes with Photography majors, who were far more advanced than me. From a technical stand point, the teachers taught completely over my head. So after 4 years, a degree, and countless student loans (I still cringe at the thought lol) I could not find a good job to save my life. My first year out of college I was a part time office assistant, at a store my Dad managed, making just above minimum wage. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew this could not be it for me.
After a year of being miserable at a job I hated, I started a serious job hunt. Sitting in an office and staring at a computer screen is just not my thing. So I started applying for everything I could find. And when I say everything I mean everything, with absolutely no direction at all. I ended up with several interviews and was finally offered a marketing/sales position for some marketing company (I honestly don't even remember the name of it). It was not at all what I wanted to do (not that I knew what that was yet). BUT I just knew anything was better than what I was currently doing. So I put in my two week notice and took the job.
Within that two weeks I got a phone call from LifeTouch (the company who does everybody's school photos) asking me to come in for an interview to be a Picture Day Photographer. I honestly didn't even remember applying for the position. But I went to for the interview anyway and it went awesome. They called me and offered me a job the same day, before I even made it home from the interview. Although I had already accepted the marketing position and the pay was actually a lot less than the first offer, I was excited about a job doing something I was actually interested in. I would be working with kids and taking pictures.
After just a couple months of working with LifeTouch, I decided that photography was the direction I wanted to go in. So in December of 2011, I declared I was going to start freelancing on the side. I created a website and a Facebook business page. And I just knew the clients would start rolling in. Boy was I wrong (LOL). In 2012 and 2013 I basically took photos of any and everything for free. I did not have any experience or a portfolio, so I spent those two years really just practicing. All the while I worked for SEVERAL photography studios (LifeTouch, Portrait Innovations, Picture People, Mom 365, and Jolie Images). It was not until the beginning of 2014 that something changed. My friend was pregnant and I literally begged her to let me do her maternity photos. She was not into the idea at all, but she reluctantly agreed. The shoot went awesome and I posted the photos on social media. Then all of a sudden people started reaching out, asking me to photograph them too. Later on I realized they were the high school classmates of my friend. They hired me to do their maternity photos, baby showers, and newborn photos. After 2 1/2 years these were my first paying clients. And the rest was history (not really but that sounded like the right thing to say lol).
I told this story to hopefully encourage a few people who have no idea what they want to do or how to get where they want to go. The only thing I was sure of, in the beginning, was that I had change directions because I was tired of standing still in a place I didn't want to be. So even if you don't know what direction to go in, just move! Change something. Try something new. Decide that you will keep moving until you find something that fits. You don't need to know all the who, what, when, where and how's right this minute. God will open the right door when he sees that you are willing to walk in faith and not by sight. You have to just trust the process.
5 Years, 5 Lessons
After 5 years I have definitely learned a lot. So I thought I would also share a few of those lessons.
1) You don't have to see how all the pieces of the puzzle come together to start working on it. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I remember saying that as a teenager. That the only piece I was sure of. In the meantime, I just worked hard at what I had in front of me and eventually God opened the right door at the right time.
2) Nothing is going to go as you plan it. This is a life rule. I started a business knowing it would be hard but I never knew how hard. Life has a way of throwing curveballs at you. So make a plan but also remember that there will be unexpected peaks and valleys and if you have to revise the plan, thats ok. Curveballs are what make the journey interesting.
3) Money was not my motivation. Don't get me wrong, I want to make some money. But thats not why I got into photography. I do it because I love it. Like I said earlier, when I first started off, I was doing a ton of FREE photo shoots to get experience and build a portfolio. The first two years I don't think I made any profit at all. But in the times when the effort and payoff don't match, the love and passion for what I do make up for it. Eventually the paycheck will catch up (at least thats what I keep telling myself lol).
4) Every overnight success is 5 - 10 years in the making. Everyone has to put in a certain amount of blood, sweat and tears before they see the pay off. I have made a ton of mistakes, failed a whole lot, learned a lot, worked really hard, had a few victories and just walked with a whole lot of faith. Just realize that no matter what happens, as long as you don't give up, you are on your way to success.
5) Absolutely nothing I have done would have been possible without God. His love, direction, timing, preparation, grace, and mercy are the number one reason I can celebrate this amazing milestone. I am truly grateful that he chose me.