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random realities of self employment | indiana county, pa photographer | trips + tricks

By June 23, 2011 16 Comments

There are loads of different professions for those who wish to be self-employed, for example taxi driving for which you should contact one sure insurance. But what everyone wants to know is….what is it like to be self employed? Well, I’ve almost completed week 2 so I am by no means an expert in this area but I can tell you a few things…I mean I have been running my business for 5 years prior to quitting my day job…I must know SOMETHING!! BUT I do think this transition period will be different for everyone. I know for me I embrace change and adapt very quickly, I always have. I have these periods of uneasiness that I’m not pushing myself to my fullest potential and I think THAT helps me grow. The funny thing is that MANY years ago when I was first starting out and wasn’t charging what I needed to to actually RUN a business, I thought, “I can do this owning my own business thing. I’m doing what I love and people are hiring me and hell my photos are awesome.” Now I look back and laugh at that girl. I laugh because I was NO WHERE NEAR ready to run a business. For one thing, everyone was hiring me because I was cheap, I wasn’t charging enough to invest back into the business for it to grow and after paying sales taxes I soon realized that I can “live” off of this. I must re-strategize. I say this because so many of you are right where I was all those years ago. Not charging what you’re worth…….well now I can say, people don’t hire me based on my prices…..they hire me based on my work. THAT is what I’ve wanted all along. I talk a little about the “BUSY-ness” at the bottom. Regardless, I’m no expert, I’m just simply sharing random notes what I’ve come to realize.

As a side note: I must also mention that during the first days of “self employment” I may have had some bumps in the road. For one I had my credit card info stolen and being used all over the country so that someone could go on a shopping spree with phone cards, I recieved the wrong version of photoshop and couldn’t figure out for the LIFE of me why I couldn’t install the damn thing, a broken pipe in the basement spraying water all over the place while we were away on a week long vacation……..and my pool was leaking… Then on top of that I took a pretty nasty fall and thought to myself I wouldn’t be able to make any of my future appointments or keep to my schedule, I really started believing I’d have to look into self employed disability insurance for my loss of income for however long that period lasted, luckily I took a few days out to rest and I healed a lot better than I anticipated! Happy first day of employment!

So here we go………Jen McKen’s Random 25 Realities of Self Employment!

1. Your tank of gas lasts MUCH longer! I use to spend SO MUCH MONEY on gas getting back and forth to work having to fill the tank 2-3 times per week. It was depressing! During the first week of self employment, I was still on my first tank of gas….and I still had 1/2 left.

2. You learn the times of all the delivery trucks-especially when they have your product! And you really get to know your delivery guy….you know things like, his kids names, what they had for dinner, who was sick from food poisoning….you know things like that!

3. Your boss is AWESOME! Seriously, you will want to smother her with gifts and chocolates. Don’t forget the wine!

4. Sleeping in (as nice as it sounds) can throw you ALL off. I won’t lie, it’s awesome-sauce to sleep a little longer in the morning, but it throws me all off. I found over the years that I’m most productive in the morning. I like the feeling of having my work done so that I can relax at the end of the day. If I sleep in too long and it pushes me back, I’m playing catch up. It’s something I’m working on…..refer the balance topic below.

5. Working from home when you have a kid……….can be impossible at times. It’s summer so all the kiddo’s are out of school. My studio happens to be on my property-seperate from my house but on my property none the less. This means that Mallory is usually playing around the area of the studio. As nice as it sounds to be able to be a “working from home mom” it’s freaking frustrating sometimes! (and I say this in the most loving way possible..haha). The door opens and I hear, “hey mom……….hey mom.” 5000000000 times a day. At first I thought, this is awesome….the truth is, sometimes you just need to do this thing called…..getting things done with out interruption! Yeah I miss that from working the “day job”. The other day, I was meeting with a few clients who stopped over last minute. Luckily they knew me well but I look over and Mallory has her faced pressed up against the window trying to see inside. It was funny….but slightly annoying! Luckily I have awesome clients…..who just so happen to encourage me to bring her along to shoots. I.don’

6. Everyone thinks since you work from home and your self employeed you can just “hang out” whenever THEY want. You’re your own boss right? Why can’t you just not do ANY work and come hang out with me? I might not take myself very seriously, but I take my photography very seriously and I do have clients I have to take care of! πŸ™‚

7. Not only have I completely made a life change with my job, but I’m also switching from a PC to a MAC at the same time. Shoot me now! I love the MAC don’t get me wrong…..I can actually say once you go MAC you never go back. I get it now, I really do…..but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you were so used to one thing and then it’s pulled right out from under you during one of your most busiest times of the year and you’re forced to learn over. I do a lot of banging my head off my desk. Seriously.

8. I’m learning to say NO. That is a scary word, especially when you think money is money right. You have to pay the bills, why wouldn’t you take just any job opportunity that comes your way. Well, there are certain things that I don’t like to shoot or that I only want to shoot so much of and since I’m my own boss, I can say no. I also get alot of requests for charities and fundraisers, benefits and everything in between and as much as I’d love to the help them all, I have to learn to say no. There is only one of me ( at least for now) and I can only do so much. πŸ™‚

9. I’m incorporating a few new things into my work flow so in some cases I feel like I’m starting all over again. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but now I have no excuses to hold off any longer. It’s always tough at the start but the return on investment will be awesome when I have more time to spend with my family!

10.Vacation Time: don’t you wish you could take that extra day off during the week…well now you can have it! Vacation/Sick/PTO/Personal Time……it’s mine for the taking if I need it. πŸ™‚ The other day, I ran out of lunch meat for lunch, so I just moseyed on over to the store and got more….and then moseyed on back. It was freakin awesome! It’s the little things people!

11.Self motivation: I can do that tomorrow, attitude doesn’t work well for the self employed. There is no one to pick up your slack….you HAVE to get it done. Luckily, I’ve always been a self motivator so this part for me is easy…..most.of.the.time.

12. You talk to yourself…..and answer yourself. Enough said.

13. Hours are spastic. Long gone are the 9-5 hours. For the most part, I do most of my work in the daylight hours when normal people are working BUT I still shoot in the evenings and of course you’re working weekends with weddings, etc. I don’t have steady hours but that works for me.

14. People that don’t know you look at you funny when they ask you what you do and you respond with “I’m a photographer”. They give you that look that says, “ohhhh, you mean you push a button? Anyone can do that!?”.

15. I thought I’d have more time to plan out all my great ideas! I’m creative and I have SOOO many of them! I use to sit at my desk at my “day job” and think, only if I had more time, I could do this and that, but the truth is, you the client-don’t get to see all the behind the scenes stuff that it takes to run a LEGIT business. Notice the emphasis on LEGIT. It’s so much more than “taking pretty pictures”……so.much.more!

16. Learning to outsource. I’m letting go slowly. I use to want to do EVERYTHING myself. I’m learning to create a balance and with balance means I must outsource. I’m not talking about hiring someone in India, I’m talking about hiring other resources to help me do some of the work. I have an accountant who takes care of my taxes-thank GOD because I am completely clueless in this area. She’s there to keep me on track and to bring me back to reality! I’m also beginning to look into other resources for post production, etc. This in it’s self is time consuming…and overwhelming. There are so many options out there.

17. I’ve mentioned this briefly above but… I have no more excuses. I used to say, “When I quit my day job, I’m going to do x..y…z”. Now I can do all those things I said I WANTED to do. This comes with a great deal of accountability! LOL

18. Building relationships are so important and I don’t know what I would do without my little group of photographer friends. They have become my new co-workers…..and I heart them! πŸ™‚

19. Comparison is the devil. I’ve said this a million times before in many previous posts…..comparing yourself to another photographer and where they are in THEIR career is detrimental to you. Everyone has their own path and way to get there. I have a goal and I have my eye on it, but not everyone has that same goal. It’s easy to look at someone more successful than you and WISH you were at that point. I believe when you do that you are only hurting yourself. Run your own race, don’t worry about what other’s are doing.

20. Work Clothes…… wardrobe suddenly got more casual in a blink of an eye. Although I still have to dress up for weddings on the weekend, if I want to show up in a pair of flip flops for a shoot, I can….I’m my own boss! My style is very casual so wearing casual clothes fits with what I’m going for.

21. If I knew then what I knew now……..hahahah I thought I knew everything then. I thought “I had this”. I was wrong. So many of the photographers that are just starting out now remind me a lot of myself when I was at that state. I thought I had it all figured out. I mean, all you do is press a button and people pay you right?! ha!

22. Slow down! I know this may sound contradictory to what’s above, but take time and slow down. I remember feeling so stressed working all day at the day job and then coming home and feeling the need to play catch up….now I can stop for a break and sit outside for no reason, pick up those magazines I’ve been meaning to read and never got the time to do it, spend time with your family, there’s something so rewarding about just slowing down. The other day I forgot to slow down and almost put a hanger in the washing machine…it was plastic, thank god it didn’t make it to the dryer! LOL

23. Turn Facebook off! It’s a time sucker (enjoyable) but if you really are on a deadline and need to bang out of a few jobs……….get off of facebook. You have been warned!

The most important ones for last…..

24. Being busy doesn’t mean your successful. Think about it like this, if you are only charging $10 to shoot someone’s photos and you’re busy all the time…well Yay for you, but you won’t be running a business on $10 per shoot. I think those of you that are starting out see everyone around you being “so busy” and you wander how are they doing that? I don’t want to be “busy”, I want to have time to give to each client what they deserve. I’m not a chain studio. I have a very specific clientele I’m looking for and I’ve been so very fortunate to have so many awesome ones find me over the years.

25. I wouldn’t change it for the WORLD. It was by far the best calculated decision I have EVER made! I’m so excited about what is to come…..yes, I’m scared to death of the unknown, but I’m learning to embrace fear because I trust that what is on the other side of the dark hallway is beautiful and a risk that’s worth taking!


  • Girl! Did you see my post from yesterday! HAHAHA. We are on the same wavelength over here sister πŸ™‚ Congrats!

  • Julie LEwis says:

    Awesome awesome blog post. Love your work Jen

  • Sarah Young says:

    Is that last photo from Saint Vincent? Also – this was the topic I requested last week! Hooray! I’m still excited for you to be your own boss!

  • jen mcken says:

    Yes …yes it is!! I shot it last week when Sarah and I did a walk thru for her wedding (which will be in 2 days!!!)

  • Becca Schweigert says:

    definitely needed to hear #19! i constantly find myself comparing myself to other photographers and i gotta remember i’m only 21 years old and still in college.. like you said, i gotta set my own goals instead of comparing where i am to other photographers that have been in “the business” much longer than i have! thanks, jen! you da bombbbb πŸ˜‰

  • Maya says:

    Love this so much! I might have to send a bunch of new photographers to read this!

  • […] business owner. I was only roughly a few weeks into it when I posted the blog but I wrote about the Random Realities of Being Self Employed. Β It was more tongue and cheek really, I mean I talked about such things like how your boss is […]

  • thank you for this blog post-i too quit my full time job in February and I can relate to so many of these items : )

  • Belinda says:

    Really enjoyed this post! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Mary Beth says:

    Just wanted to drop a quick note- I have been doing this for 5 years as well and recently quit my day job to do photography full time. Reading this was so refreshing- all the good and bad parts of self employment, it’s just nice to know someone out there is going through the EXACT same thing as me. All the luck in the world to you! Looks like you are heading in the right direction!

  • Marta Lewis says:

    Its like you just wrote out what I think on a daily basis. I love this post! As I’m sure most photographers can relate to this I would like to share it on my facebook page. Its too good not to share. I came across the post about not shooting “ugly” people on facebook and became an instant fan. I back you up 110%!

  • Karyn Justice says:

    I started a solo practice last year after 10 years at a job I did not like. Replace “photographer” with “lawyer” and “shoot” with “court” and you have basically read my mind. Kudos to you! Congrats and all the best!! (Life IS good!!)

  • Tori Austin says:

    Oh my goodness you make me laugh πŸ™‚ Good luck in your adventures!!!!!

  • Liza Burden says:

    Thank-you so much for writing this. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve copied & pasted it and I’m going to print it out and keep it in my folder, so I can read it on the days when I’m feeling down to use it as inspiration.
    I’m at the point where I did 5 weddings last year and only charged Β£100 to each bride & groom, as I had no experience and no portfolio. I want to do this full time yet it’s really slow taking off as now I’m charging what I should be in order to make a living, no one wants to pay for my photography.
    I’m starting to wonder what’s wrong with my photography?. I have a canon 5Dmkll and a back up camera. I’ve got some “beautiful wedding photos” as described by one happy couple I photographed for, yet word of mouth isn’t getting around so quickly as before.
    I’m trying to do everything I can on little money (just like most bride & grooms! most of my budget went on my camera) and I’m desperate to leave my job that I’m working at part time, as it’s driving me insane knowing that I’d rather be taking photos for people and I’m stuck there because of the regular income.
    I completely agree with you about trying to work with children in the same house – it’s impossible πŸ˜‰
    My husband does support me but he’s just seeing the empty diary at the moment and no money coming in from my new venture.
    I’ve been trying to do this for 18 months now and I’m seeing that the average time to get off the ground is 5 years! I love your hallway picture – I think I’m only at the first window though!
    So glad I stumbled across your site – THANK-YOU.

  • Dayna Mager says:

    Hey Jen,
    You couldn’t have said it better! We must be on the same time-line, I just left my full time job 2 weeks ago too, and found this and *ah* must have been meant to be!! πŸ™‚ Blessings in your new endeavor!

  • […] 4 of self employment and it has been SUCH a ride—for SOOO many reasons. I wrote about the Random Realities of Self Employment back when I was only in week TWO of “being my own boss”-it was meant to be lite and […]

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