Remember that article I wrote about deciding to quit your 9-5 job and doing what you really want to do? I did that. For a year, I’ve been taking on freelance jobs as a photographer while I was in school.
While photography’s always been my thing, it’s never been something that I imagined I’d use to turn a buck, but a year, a few pay cheques and some published work later, here we are. It’s been a bit of a rough road, to say the least, but it’s definitely something that I would do all over again if I were given the opportunity.
There’ve been many lessons that I’ve learned, and they range from the practical (always carry two sets of spare batteries for everything in your kit, and never neglect to take care of invoicing or else you end up spending a whole day—or days—on it), to the profound (it’s hard to enjoy doing something you love once you start using it to make money).
I realize that doing what you want is hard work, and for everyone who’s decided to drop what they’re doing and turn their passion into their full-time gig, I’d like to throw some analogies that I’ve contemplated when I’m up at 3:00 in the morning, staring at photos in Lightroom, asking myself why I even decided to do this in the first place.
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Whoever said “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” was lying. Even if you do what you love, I guarantee you’re not going to love it 100% of the time. In fact, you may even build up a gigantic dislike (I won’t say hate, because then you really wouldn’t be doing it) for certain things elements of your passion. For example, I’m not a huge fan of the dance known as “providing a quote for a job.” The minute I send out a quote via email, my fingers are crossed and I’m hoping for a positive response, but the reality is that everyone needs to find a price that works for them.
In cases like this, I do what any runner does when they hit a part of a run that they don’t like—I grab a straw, suck it up, and keep going.
The point I’m trying to make is that turning something you’re passionate about into a job requires you to keep going, regardless of circumstance. Yeah, you might not like it now, but that’ll pass and you’ll be able to move onto something that you do enjoy.
- You’ve taken a beating—might as well get something from it
Know what’s worse than giving up right after you’ve started? Giving up after you’ve gone a long way. To continue with the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” analogy, imagine that you’ve almost run a full marathon distance, coming up to 40 km (full distance would be 42.2 km): at this point, you’re exhausted, both mentally and physically, yet this is where your mind takes over and forces you to finish the run, because damn it, why the hell would you submit yourself to this much torture by coming this far and never getting to the end?
Same idea when it comes to making your passion into your career—it’s not always going to be easy (hell, it’s almost never easy. With photography, for example, 90% of your time is spent doing something other than actual photography), but if you’ve gone so far as to leave your job, go through the trouble of networking/marketing/putting yourself out there, getting yourself trained and equipped, then you might as well keep going.
For me, turning photography into a job largely been a mental game of testing my tolerances when it comes to doing things that make me nervous or uncomfortable, but every time I’m ready to say screw it and give up because I’m feeling unsure of myself, I remember the trouble that I’ve had to endure to get to this point.
- So there was this snail…
If you’ve ever seen the masterpiece that is Training Day, you’re familiar with the joke about the snail who got thrown off a balcony, only to spend a year trying to get back to the balcony as a way to spite the guy who threw him off there in the first place.
I’m including this because I’ve had Training Day running in the background so many times while I’ve been working that I can more or less repeat the entire movie word for word. But anyway, I feel like photography has been a lot like this. I’ll send out quotes, I’ll send out submissions to art galleries, and I’ll submit photos for contracts, and more often than not, you get the following:
- Can you reshoot?
- This is nice, but not quite what we’re looking for
- Please try submitting again at a later time
When I get these types of responses, I remember the snail joke from Training Day. The snail gets hurled across a lawn, and he’s dying, but makes it a point to spend a year crawling back to the same spot. Now, maybe it was to spite the guy who threw him in the first place, or maybe it was so the snail could prove to himself that he could make the journey again, but I like to think it’s a mix of the two. The snail just wouldn’t stop, and even though it took a huge chunk of time, he made it back to where he’d originally started. In my version, this happens over and over again, and the snail just keeps crawling back every time. Eventually he wins over the respect of the guy who threw him across the lawn, and he ends up being where he wants to be as a result of his inability to give in.
And that’s what a hustle is all about.