Yeah, my boss, she is AWFUL…

This is kind of a standing joke around my house, because, well, I work for myself, and I have for the past 7.5 years. I get asked a lot what its like to be my own boss, so I thought I would blog about it- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I have owned my own photography company for almost 8 years, and started like most people did- I had a baby, she was cute, I took lots of pictures. So then I thought- I could do this for a living. Its easy money, not too much work, and I make my own schedule…

Do you hear the Photography Gods laughing at me?? Because its loud, and in all honesty, I can STILL hear it!

I was crazy…naive…hopeful…

I had never owned my own business {while I do have a business major- finance and economics} and I had no idea what I was getting into! I quickly learned running a business is insane, its long hours, its an emotional roller coaster, its wondering where the next client will come from…and cursing yourself when you have too many. But, its also the most rewarding, satisfying, amazingly fun adventure I have partaken in, but more on that later.

The Ugly-

You are your own boss- but you are usually your only employee too. Which means, if Kelly ain’t doing it, ain’t nobody doing it. I have had assistants along the way- and that helps. And now my mom works with me, and she has a vested interest in my company, because, well, because she is my Momma- and she has too! But still, even with that, she does not know the ins and outs, how to cull and edit, how to write HTML for a website, how to order with ROES, how to balance in quickbooks, or how to submit weddings to be featured. And while she is learning, I also know, if I don’t make priorities, I will be swimming in a sea of “OMG! I have so much to do”. Which I am still doing most days…

This industry has changed so much since I entered it in 2006, and I know the old school photogs would say I am still fresh on the horizon. But when I think about how instagram, and Facebook, and blogs, and websites, and submissions and cameras and even software have all changed- it kind of makes your head spin. The crazy thing about this industry…you know you are a Professional when you learn that there is still so much to learn!

When I started, I was obsessed with saying “If I just learn that”. I stayed up all hours of the night, scouring forums, and the internet {this was before youtube was the knowledge base it is now} hoping to figure out how to do “just this one thing”. I now know, many years later, there will always be one more thing. This industry changes so fast, you have to find your way, and then hang on and enjoy that ride!

The Bad-

Oh the horror- all the PAPERWORK! The contracts, the invoices, the questionnaires, and the billing. Thank heavens, so much of it has gone “digital” because keeping track of just that was a full time job! I am running a business, not a charity, or a “sure I can do that for free because we once knew each other when” business. Its hard to charge, sometimes its hard to believe you can charge what you are worth. I struggled with that a lot in the beginning. But you learn very quickly, that to make money in this industry, you have to charge for it. And in the end, what I do is custom, and specialized. It took a long time to get to that- and I know thats a hard spot for so many people who start out in this business. What I learned very quickly is that it is NOT an easy way to make money- but if you LOVE working with people and you LOVE what you do, then it makes it all worthwhile. 80% of this industry and business, and 20% is photography- kind of sad when you think about it.

And of course, being legit. In this industry, you have to maintain a business license for you county and and your city {if you are in a municipal} in the state of Florida. I am also incorporated, to protect myself, my family and my business, so I also pay a license fee to the state of Florida. I also have to have a registration with the Department of Revenue to pay sales tax {and the laws regarding sales tax will make your head spin}. My sales tax was originally due quarterly, but I now am required to pay it monthly. In this state we also pay a tax to run our business- its minimal, but one we have to pay each year. With this, its not the fees as much as it is remembering who gets what, and when its due. Each state is different, and can vary by industry, so getting all your ducks in a row is a must. If you are not paying sales tax and registered with the state, you are not a professional, you are a hobbyist.

And finally, insurance. I carry equipment insurance on all my gear, as well as errors and omissions and general liability over $1,000,000. I carry more as a wedding photographer than I did when I was strictly portraits. PPA {Professional Photographers of America} membership has the bare bones of some of this, and for small studios, this works pretty well. Once I started weddings in 2008, I needed enough to cover accidents, as well as what was required for venues. There are quite a few venues that require this level of insurance to be allowed to shoot there. As you can imagine, keeping this all up, and straight is another crazy adventure!

For most of the above, having a great accountant, and an insurance rep will be immeasurable! I also suggest a solid business plan {wait, what??} and a mentor to help point you in the right direction- two things I wish I had done. You really start to see through so much of this that you spend so much more time on the business of photography, then the photography itself!

and now..

The Good

I am sure after reading that list, some may wonder why anyone would be a photographer- and I will say its not as glamorous as you think!  But there are some amazing aspects to this job, and while I am sure they vary for everyone, you have to love it to do it!

The “no desk” job- ok, so I have a desk, but I work when I want. Sometimes its more than I should. But when my kids have something at school, or I have errands to run, or when I just need a mental break, no one is there waiting for me to punch a time clock. I will say, I work more now than I ever did at any job I ever had, but I work MY hours, and for me that makes all the difference.

I get to work with people- and I will say, the most amazing clients. I have watched children grow up, I have watched babies being born, and families grow. Each weekend I see couples commit their lives to each other, and I get to be a part of the happiest day of their lives. I am pretty sure on the scale of cool jobs- thats gotta be off the charts. Sure, there is a lot of stress to get the shots they want, and make sure I get all they wanted on their wedding day, while making sure they have fun- but thats what being a professional is. Each wedding has a new and different challenge, and I thrive on the stress and speed of it all- I think it works well with my ADD, nothing is ever the same! But, the variety keeps me going, trying new things makes me reach outside of the “box” i have built, and helps me to feel alive and I think helps me grow as a mom, a wife, and a person.

And the technology- here is a little secret, I am a tech JUNKY! I admit it, I may even need an intervention. But since my hubs is as bad as me, I seem to avoid that discussion! I want the newest action, or the new computer. I am always looking for ways to be faster in editing, more efficient in my workflow, and I love that this industry is constantly changing and evolving for these needs.

And last but not least- the stuff- I love stuff! When I was a kid, there used to be a paper store on San Jose called sincerely yours. When you walked in, it had colored paper in all sizes by the bulk, and it had those clear plastic that could be filled with all kinds of stuff and decorated with paint pens. And oh, the stickers- smelly ones, glitter ones, big ones, small ones, bright ones, and puffy ones. And don’t even get me started on the pens and the crayons.  because I think they stocked every color, and then some. OMG! I am pretty sure when I get to heaven, thats what it will look like! And guess what? In photography I get to buy all that stuff! I love it- the paper, the confetti, the packaging supplies. Actually, some times it all gets me in to trouble because I see it all, and I WANT IT! I have to real myself in!

And last but not least, the photography. For me, when I get behind the camera, it feels like its where I belong. You know that feeling you get when you fight with someone- like you just can’t concentrate on anything else? Well, with photography, I get to a place where everything else seems less important- and I focus so clearly on where I am. And I have to say, for a person like me, whose brain is constantly in motion, its an amazing reprieve. But its more than that- being a part of something bigger than I am, of a families history, of a couples future memories, well its pretty amazing when you think about it! I love knowing that what I create hangs on walls, and decorates shelves and fills albums all over the place- its like leaving my own little mark, and it feels kind of good!

So thats it, in a nutshell…sure, there are more that I could add to each column, and I am sure everyone who runs a company, or goes to a job can relate in some way or another. But, overall, what I do is pretty cool {notice I did not say glamorous} and amazingly fun. I am lucky, I started this before all the Facebook craziness, I have a good client base, and I worked really REALLY hard to get to where I am. But, I can honestly say its the most rewarding thing I have ever done. And while on any given Saturday, I am probably missing a swim meet, or a Gator game to capture a couples love story, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, there is no place I would rather be!

I hope you job inspires you as much as mine does…and if not, I hope your hobby does, because life is short, and if you are not living and loving, whats the point?



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