From Hobby to Career: Part 1 – The Photographer

I love the feel of a new year. It’s like the first blank page of a new overpriced moleskin notebook. It’s like the first biscuit in a pack of Hobnobs, it’s like fresh white snow. Okay, I’ll stop now. Also because I’m not really a fan of snow.

Anyway! New Year is a time for setting new goals with refreshed energy, and one of the things which I have always been interested in, is people who turn their hobbies into their careers. Essentially, it’s pretty much the dream life. Who said that quote ‘Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ ? I’m not sure who said it, but they must have been Very Smart.

So, to fill your hearts with a little #inspo this January, I am doing another mini series on people who have managed to turned their hobbies into careers. I find the most inspirational people are the people around me who are kicking ass and achieving things on the daily. And I OBVIOUSLY want to know all their secrets, so I can replicate their success, so I have constructed a way to find out AND share it all with you (yes, I am a genius…)!

And what better day to start, than #MotivationMonday, amirite?! *fist bump*

First up, is the fiercely talented photographer Joanna – you may know her from her Twitter – @poor_jo_jo – who has kindly agreed to answer some questions about how she made her passion into her paycheque.

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So, first things first, what’s this hobby that you have and how/when did it start?

My hobby was photography. I’d actually loved it all my life, probably taking after my mum as she was constantly taking pictures, and I got my first 35mm camera when I was about 5 I think. It was when I went to university and I did fine art painting that I really got into it though – I needed a good SLR to get high quality images because my paintings were photo-realistic, but actually I found myself falling more in love with photography than painting, but I used everything I learned at uni and school about art and composition and light – it was all transferable. Over the next few years I sold paintings and bought more lenses and better equipment, and did a couple of creative photography short courses (adult education is a really cheap and easy way to learn). I was just passionate about it; I wanted to shoot more and more and get better, but I had no particular plans to make it a career; to be honest I probably just thought I’d never be good enough. I remember a girl on my course saying she wanted to do weddings someday (and I secretly thought this would be amazing too) and our tutor essentially told her it was horribly stressful work and you don’t earn much money and there’s a million out there so it’s hard to get anywhere. So I thought…oh. Okay. Well I won’t bother trying to go down that route!

And when was it – or what was it – that made you decide you wanted to make it a source of income?

In 2011, friends asked me to shoot their wedding in summer 2012, and I was absolutely made up (and terrified) and said yes. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing of course, but they knew that and I did everything I could in the 18 months beforehand to research and learn what I needed to do. I thought that if I got through that wedding and enjoyed it, I’d try and do more, and if not? Nothing lost, I’d just leave it at that. Turns out that my suspicions were correct (despite the frankly scathing replies on generic photography forums from people who said I was foolish to think I could shoot a wedding with no experience) and I LOVED it.

God people are the WORST sometimes – I am so happy you proved them wrong! How did you go about making it a real job?

Although I loved it and was definitely keen to do more, in those first couple of years I did almost nothing to pursue it or promote myself – I made a Facebook page and that was about it. I didn’t even create a website until 2014, so I actually managed to book at least 5 or 6 weddings without any air of professionalism. Although you could say it’s somewhat impressive that people wanted to book me off the back of seeing a few photos on Facebook or having seen me at weddings, really I was too afraid to make a proper leap into it for fear of failing. I had my safety net job and I let things progress naturally, but I didn’t feel that I could really say I was actually a wedding photographer until I’d been shooting for a couple of years…and even then I felt like an imposter. I went to a wedding photography workshop in October 2013 with an amazing husband/wife duo (www.emmacase.com) and it completely opened my eyes and made me realise that this was the job for me, and that I would be happy doing it. It was like a light being switched on – I actually cried during the workshop because I felt like finally, at 28, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. So 2014 was when I actually started to take things seriously and I set the business up properly, and I began to feel like I could really take it somewhere.

Eeeee!! This is so exciting! What set backs did you face (if any?!) and what did you do to overcome them?

My biggest set back was being burgled towards the end of 2013. Aside from being generally horrendous and upsetting, every piece of photographic equipment was stolen and a couple whose wedding I’d shot in October had to wait over 4 months for their photos because I didn’t have a computer. My insurance company at the time were absolutely effing terrible and it was a traumatic SEVEN (7) months before I’d got all the money/equipment replaced. By that point I’d had to just buy new things because I had weddings coming up, so it wasn’t great. As crap as it was (are you ready for a cliche) it made me get my shit together properly, hence sorting things out in 2014.

Blimey o’ Reilly this is awful – just such a horrible thing to happen. Well done on turning a terribly unfair situation into something positive.

Do you feel you have made a success of it?

Definitely. It still feels like crazy to say so, but I’m actually great at it and I love it, and I can make a living from it, so yes! I’ve had over 120 enquiries since I started, and I’ve shot around 50 weddings now, with 20 already booked for next year. Learning to be proud of my success in photography has taught me a lot about confidence and self-love – I’ve always suffered from a lack of believing in myself, but with the way things just kept falling into place in the beginning and how happy people were with their photos, I couldn’t really deny that actually I could do it and I should be proud of that.

This made me feel a bit teary – you’re super ace at it and you should feel VERY proud. I often find myself looking at weddings you’ve shot without knowing a single guest and almost joy-crying. Which I agree makes me strange, but also is testament to your incredible skills. Any regrets?

My only regret is not throwing myself into it sooner, the reason for which was part fear, part laziness, part lack of confidence. I think that my business would be a lot further along if I had, but I’m making up for lost time so I’ll get there.

Now, can you give me some words of motivational wisdom please!

If you have a passion for something, don’t be afraid to try and go for it. It’s completely fine for it to take time, or not work out, but you have to try. And honestly, if you love something that much, in all likelihood you’re probably really good at it, so there’s nothing to lose. If you can keep a job while you’re building it to take the pressure off then great – that’s what I’ve done and it’s meant that I haven’t felt stressed in reaching where I want to be, and also meant that I didn’t have to take on absolutely every wedding that came along and I could shoot the ones that have suited me best. And if you’re like me and slow on the uptake with the confidence? Fake it till you make it, and suddenly you’ll realise that you’re not bluffing anymore and you are actually just a bad bitch smashing life and reaching your dreams *nails emoji*.Thank you so much for your time! Here are a collection of Jo’s STUNNING work here for you to get inspired. You can follow Jo’s beautiful work online:

Twitter –@JoNicolePhoto // Insta – @joannanicolephotography

Website: www.joannanicolephotography

Thanks for reading guys! To see more of me, follow me on Twitter @susieblues or on Instagram @susiebluesyy 

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