“You’re so so lucky to work from home” people tell me with a slight air of jealousy when I tell them I run my own portrait photography business from my in-home Cheshire based studio space. They pine for the convenience. They dream of dumping the commute. No longer will they sit in traffic panicking about the wrath of the boss if they’re late. No longer will they have to deal with that annoying mood hoover of a colleague and the office politics. They’ll set their own working hours. Answer to nobody. Make their own choices free of red tape. Do what they like, when they like. Want to take a month off to go travelling and find yourself? Guess what…you can. You’re your own boss.
It’s true. I’m really really lucky. Go me.
Except I’m not. It’s not “lucky”. Luck is chance. Luck is random. Luck is “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions”. If only.
Working from home and running your own professional photography business is really really hard work, no luck involved at all. A lot of drive, and for me, epic support from my husband. But luck? No. I’ve never won the National Lottery. I owned a black cat once, but it died. I have no rabbit feet.
Working from home can be really lonely. The only “annoying colleague” you have is you. And you’ll drive yourself mad overthinking every decision you make as there’s no one to bounce ideas off and no boss to rain you in, support you, guide you. There’s just you. And you have to take responsibility for every single outcome. And deal with every problem. Alone. Situations getting a bit stressful? Deal with it. You can’t walk away. You can’t pass the buck. Your reputation is on the line.
And that’s never more apparent when you or your family are sick. I’ve had to work with chest infections and epic stomach bugs – sure I can rearrange shoots and most of the time people are pretty understanding about rescheduling their newborn photography session presented with the prospect of their baby catching a bug, but there’s always admin, editing, order processing, book-keeping, enquiries and social media looming over you. Who deals with that if I can’t? No one. So you do it. Even when you’re ill. I once had to leave my daughter in hospital (recovering and stable and with her father) to shoot a reception. You can’t reschedule a wedding reception. I’ve had to work when bereaved, when I don’t actually feel like getting out of bed and facing the world. But yeah…I set my own hours. I’m lucky.
And speaking of setting your own hours – as I write it’s the school Easter holidays, so my daughter is off school for two whole weeks of fun fun fun. I do love it when she’s off school. It’s a pleasure to spend time with her, we come up with little projects, we take the dog out for super long bike rides (well, the dog walks, my daughter rides). But here’s the rub- work doesn’t stop. There’s no annual leave for the self-employed. No holiday pay. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. So you always work. On your holiday? Hello early mornings and late nights, with a little admin interjected in to your days as your phone pings at you constantly with enquiries and you’re so aware of people’s impatience if they don’t get an immediate answer you’re compelled to respond constantly. I once responded to a query for a Cake Smash 45 minutes after it was sent. The response? “Sorry I’m sorted now. I booked someone else as you didn’t reply”. Forty. Five. Minutes.
Financially, I’ve earnt much more doing other jobs, especially for the hours I work pretty much every day of the week. There’s so many business costs involved with running a professional photography studio that most people don’t realise. When you pay a fee for a session with me it’s certainly not all going in my back pocket. The fee not only pays for my time with you on the day of your shoot, it covers the time I spend consulting with you and organising your booking, setting the studio, styling your shoot, processing your gallery, confirming your order, editing (for every hour I spend shooting I’m at least two-three more at the computer) and delivering your images to you. I’d say photography is probably about 20% of what I do.
My professional photography equipment is not cheap and I need two or everything in case of equipment failure. I pay insurance, training, website costs, gallery hosting services, heating, travel, postage, BANPAS membership, pro lab printing costs, online storage, computer equipment, business banking fees, and of course for props and other consumables to create beautiful, bespoke, original imagery. It all adds up.
But here’s the pay off (and it’s not financial, believe me). It is so so rewarding making people happy. It’s such a warm feeling when you get lovely feedback from a client and they’ve picked up on all those little things you do that you hope will make a difference and they totally appreciate you, see your worth and the effort and heart you put in to it all. It’s a joy creating children’s’ portraits and family portraits and images of all kinds. When people choose to invest in portraits of their family, in capturing memories and moments in time and creating heirlooms for their children it’s always such an honour when they trust in me to deliver. I didn’t start Little Wonderland Photography thinking I’d become a millionaire or retire early. My business was born from a passion for photography and a joy of working with children and families.
But I’m not lucky. I’m a worker bee. Giving my all for sweet rewards. You can’t control the hand life deals you, but you can control the choices you make and the actions you take. You have to create your own “luck”.