Last week I shared the first part of my journey, on how I went from working as a full time lawyer, to a full time photographer. But because I like to talk a lot, I decided to break it in half! If you missed last week's post, I covered how I ended up being a lawyer, and how I got started in photography - this week's post covers how I quit my job as a lawyer and transitioned into full time photography, the biggest lesson I learned along the way (and what this means for you).
If you missed last week's post. make sure you click this linky-dinky to read it, then come back here!
QUITTING LAW + GOING FULL TIME WITH PHOTOGRAPHY
After realising that I had survived the initial launch of my business, a whole new set of fears kicked in - especially a fear of being a failure (aren't we all though?). I was also majorly panicked at the idea of my legal and photography worlds intersecting, the last thing I wanted was potential legal clients or colleagues googling me and finding my photography blog and reading all about me (yikes). Luckily Dan and I had just become engaged and I was able to launch this business under my future married name, which helped to keep things private.
Thankfully, I lost my fear of failure pretty quickly. Honestly, I just kind of took a back seat and took my ego out of the equation. I asked myself what my definition of failure was, and then I asked myself how I could make sure it didn't happen; and what I could do to fix it if I did "fail". But if you can fix it, it's not really failure is it? I think my boss also inspired me, because she used to tell me that nothing was ever so broken it couldn't be fixed. And if it's not broken, it's not failure - it's just a lesson, and an opportunity to grow.
But what I did find hard to let go of though, was feeling like a huge fraud, in two ways. First, I am a self-taught photographer. I never formally studied, I just learned through experience; and at what point do you feel like a legitimate photographer? There's no certificate you can put against your name to say, yep! I'm qualified! It's just you, and your business. Are you a legitimate photographer when you run a business, or once your photography reaches a certain point? It's a question I still don't have an answer for, but I'm always exploring it.
The other big worry I had was about feeling super inauthentic. Keeping my two worlds separate was really hard, and they both started to feel like my dirty little secrets, which made me feel like a fraud; which then made me feel like I wasn't writing genuinely and authentically in this space (GUYS - IT WAS ALL IN MY HEAD).
Thankfully, I was able to grow this little business enough that I was able to quit being a lawyer within eighteen months after launching (WOOHOOOOOO!).
It wasn't enough to replace my income as a lawyer, but I had reached the point in my business where I needed more time than I had to work on it and build it. I probably should have quit earlier, but I was so desperately afraid of disappointing my boss and my family after they had invested so much time and finances in my legal career, that I held back, and tried so hard to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be (I am a life-long people-pleaser in case you couldn’t tell).
But eventually it became clear to me that I was holding myself back, and that I was lying to myself, and to everyone else. I realised that I was a disappointment anyway, especially to my boss. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I couldn’t and wasn’t being the person she wanted or needed me to be no matter how hard I tried, and I never could be.
So there I was, feeling guilty about not living up to people’s expectations and wishes, afraid of being judged and of being a disappointment, then being afraid of being an even bigger disappointment, feeling guilty for holding my boss back from growing her business, holding myself back from growing mine, guilty at taking away a stable income that was paying off debts, guilty for wanting to quit right before Christmas….oy vey.
You get it.
This was me....
I never thought that Anchorman would be relevant to my life in such a deeply profound way, but there you go.
So anyway, my emotions threw me into such a tailspin that I was barely sleeping, I shut down emotionally and mentally, withdrew from my colleagues, friends and family. Then one night I just kind of snapped, and Dan and I decided that nothing was worth feeling like this, and he told me to quit.
I quit the next day.
And I’d like to say that walking out of the office for the last time was this liberating experience, but the reality is that I was just so numb from the whirlwind of emotions I was still experiencing (relief, guilt, fear, relief) that I just bawled the whole way home.
I’m so thankful to my employer and the people I worked with for being so understanding and gracious about it, and for allowing me exit so quickly. I learned so much from them, and they helped me to grow so much as a person - I’ll be forever grateful to them.
I took a few weeks off over Christmas to kind of just…calm down from everything. I had worn a FitBit for the last two to three years of my legal career, and it was utterly fascinating for me to watch my resting heart rate take a nose dive in the first 6 weeks after quitting. While working as a lawyer, my resting heart rate had been in the high sixties to low seventies, and now? It sits in the high fifties to low sixties - isn't that freaking crazy?!
Knowing that makes it so easy to see why lawyers suffer from heart problems - can you just imagine how much the heart would suffer if you put it through that kind of stress for decades on end?????
After I exited my glass case of emotions, I threw myself into full time entrepreneurship. I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to do, and I’d just be twiddling my thumbs, but on my first official day as a full time photographer, I wrote a to-do list that filled a whole A4 page, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve been running my photography business full-time for over two years and MAN – life is SO different now. And in case you are wondering, the to-do list has not shrunk, it's grown - lol! For every one thing you cross off, you add three more.
There have been mistakes along the way, and no doubt there will be more – but I refuse to consider these as failures. Every mistake is just an opportunity to learn and grow. And if you take anything away from these posts – let it be this: we are capable of almost anything we want to do, and the only thing holding us back is fear.
Fear can be consuming, but it’s like any other emotion – it can be dealt with, and you can move beyond it if you try. Growing up, I’ve met and watched far too many people live a miserable life because they made and continue to make decisions based out of fear and obligation. I’ve become kind of fascinated with fear actually, and the more I read about fear the more determined I am to never let fear rule my life ever again.
Life is just far too short to spend it being miserable, we only get one life, and when I am 90 I want to look back on mine and say with confidence that I gave it my all. They say that you will regret the things you didn’t do, rather than the things you did – and I know that I would have regretted pursuing law as a life-long career. It might have taken me a while to gather up the courage to take the leap, but I did it, and it’s better late than never.
Sooo...WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
I’ve got so much more to say - and upon reflection, maybe I should have given more serious thought to the idea of being a teacher, because over the years I have reeaaaally developed a love for teaching. Actually, now that I think about it – it’s more a love of having conversations, and the exchange of information that comes with it. The kind of conversation where you both leave feeling enriched/inspired/connected (aren't they the best kind??).
Over the last six months or so I’ve been toying with the idea of sharing a series of blog posts covering all sorts of things, mostly about things that I always wanted photographers I admired to write about, but could never find. Or if I did find something, it was mostly irrelevant because it was based in America! #frustrating
So over the next few weeks I'll be sharing things like:
- The legalities of starting and running a small business in Australia (covering things like registration, insurance, contracts, and finances);
- Tools and software that I use (customer management systems, email management, and other fun administrative stuff);
- Branding and Marketing lessons I've learned;
- Mindset stuff, on dealing with fear and vulnerability;
- Photography tips and tricks;
- and whatever else YOU want to read about!
All of these blog posts will be based on my own knowledge and information – I won’t pretend to be a branding or marketing guru, a financial advisor, or the one stop guide. And I hope this is equally obvious - I don't pretend to know all the answers, because I'm still learning myself (and I hope I will be learning new things each and every day for the rest of my life).
There are so many different ways you can do almost everything – it’s up to you to find the information, systems and processes that works for you! But if I can help in some small way, then I’ll consider my mission to be accomplished. And of course, it will be absolutely necessary for you to seek independent legal and financial advice from qualified people when appropriate. All I want to share is the kind of information that helps you know the right questions to ask those people, and the right people to see. It also won't be possible for to cover everything in depth every time, so I hope to start offering 1:1 mentoring sessions later on as well.
I’m working on these blog posts as we speak – so if there is anything you would love for me to cover, please drop me a comment below or send my inbox some love (pretty please, you'll make my day)!
Thanks for reading ♥