My work history before becoming a full time photographer wasn't exactly the normal career path most take. When I was in high school I worked at a costal campground in northern California before I went to film school. After I graduated I worked at Best Buy, Meals on Wheels, and would take any freelance work that came my way. I moved out here to Indianapolis with my wife in late 2011 where I took a factory job to pay the bills. We found out we were having a baby and things got real. This isn't the life I wanted for myself. I wanted more. I wanted to do what I love and I wanted to be happy! So I started to look for another job and started working in my first corporate position. I was excited. I knew I wanted to run my photography business someday and this would be a great teaching tool on how to run a company. Wrong. I was sooooooo very very very wrong. Not only did having a nice job in an air conditioned office with benefits and a 401K NOT help teach me anything about running a business, but I would say it set me up for failure when I actually became a full time wedding photographer. Here's my list of 5 ways the corporate world set me up for failure when I became my own boss.
1. You work 9-5
If you can't tell, I'm passionate about my success. It's all I think about. I love being a photographer and I want to be the best. Right before I quit my job I tried to put together a structured home / work schedule so that the switch from corporate to creative would be smooth and not so overwhelming. I started working 9am to 5pm but quickly I felt like I wasn't getting anything done. From 5pm to when I went to bed I couldn't help but think about what I wanted to get done or do. It was my brain's way of telling me This is what you are meant to do! I kept thinking I needed to have a strict schedule. Thats how it works in the corporate world. They have to be smarter than me when when it comes to business! But this has nothing to do with business. This is passion. Tell me how many times your'e passionate about going to work Monday morning after a nice weekend? If the answer is more than 0% than an office job might be right for you but for the rest of us 0% is exactly how much we want to go to the office. Becoming a full time photographer is what Ive always wanted, It's all I think about so why silence my brain and not progress my business to do bigger and better things? I wake up at 7am everyday and often don't close my laptop until 8 or 9pm. Yet I feel more energized than I EVER did at my corporate desk job. Im not suggesting that you have to work 13 hours a day like I do but the key here is finding what works best to keep going your business and still live the life you want to live.
2. Your corporate job keeps you one track minded.
I'd be willing to bet your office has an I.T. person, someone in accounting, marketing, sales, and maybe even a kitchen or cafeteria. And on top of all those devisions they each have a boss who's job it is to make sure their division is laser focused on their one job. When you go full time creative you most likely will become all of that. You don't have the luxury of just leaving it all behind at the end of the night. Your computer isn't sending emails? You have to fix it. A clients check bounces? You have to fix it. You've made a lot of sales and now you have to package it all to ship it all? You have to do it! The holidays are on the way and you need to advertise your services? You have to figure it out! And even if you've done your own taxes before, business taxes are a completely different game. Point being your job has done the best they can to make sure you are an expert in your one position but becoming a full time creative requires you to be a master of it all. I guarantee you will QUICKLY learn how much you don't know about so many important aspects of your new creative career.
3. They don't encourage you to take risks.
The main objective of every business is to make money. They must have a some sort of proven path of success if they have grown to the point to need to hire employees I.E. you. When something is proven to work it is hard to change it in fear that the change is wrong, they will lose business and they will be forced to fire everyone and it will ruin the company. I get it. But change needs to be made in order to grow. A few years ago water used to be free. You could get it out of any fountain or faucet at no cost. We now spend over $10,000,000,000 a year on bottled water. Thats a billion with a B. As in 1,000 million dollars a year. The point is that we have a lot of great ideas. Possibly even ten billion dollar a year ideas but often we just shut our ideas down that we think are good because thats what we have been trained to do. Being a business owner means you HAVE to take risks just to survive let alone thrive! The business you work for now had to take huge risks too at one point to get to the size they are now. You need to open the door to thinking outside the box to make huge growth.
4. They don't share in the success.
When your company hired you they were making a bet that the work you would be doing would make the them more cash than what they are paying you. No company wants to lose money so they wouldn't hire you if you weren't making them any. Some people make their company more money than others. They are part of company accusations or they book a huge deal partnering up with a business to save them a lot of cash. When this happens there might be a company wide email thanking you for your hard work and maybe if your job is cool they will buy pizza for the whole office. All of which are greatly appreciated of course, but can you say that staying late into the night, having working lunches, sending endless emails for 6 months setting up meetings, and losing sleep at night is worth that slice of pizza? I know its unreasonable to think that the company owes you any more than what they give you but when you own your own creative business you own all of the success! Every dollar you earn the company is a personal success. When you book your first $1000 wedding, you feel 100x better than booking a million dollar deal for the company you work for because all of a little success it better than a little slice of a lot success. Its a whole new form of happiness that is lost in the corporate world. When you see that after 5 years of struggling to grow your business you have made it to the front page of Google, you immediately see that nothing can compare to the satisfaction of personal growth and achievement.
5. Your corporate job makes you unproductive.
Remember when you were 8 and your mom told you to eat all of your green beans? Even if you liked green beans just being told you HAD to eat them suddenly made them unappetizing. You wouldn't eat them. You got into a fight with your parents and you probably had to go to bed before your favorite show came on that night. The corporate world has its similarities. They want you to be productive obviously, because they are paying you to complete the job you have been trained for. Once you have finished all of your work and you still have 3 hours left until the quitting bell what do you do? You're told to find more work. Go help someone else with their work. Prepare work for the next day. Immediately you revert to your 8 year old self and suddenly you don't want to be productive. When you do get home you continue to be unproductive by just sitting in front of the TV. Like the most passive aggressive way to give your boss the finger. When you go back to work on Monday all you can think about is how great it felt to have control of your life by sitting in front of the tv watching football. The idea that you have to just flip a switch and become productive again kills any ounce of productivity that you DO have in you. When you go off on your own to start you creative business, to no fault of your own, you lack the focus, drive and any desire to be productive because that is the way the corporate world (and your parents) have trained you. It took me 6 months until I really felt like I was falling into my stride of getting things done.
The corporate world isn't all bad or even... mostly bad. There are a lot of things I did end up learning that I have brought into my business. Systems to clear and keep an email inbox, customer service, and listening to others being the most important. It might sound like I'm giving big companies and the people who work for them a bad rap. But this article is not for everyone. I knew a lot of people who genuinely loved where they worked. Some loved the community and friends they have made at their jobs more than they did their actual job. This article is for people who have always known they want to be their own boss. This article is for people who are always thinking about what they can create next. This article is for people who want to leave their job and become a creative professional but are obviously doing their research first. I hope this article is for you. If it is send me an email at Raymond@RHatfieldPhotography.com and tell me what you're scared about and we will figure it out.