This September will be the ten year anniversary of me starting my workshop and tour business.
I’ve decided to avoid using the phrase ‘going pro’, because ‘going pro’ is meaningless. Getting paid for what you do does not, in my book, mean you are any good at what you do. Nor does it mean that you are above others who ‘aren’t pro’ in terms of ability.
There are many, many talented beings on this planet who for whatever reason aren’t pursuing their passion / love as a career - and that is OK in my book. Just because you are talented, or good at what you do, you do not have to turn it into your vocation. I think it is just as admirable to do what you love, as a past time. It does not make it any less valid.
Turning what you do, into a business is fraught with many potential problems. I’m going to avoid writing about ‘running a business’ here, and focus more on the personal relationship that you have to develop with yourself. You have to figure out a way to live with your art and somehow let it co-exist with the commerce side of things. Above all else, you have to protect your art from yourself, because it can be very easy to sell yourself out at some point - throw what you value away in the pursuit of making a living. It can be for some a fine line, or for many a grey area where the love for what they have ‘soon leaves the building’ as they unknowingly sell out in pursuit of doing what it takes to make a living.
I’m one of the lucky ones.
I’ve never done anything in my business with the aim of ‘this will make money’. I’ve always looked at all the workshops and tours I’ve set up as ‘pretty cool things that I want to do’, and I’ve been lucky enough that there are enough people out there who agree with me, and want to come on these trips (Thank you to those of you who’ve chosen to come along with me on these trips).
My philosophy is: ‘If it feels good, then you can’t go wrong’.
Staying focussed on what you think is cool, rather than what you think will sell, is paramount. It not only means you’re tapping into what inspires you, but it also avoids you selling your soul.
The only downside I have with my business over the past ten years, is of balancing my working life with some rest.
I need to disengage every once in a while. And rather than feel guilty about it (which I often do, because I’ve been programmed all my life to work, and if I’m not working - I must be slacking). I understand that time away from my business, time away from photography, time to re-charge by doing something entirely different - is not only important for me, but it is also a very healthy thing to do for my business if I want it to keep it flourishing.
I have to work at protecting myself from burn out. And rather than giving myself some guilty complex about taking some time out, and doing something that is entirely non-photography related, I know that I need to embrace it. It allows me to re-charge, so I am ready to go back to the workshop / tour schedule, and most importantly, to go back with an excited, ‘I can’t wait’ feeling. Which is what happens when each September rolls around, and I’ve given myself sufficient time away from what I love doing.
You can’t keep focussing on your passion all of the time. Thinking, living and breathing photography as a hobby is fine, but you do need to take time away from it. Trust me on this - give yourself a break from your passion / hobby / obsession and do something entirely different for a while. It will reap dividends in so many avenues of your life, as well as in your photography when you do return to it.