Where Do You Go From Here?

Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked yourself: What am I doing? Where am I going? Who do I want to be? I spent 20 years of my life stuck in the wrong industry and not because anyone was forcing me, but because I didn’t know how to make the switch. I believe that most of the times the solutions to our problems are so hard to find because we just don’t know where to look. And when we start looking, we feel like we have been left stranded in the middle of the desert without knowing which way to go. But more often than not, the correct way is not taking the right nor the left but going inwards. If you want to change your world, you have to start with yourself.

Who am I? Who do I want to be? In Pedro Almodovar’s movie “All About My Mother”, the character of Agrado has a line where she says: “…you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being.” After a long time of asking myself these questions, I realised that I knew who I was: an IT guy; I just needed to figure out who I wanted to be: a Photographer. Once I was able to answer that second question, I felt like the hardest part was over. Now I just needed a plan to make it happen.

Venturing into the world of Photography, all of the sudden my whole future became uncertain. Back when I was working as an IT guy, I had a steady job with a steady income and a good progression in my professional career. I wasn’t a 100% sure of what the future might hold but I had a sense of security in my life. When I became a freelancer, that sense of security vanished in the blink of an eye. So I had to make a commitment to myself and I wrote down the basis for my new adventure:

  • If I was going to do this, I was going to do it 100%, full-on mode. This was not going to be an expensive hobby, but a proper business with a proper structure (accounts in order, sales oriented, marketing minded).
  • I was not going to give up easily. Like any other business, I knew that income and profit would take some time to come so I needed to have enough funds to survive and also I needed to manage my own expectations. How long was I going to do this for before deciding that it might not have been a good idea? I gave myself 5 years.
  • I needed a plan, a business plan that is.

Before becoming a photographer, I had never been a freelancer in my life. I had always been employed by someone else so I had zero idea of what running a business was like. And I was not only going to start my own business, I was going to do it in a completely different industry that I had no clue about and in a culture alien to mine: I had just moved to another country. So in order to make this change more digestible for myself, I sat down and wrote a roadmap of how I was going to approach this. Or what I call: “The Plan.”

This is how it looked like:

  • Year 1 - Creation of the business: during my first year I was going to do mainly research. I was venturing into a new industry in a new country so I needed to find out how things worked. Also, I knew absolutely no one in this new industry so I had to network like crazy. These two things were going to go hand in hand because I knew that the more people who worked in the industry I met the more I would understand how everything worked. And where would I find those people? By googling “networking events” and going to at least 1 each month, by going to job search websites and finding photographers who were looking for assistants and learning from them and eventually by doing my own shoots and sourcing creatives who wanted to do stuff with me. Once I started figuring out how things worked, I would be able to start defining the services that I was going to offer (my portfolio), who was I going to offer them to (my target), what was I going to expect in return (my rates) and how was I going to reach those people (my marketing strategy). 
  • Year 2- Opening of the business: on my second year I was going to officially open the doors to the public. I was going to roll-out the marketing strategy that I had created (strong focus on social media), and I was going to self-promote in various channels to start getting paid clients. Also, I knew that I couldn’t stop networking so this time I would go for both industry contacts and prospect clients. 
  • Year 3 - Focus on clients: by the third year I would focus on turning previous clients into returning clients without forgetting about getting new ones. 
  • Year 4 - Focus on scale: now that I had been working with clients for a couple of years, it would be time to focus on getting bigger projects and bigger clients. 
  • Year 5 - Consolidate: if the second year would be the one when I would start seeing income, the firth year I should start seeing profit and focusing on the 20:80 rule to run a healthy business (20% of your clients should give you 80% of your income). And by the end of the fifth year I would focus on opening my own studio.

As you can see, it was a very simple business plan but it gave me the guidance and the focus that I needed in order to answer the question: where do I go from here? If you are struggling because you don’t know how to answer that question, the internet should become your new best friend. There are plenty of resources online, these are only a few to give you a head start:

  • The Freelancer Club: Matt Dowling and Nina Malone created The Freelancer Club based on their own journey to help creative talent achieve their goals.
  • Marketing Mentor: Ilise Benun is a Marketing Mentor. She has been successfully self-employed for 25+ years and has guided thousands of creative professionals toward growth. She changed my life.
  • Crunch: they take the stress out of accounting and bookkeeping for freelancers, contractors, startups or just about any small business.

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