My friend, I have a few questions for you today. Your job? To get really, really real with yourself and answer them.
You in? Good. I’m proud of you.
- Do you ever feel like you just don’t have what it takes compared to everyone else?
- Do you think that you have to have tons of extra money to become a photographer?
- Do you sometimes think that your peers are becoming overnight successes and you’re just… here?
I feel you, because I remember exactly what it felt like to think and feel those things, too.
Before I found photography, I was in a really dark place. I was depressed, I was going through a lot, and I was a little bit of a mess. I didn’t come into thousands of dollars or decide on a whim to buy an expensive camera and quit my job… not even close.
Actually, my first camera wasn’t even mine… it was my best friend’s.
She had gotten a camera for her birthday, and it pretty much became mine instantly. It was a cheap point and shoot — think: digital camera circa 2006, maybe 4 megapixels? — and she became my muse. I was obsessed with it, and started shooting with it every single day. From coming up with fun concepts and dragging my sister and friends out to fields to shoot all the way to spending hours upon hours figuring out how the heck to make the background blurry, that little camera became my life.
At that point, I’d started to unlock a passion that I never knew I had. My goal? To get better, no matter what it took. I didn’t have a DSLR, I didn’t have the newest camera (not even close), and I certainly didn’t have a beautiful camera bag and tons of gear.
I did it anyway.
Years later, I knew that photography was meant for me. Hands down. It fulfilled me in a way nothing else had, and I could tell from my soul and my heart that it was what I was meant to do. But, I had 3 jobs… and I still didn’t have the money to get the latest and greatest camera, or the best lens, or the nicest gear. But, that voice inside of me constantly told me that I needed to do it anyways. So, I bet on myself. Without a professional camera and with a whole heck of a lot of student loans, I went to photography school.
And, you guys, it was hard. But I knew it was what I was supposed to be doing — and that mattered.
I was flat broke, but I was able to rent my camera and lenses for “free” while I was in school, and literally nothing excited me more. I pinched pennies and saved every dollar I could in school, and 3 years later, the week I graduated I bought my first professional level DSLR and one lens. That camera and I became best friends, and I used it for years while I started building my career and working to save enough to upgrade my camera body.
Was it easy? Not even a little. I could barely afford to survive in LA, I could barely afford my rent, and I could barely afford to eat. There were so many months that I simply came to terms with the fact that I was going to fail and move back in with my parents.
Really, though? I learned that that passion of mine mattered. It mattered so much. I learned that I could start a photography career without a massive savings account to fall back on. I learned that, even with the cards stacked against me and no camera of my own, I could do it.
My friend, so can you. If you believe that it can and will happen for you, you’re already winning. When you’re struggling to get by, you learn a lot about what you’re made of. You learn how to get really clear on what matters to you, and that’s priceless.
First up? Get really, really clear.
If you’re reading this, I know you’ve had that tapping in your chest that’s telling you this is what you’re meant to be doing. I know that your spirit feels a lot more connected when you have a camera in your hand — and I know that this is what you’re meant to be doing.
So, you need to decide what this future dream of yours is worth to you. What are you willing to sacrifice to keep that light on? What are you willing to give up for a while?
When I look back, I can see how hard it was… but that decision to bet on myself and decide I was worth it meant more than anything else could. The life I have now is everything that 21-year-old Nicole would never, ever have thought was possible. That temporary sacrifice has meant everything and then some, and I can’t imagine my life without it. Truly, I owe everything to photography (and that’s even how I met Dustin)!
So, it’s time to get really, really clear on what this dream is worth to you. You’ve already answered some tough questions with me today, but now it’s time to take a deep breath, grab a journal (or just some quiet space in your head), and answer some more:
- What would your life look like if you became the photographer you dream of being?
- What would your day-to-day be like if you were following your passion?
- How much money would you be making as a photographer living your mission?
- How would you feel when you woke up each and every morning, knowing you were doing what you should be?
- What’s keeping you from chasing your dreams?
My girl, I want you to get really, really clear on what a sacrifice could be worth to you. Then, I want you to write something down:
Is that feeling worth fighting for?
3 Tips to Harness Your $$$ +
If you’re in the same situation I was when I first started, I’d bet that the financial side of things matters a lot. While you don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to get started, it is important to be as smart with your money as you can. These are some tips that helped me (and still help me!) while I started building my business.
01. Stop buying camera gear!!
My biggest money saving tip as a photographer? You have to stop buying new, fancy camera gear. And, hard q: if you really feel like not buying camera gear is holding you back as a photographer, do you really know your camera like the back of your hand? Because that, my friend, should be your first priority.
There’s a saying that’s completely true: it’s the photographer that makes the image, not the camera. A seasoned photographer can make absolute magic with the cheapest camera there is, and it’s all in getting to know every single square inch of that camera you hold in your hand. Instead of investing in another piece of gear, invest in yourself. The best thing I ever did for my business was making the decision to invest in my craft instead of in my gear. In fact, doing that is what made me truly understand the gear I needed in the first place.
If you’ve been looking for a sign, consider this yours. We’re about to reopen the doors to The Photographer’s Path, and it’s the best step you can take to become the photographer you know you can be. Join the waitlist here.
02. Make a budget (yes, forreal)!
While me advising you to make a budget isn’t a sexy money tip, it works — and that’s what matters. Go through your bank account and start looking at every single one of your expenses. Divide them into two categories: must haves and extras. Your must haves are the things you need, of course — like your rent and utilities and insurance. Your extras are going to be things like Netflix, dinners out, online shopping, etc. While I’m definitely not saying you need to give up all of your extras, try to decide where you can start to shift back and save a little more money.
The goal? Making living easier while you’re taking extra time to pursue your passions. By doing this, I was able to figure out a lot. Back in the day, I couldn’t afford to go out with my friends like I did in college… so we started going on hikes and spending time outside (which was way more fun anyways). There are always alternative options, and they’re always worth it for your dream.
03. Get scrappy.
Your dream matters, and what you gotta do is what you gotta do. No shame in getting scrappy, my friend! When I was first starting out, I couldn’t afford to buy groceries. What I could afford, though? 99 cent dry beans. So, 99 cent dry beans and I became really close friends, and I threw ‘em in the crockpot and ate for 99 cents a week — and it was worth it. The thing is, there are so many things you can do to save money while you’re pursuing something that lights you up. If that means buying dry beans so you can afford to put gas in your car to drive to shoots, so be it. It’s worth it. I promise.
Here’s the thing: you can’t forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. You can’t forget the feeling you get when you get the perfect shot or land a dream client. You can’t forget the way you feel when you’re living your purpose. That, my friend, is so much more worth it than anything else.
We’re about to open the doors again for The Photographer’s Path, where we’ll dig into each and every aspect of becoming the photographer you dream of being, and remind you why you’re doing it. See you there?