Quitting gets a bad rap. There is a certain stigma attached to the quitter as if they have somehow failed. We offer them compassion instead of congratulations. We imagine they are haunted by countless "what if's" and regrets. We muse that perhaps there were circumstances beyond their control. What if I told you that quitting can be the ultimate form of regaining direction and control in your life?
Pride and ego can be powerful motivators that push us humans to achieve the pinnacles of our imagination yet it is that same pride and ego that can hold us back from achieving our full potential. Sometimes we are just too darn stubborn to realize that something isn’t working and that there is absolutely no shame in admitting defeat. Sometimes we need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward.
When it comes to pursuing a career in photography here are 5 areas where I have chosen to be a quitter.
The Dreaded Client
Last year I had a client who I was afraid to let go. It was volume work, on a fairly consistent basis, and paid pretty well. In fact, they were my bread and butter for a while. As grateful as I was for the work, it was painfully obvious that the client was what nightmares are made of. Constant delays, last minute cancellations, missed payments, and a LOT of unreasonable requests; this became the reality of my life.
I think a lot of us get into this kind of mess sometimes. We find a client and we are momentarily happy. To us it means we have success, but being in business is not just about FINDING clients, but rather finding the RIGHT clients. We let the happiness of finding a client cloud our judgement, especially in the beginning stages of our business, and we bend over backwards to please and retain them. Eventually as stress builds up, the demands grow, and the requests become more and more outlandish, that is when we begin to see many fellow photographers HATE their craft. Their clients are actually slowly killing their passion!
Sometimes all it takes is to recognize a poisonous situation and take charge by dropping a client from your roster. It may seem counter intuitive but the weight that will come off your shoulders is incredible. You will shed the stress, free your time, and regain the lost passion for your craft.
Don't look at it as lost income, but as gained time which you can use to find new clients.
We are often told by our peers and educators that carving a niche for yourself is a sure fire way to success. Trimming the fat from your work and focusing your efforts can indeed prove beneficial, but try to stay open minded when you do so, as it may help to go in the path of least resistance.
When I started out in photography a few years ago I quickly saw the importance of focusing my work. The glaring mistake I made was focusing on the WRONG things. I was fixated on a niche which I had built a plan for in my mind. I kept at it for years creating content and knocking on doors. There weren't many takers for what I was putting out. It was all about persistance I told myself.
It is very easy to become fixated on a goal and incredibly difficult to accept that the goal may be unreachable. For years I turned down work in an effort to blindly "build a niche". The irony was that the work which was actually coming my way ended up being my niche, and it was not what I had planned for at all. As soon as I accepted this I experienced success in my career.
Don't look at it as a failure to get what you want, but rather a force that guides you in the direction you need to go.
We all fall into a lot of traps when it comes to gear. Some of us are hardcore DIY’ers. We are obsessed with finding homemade solutions to all our problems and insist on building things ourselves. While the ingenuity is admirable, we can’t deny that this can often come at the cost of our creations having some quirks. When you are on a paid commercial gig nobody wants to watch the photographer fidgeting with their homemade gear every 30 minutes because it is falling apart or not working properly. The admiration for ingenuity can quickly turn to frustration. How much of everyone’s time will you waste?
On the flip side of this are the folks who overspend their budgets on all the latest toys and gizmo’s. While it can be a wonderful luxury to have these things at your disposal, ultimately, it is a luxury. If you get into a habit of overspending on equipment you will become a slave to it. You will find yourself frantically accepting any gig you can just so that you can pay off your credit cards on time.
It is imperative to learn when to quit acquiring new and expensive gear, and when to let go of old or poorly functioning equipment that can suck all the fun out of your job while you endlessly wrestle with the quirks.
Don't look at is as a statement of your superiority, but as the most efficient means to an end.
In an ideal world we would find a team and grow with them forever. Everyone would always be on the same page and our goals would never change. In reality however people learn and hone their skills at different speeds and it is not uncommon for you to outgrow your peers. As the years go by you may develop new interests and find passions for genres that you left unexplored.
As you grow apart from your team mates do not be afraid to call it quits. Hanging on to team mates for the sake of sentimental value can seem like an honourable approach, but it can keep you locked into a permanent state of limbo that can sour the friendships you have as resentment grows.
Don't look at is as a story, but rather a chapter.
The Day Job
I saved this one for last because it may very well be the hardest thing to quit. It is hard to give up the security, the benefits, and the steady pay check. Owning your own business can mean irregular hours and sporadic income. Compounding the problem are friends and family who think you are crazy for taking such a risk with your life.
I’m here to tell you that there is no shame in quitting your day job. There is absolutely no shame in having slow weeks or even months in the pursuit of your passion. There is no shame in saying you are self-employed. The decision may seem wild and stupid to onlookers but don’t let that hold you back. Don’t be afraid to quit.
Don't look at it as the solution, look at it as a possibility.
Tell me about a time when quitting has helped your career!