The jump from hobbyist or part-time to full-time photographer can be a daunting experience. About three years ago, I took the plunge into full-time photography. Overnight, I dropped my career as a teacher and decided to pursue this creative art. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have made and one of the most rewarding.
Recently, an old friend, Pete DeMarco, made the same decision, and I sat down with him to talk about his experience. I felt that what he had to say could help others and hopefully, give them the confidence to make the jump they really want to. We talked about a few different steps that both of us took to get where we are, and I will share them with you below.
Step 1: Know That You're Ready
Until this year, DeMarco was a full-time educator, and spent his time off traveling the world, camera in hand. He was happy doing this, but felt that he was lacking a sense of purpose. He says that the change for him came when he realized that photography held that purpose for him. He is able to connect with people all over the world using the images he makes, and his need to create is fulfilled.
For me, this decision came when I was spending more time with my photography than I was with my day job. I knew that it would eventually take away from my ability to be a teacher, and I made the jump before either that or my photography began to suffer.
Step 2: Prepare
DeMarco relates two major challenges he faced before finally jumping off the edge: self-doubt and financial safety. These two, I think, we can all relate to. In order to conquer or at least subdue the first, Pete started a daily routine that included journaling, meditation, and creative affirmations that inspired him to make work. The second was a little simpler. Pete created a financial safety net with savings to keep himself going for at least a year and a passive income stream through an online business he created. Increasingly, this is something we all need. With costs of living increasing and budgets going down, having a second income stream is crucial to maintaining a lifestyle.
Step 3: Take the Plunge
The decision to give up his career as a professor did not come lightly to DeMarco, and it took him quite some time to finally make the jump. However, he says it's the best decision he has ever made. It has given him the freedom to design his life around his interests and to work on more personal projects, such as reshooting photographs that his father took of Jeju Island almost 40 years ago. He reminds us that now, many photographers make a living without even selling their own images. They sell products or services rather than the images themselves.
Step 4: Focus
It's easy for creatives to get sidetracked. After all, that's pretty much what we do for a living. If you're anything like me, a gust of wind could be enough to send you in a completely different direction. When asked about spreading himself too thin with his multiple income streams, Pete commented that he too is pulled this way and that, but setting priorities and goals has really helped him deal with it.
I know that this is something I made mistakes with early on in my business. I did not have specifics of where I wanted to be, and what I wanted to be doing. This made it difficult to focus on tasks that would move my business and my art forward. This is sound advice from DeMarco that I believe we can all implement in our creative endeavors. It could be as simple as a to-do list, or as elaborate as a longtime business plan. Either way, knowing where you're going and what you want is key to a long-lasting, fulfilling creative business.
In conclusion, DeMarco recommends that we all follow our bliss. Seek what you love, and you will find a way to make it happen. Thanks for your time, Pete. I'm sure this will help many who are looking to make the career jump. If you'd like to see more of DeMarco's work and read more of his inspirational ideas, head over to his website.
Images used with permission of Pete DeMarco.