Even though I know there’s no such thing as the perfect job, photography feels pretty close. It has been about a year since I left my day job to pursue photography full time and I can honestly say I have no regrets about that decision. Mike and I made Steamed Mussels with Garlic and Parsley the other night and while we were eating, he asked what I have enjoyed the most about working for myself.
The first thing that came to mind was the freedom. I love being able to set my own schedule and having the power to choose what projects are a good fit for me. It’s rewarding and challenging at the same time.
The other thing that I have really enjoyed is learning to think like a business person, not just a creative person.
Being a photographer is so much more than taking pictures. It’s about building relationships. It’s about listening. It’s about earning trust. It’s also about about knowing who you are as a photographer and what it costs you to be in business. There’s an emotional side and there’s a business side. As a creative person, the emotional side is easy. It’s the business piece that can be tricky.
However, there are two things have helped me get much stronger as a business person.
1. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
As someone who averaged a C in math, this one seemed more intimidating to me in the beginning than it needed to be. If you can do basic math, then you will be just fine. The most important numbers to focus on are how much it costs you to be in business (your expenses/losses) and what you are actually earning (your earnings/profits). Everything else falls into place when you know what’s going on with them.
I purchased QuickBooks Online to help me track of my profits and losses and I also work with my accountant, Helena, who helps me with my quarterly taxes and general business/tax questions. This level of organization has helped me actually enjoy looking at my numbers each week. It’s a clear indicator of how my business is actually doing, not just how I think I’m doing.
2. BUSINESS ISN’T COMPLICATED
As a creative person, this was hard for me to understand at first. It’s a way of thinking that is completely different than the emotions that inevitably come with being an artist. If a client doesn’t hire you, it’s easy to feel confused or hurt. This makes things complicated.
In reality, if a client doesn’t hire you, it’s probably because they can’t afford you. There’s really nothing complicated about that.
One thing that has really kept me on track with the emotions of being in a creative business for myself is being clear about what I offer up front and having a contract for every project that I’m hired to do.
When I first got started, I didn’t use contracts and it was really hard for me to put a price on my work. This was a big lesson that I had to learn the hard way.
I was on a restaurant shoot without a contract and without a set plan. What was supposed to be a two hour shoot, that we verbally agreed to, turned into four extra hours of unpaid time, not including the post-production work I had to do after the shoot. I was deflated and upset. I felt like my time was taken advantage of and that no one respected my time.
I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself.
If I had clearly stated the plan up front and had a contract that outlined the plan, this could have all been avoided. Contracts setup boundaries and define the expectations of the project. They protect everyone involved and there’s nothing complicated about it.
Steamed Mussels with Garlic and Parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for toasts
2 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 or 2 whole garlic cloves for rubbing toasts
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 pounds mussels, cleaned
¼ cup white wine or water
Note: We used a Pinot Gris.
1 baguette, split lengthwise, then cut crosswise in half
1 cup roughly chopped parsley
1. Heat your stove to medium-high heat.
2. Put olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
3. Add the minced garlic and red pepper and let sizzle for 30 seconds without browning.
4. Add the mussels, stir to coat and increase heat to high.
5. Add the wine or water, and put on lid.
6. After 2 minutes, give the mussels a stir, then replace lid and continue cooking until all mussels have opened, 6 to 8 minutes.
7. Paint cut sides of the baguette pieces with oil and place cut side up on grill to toast.
8. Remove the toast from the grill and rub with the remaining garlic cloves.
9. Stir the chopped parsley into the mussels, then ladle mussels and broth into bowls.
10. Serve with the garlic toasts.
All images © Regan Baroni 2016.