A couple of weeks back on my Facebook page I posted that I was going to be making a big and maybe scary decision, and the result of that decision means that rather unbelievably I can say I’m now 100% photographer!
What, you mean you weren’t 100% before now? I hear you say.
Well no, as a business it’s only been going a short while and so it has never generated enough of an income for it to be my sole job, however my attitude towards photography and my business within it has always been at one hundred percent, though having to start from scratch meant it had quite some way to go until it could provide us with a decent income, but seemingly and thankfully it’s now doing just that.
So what was my other source of income?
For the past 15 years I’ve been in the private hire chauffeur industry. Its been a fun and interesting ride throughout those years with many ups and downs. Contracts coming, contracts going, driving businessmen & women around, pilots and crew between airports and celebrities from A to B.
About 9 years ago we took on a contract with a fairly major airline. The work was brisk, non stop in fact, but it was worth it. The journeys were mostly easy, the pilots we drove were good people and the pay was decent, couldn’t have asked for better really. On a couple of occasions we even had the opportunity to board a proper commercial aircraft simulator, courtesy of an excellent Training Captain. Still to this day I’m not entirely sure it was the done thing so I won’t mention his name but many thanks go out to him for that opportunity.
Sadly 6 years ago, that fairly major airline had a big shake up and decided to put most of its employees on new contracts, and the pilots who were once privileged enough to have us drive them around suddenly found themselves behind the wheels of either their own car or a pool car and we were no longer needed.
That for me was a big hit to take. That contract had been so busy I pretty much only dedicated my time to that one contract, basically I had no time for anyone or anything else, and so losing that work meant I went from decent earnings one month to pretty much nothing the next. Not ideal, but throughout the course of the recent recession there will have been thousands of others facing similar hardships so what I was facing was pretty much no different to anyone else.
Thankfully, even though I had little time to work for others throughout that 2/3 years of driving pilots, I did still stay in contact with one Private Hire company called Parkers, an Executive Car Service based in Reigate and they came to the rescue and started to give me work, mainly in the shape of a school run, which meant regular guaranteed work and income. As an income it wasn’t on the same level as I had made with the airline work but it meant we wouldn’t go under and that was all that mattered at that point, and for that I will always be grateful to Emily, Fred & Phil at Parkers.
The obvious side effect of not being quite as busy work-wise any more was that I had more time on my hands and so the long-standing hobby of photography took a more prominent position in my life and that’s kinda where this all started. I started to get involved in more and more photowalks, started communicating more with other like-minded people via Twitter, Facebook and photography forums and built up a good network of photographer friends who have helped, advised, critiqued and given support.
I’m not going to bore you with all the in’s and out’s of the whole journey but the real turning point was shooting my cousins wedding out in Wales where I was accompanied by Scot Baston, of Zooming Feet Photography. Scot took more of a lead role than I so I could shoot with a bit of freedom knowing full well he would do a good job, regardless of what I did, because he had shot quite a few weddings before.
I still approached the whole thing as if it was a paid job for someone I had no relation to and I shot it to the best of my abilities but was guided when needed by Scot’s knowledge and experience. The result of that wedding shoot convinced me that it was something I could do and would enjoy doing, but the personal mental turmoil of trying to convince myself I could actually do the job justice and charge people took a few months to get through, but in time I hurdled that and the business slowly started.
Over the course of the past few years my abilities, experience and confidence has grown and my gear has gone from amateur/enthusiast to fully professional and finally it feels like I belong in this job, this is now completely for real and as a business it is now doing the minimum I need to be able to live off of it. I find myself at a point where I have a lot of work on and I could do with extra time to operate the photography business properly, but I also need time to be a Dad and a husband. Lately I’ve been trying to fit to much into every 24 hours, most days would see me getting up at 06:30 to get ready for the private hire school run and then end the day at the computers at around 1am to 2am in the morning, then getting up at 06:30 the next morning to go do it all again.
The 3 hours a day spent on the car business with the school run was taking up time that could be used on the photography and so in order to progress further and keep on top of things more efficiently with the photography I have made the decision to shut down the car business. In doing that I have obviously shut off an income source but I have also shut off quite a big expence when you consider what was spent on insurance, private hire licensing and fuel. It all adds up to be the right thing to do, but it’s still a bit scary leaving behind something that was my job for 15 years and in recent years, where the photography business was getting under way, it was my safety net for the winters where weddings, and photography work in general, has always been more scarce.
My Motor: No Longer A Part Time Taxi!
With that safety net gone it’s now up to me to continue to generate enough work to keep things ticking along nicely until next wedding season gets under way. So I shall be hoping that the portrait side of things is as busy through January and February 2015 as it was in 2014 where I ran a special offer, and so the same offer is in place and starting to be advertised now. At the time of writing this (25/11/14) I still have three weddings to do this year, and I have 17 booked for 2015, 4 booked for 2016 and even 1 booked in for 2017, so things are looking good and hopefully it’ll continue that way for quite some time to come.
The most bizarre part of this journey is that I have already clocked up 56 weddings and that just doesn’t seem possible, and it won’t be too long until I’ll have clocked up 100, which if I’d have listened to and believed one local, unsociable, photographer who told me when I first started “I’ve seen thousands like you come, fail and then go”, may never have been possible.
Thankfully I didn’t believe him or take his words to heart, and although I’m hardly doing all this just to prove him wrong, it is nice to know that, so far, I’m not one of his thousands and if I have anything to do with it then I would hope never to fail at this as I truly do love doing what I do and I enjoy every day doing it.
Well that’s my big news done for now. Thanks for stopping by to read it all, catch you all again soon.