50% (or more) fail after their first five years of business; and I have been a self-employed commercial photographer longer than that. In being so, here are some of the takeaways I’ve discovered in being my own boss.
1- I would say I am unemployable now.
With the annoyance of employee reviews, office politics, cutbacks, dick-head bosses, limited job functions, getting fired and way more, it would be very hard for me to handle a regular job after doing my own thing for so many years.
2- When I go on vacation, I do not bring a camera.
I have been doing photography every day, Monday to Friday, all year long and for many years. It is nice to take a break from that. As my camera is heavy and expensive, I don’t want to carry it or get it stolen. When my girlfriend wants me to take her picture, I secretly wishes she will forget that request and she won’t ask me to do it again.
3- I do not make my own hours
It is a common misconception that in being self-employed, you set your own hours. I don’t choose my hours; opportunity does. I make hay when there is sunshine; otherwise I starve.
4- I don’t get freaked out easily anymore
Available cash flows swing up and down. Dealing with unknowns and overloads is my normal. I tend to get less phased out now by living on the edge and krazyness. People who melt down with the slightest things annoys me; stress is a part of life. I do what I can and that is all I can do. If something fails, I need to find a solution; I can’t give up. I keep the eye on the prize.
5- Most vendors and partners will let you down
I’ve paid good money for partners and vendors and they usually let you down. I hope for the best in people, but most of the time I am correct this notion. I am delighted when I am wrong. I was not always a details guy; now I always double-check everything. Entrepreneurship is a lonely road.
6- Process algorithms and mental frameworks organize my thought process.
Organized perspectives enable me to focus on objectives. Simplifying concepts creates efficient thought processes. Every notion is subject to revision and enhancement. I hold no point of view close to my heart or ego. I can release or enhance any of my perspectives as I go to serve me better.
7- It’s up to me
My success is entirely up to me. Anything I gain with luck is a bonus. With military discipline, I read and study everyday to get an edge on life. I do not have time for video games and fluffy hobbies. The moment I feel that I am good enough, I notice that I tend to fall behind. I always have to hustle. I like the purpose and focus my business gives me.
8- I don’t like most photographers.
This is not a competition thing… really. Most “professional” photographers don’t take their craft seriously. Many don’t know how to use their camera or understand photography fundamentals. They do not experiment with new techniques. They view themselves as artists to con their way out of knowing fundamentals such as photometry, composition, marketing, graphic design, business or any other related matter to photography. In other words, I think many photographers are lazy know-nothings.
9- The importance of reading
I read to avoid mistakes and I look at failure and criticism as an opportunity to learn. If I don’t, I’m doomed to repeat or make unnecessary errors. Some people think I’m a bit boring because I read. I’ve made material gains as a direct result of reading pragmatic books. I ignore those people now.
10- Its better to be the boss
For most jobs, I am always the last to get paid; but my profits are usually the best. Employees get shafted by their boss every day.
11- My time is my most valuable asset.
I don’t like to give it away and I only like to share it with people that energize me. I am acutely aware that once it is gone, I will never get it back. I look for ways to get more of it and I guard it with vigilance to the chagrin of many.
Sometimes I think that my life would be easier having a job and working for someone else. For many entrepreneurs, the idea of a steady paycheck is very appealing. Then I see friends who lose their job due to various bullshit reasons. I see others working in silent desperation dreaming of the day they will start their own business; but many never do. Someday never comes. It takes energy to start a business; and I doubt I could pull this off again in my senior years.
Self-employment and entrepreneurship is not perfect, but it is better than the drudgery of realizing the dream of someone else over your own. I would rather try and fail to meet my dreams over never have trying at all.