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1 in 4 millennials consider themselves part of the gig economy. I’m one of them.
47% of millennials plan on needing a second source of income to make ends meet. I’m one of them.
I’m a full-time marketing director at a bank and a part-time wedding photographer. Summed up like this it sounds pretty normal, but in reality, I’m being a boss babe at two jobs. One during the day from 8 to 5, and the other during my evenings – in between laundry, making dinner, and just plain life.
My side business, as I like to call it, involves wedding and portrait photography, designing custom wedding invitation suites and freelance graphic design and branding for small business startups to national agricultural companies. Between photo sessions, weddings, editing, and designing, I’m either traveling or at my computer. It’s stressful, it’s taxing, but more than anything, it’s extremely rewarding. How awesome is it that I can use my passions for photography and design to earn an extra income to help me pay off my student loan debt – or let’s be real, afford groceries.
I’m often asked how I make it work. How I find balance between a full-time job and a photography and design business. Here’s my best advice on how to thrive with a side hustle.
Work-life balance is so important to me. I value spending time with my husband, our families, and taking time to re-charge. I attribute four important things to balancing a side business with a full-time career.
Balance is the absolute key word. Owning a wedding photography business is a pretty hefty endeavor. On average, I work with most wedding couples for over a year leading up to their wedding day and well after the I do’s are over. There are emails, meetings, phone calls, contracts, questionnaires, engagement sessions, timelines and itineraries, shooting the wedding, editing the gallery, blogging, posting on social media… typical to any photography business, but add this on top of a full-time career and you’ll find yourself buried in your to-do list – agonizing on EVERYTHING you have yet to do!
The best way I manage, is to turn off my side biz while I am at my full-time job and vice versa.
The best way I manage, is to turn off my side biz while I am at my full-time job and vice versa. Like flipping a switch, I know I have to devote my time, thinking and creativity to each endeavor when I’m “scheduled” to be doing that job.
And somewhere in between two jobs, you still have to life. Like renovate a house, marry your best friend, binge watch Stranger Things, and sweep up the dog hair. (Okay, so maybe those are specific to me, but we have to have some life normalcy to stay sane.) I’m strict on myself when it comes to my mental and physical health. Balancing two jobs can be overwhelming. Being self-aware of your limits can save you from burn-out. When I’m stressed, I’m usually on a mission to spot clean my entire house. A sparkly clean house is great, but I know I’m just avoiding my to-do list. I know I have to take the time to take care of myself – to recharge. That could mean being in bed by 9 pm or treating myself to Starbucks. Balance your work, side work and life.
2. Know Your Worth
Burn-out is real. Really real. If you’re avoiding designing that next logo or putting off editing that wedding gallery – you’re feeling burn-out. Choose your clients and your projects wisely. Not every inquiry that comes through my inbox is my client. I’d rather have a smaller amount of valuable clients who are willing to invest in my experience, than an extreme abundance of projects that will only leave me feeling overworked and underpaid. Know your cost of doing business and charge accordingly. That’s knowing your worth.
I’d rather have a smaller amount of valuable clients who are willing to invest in my experience, than an extreme abundance of projects that will only leave me feeling overworked and underpaid. Know your cost of doing business and charge accordingly. That’s knowing your worth.
Two years ago, I was feeling the effects of burn-out. I had too many projects. I was trying to run too many social media accounts. And knew I was charging well below the industry average for freelance marketing and design work. I was upset I didn’t have the capacity to even make dinner. I had to make a change, and that change was raising my prices.
I reached out to each of my clients and laid out my vulnerability. I let them know I’d be raising my pricing in the coming month and gave them the reasons. I needed to make more for my time spent to be worth it. Spending my nights working while trying to find time to make dinner was not fulfilling for me. The result – not all of my clients agreed to my new price. And I was okay with that! What ended up happening was, my not-so-good clients left, but it kept my great clients who were willing to invest in me. This freed up more of my time, and the time I was spending on my side business, was worth it.
Time is so precious. Your time spent working on your side biz is time lost with family. It has to be worth it.
3. Workplace Culture
I’m so thankful that I work with a group of amazing teammates and leaders who support my side business. In fact, of the 12 teammates in our marketing department, all but two of us have side hustles. We work, and we work some more. It’s important that your full-time career accepts your entrepreneurship.
4. Know Your Why
Have you ever thought about why you’re pursuing a side hustle? Sure, it might be to earn extra money, but why’d you start? How’d you get to this point? Where does your passion come from? What’s your story?
Your why can be very compelling to not only gain clients, but remind you why you’re doing what you are. If you haven’t done this, you’ll need to take a deep dive into your story, share it with others, and then remind yourself of it every time you take on new work.
You’ll need to take a deep dive into your story, share it with others, and then remind yourself of it every time you take on new work.
For me, I started my business as a Freshman in college. I can remember sitting in my cramped dorm room and setting up a Facebook page for CeeCee Farm & Livestock Photography – my then dream job to photograph livestock and farms for the agricultural and livestock show industry. As time went on, I quickly realized that I enjoyed photographing people way more than cows.
Fast forward a few years, and now I’m a wedding photographer. My absolute favorite part of what I do is delivering a gallery to a client. Why? Because a gallery is so much more than just a bunch of beautifully edited digital files. It’s laugher, smiles, connection, love, and moments. Small snippets of moments caught in time. That if uncaptured – you’d never have.
That’s a pretty good why, right? Yes, but deeper – why do I love pictures so much? When I was in high school I lost one of my best friends. We had one picture together. Just one, before he passed away. This photo became so special to me. Had this moment not been captured, I wouldn’t have had a memory of it. This is why I do what I do – on the side.
When I was booking my own wedding photographer, she asked me how important photography was to me. (Extremely important!) I definitely borrowed this question from her. When I’m booking a wedding client, I always ask them how important photography is to them? I let them answer, I listen, and I then explain why photography is so important to me with my why. It not only lets them see the value in their investment, but for me to determine if my client is the right fit for me.
To read more about my why, please visit my About page.
To create your own why, I recommend Michelle Knight of Brandmerry brand training.