If you’ve often wondered how other people structure their freelancing lives and what on earth got them into running their own business in the first place, you’re in the right place for a good old snoop around.
This Friday, Debbie of Debbie Wallwork Photography gives us her insight into the world of freelancing, having turned a hobby into a full-time business, she offers some words of wisdom on turning a passion into a career. Read on for a nosey into the life of a creative freelancer this Friday, it’s full of superb advice for everyone thinking of turning a much-loved hobby into something more commercial.
So, first of all, give us a mini bio and tell us something we won’t know about you!
I am from Manchester originally and grew up in a little country village called Woodhouses. I worked in the City for many years as a Commercial Underwriter before having a mad moment and joining the Army when I was 25 where I was a Finance Clerk. This then led me in to an accountancy role when I left the Army.
I also met my now husband in the Army and we have three dogs (Weimaraners), which I show and I also judge the breed.
How long have you been running your business and what got you started?
I set up my business in October 2009 after enjoying photography as a hobby for a few years. I never thought in a million years that I would ever be running a photography business now. It was actually my dogs that got me into photography, as I just loved the shots another photographer took of them for me and especially the action shots. So it inspired me to go out and purchase my first DSLR so I could take my own photos.
I just love wildlife and nature and spent a long time photographing this subject as well and won a few photography awards with them, but I don’t really get the time to do that anymore. I started taking photography courses to learn more about my equipment and about my craft, and I gradually got asked to take photos of people. said I would never do weddings, but when one came along for a friend I thought I would give it a go – and I loved it!
Now I photograph mainly weddings, families and pets. I do some commercial work, with my biggest client being Cath Kidston Ltd.
Did you launch straight into your business idea or did you spend time planning, training or even worrying before you got kicking?
I registered my business when I started to take on paying jobs but I was still working full time as a Management Accountant to start with and then when part time. In June 2010 I went into the business full time. I couldn’t have done this without the financial support of my husband though, as running your own business is no easy task.
I spent a lot of time doing more courses and even lots of courses with Business Link as it used to be. I quickly realised that to stay in business it didn’t matter if I was any good at photography or not I needed to know how to run a business, especially in an already ‘full to the brim’ industry.
At the start of 2011 I started a course with Aspire Photography Training in the Lake District, this was a 12 month course and is a very well known bespoke course in the photography industry; it has helped get some very successful photographers started. As well as training alongside some of the best in the industry it gave you access to many years of knowledge in business training which I found invaluable. It was only after completing this course I felt really ready and armed to go full throttle into my business.
I still train now with other photographers as I think it is important to learn new things to keep me fresh and to continually improve myself.
Tell us about your typical working day – Are you an early bird or do you tend to work throughout the night?
No day is the same! I do tend to start my day earlier but that is because of the dogs, but I like to be starting work by 9am – my problem is that I never know when to stop. When I am not off on photography sessions or weddings I spend most of my time in front of my computer editing and trying to be organised!
I have a little office at home and of course pander to the dogs needs as and when including walks, feeding and lots of cuddles. They are a distraction, but it is one of the main reasons I love working at home and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s your biggest challenge as a freelancer?
Definitely switching off. Things are always going around in my head and I am always checking my emails etc even when trying to relax in front of the TV, which drives my husband mad.
It isn’t easy being on your own either as I have to wear many hats; not only photography but finance, sales, marketing, social media etc. It’s no wonder my list of things to do never gets any smaller.
And what’s the best element of being your own boss?
Doing a job that I love to do! I work more hours now then I ever did before and I used to really begrudge feeling obliged to work more hours in previous jobs, but now it is ok as I am doing it for myself.
Being able to have some time off when I need to.
How do you manage a good work/life balance (or do you struggle with this at all)?
I really struggle with this. I don’t have weekdays and weekends, they all roll into one now, as most of my photography jobs are at the weekend. I have told myself I need a couple of days off each week but that is really hard to do unless I have something specific to do or go to – I must get better at this.
Where do you work from and do you co-work at all?
I work from home, which is great but it can also be a big distraction as there is always something to do that is not work related.
Do you allow yourself a regular break for coffee, exercise or lunch?
No nothing regular, I have to force myself to stop for a lunch break, but I do take the dogs out for a walk so get some exercise and fresh air everyday.
Are there any apps/tools/gadgets/people that you just couldn’t work without?
As a photographer I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I also love Blogstomp for creating image collages for my blog posts.
We would love to hear your thoughts on “networking” – do you go to any regular events or meet ups to meet other freelancers?
I used to do quite a lot of networking events, but found it took up a lot of my time without any obvious success. I find talking to people in the same industry for example weddings is much more fruitful and it is good to have those connections to recommend on.
What essential advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer?
Plan, plan and do some more planning before you take the plunge. Research your industry, work out how you will survive without a regular income coming in every month. It will be hard and very stressful, however don’t let that put you off you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It is amazing how quickly you can adapt to the changes and in particular having a smaller income to start with… and just think how worth while it will be in the end.
How can we find you online (and off!)?
Debbie Wallwork Photography
Debbie is also currently running not one, but two very exciting competitions that you are encouraged to enter for the chance of winning a portrait session, so check it out here and get involved!
You have until 31st October 2014 to enter and spread the word.
Thanks so much Debbie for taking part in our Freelancer Friday series, if you would like to put yourself (or somebody else worthy of being featured) forward, let’s talk!