A couple of years ago, I orchestrated a turning point in my life – I left my corporate job to become an entrepreneur.
It took me 15 years to admit to myself that my cushy salary, generous benefits and stock bonuses weren’t worth it to me.
My soul was crying out to do something more meaningful, more significant with my choice of careers.
Not that I was miserable. I enjoyed my job and I loved (most of) the people I worked with. But I didn’t have PASSION. Or ENTHUSIASM. I was lacking a soulful connection with my career.
Well, what a difference a few years makes!
A little over two years ago I left my career in marketing and sales and said goodbye to my life in Corporate America. My last day with Rovi was actually my 10-year anniversary with the company. I was pretty tickled by how that timing worked out!
While I was gradually (and admittedly un-enthusiastically) building my career in the entertainment technology industry, I was secretly fantasizing about taking my love of portrait photography and starting my own business.
For many years I worked my corporate job while practicing portrait photography. I took night classes on studio lighting for portraits. I rented studio space and photographed all types of people. When I moved from Boston to LA I learned that everyone and their sister wanted headshots, so I practiced photographing headshots. I even brought photography to my corporate job and provided photos for marketing materials.
I was inspired by photography from a young age. My grandfather was a professional photographer and I learned the craft using the cameras that were his. Throughout high school and college I took courses in photography. But I always considered it a hobby — not something I would do for a career.
For 15 years, I was moving through the world of Corporate America going through the motions but not loving it.
Sure, I had a series of really great jobs at interesting, fast-paced companies, and I got to travel to all kinds of awesome places (ok, Las Vegas was cool the first time I was there, but on my 20th trip to Las Vegas for a tradeshow, I wanted to shrivel up in the fetal position at the sight of the convention center).
I’ll always remember a conversation I had with a member of my company’s Executive team. He was asking me about my career ambitions. And I honestly couldn’t tell him what I aspired to in my career. He said “you don’t want to be promoted?” and I thought to myself (my inner-monologue) “no, I don’t want to be promoted. I really don’t care what my title is or what my resume says. I could care less about climbing the corporate ladder. I just want to be inspired and excited.”
This was the first time I had admitted that to myself.
Now I had to deal with this realization that I was UN-INSPIRED by my career of choice.
I asked myself what I would do if I could hit the re-start button and have a new career. A photographer!! I wanted to focus on my love of photography!
But that seed of inspiration stayed dormant for a few more years. I talked myself out of my passion. I convinced myself “I need this job, I can’t just quit and start a totally different career”. I was living in LA after all, and rent was hefty. I didn’t have savings built up. I needed my steady salary. I, I, I … was making excuses.
I was growing more and more listless and I didn’t have a plan to follow my passion.
Slowly that all changed when I got together with my now-fiance Rick. He and I started talking about our passions and suddenly this dream of mine to be a full time photographer started to take shape. The seed I planted outside of that Executive’s office started to blossom.
And then I took the plunge! I held my nose, I took a deep breath and I jumped head-first into the pool of passion! I moved from LA to San Diego to be with Rick and I declared myself a photographer!!
Starting my own business was a completely new experience for me. I’ve never done anything like this before. I had to somehow convince people to pay me to photograph them.
Where do I start? I know hardly a soul in San Diego. How do I get clients? How do I make this work? I didn’t have a sales pipeline or a local network.
But, what I did have was 15 years of experience in marketing and sales – so I made a business plan and a marketing plan and I figured it out. (Ok, I’m STILL figuring it out, but I guess that will always be the case!)
I started networking. I learned everything I could about how to market myself as a portrait photographer. And I learned the art and science of SEO (Search Engine Optimization — thank you very much Yelp!!!)
And I photographed and photographed my little heart out.
Two years later I am so happy that I followed my heart and listened to my gut. I LOVE what I do and I cannot believe people pay me to photograph them!! I am so filled (overflowing!) with gratitude and, most of all, passion.
If you are reading this and you have a dormant passion lying inside of you, I hope this inspires you to listen to that voice. As my business mentor Marie Forleo always says “Everything is figure-out-able”
If you’re someone who has let me photograph you — thank you for believing in me and making me love my job!!
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