Taking the leap into self-employment

18 Sep 2018

Wedding photographer Sally Rawlins shares her top tips for taking the leap of faith into self-employment by drawing on her own success story

Image gallery

Image gallery

If you’re someone like me, who craves permanence and stability – particularly regarding employment – but yearn to be your own boss, taking ‘the leap’ into self-employment can seem a daunting prospect.

After an established 12-year career in the financial services industry, with the last few accompanied by photographing weddings on the weekends and through annual leave, I decided I could no longer ignore my longing to be my own boss, and become a full time wedding photographer. I decided to take the leap.

As someone who, frankly, is terrified of the prospect of not having a guaranteed salary every month for the foreseeable future, I dug deep and used the following as a framework to build my business:

Finances

This really underpinned how – and if – I could actually live as a self-employed individual. Review your finances and see how much you really need to take home per month to live the kind of life you think is possible. I’m not talking about how much you charge, I mean review your monetary outgoings and see how much you can pay yourself to cover everything. Then, it may be sensible to make a contingency plan, i.e. what happens if you don’t earn as much as you thought you would, or you had some unforeseen outlays; how many months could you live off your income for, do you need a financial buffer? Some people don’t have a contingency at all – which is a bit too scary for me – but do set out a plan on how much money you need before things get hairy.

Self-belief

I relied on incredible self-belief to get this thing off the ground. Five years ago I’d started photographing a few people here and there for fun. Now, I could only rely on photography to pay the bills. I did some reading; a couple of business books and a couple of branding books, which solidified my confidence that my business would be successful. Many people will give you their opinion on how successful they believe you will be, based on their (sometimes limited) understanding of your skills, your industry and many other things. Often these people are well-meaning and don’t want to see you end up in the gutter, but don’t let their pessimism drag you into the ditch of doubt. Have confidence in what you’re doing, and use cynicism as a motivating factor. Be determined. Prove them wrong.

Contacts

Networking is also a really useful thing to do, however don’t feel obligated to go to every coffee morning that comes your way. Plenty of very successful people have run great businesses without having a drawer full of other people’s business cards. Be selective. 

Finally, taking the big step of moving away from being an employee to running your own business can be really daunting, but if you believe what you’re doing could really work, just give it a try. Don’t be forever worrying 'what if'. And if for some reason it doesn’t work out, pick up another job again and be proud of yourself for giving it your best. Succeeding or failing doesn’t have to define you.

And as I write, today I have just hit my stretch target for bookings for next year. I’m absolutely delighted. Take a look at some of my work below...

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