Exactly 12 month’s ago Hannah wrote a guest blog about her experience of completing our Game Changers programme and what happened as a result. So, what has gone on since, did things continue to get better? Here she share’s an honest account of the highs and lows of starting a business and how things have changed since she gained the confidence to quit her job and do something new.
It’s a year since I completed Game Changers and in my view completely turned my life around. Ok, the family bit was and still is, pretty perfect, I’m blessed with good health and I’ve always been lucky to have amazing friends by my side, but the work part of my life was in dire straits. I’d lost confidence and direction. And as I discovered through completing Game Changers, having a job and doing work I valued and felt valued for was a huge part of my identity. I hadn’t realised what an impact being so unhappy at work was having on me until I gained the confidence to quit and go do something else.
I won’t go on about the detail of that, you can read it in the last blog I wrote, this is about reflecting on the last 12 months since I changed my life for the better.
Part 1 of my Game Change was that I got a new job. It was a 12 month fixed term contract to cover a maternity leave, so a bit of a leap of faith / calculated risk. The worst case scenario was that I’d gain experience in a different sector and leave after 12 months. Either way, I knew I had to do a good job and because my confidence had taken a bashing at my old work place, I felt pretty scared. Within the first few days of starting my new job though I knew I’d made the right decision, and that whatever happened long term I’d done the right thing for me, right then. I was able to think for myself and make decisions, my boss had my back, and I was able to be myself at work. All of these things sound like they should be a given, but they hadn’t been for such a long time in my old workplace. After 8 months I was offered a permanent contract. The girl whose maternity I was covering also recently came back to work on 3 days, so it feels like a real win / win situation.
Oh and as part of the “Dear Employer” campaign that the Guilty Mothers Club ran with Pregnant then Screwed back in April, I found the confidence to email the Executive HR Director of my old company and provide her with an honest account of why I’d left. She invited me in for a meeting and it felt good to let her know how isolating it had felt to be a part time working mum in her team. You can read the letter here, and how that meeting went here. Apparently, she has since organised some listening groups on the back of it all and I really hope it has made a difference, even if just a tiny one.
Part 2 of my Game Change was to pursue my passion for photography and start taking paid bookings for documentary style family photography. In my last blog I said I was going to release an introductory offer after Christmas but what actually happened was that the blog being published prompted me to get my act together and set up a Facebook page, and I actually took my first paid booking at the end of October 2017. I’d been busy practising my camera skills on friends and family and whilst it was really scary to start charging for my wares, it felt like the right time. I actually ended up completing 5 paid family shoots before Christmas!
In 2018 I continued taking bookings, and then I was asked to photograph my first wedding! It was for a girl I knew and it was a truly amazing day. Really scary and I had to get it right…but as I stood at the front during the ceremony capturing all the emotion of Rebecca & Dans wedding vows I have never felt more like this is what I’m meant to be doing! It was an absolute privilege and honour, I captured some really special moments and they LOVED their photos. Since then I’ve completed another full wedding myself and I also supported another photographer at two weddings. I have currently four weddings booked for 2019, and two for 2020. I never dreamed (or thought I’d be good enough) to photograph weddings but it turns out, I absolutely love them! Thinking about it I had a bar job at a wedding venue when I was at uni and I loved weddings back then too. I have also kept up with the family bookings and have completed 14 family shoots, six newborn shoots and three corporate shoots. As things currently stand, the income I’ve made has paid for my equipment, training and general business expenses so far, and if I can stop myself from wanting to buy new lenses, I should start to see more profit in 2019 and beyond.
The people at my day job are very supportive of my photography and have got me involved with shooting some of their publications, events and headshots. It’s all good practice!
Of course, whilst I often have to pinch myself because I can’t believe how the first year has gone and how much I’m enjoying myself, having a day job, a business and two small children isn’t all plain sailing. There’s lots of boring, but very necessary business admin to complete – HMRC, finance spreadsheets and having the correct public indemnity insurance. I had to establish my branding early on and create a website, full credit to a cricketing friend of my husband for building me an amazing site!
I’d be lying if I didn’t get overwhelmed occasionally by how busy life has become, and I often have to have words with myself to keep things in perspective. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes lose confidence or get downhearted if the diary is looking a little light on bookings. There’s been a few occasions were people say they’ll book a session with me and even go as far as confirming a date, and then mysteriously disappear off the radar a few days in advance. It’s always people I know, it’s like they think it’s helping me by telling me they’ll book with me, but what I actually need is for them to be there for the shoot and then pay me! Thankfully that’s the minority but as a result I’ve had to start asking for a deposit to secure the date because my time is so limited. When things are quiet on the bookings, I just practice, practice, practice on my kids, the dog and any other family member who will let me!
It’s a competitive industry, but I do believe there’s enough work out there for us all! I think the main thing to remember is that success doesn’t happen overnight, and a successful business takes time to build up. I’m not in a position to quit the day job, and I don’t want to at the moment, but things are very much moving in the right direction financially.
The most common questions I get asked are how I fit it all in, and where I find the energy. It’s easy to find the energy when you’re doing something you feel passionate about and can see the point of, but I do have to really plan my time effectively and remember my priorities and why I am doing it all – i.e to spend more time with the children in the long term, not less! I guess if I start to feel that the balance is tipping too far one way, I’ll review my long term plan. If I don’t plan my week and do my daily planning, then I know for a fact, I simply won’t get as much done.
Generally speaking though, I’ve had some wonderful support from friends and family sharing my work on social media and most of the bookings I have had have been through word of mouth. I always make sure I take a few photos of them in return for any successful bookings on the back of their recommendation – it’s the least I can do!
I’d honestly say the last 12 months have been the best of my working life – I’m braver, less of a pushover and I finally feel like I’m going somewhere and I’m excited about what the future holds. It feels so good to have reignited my spark both in the professional workplace and by turning my hobby into a business. Oh, and the other day I shared some pictures I’d taken of my daughter on Facebook and my mum commented to say she was really proud, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted really – to make my family proud.
I really do credit Game Changers for giving me the impetus and confidence to do all of this. As a working mum, it’s all too easy to just let life happen to you because you have some other small, perfectly formed, and very demanding priorities. It’s a bit like a sliding door moment for me, when I think back to the call from the recruitment agency about the job I’m now in. A week earlier and I’d have probably said “oh I’m ok, I’ve got a job thanks.” I’m so glad I’d just completed the skills and strengths session of Game Changers and really started to understand what I’d got to offer. The change in job has freed up the creative headspace for the photography – it’s a busy life, but it works for me.
I couldn’t stay on Game Changers forever though, so when Helen and Anna launched their membership programme ‘The Mothership’ I was quick to sign up so I could stay involved and part of a network with some other amazingly talented and creative mummies. There’s monthly development topics, tools for goal setting, chat threads for the self employed and the employed, a book club, and lots more. Oh, and it costs about the same as a large latte and slab of cake per month! Take a look here.
You can see my photography work at:
Facebook – https://m.facebook.com/hannahbrookephoto
Do feel free to get in touch if you want to chat about any of the above – I’d love to hear from you!
Hope you enjoyed reading Hannah’s story a year on as much as me, it is often these stories, normally a little further ahead than the initial 12 weeks of the programme, that give me goose bumps and remind me why I keep working so hard on my business. I think knowing your WHY is so important, don’t you?
You can always wait for the right time but as is so perfectly described here, that time might never come so if you want to find out more about the programme then do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or check out this page for all the info,