My 20 Year Photography Career - Part Three

This third chapter in my photography career is self-employment. After always saying that I'd never work for myself, I found myself embarking on doing just that! This is quite a frank account of the experience so far.

As I was setting up from home, and didn't have a studio, I decided to concentrate on specialising in weddings. My mother-in-law had just taken the lease on a gift shop and had a coffee area so I met prospective clients there. It was hard to promote myself at first, as all of my images were from my previous employer so I couldn't use them. I got referrals from friends, made a contact with a dress shop owner and borrowed a wedding dress to take some model shots for my website.

This is a photo of me at my first self-employed wedding fair.

wedding fair

I only ever wanted to work part time hours, around my two year old son so the 6 or 7 weddings a year that I was getting was great for me. As with any new business, the out-goings were high those first few years. Finally I had bought all of the technical equipment that I needed and was looking forward to actually paying myself! Then 2013 came along...I think brides all became very superstious and wanted to avoid getting married in that year. I only had three weddings.

So I started advertising location portraits. In this digital age, it's easy enough to pop people's photos into a secure online gallery so that you don't have to worry about how to show them their images. Last year I moved away from this as I was missing having that personal touch. So I now do the viewings in my home. This means that I can answer any questions and show the clients the sizes of what's on offer.

I found in the next years, that there are alot of people who like having a photographer at other special occasions. Golden Wedding Anniversaries and 70th birthday parties. In this digital age of selfies, where everyone has a camera phone, it's good to know that people still place an importance on portrait photography.

In the course of self-employment, I've gone through very lonely times. Working from home by yourself can be very isolating, especially when the people you mix with are all in employment. It didn't help that the friends that I made through going to toddlers with my son, all just cut me out once the children started nursery. I just felt like no one understood what it was like to run your own business.

Thankfully, I was making contacts in the wedding industry and joining some networking groups on facebook. A real breakthrough came when I eventually bit the bullet and went out to a networking meeting. I have met so many other small business owners who have become friends. I have also picked up many of the commercial jobs through these networks. Other small businesses struggling to be seen, and I'm thankful that I can help in some way by showing off their products to their best advantage.

Still, it's hard to keep yourself in front of people constantly, wondering where the next job is coming from. So much so, that I must admit that at the beginning of 2016 I was going to give the photography business one more year and then decide if I was carrying on. There, I've said it. Fortunately, 2016 was a pretty good year, so I'm still here!

Which I am thankful for as I love taking photographs - it's all I've ever done! (Apart from being an artist, but that's another story).

Over the self employment years I have been fortunate to have referrals from past clients which is always lovely, and some repeat customers.

Family portraits through the years

2017 started off quietly - lots of time to get blog posts and newsletters scheduled, but I have a couple of celebration jobs coming up in the next couple of weeks. Lots of fabulous offers with the 20 year celebrations and promoting the Fine Art Portraits as that's what I'd really like to be doing a lot more of. I'm also keen to incorporate my art into my photography more, like the example of the self portrait below.

For me, the best part of being self-employed is the freedom to make my own decisions, and to have time to spend with my son as he grows up. It's also to be able to be creative and capture other people's memories of their families and friends and the times they spend together.

So here's to the last 20 years and the next 20 years....or should I say the next forever years, as I can't see myself ever stopping taking photos.

Gillian Cross self portrait



An honest account of what it's like to be a business owner and love that you capture memories. Here's to your next forever years, Gillian.


Add new comment