What it takes

If you’ve followed my blog over the last few weeks, you know who Chase Jarvis is. I talked about him here, and truly can’t say enough about his extraordinary enthusiasm and support for people following their creative dreams. His blog is a fun mix of inspiration, instruction, and advice, and I pop over pretty often to see what he’s got to say. Yesterday and today, he wrote a pair of essays entitled “So You Want to be a Professional?”and “There’s Nothing Wrong with Being an Amateur”. If you’ve ever dreamed of quitting your day job to try and turn a hobby into a career, they’re a thought-provoking read.

Raleigh Photographer

As someone who has done – is doing – just that, those posts really touched a nerve with me. This weekend, I’m going to my ten year college reunion. In those ten years, I’ve changed my mind about what I want to be when I grow up… ummm… five times. I’ve held five jobs, gotten a second bachelors degree, and started a business. Sometimes I look at that path and am proud to say that I’ve pursued my passions; other times I wonder if I’m just flaky. Photography, though, feels different. I am consumed by it. I don’t just want to take pictures, I want to get lost in them, and often I do – staying up far too late without even noticing the time, editing, reading, exploring. I am most certainly a photographer, but I want more than that: I want to be a professional photographer, and although my business is 100% legit – taxes, insurance, contracts… the works – there are those who would say that because it is not my full-time profession, I am not a true professional.

Raleigh Photographer

Chase says, “If you’re wondering if you’ve got what it takes to go pro, try it. Seriously. Quit what you’re doing now and go there. You’ll know soon after you’ve tried to go there whether or not you’re in the right spot.”


The truth is, I wish I could. If it were just me, I would’ve done it months ago. But the fact of the matter is that it’s not just me – it’s me and my husband and our two children and our mortgage and our daycare bills and our student loans. My husband’s job is based in New York, and his small firm offers NY-based insurance, which means my job makes our health care thousands of dollars cheaper a year. My job also offers pre-tax money for both day care and health care, which we take full advantage of, as well as life insurance, dental & vision, and a reasonably healthy 401K and pension plan. I’d love to think that I could cover my salary and all the rest of it as a full-time photographer, but the fact of the matter is that if I weren’t able to do so – immediately and consistently – we’d be in trouble. I might be willing to put myself in that situation, but I can’t do it to my husband, and I certainly can’t do it to my kids. I don’t want to.

Raleigh Photographer

What happens to a dream deferred?

I’ll tell you this: I will not let it dry up. I’ll quietly tend this dream, being a true professional to a limited number of clients, growing my business in a way that makes up in quality what it might lack in wild adventure. By the time I’m able to put in two weeks’ notice at my day job, though, there will be no question of whether I’m in the right spot. I’ll be there.

Thank you all for supporting me on the way.

Raleigh Photographer



Annessa Baker - You nailed it!! That’s how I feel too! …. we’ll be there one day :)

Jenn - As a fellow photographer, I can’t tell you how much I identify with this. I am a big fan of Chase Jarvis and I too read those blog posts. I quit my job about 18 months ago to pursue photography full time, and frankly it has been a lot of up with only a little down. Sometimes I just think, “am I gonna make it?” and I don’t know if I’ll get through a quieter period with less work, and then other times I’m swamped and it feels so right. Overall, it has been an incredible experience for me, and I applaud anyone who takes the (calculated) risk. Good luck everyone!

Meg - Hmmm. I really disagree with equating being a “pro” with being a “full-time” anything. You are clearly a professional photographer, and it has nothing to do with hours per week (although I think you’re crazy for juggling so many things, I am in constant awe and COMPLETELY understand why you haven’t made the jump a single, childless 22 year old or a globe-trotting photo blogger might be able to do with little hesitation). Inspirational and thought-provoking, but off the mark in my book. Thanks for sharing :)

Rebecca - Ahhhh, Annemie… the curse of the intelligent. The problem is you can do anything and be successful in it. This makes it harder to figure out what your passion truly is. Growing up my parents always guided me in what it was in what I was going to do. Because I was good at it, I thought it was my path. As all adolescents do, I rebelled. Then my sister guided my path. Once again, I excelled and thought it was my path. In Tennessee, I found a professor to guide me in chemistry. I thought this was my path. I got to JMU, did not have the professor, despite excelling, hated my path. I was lost with out a guide. Finally, I struggled to figure out what meant the most to me in my life. It was the people who gave their time to me like the Race’s and your parents. It was the volunteer work I did. It was the reading of Howard Zinn and Saul Alinsky. It was my grandfather’s tales from his time as labor union president. Social work was in my blood. At the same time, so was animals. I worked at the shelter. I was in to animals rights. I owned animals. Fortunately, for me, I had the time and the means to chase these wild dreams. I got my bachelors of social work (with a minor in chemistry in case I decide to go to vet school) in 08. Now, I’m going for a veterinary technology degree. Most people say, “Oh, you didn’t like social work?” Truth, be known, I love it. I plan on using both degrees. Whether it is part time on both or using both together. I would use both together by doing something like implementing a program in a prison where non violent offenders would be paired with shelter animals. But I digress. I am fortunate in that my husband has a good job. I am on disability for the time being (my spine is degenerating and I have seizures). I don’t have any kids unless you count my animals (which I don’t). Chase your dream to the degree to which your life allows for the time being. I’d only consider it a dream deferred if you’d have given up completely. You know, most of the plans that I have made in life have fallen through, and for that, I am grateful. I have blindly stumbled into some wonderful things. Maybe things are turning up like that for you too? So don’t let someone tell you that you have to throw yourself into something completely, sometimes you do what you can and it turns out just as wonderful.

kate - This post is poignant. And the photos you brought to it seem to punctuate the depth of the quandary. Your natural gift with a camera has grown and developed with an intensity that is rare so I have no doubt that photography will (sooner than later) be your full-time profession.

megapixie - Wow! Great responses :D Anessa: for sho. Jenn: good for you… best of luck! Meg: thank you, as always, for your support. I guess I wasn’t saying that I don’t feel like a professional; rather, that I’m aware that there are those out there who would argue as much. Rebecca: Wow! So great to see you (Rebecca & I went to HS together)! Sounds like we’ve traveled equally winding roads, and though I’m so sorry to hear about your back and seizure disorder, it sounds like you’re refusing to let them get you down or feel like a victim. You’ve always had a super-kind heart, so I’m not surprised to find out that you’re doing such altruistic work :D. Kate: thanks for mentioning the photos! I know they’re a bit random for the post, but I love that lamp, and really had fun photographing it one day…

Heather - Amen! I love to hear heartfelt thoughts of other photographers who are striving – like we all are – as photographers and otherwise – to continue to grow and improve, to stay hungry for new challenges and to never let go of a dream that keeps you digging deeper every day. Thank you for being so open about it and sharing your experiences, your beautiful writing and your lovely abstract lamp photos. :)

Molly - Apropos. What a great post!

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