On April 1st of this year, I quit my job as a full time accountant at a high-end resort on the island of Kauai to pursue a career as a landscape photographer. I had worked there for almost five years. To be honest, I was absolutely miserable working there. I found myself drained and depressed. My office was located in a basement with no windows behind a locked door. A bad situation for anyone that loves the outdoors and photography. It felt like prison. The decision to quit was far from easy or simple. I want to share my thought process as I quit my job and share how the first few months have gone.
When Is It Time to Quit?
The answer is simple really… when you are no longer happy. Retrospectively, I should have quit three years ago. Imagine where I would be now. I found myself constantly upset that I had to say no to photography opportunities because of my regular job. “Hey can you photograph whales this Thursday?” “No sorry I cant. I work M-F.” This added to my extreme frustration. I was scared to quit though because I appreciated the financial stability and the benefits.
Have Your Back Covered
I decided to responsibly wean myself off the Monday-Friday job. So I took a part time job doing marketing and design. For three days a week, I work and still qualify for health insurance. The other four days, I can do whatever I please. This way I don’t have to worry about not making rent. I made sure I have just enough to squeak by on a monthly basis. I can cover all my costs, but that leaves me very little expendable funds. So I rarely eat out anymore and I don’t pay $35 for tickets to a show. I go as a volunteer to events, so I help out in return for free access.
My first four months have been slow, but I am booking work. While I would like to be a full time landscape photographer, I don’t find it to be the most profitable avenue. I have sold two prints so far. I have been booking commercial work which has generated the most income. From magazine shoots to real estate work, that’s where the highest income has been coming from. I find any type of photography to be rewarding, but the commercial work has been preventing me from going out and shooting the creative landscape work that I love. In addition, I have lots of editing to do and find myself on the computer 90% of the time. I am always looking for work and reaching out to places. Trying to network and build relationships with magazine editors and local businesses. I rarely take pictures.
I hope to be completely free and a full time landscape photographer one day. The income is far from consistent and I am not sure how long it will take to generate stable financials. I have been told it takes a couple of years from people that live in my area. My greatest lesson learned is to not let fear prevent you from quitting your job. I wish I would have done it much sooner. It took me three anxiety-riddled months until the advice “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” convinced me to just put in my two weeks notice.