On Wednesday I was invited to give a speech on being a woman in business. Unfortunately we don't have a recording from the speech but I've been asked to share it online so below you'll find what I harped on about.
I remember listening to several guest speakers in school; many talking about their careers. I remember always thinking they were on such a set path; that it had been clear and effortless for all of them. I simply assumed mine would be too. I spent almost fifteen years believing that my dream was to become a doctor. For as long as I can remember I loved caring for people, had a fascination with science and thoroughly enjoyed telling people what to do. While at school I studied biology and tried my hand at chemistry, in pursuit of the path that I believed had always been mine.
Today, just seven years after graduation, and I am not a doctor. Clearly. I am a wedding & family photographer as well as host & creator of an annual business retreat called Illuminate. To give you an idea of how little I saw that coming: I distinctly remember receiving a C grade for year 10 art on multiple reports. My own mother didn’t even know you could get a C for art. But despite the terrible grades for the one creative subject I took in school, in the short time span of seven years since graduation I’ve managed to generate and accelerate a full time business, travel both interstate and overseas to work, as well as create a studio and office space out of my own home. It is so far from what I imagined and so much better that it almost feels as though I am living a life that isn’t my own.
When I reflect back on these years, I try to think about how it actually unfolded. Though there are many things I could talk about, I wanted to share just four key things I have learnt since that December day in 2011.
First of all: they say, ‘knowledge is power’ but I believe knowledge is comfort.
If I had a dollar for every “why are you studying law if photography is your passion”, I wouldn’t be here today. I’d be sipping a coconut from a hammock on my own private island. I chose to study law because I knew I wanted to study something. I also knew I needed knowledge to back myself. I have contracts with every client I work with, contracts that I have written myself. The knowledge I have gained from my degree is a quiet comfort that I am doing things “the right way”. As a young female starting out in the creative world, I often felt like I wasn’t taken seriously or that I was in prime position to be walked on, taken advantage of and many times: not paid for hard work. My degree has grounded me with valuable information that helps me understand not only my client’s rights but my rights as a creative too.
So having knowledge, or talent, or both, is one thing: but how do you actually make something from nothing? You must be sure that you don’t just set goals; but be active in pursuing them and making them happen.
My time at school taught me the incredible importance of goal setting. But I have since seen the true value is in doing something, anything, in pursuit of that goal, everyday. When I began wedding photography, I would write down a number of weddings I wanted to book for the coming year. But it didn’t stop with pen to paper. I was and still am discipled with myself: I put time in each day in achieving that number. Whether it is marketing myself on social media, creating blog posts or advertising. When you work for yourself, there is a very quick and absolute realisation that if you stay still, nothing will change. Nothing will happen, nothing grows or becomes. Time and energy in will be returned to you, but you must begin.
Make sure that the work you do choose to do, fulfils you.
During wedding season, I spend 6 days a week working. At a wedding alone, I can spend anywhere between 10-12 hours just shooting. The time spent at my desk each week can vary from 10-40 hours depending on the time of year…and how many times I take a two hour Central Market break. Regardless, 99% of the time, I am happy to work those hours because I truly find it fulfilling. Of course there are days where I have been so tired, or felt sick, or thought I am simply unable to get out there and “switch on and shoot” but I do because I want to, I like to, I live to. The fact of life is that we never know what challenges we may face; in our personal lives or work lives. Everybody has challenging seasons to their life. It’s absolutely essential to have a job that you want to work, work that can fill your spirit.
And finally, and probably most importantly: it is okay to not know what comes next.
Whether you are beginning high school, or finishing school all together. Whether you’re deciding on what you may want to study, a part time job, an extra curricular activity or pondering your career path. If you are sitting there with absolutely no idea what you are going to do on the weekend let alone what may fulfil you for the rest of your life please understand that you are not alone. Silence breeds silence. And I am here to tell you it is okay. I am here to be vocal in sharing that I have, and still do have periods where I am unsure of what lies ahead in my career. For a while, people used to ask me: “are you going to get a different job or just keep taking pictures” and my body would break into a little sweat. Eventually, I came up with the response that both calms me and encapsulates my belief system: “maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I’m just going to keep doing this for as long as I love it.” And that right there is the beauty of the freedom that we all have at our fingertips.
I urge you to remember, cherish and honour your freedom. And above all, I urge you to seek out what you love, pursue it daily, for the good of others, for the good of your own soul, and the path will continue to reveal itself to you.