We met in high school, when there was nothing more important than the homecoming dance, when a driver’s license was a key to freedom, and when passing notes was an art form. We dated throughout college, got engaged our senior year, said “I do” one month after graduation, and became full-time elementary school teachers with classes next door that fall!
During school pictures one day, we met a photographer who changed our life forever. He took a chance on Amy, the fourth grade teacher with a dream, when she asked him one simple question, “Do you photograph weddings, too?” A few months later, she learned how to change a lens for the first time, just hours before shooting a wedding for the first time with him. That night, she came home exhausted, but exhilarated, and said 13 words that neither of us will ever forget:
“I know what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
We spent the first years of our marriage living double lives. By day, we were Mr. and Mrs. Demos, the fourth and fifth grade teachers. By night, we were Amy and Jordan, the wedding and portrait photographers.
And, eighteen months ago, we almost made the biggest mistake of our life: we almost quit our teaching jobs to go full-time as photographers.
Thankfully, we didn’t – and we’re so glad we didn’t – because we weren't ready. Instead, thanks to author Jon Acuff and the support system God placed around us, we went on a year long journey to make the transition from our day job to our dream job, without letting it become a nightmare.
Now, standing on the other side of the uncrossable canyon that said, “You can’t!” we can look back and say, “We did, and we’re bringing other people with us.”
Even though every successful person seems like an overnight success, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s no magic pill that gets you from where you are to where you want to be, because there’s just no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work and hustle. Like author Eric Thomas says, “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”
We can't promise your journey will be easy, but we can promise that it’ll be worth it. Here are our ten practical steps for making the leap and getting over the “You can’t!” canyon for good.
GET DEBT FREE
Marriages and small businesses fail for the same reason: money fights and money problems. As married small business owners we never want to be a statistic, so we’ve followed Dave Ramsey’s principles for handling money from the start.
Dave Ramsey says, “The next five years of your life will be determined by two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” So, read only the best and ignore the rest. Read the best photographers’ blogs and the best business books around, and take workshops and online classes from the industry’s best, too. After all, practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes permanent.
GET A MENTOR
The top photographers don’t have the time to mentor every up-and-comer who wants to learn from them for free. So, find an experienced photographer in your local area with the heart of a teacher who’s at a stage in life to help. Offer to get water and carry bags at first. Add value any way you can. If you invest in them, they’ll invest in you.
Get the Necessities
Shoot. Get paid. Save up. Buy essential gear. Repeat. Equipment is a long-term investment, so do this until you’ve got a complete arsenal of the highest quality professional gear that you need to be your best - and then stop. There’ll always be a newer version of every camera, lens, and computer, but it’s always better to be profitable than cool.
Get a Team
When you're making enough money to make it count, be smart. You wouldn’t trust someone with a point-and-shoot to photograph a wedding, so hire professionals to do your business formation, contracts, bookkeeping, and tax filing. You’ll save yourself time, money, and trouble - not to mention headaches.
Get Smart Online
"You only get one chance to make a first impression." Be careful not to rant on social media about the bad things in your life. Be positive and run everything you post through this filter: Will this make someone’s life better? Also, target a specific, ideal type of client. You can’t be all things to all people all the time, and you shouldn’t want to be.
Focus on building strong relationships with your clients by showing a genuine interest and loving them every step of the way. Encourage them, surprise them, and serve them. Set expectations, and then blow them away. Create an experience so great that they can’t help but talk about you to everyone they know.
Get in Community
One of our biggest mistakes was not building relationships with other photographers earlier. Find a few local photographers with a similar style and price point as you. Invite them over to your house for dinner and get to know them better. You’ll be able to encourage and support each other – and pass referrals, too!
Get a Fresh
As author Jon Acuff says, we had to learn to “fall in like” with our day jobs as teachers instead of resenting them. When you give your best effort at your day job, that energy bleeds over into your dream job. Plus, your day job pays the bills for now and pays you to learn valuable skills, too, so take advantage of the on-the-job training!
GET TO PRAYING
St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” We couldn’t agree more. Work as hard as you can to love and serve everyone around you, and God will take care of the rest.