Going self-employed during a global crisis.

When I tell people I took the giant leap of faith into self employment on the 1st May 2020….during a global pandemic, they wince, sharply inhale and make an “oooooof” sound.

And I’ll admit that for a time I was kicking myself for resigning when I did. Of course, I’d heard of Coronavirus when I resigned in January, but I never thought it would actually reach the UK or directly impact me!

When I resigned I had enough weddings and family parties in the diary to make that leap – all what I thought was guaranteed income. And every single booking got cancelled practically overnight whilst I was still working my notice period.

I’m a natural optimist, so “all is not lost” I thought….the government will help me, in the same way, they’re helping everyone else who has lost their income due to Covid-19. But this was not so. I was one of the many who fell through the cracks because I was a new business owner and everything I’d earned so far had been poured back into my business.

So. No furlough. No small business grant. A mortgage to pay. Two small mouths to feed. (And two big ones too actually!)

Yep. MASSIVE wince. Oooooof. Etc.

Except, all ISN’T lost. Because in my business I’d found the one thing I’m really bloody good at and I’d poured my heart and soul into it whilst holding down a corporate job and raising two young kids for 2.5 years and I was not about to be defeated.

I put the content for a Smartphone Photography Masterclass online (https://hannahbrooke.podia.com/smartphone-photography-masterclass) that I’d started writing almost a year ago but hadn’t had time to do anything with up to this point. I cried when the first person bought my online course and then watched in amazement as 30 more people bought it within the next 24 hours.

I started taking doorstep photos for people I knew as a way to scratch my creative itch and then before I knew what was happening these became a big hit in my area and I was inundated with requests. I realised that this was the way my business was going to temporally survive this thing with all other work cancelled and I started charging a small amount for them. These got more creative as time went on and I really started to figure out what sort of photographer I am.

Oh, and I also applied for a business grant through Women of the City Magazine” who were offering funding for female entrepreneurs directly impacted buy Covid-19. And I flipping well got accepted. Little old me from a market town in Yorkshire. What this has meant in real terms is that I’ve been working with a London Marketing Agency on a new brand which is much more ME than the old one, and as of next week they are taking over my social media for two weeks to really attract those ideal clients.

In my first month of self employment (May 2020), I worked harder than ever before and as a result had y most successful month to date. I got myself in front of 200 families, all of whom may need photographs again or know someone who does. It would have taken me between 2 and 4 years to photograph that many people under normal circumstances, Oh. And I had my kids (4 & 6) at home with me 24/7.

Of course, one successful month does not mean this is over yet. I don’t think I’m out of the woods at all – there could be a second wave, the public mood might change and people might not have cash to spare for things like photography. Which is why I’ll continue to work as hard as I can and not rest on my laurels.

BUT what I have learned so far is this:

  1. Nothing is guaranteed – income-wise at least. If I hadn’t resigned I’d have probably had a pay reduction at least. I feel that in self employment I’m at least more in control of my earning potential.nd have feelings, and I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve.
  2. TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY – I honestly didn’t think I’d get that grant because there were hundreds of other applicants. And if I hadn’t applied for it because of that self doubt I definitely wouldn’t have got it.
  3. People are really happy to support their local small businesses. I know I have been more inclined to support the independent food shops, the local pubs making deliveries and the toy shop in town rather than the big corporates.
  4. Photography is a proper job. This is more aimed at my kids who keep saying “yeah, but you’ll go back to your PROPER job after lockdown, right Mummy?” Well no – because this is now my PROPER job and people will always value photographic memories for as long as the world keeps turning.
  5. I don’t need to sweat the small stuff. I mean, I used to think my biggest challenge in transitioning from employment to self-employment was missing my work colleagues and the office chat. wouldn’t have got it.
  6. I don’t need to sweat the small stuff. I mean, I used to think my biggest challenge in transitioning from employment to self employment was missing my work colleagues and the office chat.
  7. Self-employment is not the easy option. Trust me. You are living hand to mouth. There’s no sick pay, and you can’t switch off from it very easily. When I say I’ve worked hard I really mean it – 5am starts and 11pm finishes (with a full day of childcare thrown into that mix). No Netflix or reading good books for me. BUT – I’m doing something I love.
  8. I definitely made the right decision – because actually there are a few things in life that ARE guaranteed and those are – babies will continue to be born, people will continue to fall in love and there’s always going to be a need for a decent photographer to capture those moments in time.

So what’s next for me? The doorstep photos were always a moment in time to document the extraordinary lockdown period and they will wind up mid-June. I will be advertising a series of ‘mini family shoots’ throughout July and August. And I’m taking bookings for full family shoots at a social distance in the garden or a public space. These beautiful twins were my first non doorstep shoot post Covid-19. Honestly, I feel like I have the best job in the world.

And one last thing – the 2020 weddings are all now rearranged to 2021 which means the 2021 diary (and beyond) is now open for weddings.

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