I wrote this article a couple years ago as a guest contributor to a website for young female entrepreneurs,
but I thought it was worth sharing with you too.
I was 19 years old. It was super early in the morning, I was in a place I’d never been and I’d gotten no sleep. I remember how dry my eyes were from staring at the ceiling all night. My stomach was in knots, and part of me wanted to turn around, go home, and pretend like none of this was happening. You see, months ago, in a little cloud of starry-eyed optimism, I had agreed to photograph my very first wedding, and this was wedding day. As I laid in that unfamiliar bed, running through lists of reasons why I was incapable, and considering all the things that could go wrong, I panicked a little. Why was pessimistic Allison being punished for the hasty words of optimistic Allison? But there was nothing I could do about it. I was states away from home and running away seemed a bit irresponsible, so I stayed. I watched a friend walk down the aisle to meet the man of her dreams. I watched as they sang to each other during their ceremony. I watched as they hugged their grandparents tightly, and listened to the advice of the people they loved the most. That was the day I fell in love with photographing weddings.
Here we are, 5 years and countless weddings later, and I still get those knots and kinda-want-to-run-away feelings, but it’s different now. I know these feelings come & go because I’m right where I’m supposed to be, because 5 years ago, I discovered the thing that drives me to be and do better and nothing, not even those knots can stop me.
It’s easy to make these last few years sound a little like a heroic before & after story with a nice little climax in the middle, but that’s not how it’s worked. So I’m here to talk to you about the reality of the last 5 years of my hustle.
We’ve all got that little dream inside of us. For some, we’ve told all our friends and family about our dream, and if they’re being honest, they’d say they’re a little sick of hearing about it. For others, we’re too scared to even let the words come out of our mouths. Either way, it’s in there somewhere. And now that I knew what mine was, it was time to do something about it.
I saved money, and bought some gear and started to photograph anyone I could. I did that for a long time. I second shot for other photographers, I interned and answered emails for them, and I soaked up every little piece of information they were willing to share with me. So much has changed since those days. I’ve gotten a degree, and a husband. I’ve moved cities and states. I’ve had too many jobs to mention. But this dream hasn’t ever waivered.
This year has, without a doubt, been the biggest year for my business. (I hope this is something I’m able to say every year from now until forever.) But with all of the great things that have come this year, there have been twice as many challenges because they don’t call it a hustle for nothing.
I still work full time, so that means answering emails on my lunch breaks, shooting and editing every night of the week, and giving up nearly all weekends for photo jobs. I’m using my vacation time from my full time job for the out of town weddings I’m booking. My husband and I have shared a single car for nearly two years. We both work full time jobs, with different hours and I somehow make it to all my meetings and shoots on time. (As I’m typing this out, I’m realizing how absolutely insane this is.) I’m exhausted most days. I’ve neglected my friends, I’ve had to turn down countless events and parties to make my dream happen. But never once has this dream waivered.
You’re going to see your friends making their dreams happen seemingly sooner than you are. They’re going to make it look easy, or like luck’s just on their side. You’ll make excuses for yourself. You’re going to compare yourself to others, and you’re most definitely going to want to give up. It’s not going to feel easy, and there will always be a struggle. You’ll struggle to book clients, and sell products. There are going to be things you don’t know about and things you’re too scared to learn. You’re going to feel like you’re in over your head. You’re going to spend a lot of money and you’ll probably lose some, too. You’ll make clients unhappy, and worse, you’re going to disappoint yourself. But don’t ever give up. Because it does get easier. You will book more jobs, and you will sell more product. You’re going to get emails from clients who loved your photos so much they cried. They’ll tell their friends, and write reviews. And one day, you’re going to impress even yourself. One day you’ll look back at where you started, and where you are now, and you’ll pop the champagne and celebrate the work that you’re doing. And all of this is part of the hustle.
In the last 5 years, I’ve discovered what I love most about weddings, and what I could do without. I’ve fallen in love with the sweet little moments that make each wedding its own. I’ve formed opinions on trends and color schemes and made lists of venues in my city that I love & would rather not shoot at again. I’ve learned about myself, my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned how to communicate better and how to not take everything so very personal. And I’ve got a list twice as long of things I’ve yet to learn. But every little moment has been worth it.
As soon as I’m done writing this article, I’m packing up to leave Cleveland and heading out of a state to shoot a wedding. Saturday morning, I’ll wake up with a dry mouth, and knots in my stomach, and I’ll kind of want to run away a little bit. But I won’t. I’ll stay and watch this sweet bride walk down the aisle to meet her new husband at the altar. I’ll watch them share their first dance and hug their grandparents tight. I’ll watch tears & laughs, stolen glances & whispers, and think to myself how lucky I am that this is the dream that’s inside me.