I grew up in an entrepreneurial household.
My mother, a native of New York City, and my father, a native of Southern Sweden, relocated to the USA in 1977 shortly before I was born. In his mid 30’s at the time, this would be my father’s first move to the USA (and he has remained here since). For my mother it was a return to the country of her birth. Both of them were poised to explore a lot of new terrain over the coming years.
We landed at JFK in New York and within a couple of months were living in New Jersey (where I was born). By the time I was a toddler we were inhabitants of Florida, enjoying life in the Fort Lauderdale region. I spent my childhood in the southeasternmost state and later continued to enjoy a sunny environment upbringing in San Diego , California.
By the time I was in middle school, I can recall being aware that my parents were doing quite well for themselves. What I did not know was all the steps it took to get there. I find myself asking them more questions recently as well as reflecting on my own memory of observing their entrepreneurial growth as I carve my own path as a freelance.
I knew my parents worked hard. My mother worked as an accountant for the first several years of my life as my father pursued his research and built his business at home. By the time I was in middle school, the two of them were working in the business full time at home.
Perhaps it is because of this that something in me always aspired to be home based as well, working for myself. I grew up seeing all the benefits of it. As a sometimes wily teenager, I might have occasionally lamented the fact that I had parents home basically 24/7, but now I find myself seeking to replicate that very model with my own craft.
As I get organized, transition to a new business name, build this website and examine how I plan to grow my business, I thought it would be interesting to take to my network, requesting questions related to the freelancer’s. These are the first few I received.
What are your expectations?
Expectation, for me, is a combination of hopes, plans & intentions. Without intention, expectation feels passive and entitled to me.
I expect to make a sustainable livelihood as a freelancer. It’s as simple as that. Earning a good living to help support my family and do those things in life we enjoy are priorities.
I also expect to work hard. I expect there will be lessons where I least expect them. And I expect that at some point I will branch out and seek to pursue something else, in addition to photography and perhaps even conjunct to it.
Candids from Shoots
How do you maintain a balance in your schedule between fun and focus?
In my 1st couple of years working as a freelance photographer in Germany, the question of balancing fun and focus did not exist for me. My work is fun and interesting. It involves social engagement and constantly going to new locations. Even in my downtime I found myself enjoying networking and planning for jobs or creative shoots.
Scenes from photoshoots 2011-2013
What are your priorities?
As a freelancer, my priorities are booking shoots, making clients happy and always developing in some way, whether in technical aspects of photography or new methods of marketing or serving another niche or clientele. I prioritize booking shoots and making money because I am interested in having a sustainable business? Prioritizing happiness is essential to me too. It doesn’t mean everyday is amazing. It means that I am happy to be committed to the lifestyle I chose.
When I first established my business, I was working in a child development center on a military post in Germany. I booked photo sessions in my off time. My priority was to shoot as often as possible, to generate interest for future bookings and to steadily improve my skills, both in photographing and post processing.
Within a few months I had changed jobs and was working as a teachers assistant at the high school on the same post. Word of mouth and business were picking up for me, both with military families in the community we were a part of as well as local Germans. I worked at the school all week, coming home to edit all evening and used weekends for photosessions.
I made the decision to quit the school job (the last of several school based positions I have had) and pursue my business full time in late 2011. Not because I was so overwhelmed with bookings but because it was time for me to give it that full focus. I was also ready to graduate on to something, a calling and a profession, that had more longevity for me.
Fortunately I had the support of my husband. It was great to see that I could make money doing this thing, but I certainly was not paying our bills with what I earned at the time.
I love it when freelancers and small business owners can be frank about how challenging those first chapters can be, economically speaking. One of the main obstacles for many people to turn their passion into a livelihood is probably that period of building. The rent still needs to be paid and a new, young business might simply not generate enough profit to be sustainable in the beginning on it’s own.
Many freelancers begin on a part time basis or rely heavily on the support of loved ones in order to get started. This can take years. I am so grateful for the support I have and excited to prioritize being a mother for now. lopp