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How I Ditched a 9 to 5 and Became a Professional Photographer

Updated on February 7, 2019
Tamara J Riley profile image

TJ is a professional photographer and writer. Her expertise is in photography, but she is strongly invested in women and children's issues.

With all that is going on in the world right now, one can’t afford not to work and expect to pay their bills. If you have some sort of talent or God given gift, it’s probably the best time than anything to get out there and start a business of your own.

Photography started out as a hobby when I was 16 years old. Taking pictures in my backyard with my mom’s Polaroid instant camera; I enjoyed what I did when it came to capturing beautiful scenery and catching a candid moment with an unsuspecting insect or animal. Photography has and will always be one of my true passions.

©2016 Tamara J. Riley
©2016 Tamara J. Riley | Source

In The Beginning

For 25 years I’ve been employed in various jobs. From the very first day, I learned the meaning of getting up early to making my shift and how important it was to never miss a day. No matter what I did I was able to be on time and did my best not to miss a day. This robotic obedience lasted until I was sliding into my 40’s.

I did mostly clerical or administrative work. A profession my mother had trained me in since I could read and write. I enjoyed being in the office typing, filing and answering the phones. That passion soon flew out the window and I was already thinking of some other career.

I decided to take a journey to become a hairstylist after going to many salons watching other stylists at work. I saw how these men and women had the freedom to make their own schedules and leave when their child came down ill. I thought what they did look easy enough for anyone to do. I was wrong, what I failed to understand is that it took lots of patience, some skills and confidence to do the work they did. I worked in a few salons before realizing this wasn’t the career for me.

After falling a few times, I had to go back to clerical employment, but I was hitting a wall where everyone was wanting the same position I was seeking. I took up retail, which I have to say wasn’t something I wanted to do, but we tend to do what we can. During this time while employed, I continued doing photography on the side for extra cash and to build my portfolio. It was a great way to get practice in. Word of mouth soon spread with close family and friends being my models and support system. I soon found my niche and decided to turn the hobby I most enjoyed into a full-time career.

"When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child."

--Sophia Loren

Having Children in the Midst While Working

I started having children at the age of 33 and stopped at 40. After my first two pregnancies, I would try to go back to the workforce. My first pregnancy was no problem, I was employed with a company where I had job security and a health plan. I was able to take my maternity leave and come back to work. However, no one told me that once you have your baby, you’re going to start having some withdrawals. I was missing my baby girl. I couldn’t work with her on my mind, but I learned to get over those withdrawals and continued working.

I worked until I found out I was going to have baby number three. Around this time, I quit my job due to stress and other problems that arose. While I sat at home, rather than relax as was instructed, I was making plans to work after having my baby. All at the same time, a voice was giving me another option, but like everything else I ignored it. I just wanted to go back to work.

After giving birth I had been home for a good ten months with my baby. The need to go out to the workforce was again calling. I wanted to help contribute around the house and not have my husband be the sole breadwinner. But he didn’t see it that way and he had assured me we were going to be okay. His main worry was our children. My mother in law was watching the girls. I had a daycare and after-school care rolled in one. I would soon learn, that was going to end.

I found steady work after a year and half of being unemployed. The thrill of going to work had soon passed. While being at home with my daughters, I spent most of my time writing and taking photographs around town. For the most part taking care of my kids, bringing them to school. Having snacks ready for them when they came home and helping with school projects. I was, once again, missing the freedom of being at home with my kids. I found myself calling into work and even would come in late. I lost the desire of being the devoted employee I was programmed to be.

©2015 Tamara J. Riley
©2015 Tamara J. Riley | Source

"Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still."

--Dorothea Lange

Setting A Plan

While on the job I thought about my situation long and hard. That inner voice that was speaking to me earlier started to get loud. My camera came into mind along with all the possibilities when it came to being a photographer. I did research on what I needed to start a business. I found how incredibly easy it was. I even had a short following that I could use to build my business from.

On my days off I would draw up a business plan and create a list of what was needed. I had most of the equipment right at my fingertips I just needed some contracts, forms, and tools for advertising. I went on websites researching the contracts that would fit my business (working in a law office came in handy with this one). I made up my own forms from books I had on photography. And with Vista Print and a computer, I created my business cards, flyers, and brochures from the images I had taken over the years.

Next, I checked with the state when it came to registering my business name. The paperwork seemed overwhelming, but I was determined to do it. I was surprised at how low the startup was. With the cards and extra camera equipment, there was very little that came out of pocket. Now, I was ready to get this thing going.

She Work's Hard for the Money

"The perfect woman, you see is a working woman; not an idler; not a fine lady, but one who uses her hands and her head and heart for the good of others."

--Thomas Hardy

©2018 Tamara J. Riley
©2018 Tamara J. Riley | Source

Getting Out There

With all, I had in becoming an entrepreneur I was ready. I continued working 30 hours sometimes less on the job. When I had free time and good lighting I would go and do my photography. I didn’t start going full-time with my business until I found out that I was pregnant with baby number three. A bump in the road, right? Not exactly. I worked all the way up until the doctor told me that I couldn’t.

Did I fret over the doctor’s decision? No, I didn’t. This gave me the opportunity to revamp my business plan. I also took this time to get into writing, something I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t see it happening because of time (that’s for another story).

After my son was born the question lingered. Would I go back to a job I no longer enjoyed, or do I go and start my dream business? An unfortunate event happened that helped me make my decision. My mother in law who had been watching our other children fell ill. We eventually had to put her in assisted living. That was the hardest thing my husband and myself had to do. I even blamed myself for using her as our personal child care provider for as long as we did. It was time for a change and my husband even insisted that I focus on my business along with our children. And that’s exactly what I did. I settled with taking care of my kids and doing what I loved to do.

"No place is boring if you've had a good night's sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.

©2015 Eye of the Beholder Photography
©2015 Eye of the Beholder Photography | Source

And Now

I don’t regret my decision at all. The best part of this is that I’m home with my kids spending time with them. I’m able to participate in activities with my children, something I was unable to do when I was working. I also assist with homework and not terribly tired from a long day’s work or working late.

Whatever hobby or side job you have that’s your God-given talent, use it to your advantage as that full-time business. What you decide is what is going to make you happy and still generate income in the process.

© 2019 Tamara J Riley


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    • Tamara J Riley profile imageAUTHOR

      Tamara J Riley 

      6 months ago from Louisiana USA

      Thank you. It has been fulfilling, I enjoy every minute of it. I do apologize for the late response.

    • SgtCecil profile image

      Cecil Kenmill 

      7 months ago from Osaka, Japan

      Congratulations! You sound truly fulfilled.


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