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Things I’ve learnt in my second year of self employment

Things I’ve learnt in my second year of self employment

They say the first three years of self employment are the toughest. While this year has certainly been tough, it’s been an adventure that I would continue to choose, year after year.
This time last year, I shared my lessons from my first year of self employment (Tanya Jacobs Photography is actually 5 years old this year). You can read that post here.
I read it last night and I had to chuckle. While some of the lessons still apply now, there are so many more in my second year.

So here they are.

Real, honest lessons from my second year of self employment.

Master your workflow
I don’t have this down just yet, but I was forced to streamline my processes and get my workflow into some sort of arrangement when I was shooting back to back weddings and juggling late night editing, while being a mom and wife. Life with a busy toddler in the house and a business to run can be so hard, and yet, so rewarding.

It’s okay to be a mom first
I love spending mornings with Ella doing art classes, horse rides, ice skating or attending Baby Bright Stars or Clamber Club. So that’s what I do – I schedule mom hours into my day and I schedule work hours into my day. I’m a mom first, and that’s my most important role.

Believe in your worth
We all struggle with stuff. Confidence, habits, jealousy… Me? I struggle with believing in my worth. But with some mentoring and self teaching, I’ve worked through this and you know what… I’ve got this! I believe in myself. I believe I’m worth my prices. I believe I offer my clients a fantastic service and quality and I deserve to charge what I feel that’s worth. If you don’t believe in your own worth, how can you possibly expect clients to?

Give your clients an experience they’ll love
I’ve loved this – researching and refining my packages, my service, my offering to offer the very best of me and my products to my clients.

Forget about the likes
Facebook and Instagram are basically forcing you to think this way – unless you’re advertising with a bajillion Rand each week. Forget about the number of likes and the hearts. They’re not an indicator of how well your business is doing or how good your work is.

Be real. Like, Real, real.
I’ve received the most heartwarming interactions and connections with people online when I’ve shared openly, and honestly. I shared about my mom/entrepreneur struggles and other moms shared back. We joined forces and united and pushed each other along. I’ve found a tribe and I like my tribe. A lot.

Love your industry friends
I’ve been so fortunate to have amazing support all around me, and that includes the support of industry friends and colleagues. They were there to fall back on when I needed to rush to my mom’s side when she was in ICU and they were there when I hit an all time low in my career when I disappointed a client.

Which leads me to my next point…

Mistakes. They’re going to happen and they’re going to effing hurt. 
Badly. But you have to, HAVE TO, get up and try again, no matter how hard it is. Mistakes in business are hard lessons that need to be learnt.

Community over competition
Sharing work you can’t take on, and sharing with people who believe in community over competition, is one of the most rewarding ways to help another person’s business grow. Choose community over competition, every time.

Set your intentions
If you’re going to succeed – succeed.
If you’re going to step up – step up.
If you’re going to do it – do it.
Intention is everything.

Invest in yourself
I’ve spent hard earned money on investing in courses, books, holidays and guides, all to better myself and my business. Investing in myself and my knowledge has been worth every cent.

Burn out is real. 
Very real. There were days when I didn’t know how to face my workload and be a good mother and wife. Learn to help yourself, and learn when you need to reach out for help. Back to back weddings, no normal life balance, and a non-sleeping baby in the house is a recipe for some pretty ugly crying.

Sleep training. 
Completely un-photography related, but it was so necessary for me to function properly and to try regain control of my own balance. By sleep training, I mean sleep training Ella. 😉 It took her 21 months to finally sleep a straight 8 hours. Two nights ago, she pulled a 12 hour nighter with me (we had just arrived home after almost 23 hours of travelling). Sleep is important and Ella is a champ!

With every shoot, comes experience. 
Your portfolio will grow, you’ll learn to co-ordinate your work to show only what you love, and want to shoot, and you’ll grow with time. Enjoy the journey.

Be grateful.

Be ready.

Be you.

What I learnt in my first year of self employment

What I learnt in my first year of self employment

What a year! I almost can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I left my corporate media job and jumped into full time wedding photography!

My business is four years old this November, but it was only in September last year, that the juggling of two careers came to an end and I went full time in Tanya Jacobs Photography.

I had to. We had a baby on the way and I was working all day, every night, and every weekend.

So after almost 10 years, I went solo and I have no regrets! In fact, it’s been one of the most rewarding years of my life!

In that time, I have given birth to the most amazing little girl (who will be one in November!), photographed exceptional weddings that I can’t believe I actually booked, smashed goals, hosted my first workshop and made friends in the industry who are supportive and encouraging.

It’s not been without its tears, fears, doubts and late night panics. Oh boy, there’s been loads of that. And frustrations and lessons and everything else that goes with being your own boss.

There were (are) so many “can’t’s”.

I can’t raise my prices. 

I can’t run a workshop.

I can’t photograph this wedding.

I can’t do any better. 

But I did.

How? I believed I could and I poured my heart and soul into every single wedding, every single session, and every single day.

Somedays were harder than others. Juggling a baby and a business has been a challenge and I am no stranger to breastfeeding Ella at my desk while replying to emails (and even Skyping!) or editing, or working only during her 30 minute naps, with her monitor beeping to her every heartbeat, counting down the minutes till I have to stop working, to play. The floor of her nursery is often my office space and my pyjamas, my uniform.

But you are capable of so many things if you just believe that you can achieve them. For the first time in four years, I own all the gear I have dreamed of. (Except for one camera, I’m still working towards that). I get to spend time with my daughter, teaching her and showing her the world so she too can one day follow her dreams. I get to photograph amazing weddings with the nicest people who trust me and who feel like friends. It’s always an honour and at the end of each wedding day, when I drive home in the dark, to a baby who is desperate for her momma, I have a heart filled with gratitude.

The past year has taught me a whole freakin’ lot. Here are my biggest lessons:

It’s going to be tough

Really tough. Awake-all-night kind of tough (and not just because of the newborn in your bedroom). I made sure when I left my career that I had a financial buffer and that if some months were quieter, I would be ok. They’re scary, but you’ll be ok.

Stop comparing

This was a biggie for me. In the beginning, I kept comparing my work to others, pulling myself down, tearing my work apart. Comparing their journey to my start. It’s good to look at your own work with a critical eye, but it’s not good to beat yourself up because you’re not as far ahead as someone else is. Once I had learnt this, I was able to focus on myself and start really getting into my own photography. This has been so rewarding and I can finally LOVE my own work! Do things your own way. 

Know who you want to work for

I learnt who I wanted to work for, and who I definitely didn’t want to work for. Hard lessons. I have learnt to say no to clients who weren’t the right fit and who didn’t appreciate photography as an art and investment and were looking for discounts. I defined my target client and since then, have been hitting the mark with each wedding/shoot. This is so rewarding and working with people who love me and my work, pushes me to over deliver more and more.

Have deadlines

Without deadlines, my work starts to fall behind and I feel anxious, lost and completely overwhelmed. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!

Be kind to yourself

I’ve learnt to stop being so hard on myself. I’ve learnt to take breaks when I need them and to give myself time. Being your own bully is going to damage you.

And ask for help. I have asked so many other photographers their opinions or advice on things and even hired a photographer to be my mentor for an afternoon. She has no idea how valuable that session was and how it has changed the way I pose my couples and see my couples through my lens now.


Believe you can do it. And then just do it.

Lastly, I would not be here without the love and support of family, friends and YOU. Thank you especially to my husband and my mom, who both deserve trips across the globe for their never-ending support and encouragement.

Even with its challenges, ups, downs, highs and lows, I CANNOT wait to see what the next year holds!




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