The Four Most Joyous Words

going freelanceToday's Flash Friday post is written by Al Lemire. Each Friday, we share something personal: A personal goal or some way we find to achieve balance in our harried, busy professional lives.

If you have a story you’d like to share in a guest post, please contact me here.

The four most joyous words in the world: “This is my resignation.”

You are going to hang out your own shingle. Be your own boss. Do meaningful work. You are Going Freelance.

Gone are the endless, useless meetings….. the micromanaging boss(es)….. the wasted hours of “self- evaluations” and next year’s "goals."

Unfortunately, also gone are the vacation pay and sick days, the fully stocked office supply cabinet, and the company copier/fax/scanner. Also gone, as I can sometimes attest, is your entire reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

I am a photographer.

It is my dream job. It’s all that I have ever wanted to do since I first handled a camera in high school. I studied it in college and have two degrees in it. It has taken me to some of the most interesting places in the world. It is my job, my hobby…..and to some extent, my mistress.

Twice before I found myself in the freelance world for reasons out of my control. About a year ago I left my comfortable full-time gig to go freelance simply because I wanted to.

There are many reasons I could point to and blame: I was burned out; I was frustrated; I may have even been a little bored. But most of all…inside…..deep down inside…I wanted to know if I truly had what it takes to get to the next level in my career.

When I was younger, I always figured I had plenty of time to achieve fortune and fame later. I made a decent living, and I was too busy enjoying life to feel the need to challenge myself more. As the years have gone by, my ever-shrinking future made me realize it's "now or never."

For most of my career, I have shot for retail companies. I started out with Robinsons-May and Broadway/Macy's in southern California, and parlayed that into a job with Gap Inc. in northern California. That led to a move to my current residence in northern Idaho, and a position with Coldwater Creek. I’ve been in Idaho for eight years now (minus a one year stint with Lands’ End in Wisconsin), and really, really enjoy the outdoor activities that make up the lifestyle here.

First: Set your goal and vision.

My goal in going freelance was to not only be successful from a financial standpoint (and I’m not talking about getting rich here….just making a comfortable living), but also to segue into the outdoor markets, and land clients who make equipment and gear I use on a daily basis. Also, I wanted to do all of this based from right here in northern Idaho.

Next: Put the plan in place.

I started planning my escape about six months before I quit. Vacation days were saved so they could be paid out when I left the company. Contacts who hadn’t heard from me in a while started receiving emails. Updating my portfolio and website became a priority. I compiled a list of companies I would like to work for.

If I was going to go after new clients/companies (ones in which I had no leads or connections), I had to get my name out there. I created a marketing plan., subscribed to a mailing list, and hired a designer to help me with promo pieces.

As the time to make the jump drew near, I enjoyed the nervous anticipation of my new future. The day I actually turned in my resignation, I felt tremendously relieved to have finally thrown down the gauntlet.

When I walked out the door a free man two weeks later, I felt secure knowing I was doing the right thing.

Your officially on your own. Now what?

The first six to eight weeks I spent organizing my office and studio, sending out emails and promos, and checking up on contacts. After two months, I got my first gig from an old friend. This led to more work, and I found myself busy shooting for a new client. It was fun, I got to travel a bit, and, it paid the bills.

It’s now been eight months since I jumped into the freelance world again. I've sent out a variety of beautiful promo pieces to hundreds of strangers. I've introduced myself via email to untold numbers of people introducing myself and asking them to please find the time to check out my website.

You have to want it, and you have to proactively get yourself out there.

Traffic to my website ebbs and flows with the mailing cycle of the promos. Google Analytics is the first thing I check every morning. Every time my site registers a hit from a large city (and it’s accompanying page views), I daydream about what exciting company has decided to shower me with money to photograph their next catalog or ad campaign.

My fantasy hasn’t fully come to fruition just yet. The work I get is through my network: Usually from friends, or friends of friends. I have picked up a few local jobs and am building up a pipeline from some nice interactions with potential clients that have reached out after receiving a promo.

It's not going to come overnight, so I remind myself to persevere, and be patient.

In the end, I am happy for now…..but hungry for the future. When I have any doubts about what I am doing, I go back to a quote that I found a while ago that has had a great impact on me:

“We are hoping to succeed, but we are okay with failure. We just don’t want to land in between.” - David Chang

Note from Lisa: I have worked with Al on several projects and not only is he incredibly talented, but he's also completely reliable, professional, and fun to work with. It's how we became friends. Check him out at www.alanlemire.com.

What do you think?