Is It Time to Quit Your Day Job and Go Pro



Stephen F. Dennstedt

Are you a Creative? Do you write, do you paint, are you a dancer, an actor, a crafts person, or like me a photographer? Whatever your creative pursuit you probably have dreams or fantasies of doing it full-time. Some would call it going Pro (professional), where your hobby morphs into a full-time career. It’s a wonderful dream and a scary proposition (or at least it can be). I think it’s helpful to listen to others who have made the leap or the transition. It can be done, in fact it’s being done all the time, but it’s not all pie-in-sky. This short video by Matt Granger, professional photographer, gives you some great insights into the process. But it’s equally applicable to other Creatives (not just Photogs).

I think you can have it all in life, just not all at the same time. Life (at least in my experience) is more about stages. To fully enjoy each stage of your life requires awareness, it requires that you be present in the moment. This is a very Buddhist concept that has gained traction in recent years. One of my early teachers was Tich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist priest and philosopher, and if you haven’t made his acquaintance you should. Awareness and self-knowledge is very important when it comes to navigating this river we call life. I think to gain something you often have to give something up, some would call that giving up sacrifice, but I’m not sure that really describes it. To me the giving up was more like liberation.

My dream was to become a full-time photographer, writer, traveller and educator. I have done that. I could now make my living doing those things, especially living the life I live now, but not every aspect of the dream proved to be ideal. For instance, I have the skill-set to be a full-time commercial photographer but I don’t like working for others—so now I only accept assignments that interest me. The same goes for writing. Instead of booking commercial work I do what I love and then market it after the fact. I will occasionally take an assignment but it has to be something I want to do and where I keep creative control. I travel and educate but again on my terms. Other people either might not have that luxury or don’t mind the constraints.

I would never try to dissuade someone from quitting their day job and going Pro (it has worked well for me), but I would encourage folks to be realistic and think through what it is they want (or think they want). If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any time at all you will have seen this quote before, it comes from Henry David Thoreau: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. The first time I read that quote it spoke to me loud and clear. Many, if not most, people really do lead lives of quiet desperation. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You are in control of your life and only you. Sure life happens and circumstances crop up, but there are always choices. Take control of your life and live your dream.   

To get some ideas on making money with your photography I invite you to read my articles at Northrup Photo. Few things in life give me as much pleasure as encouraging others to follow their hearts and dreams. I am here to tell you that it can be done and at virtually any age—I started my journey of exploration at 64 and I will be 70 in May. Yep, I’m an old fart but I’m still kicking, creating and enjoying life to the max. My life’s motto, mantra actually, is to: Live Simple, Live Cheap and to Live Free. Not bad for an old man, huh? Enjoy.

12 responses to “Is It Time to Quit Your Day Job and Go Pro

  1. Really enjoyed reading this post! I wrote about this topic today! I caught a handful of videos about it, but I always felt like they never answered the moment after putting in your resignation like how to pay for bills or continue invest in oneself financially. I like your remark about giving something up in order to gain something. I heavily believe in that way of thinking. Great work!

  2. I love your blog and discussion of trips to Yucatan etc. My travel days are over, but experiences I did get to enjoy remain with me. Right now I have tackled a humungous job of converting my 20 and 30 year slides to digital. I’ve had the converter contraption for a couple of years but just set out to actually resurrect some slides to use with my blog. I was so thrilled when they turned out OK…I won’t say great, but they are useable. I had thought my (and my late husband who was actually a photographer) slides were lost to the world because although I knew there were ways to do the conversion I thought it was beyond my financial limits… I see not. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. 🙂

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