Turning a passion into a Job, part II: Selfworth and Health


Whether your job is a dream or a nightmare is up to you

Self and constantly“, is a German saying, self-employed people often use, to describe their work ethic, when I heard this sentence for the first time, I didn’t like it at all. Somehow the statement struck me as a misguided pride, “look at me, I’m self-employed, and I always have work, I’m busy and have it so much harder than the others.”

In fact, when I was self-employed, I often had the feeling that a little more “constantly” and less “self” wouldn’t hurt me at all. Because I often had to try very hard to find work that kept me busy.

Nevertheless, even if you don’t have a gig coming up or are just making ends meet with just a few jobs. Especially in the first two years, your head is constantly busy with work or everything surrounding it. This means that if you hyper-focus on the success of your self-employment and your self-worth depending on it, things will go steeply downhill if something doesn’t work out, and that will often be the case, especially in the early days.

In my last blog entry on the topic of self-employment, I discussed hard skills, i.e. specialist knowledge and resources that make it easier to start freelancing. In this, I would like to talk about self-worth and health, two factors that are directly related to each other and can be crucial to ensuring that your dream job doesn’t become a nightmare.

Realize what your worth is

So there are really enough blog posts/articles on the subject of Imposer Syndrome. Therefore, without going into too much detail; The problem that plagues young professionals in particular is that they either overestimate or underestimate themselves. And that has various reasons.

On the one hand, the feedback from the community can quickly have a demotivating effect and deny you your own style. On the other hand, photographers who produce generally recognized content often receive a lot of popularity very quickly.

Beispiel aus dem Shooting mit Kpaou und dem Portraitfotograf Daniel Schubert in München. Das Bild wird als Beispiel für mögliche Lernergebnisse aus einem Portrait Workshop oder Fotografie Kurs in München benutzt.
Unfortunately it was never well received on Facebook, but it shouldn’t be. Shooting with Fitnesstrainer Kpaou.

In the overall context, this can lead to new creatives and career changers being discouraged by ambitious hobbyists and selling themselves short. While some photographers who reproduce simple images quickly think they are much better than they actually are.

Of course, there are also personal factors, such as self-perception and of course self-confidence. This becomes complicated when it comes to how you present yourself to the outside world and what feedback you get when dealing with potential customers/colleagues. Because what you give out, you get reflected.

For more tips on good feedback, check out this blog entry.

Not acting, but being

This could suggest that you are well advised to have a fake it till you make it mindset. Unfortunately, photography is not just a sales job, but, like any creative job, is also measured by performance/a product.

Therefore, self-confidence and a healthy self-assessment must be developed so that on the one hand it appears authentic and on the other hand it can withstand criticism better.

Alternatively, you can of course develop a top dog mentality that can withstand any criticism or generally reject it, although I doubt whether this will lead to healthy business relationships in the long term.

A healthy self-confidence in your own work requires practice and feedback from colleagues or industry relatives who actually understand something about it.

It requires self-study to what extent good photography can be more complex than the classic portrait lens and a beautiful model in the evening sun photo that gets hundreds of likes on social media. And that requires honest self-reflection about what you can do, where your expertise lies and also where you are not particularly good.

Let’s strive to a counter culture to the portraits in the evening sun with extrem blurry backgrounds! In the picture, good friend and model Anna.

Know your own strengths and stand behind them

The better you can define your own niche and your own visual style and stand behind it, the better your external communication and your own representation will be. In addition, the jobs are much more straightforward and easy going because customers can assess exactly what they are getting by hiring you.

In my case, I was sure for a long time that my pictures didn’t stand out at all and that there were dozens of photographers who were better. Even when I did my first exhibition, I didn’t got too proud, rather wondering why I took so long.

Today I know I’m the pinnacle of photography and, like Picasso, the world is my color and the sensor my canvas. Kidding, but I know that my style is mine in its nuances and does not have to or should be compared to the work of colleagues. This is an important process that has a strong impact on external communication and self-confidence. It also gives a very important insight: that you can do something – regardless of other appreciating your work (although that is sometimes great).

However, the path to get there can be a rocky one, especially when you reach your own physical limits.

Create healthy breaks and adhere to structures

I’m grinning a little because I still haven’t learned how to work in a really structured way, but I’m still writing about it. One thing I can still say for sure is that the times when I worked with structure and whenever I managed to actually schedule my workdays, it just went really, really well.

By creating structure, I mean setting fixed times for yourself when you work and what you’ll be working on. For me, for example: Monday is four hours of acquisition, two hours of image editing, Tuesday SEO and social media, Wednesday acquisition and networking on platforms, etc.. And of course give yourself the opportunity to try out complete stuff, like writing about love.

At the same time, set times when you don’t work. For example, it’s over after four o’clock, no matter where you are, you leave it alone until the next day.

With more structure in your everyday life, you also have more time for the nice things, like drinking coffee with your sweethearts.

When you do this for the first time, it almost feels as if you have to force yourself to simply switch off your work head and take some free time from work – but when you finally get to the point where your leisure time is actual leisure time again, you do your own mental health a big favor and may prevent a burnout in the future.

The alternative is to put off the work all the time, lagging behind important tasks, or to constantly push through; feeling guilty that you’re not doing enough and not developing a feeling for what you’re actually doing and how you perform. And that in turn has a bad effect on self-confidence and overall satisfaction.

Exercise and other healthy habits

The final health point I would like to address is a little personal, but I think it is one that concerns many self-employed people. Hardly anyone can afford an office or move into a co-working space when starting their own business. That means you spend a lot of time within your own four walls. You don’t even move between home and work. Something that I haven’t accounted for back when I started this journey.

For me, a part-time job that required me to move was always something that I was actively looking for. I swim regularly, try to cycle as much as possible and go to the gym. The balance is important because I’ve noticed that I can only function well in the “office” as long as I’m physically busy (even worse, if I don’t work out I tend to go out regularly, which is neither good for my liver, my wallet nor my work motivation the day after).

In addition, when you are self-employed you create habits that may have an impact on the rest of your life. How you deal with sleep, exercise, time off, drugs or nutrition could quickly become part of everyday life for the next few years.

Be your dream boss

In summary, if you set out to become self-employed; Be good to and take care of yourself. Unfortunately, you will never be able to prevent a little self-exploitation, excesses, lack of sleep and self-doubt, that’s just part of the game.

Nevertheless, you should always keep in mind the long-term goal of moving towards a healthy (here comes the combination of words that you hear far too often and that I somehow managed to avoid this far) work-life balance, because if that is not the case in the long term: Why be self-employed at all?

If you’re interested, the last part of this series about finances is available here.

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Selbstportrait des Fotografen Daniel Schubert Stein in München 2021 auf Cinestill t800 in einen Spielgel hinein.

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