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I'm Hannah Bryerton, wedding & portrait photographer based in New York State. I am a lover of details and story telling- both visually & through writing. Here you will find glimpses of my life as a photographer, wife, dog-lover & Chick fil-A obsessed creative!

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February 19, 2018

Seven Things No One Tells You About Being Self Employed

When I began shooting portrait sessions, I was a broke college student trying to make ends meet and pay tuition bills. I had always loved photography and thought to myself, “This is fun; I could probably make money doing this on the side if I wanted.” People recognized my interest and started asking me to capture images of their families and children. At that point, it was just a side hustle, one that continued through my years in school and followed me into post-grad life. It wasn’t until after working a year and a half in the corporate marketing world that I realized maybe the nine-to-five wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

Born into an entrepreneurial family, I would dare say I understood the demands of owning a small business a little better than most. I grew up watching both of my parents pour all they had into their business. (Scratch that, I’m still growing up and watching them do that, even today.)  I guess I decided if you can’t beat them, might as well join them. And so began my venture of becoming a full-time photographer.

The last three years have been a roller coaster of highs and lows, victories and challenges, and countless moments where I simply wanted to give up. I know it seems like sunshine and rainbows, working for yourself, but the sad truth is this: at the end of the day, when the work isn’t finished, you are the one who stays up late finishing it or wakes up in the morning and begins it all again. There are no paid days off, co-workers to delegate and share work with, or bosses to help you solve all your problems. You’re entirely on your own.

You know when you’re a kid and you play a video game for the very first time, and you just aimlessly run around hoping you don’t die because you have no idea what you’re doing? That is the best visual representation I can give you of what running a business was like for me for at least a year. It’s a lot of trial and error; falling on your face, getting back up… and then falling all over again.

Creating your own schedule, being your own boss and working in pajamas on days you don’t feel like showering and/or participating in the real world are really freakin’ sweet. I could talk to you all day long about the glamorous aspects of self-employment. But I’m here to offer you real advice and sugar coating things wouldn’t be doing you any favors. If you’re thinking about starting a small business (or truly believe that the grass MUST be greener on the other side being self-employed) please do not even think about making the plunge and quitting your day job until you read through my list:”seven things no one tells you about being self-employed.

 

 

1. Tax refunds may no longer exist.

Are you someone who looks forward to tax season every year? Do enjoy using your tax return money to go on vacation, buy something fun (#TreatYoSelf) or simply cushion your bank account? Well, those days may just become a thing of the past. 25-30% of every dollar you make being self-employed goes to the government. So despite popular belief, every single dollar made is not money in your pocket. I know it’s painful, currently, to see the deductions taken out of your paycheck every week, but it’s not near as painful as writing quarterly tax estimate checks to the state and federal government… only to have to pay MORE come income tax time.

 

2. You are responsible for all your bookkeeping.

Remember how terrible that accounting course was in high school or college? Well, now you’re living that nightmare every single day of your existence. You are responsible for keeping track of every transaction, expense, receipt, invoice, or mile driven for business. And come tax time, you need to have all those things in order for filing. No more W-2’s issued from your place of employment, coupled with a quick 30-minute session on Turbo Tax to file for your refund. If you find yourself an amazing accountant (s/o to Scott Bensink, CPA… I truly love you!) life does get about ten times brighter. But much like every other aspect of owning a business, having your taxes done by someone else costs you more money than doing them yourself. Regardless, it’s worth it. You need a great accountant.

 

3. Time working does not translate to time earning.

What’s worse than working a job where you don’t get paid very much? Working a job where you don’t get paid at all. Self-employment takes a whole lot of hustle. Just because you’re at work does not mean you’re getting paid for it.  There will be parts of running your business that you absolutely despise. And guess what? You do them anyways. No one pays you to market your company. No one pays you to build or update a website. No one pays you to post on social media. No one pays to keep track of your bookwork. No one pays you to maintain your equipment. No one pays you to keep orderly files. No one pays you to email them back or send a quote. Hourly wages are now a thing of the past, so whether you put 20 or 200 hours in during a week, you’re makin’ the same amount of money. CONGRATS! Self-employment rules.

 

4. Health Insurance is really expensive.

Benefits while working at a full-time job are really sweet. Please don’t ever take for granted a company that offers you a matching 401k or health care package, ever. Self-employment doesn’t have those kinds of perks and every cost comes directly from your pocket. Paid vacations and holidays are also something you should never take for granted because taking a day off when you’re self-employed simply translates to you having twice as much work to do before you leave or after you get back.


5. Operating costs are also really freaking expensive. 

Whatever you think it’s going to cost you, just go ahead and double it right now. I cannot BELIEVE how much money it costs me just to operate my photography business. In a later blog, I plan on covering more in-depth details of everything I invest in, but for now, just believe me when I say that it’s terrifying how many costs there truly are. Insurance, rent, utilities, website domains, website hosting fees, software, office supplies, postage, gasoline, car repairs, contract labor, materials… I could keep going, but y’all get my point. Doing business is expensive.

 

6. Income is inconsistent. 

The beauty of a salaried position is that no matter how good or bad the company is doing, you can always rely on a consistent paycheck. Those rules are thrown out the window entirely when you’re self-employed. More than likely, you will experience slow seasons in your business, and there is nothing more terrifying than having inconsistent income sporadically throughout the year. Personally, January is one of the toughest months for me. I have said multiple times already this year that it feels like I’m writing all kinds of checks to everyone else, yet no one is writing them to me! The beginning of the calendar year is slow for a lot of businesses, and this can be disheartening and incredibly worrisome when trying to make ends meet.

 

7. No matter what you charge for your work, someone will always think it’s too much.

No matter how hard you hustle or how hard you work, it’s not going to be enough for some clients. At times it feels as though everyone is out to get the best deal possible, and when customers shop based on price, you are bound to come up short in one way or another. You have two options:

1. Undercut competition, work yourself to death, and not make enough money to justify what you do.
2. Charge what your time and effort are worth, and what you need to make a living…then deal with disgruntled customers.

“There is one in every crowd.” I know you’ve heard this saying before. It could not hold truer in this instance. There will always, always, always be people who believe, in their heart of hearts, that your sole purpose in life is to try and rip them off. It’s frustrating and terribly disheartening to be told that you’re not worth it. At times, it will push you to your absolute furthest limit and it may take every fiber of your being to not give up. Remember: you know the work you put in and you are doing what you have to do to make a living. Let those angry clients pass you by, and wait for your people. The ones who appreciate you, value what you do and support your business with pride.

Those people are the ones who make this crazy journey through self-employment 100% worth it.

Because even on the ugliest of days… somehow, it’s all worth it.

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