If you’ve ever had a rough day at work (let’s be honest, most of us have at some point), you might find yourself dreaming of doing something different. Something that makes you feel more alive.
But, what if you were able to turn one of your hobbies into a full-time job? Imagine waking up every day excited to do that thing you can’t imagine not doing.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this distant, unattainable goal. With hard work, determination and a little faith in yourself, you can make your dream a reality.
And if you don’t believe it, just ask my friend, Autumn Theodore. She knows a thing or two about quitting a day job to chase a dream. She did it.
After graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in International Studies, Autumn worked in marketing roles before venturing out to start her own photography business, Autumn Theodore Photography.
I sat down with her to talk about finding your passion and having the guts to chase your dreams, even when it seems scary. Read our interview below:
What sparked your interest in photography?
I was in college when a friend of mine let me play around with her Canon DSLR camera, and it was love at first click! I started thinking that when I had a “real job,” I’d buy my own when I could afford it. Two years later, I did buy my own camera – but to just use for fun. In less than 10 months, people were paying me for photography so frequently that I decided to build a website. The website, in my opinion, was the launch of my business. (August 15, 2012!)
When did you realize you wanted to pursue your passion full time?
I remembered thinking that it was the most fun side hustle I could ever have. But I truly thought I’d never be able to leave my day job. It just seemed too hard. Too scary. But then I started spending lots of time with other people who were entrepreneurial, business-minded, strong, kickass people.
And then I met Adam Lehman of The Wonder Jam, and he became my business coach. I told him I wanted to quit my day job before I turned 30 (which was 14 months away at the time) – and he said that was no problem at all.
This was shocking to me, and I didn’t really believe him. But then after a few coaching sessions, I really believed him, and in turn, believed in myself. It didn’t take 14 months…it took four (to tell my boss I was leaving) and another four before I walked out the door of a corporate job for the last time. (And I’m still in my 20s!)
Did you receive any negative comments from family and/or friends along the way? If so, how did you respond?
Family has never been a problem – they are blindly supportive of what I do and I couldn’t be more grateful. Friends have never been a problem either – they’ve been so understanding and helpful. To be honest, I don’t get a lot of negative comments.
Luckily, the things that do bother me are things I can fix by educating people on what it means to be a photographer/entrepreneur. Rude comments are usually made by people who are 1) negative always, not just to me, or 2) uneducated on the thing they’re talking about.
Did you experience self-doubt before making the jump? How did you convince yourself to keep going?
At some point, I jumped quickly from lots of self-doubt to no self-doubt, and I was actually a bit scared because I thought I needed to feel more self-doubt! Like lots of other people my age, I have a large amount of student loan debt which made me feel handcuffed to my day job. When I realized that all I needed were excellent processes and kindness to have a successful business, I wasn’t scared anymore. (By the way, processes + kindness = referrals. I’ve never done any marketing, and I don’t ever plan to.)
What has been your proudest moment so far?
It’s so funny because I don’t often feel pride. I’m kind of just in awe of the fact that I’m my own boss and I get to have fun every single day doing what I love, taking time for myself, and seeing friends and family more often. But there are two things I’m proud of, come to think of it: 1) working 7 days a week for 8 months straight prior to leaving my day job (this was hard, but it was necessary), and 2) landing a photography contract with Ohio State, my lovely alma mater.
What advice would you give your 25-year-old self, knowing what you know now?
On my 25th birthday, I’d say, “You’re going to start a photography business two months from today. It’s going to be fun and hard and rewarding and frustrating. But if you work hard (because it’s not just photography, it’s also web design, accounting, legal, education, marketing, publicity, copywriting, graphic design, and customer service), you’ll get to leave your day job and be your own boss. I know it seems hard right now, but keep going. Keep meeting people. Keep being kind. Keep learning new photography tricks. Keep figuring out who/what inspires you. JUST. KEEP. GOING. It’s just going to take time.” And it did. :)
What words of wisdom would you tell someone who is thinking of leaping into the unknown and chasing his/her passion?
1) Do something you love. If you’re not certain that you love it, find something else. 2) ASK OTHERS FOR HELP. 3) Be patient. Be consistent but patient. It will take time unless you’re a biz genius in which case I want to invest! 4) Be kind. No one will want to support you or buy your product or hire you if you suck. 5) Listen to the “How I Built This” podcast for inspiration.