When we are at the beginning of our photographer career, we try to spend as little as possible on everything that doesn’t seem necessary. By “necessary” of course, we mean our photography gear, camera body, lenses, bag, tripod, laptop. We don’t necessarily think that renting an office is part of those basics expenses. Well, after reading this post, you might think about it twice!
I have to admit it, I was more than a little scared when I signed my first lease contract a few months ago. I was barely out of school. I had no regular income. I considered getting an office outside the home for a couple reasons. I knew I would procrastinate doing my work BIG TIME if I stayed in my condo. I also knew I would probably lose my sanity if I stayed, day-in and day-out within the same four walls. I have a friend (a graphic designer) who told me she’d found a really cool office downtown that we could share. The place was really affordable and I loved it as soon as I entered the door. I was then confronted with a dilemma: to stay at home and save the little money I had or rent an office with my friend and go for the next step–“the freelancer lifestyle”. I went for the latter and co-signed the lease with her. I was excited and scared at the same time. I chose an office instead of a studio because 95% of my shoots are in the gyms and 75% of my time is spent behind a computer. The goal was to have a place where I would be happy to spend many hours per week. Fast forward to this day, I can say it’s been one of the best investment and a major game changer in my career. Here’s why:
1- Separate your personal life from your professional life
This is the main and top reason. Do you ever find yourself editing pictures in between two laundry batches? Do you ever try to write clients emails while trying to keeping an eye on the kids? Do you feel like your spouse thinks you are actually available all day because you are working from home? I don’t mean to start fights but… I know you know what I mean! When I started working at my office, I used to work again back home because I was used to doing that. Then, as the weeks went by I got into my new routine. A shift occurred naturally. Like if a switch in my brain has been created. When I get ready to leave home, my “WORK” switch turns on. I prep my meals, pack my bag, put on some mascara and even dress in something else other than my pink bathrobe. My mind is getting ready to make the most out of my day simply because I am going somewhere else. I mean… it would be kind of strange to pay a couple hundred bucks for an office, get there and just play World of Warcraft all day wouldn’t it? Actually, nothing prevents me from doing that… But it would feel kinda stupid to do it. Then when I come home at night, my switch resets back to “RELAX.” I have this cool feeling of fulfillment. I can allow myself to enjoy something else without guilt because I know I did all the tasks I wanted to accomplish that day.
2- Look and feel more professional
Having my office has been a stepping stone for me professionally and psychologically. My skills and my situation haven’t changed. The simple fact of having a physical space for my business where the only purpose is to be a photographer made me feel even more like one. I didn’t have the choice to do anything other than to dedicate time to my career because I was investing my money in it. It made me more serious about the tasks to be done. Plus, I now had a place to meet clients, collaborators, and friends that looked more interesting than my kitchen.
3- Break from isolation
As I began searching for a place, I first looked for coworking spaces. My goal wasn’t only to get out of the house, it was also to feel less isolated. I know you know what I’m talking about. As a freelancer, we rely pretty much on ourselves. I couldn’t imagine myself waking up in the morning, eating breakfast, going to my computer (which is actually in the place where I do eat my breakfast), work, eat lunch then dinner and do it all again. On my own.
Alone. Every. Single. Day.
Since I have the office, I brainstorm with my partner. We share thoughts, give opinions and set goals. We ask for collaborators to come over and have some good coffee. I am inspired. I can also be as isolated as I wish but that’s by choice: not by default.
4- Be more efficient
I’ll be honest, I am not the kind of highly enthusiastic housekeeping person (ask my fiancé… wait, no don’t). To me, working at home is like the perfect place to be distracted all of the time. Stuff, wherever I lay eyes on, has me always thinking about anything but work. On the other hand, I do feel (a little) bad to leave everything in disarray when I am leaving for the office in the morning. The office is clean (My home is too. There is a difference between dirty and cluttered!) It helps me concentrate. I don’t see the bills piled up on the counter nor do I think about the dishes in the sink that I should’ve done last night. I am at my desk, behind my 27-inch monitor. I have nothing else to do but work. And that’s perfect to me.
On the flipside
I’ve shared this personal experience from my own point of view, but I am aware that some of you do enjoy working from home. If you find yourself in this category or are still unsure whether you should make the move or not, I recommend you this great article by my Photofocus fellow author Nicole S. Young. Her brain works probably on the other end of the spectrum than mine does. I gotta say I am kind of jealous to realize she can be effective working in her pajamas. I guess that’s the beauty of our wonderful job! ;)
Photographs by: Michèle Grenier