Why I’m [Side] Hustling


Around the time everyone was announcing their New Year’s resolutions, I found myself at a cross roads with the idea of pursuing a photography business. By the time 2019 showed up, I had photographed a handful of clients, and I had been on and off with presenting myself as a true photography business. But January was my last call — I’m either going to be fully in this, and start working hard, or I’m going to treat this like a hobby and let it go.

That was a hard thing for me to hear myself say. Once I gave myself the ultimatum, I realized just how scared I was to lose photography. After every session, I felt myself come alive with excitement. I left each photo session floating on cloud 9. I had a permanent smile on my face when I edited photos because each one brought me so much joy. Delivering galleries and hearing my clients say how much they loved them gave me such a deep satisfaction. And what’s more… I was getting better with every experience, so those feelings only grew!

But even the amount of joy I had already experienced left me with a dream and desire to do something more with this newfound gift. Wedding photography was always in the back of my mind, and if I gave this idea up, I would have never known if I could make it as a wedding photographer. So, my mind was made up; I chose to go all in.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”

Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action


Starting With My Why

I am building a business, not because I haven’t yet received the “trophy” of being a wedding photographer, but because I see a potential to use my passion, excitement, and skill to serve people. If I was feeling that giddy over someone else’s family portraits or couple’s photos, imagine how happy it makes them feel to see their story displayed in a creative way that lasts forever! Imagine how loved a client feels when they go into a session with insecurities, but leave believing I made them feel so valued, so beautiful, and then see that portrayed in the way I create their images.

Why do I give up nearly all of my nights and weekends for a side gig? Why do I stay up an extra 2-3 hours on weekdays? Why do I go through the waiting process until a client books? Why do I blog twice a week, post on Instagram 1-3x a week, invest hundreds of dollars into photography education, or listen to podcast after podcast about building a business? Heck, why do I tolerate rejection when potential clients tell me they don’t like my work? Because God gave me a passion and an ability to learn a skill that uses the creative nature he placed in me to serve people.

My True Purpose in Life

Now buckle up, because this next statement might shock most of you.

I found my purpose in life — and it’s not working in P.R., advertising, or even being a wedding photographer! My purpose is this: to know God, and to make God known. It’s the only purpose I can have in life that won’t change when circumstances change. Because here’s the deal, guys… I am only a wedding photographer until my camera breaks, or I get carpal tunnel in my trigger hand, or I lose my eyesight, or financial hardship hits and I have to sell my gear, or nobody even hires me. So if my purpose is to take pretty pictures at weddings, my purpose is easily destroyed and stolen from me.

But if my purpose is to get to know God better (in this case, by viewing his Creation as made in His own image, and appreciating the unique ways He created each one of my clients) and to make God known (by showing love to my clients and serving them, as Jesus served), then my purpose is built on a solid foundation. I can accomplish knowing God and making God known in EVERYTHING that I do — wedding photography, 9-5 office jobs, blue collar, and more!

The Pursuit of Excellence

That’s why I am hustling so hard. Yes, I dream of shooting at weddings, but not because I just love white dresses and floral arrangements (although, yes, that too). I work this hard so that I can perform with EXCELLENCE! Making God known means working hard to be the BEST photographer I can be, so that one day I have a platform and an opportunity to serve and tell others why I love serving.

By hustling hard in my side business, I am setting a foundation for my platform to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around me. That may mean charging my worth to make a profit, and staying true to my prices and policies with my clients. But by doing so, and being a good steward, I open myself to an opportunity to have the financial stability to serve in those special cases that I’m called to. For example, when a bride’s father is terminally ill, I can use my gift to bless her with a free father-daughter session in her wedding dress and his tux. When a groom is laid off from his job when the economy tanks, and they can no longer afford my services, I have a choice to gift them with my work to serve them a time of need. If one of my clients, years after I’ve photographed their wedding, just can’t seem to conceive a child, and one day God finally gifts them with a baby after years of trying and exploring options, I can help them celebrate by gifting them with a maternity or newborn session.

These are just examples, and every case would have to be weighed with grace and discernment. But the point is this, if I build this business successfully, it can serve others excellently. And when those being served ask me, “Why are you doing this? You’re a for-profit business.” I can say, “Because Jesus, though he understood the finances behind a ministry (He had a treasurer, guys… remember Judas?) he also knew when it was time to get on his knees and wash feet. He was a steward AND a servant, and I follow in His example. I’ve been a steward this far, now let me be a servant to you, that you may know that God loves you and sees you.”

I tear up just thinking about the possibility of having those conversations one day! And who knows, maybe I won’t. But I’ll still serve even if I’m not given the opportunity to explain my service, whether by providing for a need or just loving on my clients well.

I know this was a long one, guys. Thanks for sticking through this with me. I hope now you understand that this side hustle of mine is more than just a fanciful dream of the ideal home-based career. I’m fine and happy working a 9-5, but I’m fulfilled serving clients well in every experience they have with me and building a pattern of excellence in my business.

Next week I’ll explain what that looks like in more practical terms, and how I make it all happen!

Thanks for reading!

Xx Emily

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