Time has been flying so fast, I can never remember how long it’s been since I left GM. Looking at the calendar, it’s been three years to the day, and today also is the day that GM filed for bankruptcy. A lot of people have asked how I feel about not working there anymore so I decided to put some thoughts together. There are definitely a lot of pros AND cons.
1) I will never be laid off. Times will be tough but when the economy is bad, I have the option to work longer, harder, and smarter to try to make things work as long as our business can stay afloat.
2) I get to work with Cheridy every day. Lots of people don’t like working with their spouse but we have a good relationship. Cheridy is comfortable letting me be the boss and her be the assistant which provides us both a defined role where there is little conflict. This provides us lots of opportunity to spend time together. It might not necessarily be “quality” time, but at least we’re together.
3) I get to work from home and be close to Mayz. I don’t get to spend as much time with him as I would like, but at least I get to see him throughout the day and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. I also can work in my pajamas with my awesome bedhead if I want…however, that can be a bit embarrassing when UPS makes a delivery at 3:00 and I look like I just woke up. Working from home also cuts out any rush hour driving and saves a ton on gas. I only put about 7K miles per year on my car and all that comes from using it for the wedding and portrait jobs that we drive to.
4) If I want to make more money, I have the option to do so by working harder. Being dedicated and working harder at GM got me above average raises each year, but then when times got tough, raises were minimal or cut all together so there wasn’t much motivation to work harder than the next guy.
5) Everything that I do adds value to my business. I spent 10+ years at GM and in that time only 2 cars I worked on made it to the road and everything else was canceled which was very disappointing and quite a motivation killer. Now, every new thing I learn and every hour that I work adds value to our business and to our bottom line.
6) We get to bring joy to people with what we do. Our job is to photograph people at their most exciting times in their life (high school graduation, wedding, new baby, etc) and it’s a real blessing to be able to share that time with them and provide them with family heirlooms that they’ll have forever.
7) The pay is much better. We’ve been really blessed with lots of great jobs and have been financially compensated beyond anything we could have dreamed. However, this changes from one job to the next and one year to the next (see CONS list).
8) My days just fly by. There were days at GM that I wasn’t busy and watching the clock tick seconds away was just agonizing. Now, I can work 10 hours straight and it feels like half an hour.
9) There are tax benefits and things that we can write off that save us a lot of extra money every year.
10) Instead of working for “the man” I get to BE “the man”! Actually, even when I was at GM, I had fantastic bosses and worked for genuinely good people but ultimately most decisions were not mine to make and at a big company like GM, there are rules and politics that dictated what you did or how you did things that made your job more difficult.
1) If I get hurt, I can’t work. It’s not like it was at GM where I could shrug it off and say “it all pays the same.”
2) There is more pressure as everything is on MY shoulders. I never felt much accountability at GM because it never felt like what I did made that much of a difference but now what I do makes ALL the difference as my every day paycheck is completely reliant on how hard I work and how smart the decisions are that I make.
3) Working from home might be a pro, but it’s also a con as there is no separation from work. When you love what you do and you are a work-a-holic and you work from home, it’s tough to leave it alone and turn things off.
4) My hours are MUCH longer. When I was at GM, I rarely worked more than 40 hours and it was easy to leave work behind and go home. Now, I regularly work 80+ hours per week and even more in the summer when we’re really busy. As our business continues to develop, this will hopefully change.
5) We work every weekend in the summer. Weddings always happen on summer weekends so if we want to get paid, we need to work on summer weekends. We do have more time to do things during the week, but family parties and camping trips with friends are always on the weekends so we miss all those.
6) No paid vacation time. At GM between vacation days and holidays I probably had about 6 weeks off. Now, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. It’s difficult to even plan a vacation because we have no idea when we will get booked for a job. During a good economy it’s easier to just block a time period on the calendar for a vacation and not worry about it, but when times are tougher, you want to book everything you can because you just don’t know if/when the phone might stop ringing.
7) Being self-employed, there are no benefits (insurance, 401K, etc.) We currently don’t have dental insurance and we pay a LOT of money every month for health insurance, life insurance and disability insurance and none of what we have is anywhere close to the benefits that I had through GM. Our health insurance has a super high deductible which keeps the premiums down but also makes us question if we really need to go to the doctor or not.
8) It is very difficult to budget because we don’t know what our income will be. We might have one job that comes through and pays great and another job with equal the amount of work that pays 1/10th the amount of the first. Our income could double or cut in half from one year to the next just depending on who comes in our door. With weddings, we at least have some idea of what we will be making as those jobs book more in advance, but portraits and other jobs account for 40% of our income and we typically get those jobs within a week or two of the job itself and even with that we don’t know how much someone will spend until their job is completed. This makes it extremely hard to make long term decisions as we don’t know what we will be able to afford next year or the year after. Also, about 80% of our income comes during about 7 months of the year so we need to be very smart with our money to make it last the full 12 months.
9) I miss the social atmosphere of being at GM. I LOVE spending time with Cheridy but I also miss having “work friends” and I’m sure Cheridy feels the same way.
10) It can be very exhausting to have to wear so many hats. At GM, I had my job and knew what was expected and it didn’t change much. Many people think that it must be great to be a photographer and in fact, it was recently on a top 10 list of “sexiest jobs” but what most people don’t realize is that being a photographer is only a VERY small percentage of our job. They forget that to be a self-employed photographer, you also are an image editor, receptionist, contracts and paperwork writer/organizer, tech support, graphic designer, marketer, networker, teacher/trainer, maid, project manager, salesman, product developer, etc. Wearing so many hats can become exhausting. Many photographers are only good at photography and therefore make very little money because it’s all the other jobs that actually make the most difference. The ultimate goal is to have people assist or take over many of these duties but until you have “your people”, you have to do it all.
Overall I think life was a lot simpler when I worked solely as an engineer at GM. I think the most challenging time for me was the transition from GM to photography were I spent a couple years trying to do both jobs and got burned out easily. Now that I run my own business, life is definitely more complex and challenging, but it’s much more fulfilling and rewarding and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Due to GM’s bankruptcy and uncertainty, I’m very glad to not be there anymore and I will continue to pray for my family/friends at GM that they will get to keep their jobs.