Recapturing the Love of Your Craft – Five Suggestions

Loyd Calomay
Loyd Calomay directing a steadicam operator on the set of his “Top Gun” wedding concept film.

It started just as a hobby.  A side thing you did because you loved it. Then at some point a friend, or a colleague or a family member said, “You really should do this as a living. You’d be so great at it.” Their words encouraged you. You thought to yourself, “Yeah! I could be really good at this. And I hate this job I’m in anyway. I’m going to do it!”

So you get a huge loan, tell your boss “Adios amigo!” and hang a shingle up to start your business. Life is good.

Then, reality sets in. You find out running a business is hard. The dream of sitting in a director’s chair calling action and cut, or photographing beautiful models all day long as photo assistants run around crazy to make your vision a reality, comes crashing down. QuickBooks. Sales. Marketing. Taxes. Customer service. Contracts. Managing people. Casting a vision. They all start to slowly, but surely, rob you of the joy you originally had. What was once a love, is now a job. You just traded your old job for a new one. What’s worse, you find yourself doing work that doesn’t motivate you because you have to in order to pay the bills. “Yeah, I’d love to shoot that legal deposition for you!” “Oh, you need head shots for your real estate business card, absolutely we can do that for you. That’s practically our specialty!”

You ask yourself, “What happened?” The dream is dead (or dying).

Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, that’s the price of being in business for yourself. There is no easy fix. You have to do what you have to do.

The good news is that there are choices you can make to recapture that love and passion. Here are five suggestions:

  1. Do Personal work. I can’t stress enough how important this is. You need to get out and do work for which you do not get paid, but that fulfills you.
  2. Practice, Practice, Practice. Keep honing your skills. Set aside time every week to learn your equipment, to practice shooting in different scenarios. Know every button on your camera so you can man it with your eyes closed.
  3. Sell What You Love. Be bold in your marketing and sell what you love. Many photographers and filmmakers do one kind photography/filmmaking, but it’s not necessarily the kind they want to do. Sometimes it’s because they don’t think they can get paid doing what they really love. That’s not necessarily true. If you’re a wedding filmmaker but you want to shoot “movies,” do what my friend and colleague Loyd Calomay of Red 5 Studios does: market and sell concept videos. The last project I saw him working on was a parody of “Top Gun” for his wedding clients.
  4. Delegate What You Don’t Love. In this economy you probably can’t afford to turn away work, even if it’s work you dislike. Outsource or delegate the work to employees or contractors.
  5. Get a J.O.B. This may be the hardest thing to do, but it may be one seriously worth considering. If you care more about the love of the craft than having to make a career out of it, there’s no shame in closing shop, getting a “regular” job, and doing your love on the side or just as a hobby. It may bring you full circle to where you first started, but if you’re happier because of it, that’s what’s important. There’s nothing that says you HAVE to stay in business.

What other ideas do you have for keep the joy alive?

12 thoughts on “Recapturing the Love of Your Craft – Five Suggestions

  1. LOve this ARTICLE, I’m going to print it. So relevent, thank you, 2x for the advice.
    Now go Live it. At my “dying” moment I shot my 1st Zombie Walk at the 5’Oclock bar. It was a charity (7th year) for the Cleveland Food Bank.

    I guess maybe it’s like; Feed the hungry people of the world so when they die they won’t come back as Zombies and eat you.

  2. I love your suggestion to work on personal projects! Sometimes it seems impossible to carve out time for our growing list of ideas for personal short films but it’s so crucial. Every time we shoot “just for the fun of it” we’re reminded how lucky we are to do this for a living. It’s not always perfect to own a creative business and be your own boss. Sometimes we daydream about having benefits again and the ability to “leave it at the end of the day” but the grass is always greener on the other side if you allow it to be.

    1. It definitely can be hard carving out that personal time. I can attest to that. But, I have also learned that we can waste a lot of time doing stuff we don’t need to do. Instead of playing Wii for 2 hours on sunday, go shoot. Instead of watching Social Network for the fifth time, go shoot. Instead of spending hours debating with people on your blog about haters (uh, that would be me) go shoot. 🙂

  3. Such a great post Ron! I found myself in this same position a couple years ago (in my stationery business)… I had to ask myself: “What is it that I used to do for fun? What are my hobbies?” What to do when your hobby becomes your job? I recently recommended that readers of our site go out and find new hobbies that they can embrace. Find a different take on their craft. (For example as a stationer I’ve been exploring decoupage… a paper art that I have no desire to turn into a business… but that I’m enjoying exploring.) It’s important to have this outlet because it makes you stronger in your business (contributes to your craft) and it makes you more diverse and more interesting.

    1. I’m glad you found it helpfull Michelle. Even though I generally right for photographers and filmmakers, I find that much of what I write about is applicable to many professions, especially creative ones.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. Thanks for writing this Ron. This is very relevant to me right as a new business owner. I been doing jobs because “I have to” not because “I want to”. The danger in this that I do crappy work especially with clients who have a limited vision and only want to do their own episode of QVC and sale their product and not telling a good story to promote brand.

    So just recently decided to get a part time job and do my business documentaries on the side.

    I’m considering doing free documentaries for non-profits. Have them compete for me not the other way around! Have them write grants to gain my attention and give me a reason why they need my services. This will allow me to get more experience, promote myself, experiment and do it when I want to, not because I have to! Hopefully I’ll get a point where I’ll be high in demand and start doing it full time again.

    Thanks again and keep on writing!

      1. Thanks Ron, I’ll actually will be something similar with a ad company in Denver. It’s same as pro-bono for a year and I’ll be doing all the film documentary coverage.

        We chosen already chosen the client, I just don’t know if I’m suppose to announce it yet! 🙂 Very excited!

        So I’ll be doing that and maybe another non-profit just for myself.

  5. Nice read! I couldn’t agree more. Continuing to do my most personal work is the utmost importance in keeping me sane. I pick up “term” graphic/web design, imaging and photo editing work on the side to keep my very new business afloat. Doing my very best and not half-assing any assignment is also vital on those occasions when it is not a “dream” photography gig. Re: No.5, I’d rather slit my wrists than go back to corporate work full-time, so that’s motivation enough.

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