You could be reading a million things right now, but you’re reading this. And since I spend time in your inbox each week (if not, you can learn more here), I wanted to share a little more about my photo journey, including the crappy parts where I could’ve quit.
I found this path–full-time photographer/business coach/podcaster–in a weird, sad, and exciting way. It was a lesson I still teach to folks dreaming of growing a photo business, but not without its challenges.
But it’s an important lesson.
I finished graduate school and took a job teaching high school English in Prishtina, Kosova a few months later. I loved high schoolers, with their hilarious, hormone-driven energy and fresh ideas. Just hang out at a bar before it closes and watch everyone: that’s high school.
My dream, my life-plan, and my very expensive education were all pointing to years of teaching in places I might never otherwise have a chance to live. I was so excited, newly married, and into using my photography skills and brand new photo biz (Natalie Champa Jennings Photography…more on NOT going long with your name & URL later, haha) to grow my portfolio as I traveled.
It was great at first. I took photos of the city, my students, and began building my business as a side hustle.
Then, a couple of months after my move to Prishtina, I found out I was pregnant. We chose to return to Minnesota to have the baby, the top reason being that the access to medical care was really challenging, especially with the language barrier.
-back home living with parents
-both of us temporarily unemployed
-excited to be parents
-sad the dream was on hold
And then I went into labor mid-term and the plan changed again.
After we lost our baby, and I was adjusting to all of these changes, I just didn’t have the mindset or energy for finding subbing positions back in a place I wasn’t super excited to be in.
But I’d found that learning about all things business really lit me up. And I had a growing obsession with photography and the possibility of building a photo business so I could still travel, explore, and do something I enjoyed.
We decided on a financial target, agreeing that if the business wasn’t strong enough by spring hiring season, I’d go back to teaching for another year. But my mind and dreams were made up: It will work. I’m going to build this photography business.
And I did. And the only teaching I ever returned to was the coaching you see here at Photo Business Help.
My why was so strong: I wanted to be my own boss so I could live my dream of traveling and working my own weird hours on my terms.
That was over a decade ago now, and I’ve been a full time lifestyle photographer ever since. My photography business, now Jennings Photo (way easier!) opened so many doors around the world including Australia, Israel, Guatemala, Palestine, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Scotland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, and most of the fifty states (Alaska, I’m coming for you soon!).
Why am I telling you this?
Because none of this was perfect. Most of it wasn’t part of my original plan. A lot of it was challenging, but all of it was worth it.
I made it through because I had an indestructible why.
And that’s why I’m opening up to you with this story, to remind you of some very important pieces to consider on your own photo business journey:
-Know your why. It will carry you through the valleys.
-Be receptive to doors opening in ways you might not be planning for, and probably don’t even see yet.
As you get to know Photo Business Help a little better, you’ll learn more about me, too. Including the specifics of how I built all of this, what I learned, what didn’t work, and what I believe you’ll need to grow your business so it’s strong and enjoyable.
Starting Jennings Photo changed my life for the better, and I want that for you, too.
Because I know that a rising tide lifts all boats. And I still love teaching 🙂
Thank you for taking some of your time to get to know me a little better. And thank yourself for being here in this community. Community is a beautiful first step–and necessary pillar–that will support your journey, wherever it takes you.
PS: For more info on what's going on in our photo community, check out this awesome opportunity!