Remember to protect your passion

Many budding entrepreneurs have taken something they are passionate about and translated it into a business. Passion is a key ingredient to building a business that lasts.

But what happens when your “passion arteries” begin to clog up with distractions, activities and situations that threaten to derail you? How can you maintain this passion when such challenges arise?

I have a relative who shares five things he does to protect his passion in his photography business. I believe these can be applied to just about any business. I trust you will enjoy and apply these principles.

Protecting your passion

Now that photography is your job, you need to make sure you don’t lose your passion for it. That was advice I blissfully ignored for my first few years as a professional photographer. I was getting paid to do my passion. What could possibly go wrong?

A few years later, I found myself at Iguazu Falls in South America. When American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw Iguazu, her first words were, “Poor Niagara.” But, all I could think about was how annoying all the tourists were, wondering how they thought their photos could be improved with their face in the way of the falls.

Something was wrong – photography was feeling like a job, not a passion. The boundless energy I have from following my passion felt absent.

Fast forward a few years to where I am sitting in Israel and have photographed every sunrise since arriving. My energy is back and so is my passion. This is how I recovered and protected it:

Measure income against time

Being your own boss means you set your own work schedule. If I compare what I make to what an accountant makes, it can be disheartening. I changed my mind-set on this by thinking of my hourly rate. An accountant might make about R1.8 million a year, but he works 2 070 hours a year earning R861 an hour. If I make only R718 000 a year but do it working 960 hours, I make R736 an hour and have a lot more time to enjoy life. Which leads me to my next point.

Enjoy life

An entrepreneur never really takes a break. Even when you’re relaxing, some part of your brain is thinking about your business.

When I used to work for a boss, my work hours were scheduled. Now that I work for myself, I’ve found that I’ve had to schedule my non-working hours. I literally have to put time aside in my dairy just for the purpose of enjoying life.

In my case, this means spending time with my family and seeing friends socially, all without my camera.

Although photography is my passion and I love doing it – happiness correlates with two factors: meaningful work and involvement in community.

If I focus only on my work, it drains the happiness from my life.

Practise presence

Standing in front of a beautiful sunset along a Portuguese beach, I found myself thinking about where I should display the images to maximise their marketing potential. My head was somewhere in the future, not in the present – which was as good as it gets.

I watched a TV series called Billions, where the lead characters lived such stressful lives that they prescribed physical pain for themselves to force them to be present.

I take a less painful approach – I practise gratitude.

Back to that Portugal scene, I flipped the switch and started saying things like thank you for this beautiful light. Thank you that I can be barefoot on a beach during working hours. Thank you that my children are playing in the sea and I can hear their laughter. Being thankful in a moment puts me in the present. It also helps me do a better job as it fosters creativity.

Pay the fees

Being a travel photographer allows me to experience some significant highs, but to get to those points requires some tedious lows. In my case, it is a mixture of photographing uninspiring places, doing admin and commuting through airports. I make these lows more bearable by treating them as the fees I have to pay to achieve the highs. This has a secondary benefit of making me extra grateful when I do experience something that I really want to photograph.

Set mini challenges

Some work that I do is easy to the point of being tedious. For example, in Europe, I’m often asked to photograph historic churches and cathedrals.

I used to see this as wasted time and couldn’t wait to get it over with, but I changed my approach and now I enjoy it.

What I did was ask – how would a specialist (an expert) photograph this? After doing some research, I realised an architectural photography approach would be needed, which caused me to get some specialist equipment.

The shoots became infinitely more challenging and therefore more interesting. It also fostered a new love for architectural photography, which has become a second business.

Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. His column appears once a month. Email comments or questions to Steve.Reid@falsebay.org.za or visit www.falsebayincubate.co.za for more about the CFE.

The CFE is recruiting for aspiring entrepreneurs who have a business in furniture making; engineering or are looking to start a business in these fields. If you are a young person with a truly terrific idea/concept for a business, contact Yondi Titi at 021-201 1215 or on email at yondi.titi@falsebay.org.za