Quick intro before I dive into this blog, but I dug deep into my hard drive the other day and found something I had written that I never got around to publishing.
Anyways, I wrote this post around the theme of overcoming self-limiting beliefs, and my biggest obstacle that I ever experienced was mustering up the courage to leave what some people called "the dream job" to pursue my own passion and start a business.
I wrote this in January 2017, 9 months into launching Charuk Studios. When I was reading through it today I was surprised at how much insight I had because everything I wrote I still (a year and a half later) 100% stand behind.
This will be one of those posts I will reread again and again to remind myself why I started, what really matters in my life, and that I can do this!💪
(Side note, the post is more formal that my usual writing style, but it was sweet to look back and see my growth😌)
I’m excited to share my story of how I overcame my self-limiting beliefs of leaving my 9-5 job to starting my own business. I’m Jessica Charuk, the founder, photographer and creative director at Charuk Studios. I launched my business in April 2016, which was only 9 months ago from when I wrote this. Charuk Studios is a film and photography studio that creates custom imagery to best represent the style and brand of a business.
I had been a photographer for a few years previous and had spent a long time learning and perfecting my craft while I was in University and working in the fashion industry. I struggled with the limitations I put on myself and didn’t even realize I was doing it. But once I was able to overcome my negative thoughts, I was able to give up my 9-5 corporate job and pursue my dream career as an entrepreneur.
My Back Story
For a while I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I think a clear sign for me was every time I worked at a job I always daydreamed of how I could improve the business or start my own and make it better. I loved learning about the inner workings of a company, and had a thirst for knowledge that couldn’t be quenched.
I still to this day have this undying love for entrepreneurship because I dream of implementing my own ideas and having control over my future. However I felt that I lacked the practical skills to make it a reality.
I didn’t study business or marketing, I actually went to University for Fashion Communication and graduated with a Bachelor of Design. In University I studied graphic design, fashion journalism, photography, and illustration among other creative fields. Photography is what stuck with me the most.
I was 19 when I starting learning how to use a DSLR camera. I would dream up photo shoot concepts, buy thrift store curtains and sew them into dresses. I would recruit my friends to be models and do their hair and makeup in my mom’s kitchen, then wander through forests or abandoned houses in search of the perfect location. I always loved translating a story through imagery, and photography was my chosen method to do so.
I realized early on that I am most happy and fulfilled when I get to create for others and for myself. I know deep down that is how I am meant to serve the world. I wanted a career where I could fulfill both my passion for photography, creative direction and entrepreneurship, which is how I came up with the idea for Charuk Studios.
My Corporate Job
Let’s rewind to the year before I started my business. A few weeks before I graduated University, I was offered a job as a marketing strategist at a well-known Canadian fashion retailer. I took it without question because it was safe (and also exciting at the time). It was a full time job with benefits and in my field of study, an opportunity any new graduate couldn’t turn down. Also the fears of everyone around me not finding a job in their field and having to resort to minimum wage jobs really worried me.
So I moved 6 hours away and left my friends, boyfriend and family behind to start this new path. I was excited to experience a new city and change up my stagnant routine, and I was ready to soak up everything around me at my new job.
However after a few months in, I felt bored at work and under-utilized. The tasks were repetitive and I didn’t feel challenged. It was during this time I realized how much I valued self-growth; I always wanted to be improving, refining my skill set and learning. I really enjoyed creating for a client, or in this case the company directors. I wanted to plan photo shoots or marketing plans with depth, and meaning. I wanted to create something that would resonate with our customers.
However I quickly learned that a corporate environment is more focused on the numbers (I get it, a company needs to make a profit to be sustainable). Daily I would think, there has to be more. I can actually make a difference in the world with my talents. It’s safe to say I wasn’t feeling happy or fulfilled at my corporate job.
On my commute to and from work I would daydream about my ideal job. I created a mental checklist of everything that fuelled my passion; that I would be excited to do. Getting to know clients on a personal level, collaborating with other creative individuals, telling a story through film and photography, and ultimately creating beautiful imagery. I knew that in order to have a job that met all my criteria I would need to create it myself. Deep down I knew I was meant to run my own business, but I was so fearful. I had too many doubts racing through my mind.
How would I afford my apartment? Where would I find clients? Who would pay me for my service? What would my friends and family think? I can’t charge for my photography, it’s just a hobby!
When I would discuss my ideas with those close to me I was in desperate need of their validation. I wanted them to encourage me to make the leap, I wanted them to believe I could do it.
However I didn’t receive the reaction I had hoped for. Everyone around me had no entrepreneurship experience and didn’t know one thing about starting a business. They thought it was impossible. I took their opinion personally and it took some time for me to realize those were THEIR fears and doubts, not mine! So I decided I could either let those around me dictate my actions or step up and believe in myself and walk my true path, no matter how scary the unknown was.
Launching Charuk Studios and My Advice for Success
Eventually I realized understanding business is only part of entrepreneurship. The biggest hurdle I experienced as a new entrepreneur was shifting my mindset. Instead of thinking my dream was impossible, I forced myself to believe that it was attainable and that I was good enough to achieve it. I had to muster up the courage to speak about my plans boldly to those around me and feel confident in what I had set out to accomplish.
The secret to launching a business is making the leap, because there will never be a perfect time. Something that I stressed about for a while before making the switch was money. I needed a certain amount to sustain my current living situation, and I knew running a business meant I would have additional costs. I was fearful that I would go into debt if I couldn’t find clients right away.
My solution was to reduce my cost of living as much as possible and find some sort of income stream I could depend on while I was in my first year of business. So I sucked up my pride, got rid of my beautiful downtown apartment and moved home with my family. It made sense because I would save on rent, hydro, Internet, transportation, and groceries.
I was fortunate to have my corporate job offer me a part time gig as a freelancer that I could do virtually. This gave me the flexibility to work anytime and anywhere while earning a small income I could live off of. Now I invest what I make from my clients back into my business without having any financial burden.
You may think I lucked out with my situation, but there are many ways you can cut costs and there are numerous ways to bring in a bit of extra money. Get a part time job, sell old belongings, or become an Uber driver! Just stop making excuses and start looking for solutions.
Another key to a successful business is to set goals and then write up a plan of how to achieve them. If you are anything like me, I’m sure you are overflowing with ideas. However you are one person and have a finite amount of time, you cannot execute everything. I am a big believer to do fewer things but do them extremely well instead of pursuing many ideas and not devoting enough time and energy to those projects.
So what is that big, scary dream in your heart? Decide what it is you want, no matter how far out of reach it may seem, and create a plan to turn that dream into a reality. If you lose track of what you had your heart set on, clear your mind and focus on what it is you feel pulled to do. Sometimes our mind, especially when you are a creative person, can feel overwhelmingly cluttered and it is easy to loose sight of what you are working towards.
Since launching Charuk Studios a big part of what has helped my business grow is networking. I approach networking like I would a friendship. I genuinely try to get to know potential clients and figure out how I can help them. I refer them to other businesses, send them articles they would be interested in, feature them on my social media, schedule Skype chats to better get to know each other, share business or photography tips and most of all I offer support and encouragement.
Doing these acts doesn’t always result in them hiring me for my service, but building a trustworthy relationship is always beneficial. Plus people hire and recommend businesses they know, like and trust, which is why relationships are so vital to a business’s success.
Misconceptions of Working a 9-5 Job vs. Entrepreneurship
For those of you reading this that feel pulled to start a business but have your concerns about leaving your 9-5 job, I want to clear up your misconceptions. I used to believe these thoughts and now my outlook on what shapes an ideal and successful career is completely different.
Firstly, being employed is giving you a false sense of security. Unless you have a job that guarantees you won’t be let go, all companies could downsize, go bankrupt, outsource your job, or be replaced with younger, cheaper employees. And if you lose your job, you lose your whole single stream of income.
When I realized that one of my biggest reasons for not quitting my job was a complete misconception, I no longer felt pressured to stay because it was secure. I opened my mind up to the possibilities of running a business and now I know this will be the more secure route in the future.
I am building a roster of clients, a loyal audience, and generating multiple streams of income. And a business can be scaled. You stop trading your time for money by outsourcing or hiring employees and you become in control of how much you earn. You don’t have to wait for a raise from your boss. When you run your own business you can increase your rates, market more to book extra clients or launch a new product. The possibilities to grow your wealth are endless!
Also for some reason people think they need to make a lot of money to successfully be an entrepreneur. But if you could do a job you love and work with clients you adore and even just match your current income, wouldn’t that be better than going to a job you are unhappy working at?
Waking up every morning feeling energized, excited to work, and free to control your day is truly priceless! So no, I don’t believe you need to be making 6 figures to be successful. You’ve won the ultimate vision of success if you are living a life you love.
Changing my mindset was a game changer for me and was the factor that pushed me to launch my business. When I realized I was now on the right path, my self-doubt started to melt away. When I begin to question whether this was the right decision or pressure myself to be more and achieve more, I step back and accept that I am doing what I am meant to and have to trust the timing of my life.
It really is exciting being in the beginning stages of running a business and pursuing a dream. I feel so blessed and at peace knowing that if money wasn’t an issue and I could have any job in the world, I would still be running Charuk Studios and creating beautiful brand photography and films for business owners (actually just creating period!)
Whatever your dream is, I say go after it and live a life without regret.