Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Perils of the Real World

Today I got a message from an anonymous internet user, telling me I was struggling to make money and pretty much laughing at the fact that lately I've been offering shoots and workshops more directly lately.

Nasty online stuff like this stings at first. For about a second. Then you realize; you know what - living on your own is hard! Running a business IS hard, making ends meet IS hard - especially when you're 20, especially when you're 25, 30, 40, 50. Everyone is going to run into this at some point in their life, I can now look back blissfully at the days when I lived with my parents and had no rent, no bills, no food needed to be bought for me. My parents worked SO hard, and it's only now that I feel terrible for the fake tan stains I left on the carpet they paid for.

I'm not going to lie, or put up a front or go on and on about what I charge for what. I don't need to make myself expensive to know that my work is getting much much better in quality - I don't need to charge thousands of £££ for a shoot or even a wedding to feel like I am successful.

behind the scenes shooting a wedding - when you don't have a ladder nearby...
photo by Debbie Merchant

I am a big believer in that being self employed is not only a great way to live your life, but to earn money as well. I encourage everyone I meet to consider it, and I tell them the things I wasn't taught but wish I was when I was 16 or so.

Shit's expensive. But shit's expensive whether you start now, or go to uni and start after that. That's a personal choice - but this blog post I guess is going to be a frank and open piece of my life, about what I spend and how much my lifestyle as it is costs.

Appetizer (per month):

Rent: £700
Council tax: £118
Parking: £100
Car Insurance: £180
Help with emails: £200
Internet: £80 (I got so ripped off for this one!)
iPhone: £55
Water/Electric: £100
Food: £10-£15 per day (280)
Petrol: £250 (wedding travel mainly)
Tax: 20% of all earnings

Which means that per month, I need to make at LEAST £2300 a month to do all the necessary stuff.

Main Course:

Cleaning Supplies
Cat Food/Litter etc
Make Up, Toiletries
Accidents (like getting mugged, set me back £400)
Props for shoots

This is the stuff that kind of makes all the other stuff a bit more fun, not quite as necessary (except the cat food), but still very useful. This can be about £200 a month.

Dessert (The stuff you shouldn't spend money on, but do because life's for living):

Trips away with iain
Petrol for those trips
Food for those trips
Dinners out
Lending money to friends (£450 this month)
Clothes shopping
Buying an external hard drive
Holidays etc
Furnishing a flat

Sadly for me, I haven't had much dessert for the past couple of months. I bought an external hard drive and iain and I have visited York and Wales on camping trips (fuck extortionate hotel prices!), but that's about it for pudding.

When I look at my expenses this way, it makes me feel a whole lot more successful. Because even though my savings don't show for much, and I may have had some "holy shit, how am I going to afford to pay rent next month?!" moments, I CAN say that I have worked SO hard. I am 20 years old, and have made enough money to not only cover my basics, but to go on a holiday to Sri Lanka for 10 days this year! I drive a car. I pay my own way for EVERYTHING I do. I've been able to help my friends out when they needed me.

So even though I'm cutting back, moving to a new apartment where I'm saving £100 or so on rent per month, even though I'm taking on more work and asking people to come on workshops and offering discounts on shoots - you know what, at least I'm trying. And I'm so proud that I'm doing this, and I look around in my flat and I feel so proud that it's ME that's paying for it all.

When I look at things like that, suddenly I don't feel like I'm a joke, or like I'm unsuccessful. Because life is hard whichever road you take. Money isn't the end of the world, and it certainly won't make you happy, but knowing you've worked your butt off to pay for the stuff you enjoy does.

I've had the panics, the moments of doubt - knowing you can only rely on yourself for your income is a ridiculous amount of pressure. My alopecia has come back in full force and I feel it - I've had multiple nervous breakdowns to my mum, and sometimes I feel like a big old failure. Making money will always be tough, and I'm not going to pretend like it's always plain sailing. I work my socks off from 8am, and just because I'm offering a discount doesn't mean I don't have enough work to keep me busy. I'm not one to turn down an oppurtunity, if I feel it's fair.

Blindsided On An Idle Tuesday

I'm lucky enough to be able to do something I love - photography! And today I'm not going to let anyone make me feel like I'm failing when I'm struggling. We all struggle, and it's when we come out of those that we really see what we're capable of!

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

with iain yesterday at York Maze!

Thanks for listening, rant over! :)


  1. Oh my goodness Rosie, It is so nice to know i'm not the only person who feels this way. Thankyou for being so honest. I find it really hard to admit to people i'm struggling. When people hear I have my own business they automatically asume i'm wodded for some reason. Infact it's the exact opposite.
    I'm based in a studio in central Manchester, if you ever need studio hire and want to share the fees with me... Just give me a shout :)

  2. I hear you Rosie! I had to leave Manchester last month after a year of living on my own because my income just couldn't support living on my own. It totally sucks! But you know in your heart of hearts you work bloody hard (I mean, we can all see it through the quality of your work.)

    Just ignore the stupid haters and keep on doing what you're best at - you're a thousand times more successful than most 20 year olds and you're so talented! xxx

  3. Rosie,
    Please don't feel like you need to justify yourself or justify your prices. It is not another person's business to know your budget; it is not their business to know your personal affairs. You do not need to defend yourself; you're talented and enthusiastic - just keep doing what you're doing.

  4. I love you Rosie. Your honesty is incredible. We fellow struggling photographers thank you, from the bottoms of our hearts. <333

    & keep on truckin' lady! As I'm sure you know, life is filled with highs and lows, but we never really have to worry too much because where there's a low, there's a high just around the corner! ;-)

  5. Rosie, thanks for this post, it's on a subject I'm sure the majority of people can relate to, I certainly can. On top of this I also support my 8 year old daughter from a previous relationship and have just gone into full time freelance so I'm certainly feeling the pressure at this time. If you're anything like me you would find it hard to find any fault in your efforts and you should be very proud of your accomplishments.

    When the pressure builds it's easy for someone to say something that's unwarranted that makes you break. When that happens all you have to do is look back at your achievements. Your work is sublime and I guarantee you influence a lot of people in such a positive way.

    Sad to hear about your alopecia has returned but it will never change what's within and your strong soul will prevail.

    "The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

    Beautifully summarised, a great motivational quote.

    I wish you all the best Rosie, continue influencing those around you and never forget to put on a smile when you leave the house in the morning.

    All the best and more.


  6. Amazing to hear this type of thinking from a 20 yo woman! I'm truly impressed and sure that your life will be as wonderful as you expect it to be, as you struggle it to be actually! You know what you want and do what you think is right to get it, that sounds to me the best way to succeed! Best of luck.

  7. Glad you're not paying attention to the haters!
    You're totally right to look at your expenses the way you do, when you're making enough to pay for/do the essentials and still have enough to treat yourself at the end of the day, working hard feels great!
    Keep up the amazing hard work you do Rosie!

  8. The nasty email is just jealousy. I will be contacting you soon to book in my shoot yay!!! x

  9. Don't let people like that get you down, and by the looks of the "rant" they haven't! It's comments like that, that really fuel me even more! It makes me more determined!

    You'll do great!

  10. You, my dear, are an incredible success already at such a young age. I have no doubts you will only become more so as your accomplishments and fame grow..and they will grow. Cheers to being open and honest about life as an entrepreneur and a person. We can only use more of this in life, not less. No need to justify yourself to anyone as you have stated, your life and your business are just that..YOURS and you are doing well.


  11. Can I just say, WELL DONE! So nice to hear someone standing up for themselves. These online hooligans are just that. If they were out there doing something they loved and worthy, they wouldn't even consider leaving rude comments, OR have the time to do just that.

    Keep doing what you're doing and keep being you. Don't let anyone online or offline knock you down and thank you for sharing this as well. I get this type of thing a lot and I brush it off, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one being attacked!

  12. It never fails to amaze me how incredibly cruel and insensitive some people can be. I honestly don't know how it can possibly make anyone feel good to cut someone else down and laugh at their (perceived) misfortune, true or otherwise.

    To me it sounds like someone out there feels seriously threatened by your photographic skill and nous for business. And they obviously have enough time on their hands to construct a cowardly anonymous attack,so perhaps they were projecting their own issues towards you?

    I really hope that message hasn't got you down too much, keep on doing what you're doing Rosie, good things will keep on coming :)

  13. Rosie, dont let one idiot get you riled up. That is all they are is an idiot, perior. EVERYONE in life struggles - EVERYONE, unless they are born with money. Be proud of what you have created BY YOURSELF, and do not let one person's comments hurt you. There is nothing wrong with ranting, trust me, but do not let some idiot make you feel less valueable, and less important than you are! You have grown SO much over the last several years and ANY idiot...hint hint - could see that if they would look. Keep your head up, know many many many people are right there with you struggling. Life is SO WORTH the struggles... Enjoy it girl :)

  14. I highly doubt whoever sent that message understands what it's like to be a legitimate business owner. The first few years of a venture or even being completely independent from mommy & daddy are always the most difficult, especially when you're starting from scratch. When you're running your own business, there are legal fees & issues to contend with, taxes to pay, advertising/networking fees, equipment/property investments, the list goes on. Don't forget that you're doing this during a time when most people are tightening their belts because the economy isn't as great as it could be. The whole thing can be a struggle & sometimes it just takes a while to get both feet firmly on the ground.

    You are headed in the right direction, especially for someone your age. There are plenty of photographers, but very few with the your vision & talent. Personally, I think you're someone who will go far. :)

  15. Great post, girl! Life is for living and that can get expensive. I'm right there with ya!

  16. Very well said Rosie. As another photographer in the same area, I kno exactly how you feel. The I've lost count of the amount of times I've almost put my camera away for good, and the amount of friends and partners I've lost due to the dedication and time it takes is tragic. For someone to email you such a thing totally baffles me. Anyhow, well done on how far you've come and you should know your mental attitude towards life far surpasses anything that these abusives could comprehend.

  17. Loving what everyone has to say to you in the comments above...they're right, people really do throw rocks at things that shine, so don't you worry your pretty little mind! Be proud at how together you are for your age- so many people couldn't say even nearly the same as you as far as caring for themselves, even many so much older than you. You're wicked talented, smart and generous to boot. I'm in a similar boat as you at 21 and it's great to hear you vent about some of my same concerns! Keep on keepin' on Rosie :)

    Also- I'm not seeing any of your images except one in this particular post, just fyi.

  18. Oh!!!!! You are such a great person. In age of 20 it is really gorgeous to earn so much money like you do. I am a big fan of you!!! I wish you only the best things in your life. Keep up the good work Rosie.

  19. Unlike the anonymous sender, you have taken time to put good back into the world with your humble and honest post. For whatever reason, that sender decided to add hurt and ridicule and however they justified it, they have done nothing good.

  20. If you can find my comment within all the well wishers, I would happily work for you for free!!


  21. I've just recently discovered your blog and (amazing) photographs. I'm trying to set up myself as a photographer and I look to you as a source of encouragement. I've saved up enough money to live off for 4 months (in Sydney) and am doing free shoots mainly just to keep shooting in the hopes that i can get paid work soon. It's so hard, some days i feel like packing it all in but you are definitely someone that I think of to keep me going. You're doing so so well don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I don't know many people who have achieved so much at such a young age and would love to be where you are. Keep it up :)

  22. Hi Rosie! Came across your blog link on twitter and it was so upsetting to me that some people only point out the negative in life. Comments like that, should be kept to themselves. If you don't have anything good to say, then don't say it. I have enjoyed seeing your career blossom and feel like you're living the dream of so many of us that are too afraid or chained to other responsibilities in life that won't allow us to be as free and adventurous as a twenty year old. I say enjoy your ride and exciting life adventure to the fullest and don't let annoying buggers with nasty comments get you down! One of my friends posted this quote on facebook and I really liked it and I think it resonates well with how you digested and decided on what to feel and what not to the nasty comment maker.

    "The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one's life."
    — Dalai Lama

  23. Your work is amazing -- I can't believe you are just 20! You are mature beyond your years and (though I've never met you) am proud of you for striking out on your own. Brave! That is what you are. Keep up the good work!!

  24. What a wonderful, honest post. I hope that anonymous person learns from this. Congratulations, you are doing really well to be able to sustain such a lifestyle. Especially at the age of 20!

    I'm shocked at some of the costs of things on your 'starters'! Do you live opposite Manchester railway station or something? And your food outgoing costs are massive too - are you sure that's correct? I buy only organic food from a local corporative run by a few people and it's really expensive. I buy lots of it and it only comes to £40 a week.

    I'm self-employed too and work part time. My wages are £150 a week (£7,200 a year!) as a music consultant, but somehow I survive. Check out my outgoings per month:

    Rent £390 for a studio flat in the centre of Brighton by the beach,
    Internet £7.50 (I go half with my neighbour),
    Food £160 (only organic),
    iPhone £40,
    Contact lenses £30
    Laundry £20
    TOTAL: £646.50

    This all doesn't include:
    Electricity: £5 a month
    Train tickets home to London to see family,
    Eating/going out,
    Organic Products eg shampoo - £100 over 3 months so far and counting!
    Haircut - I fix his computer stuff in exchange for a haircut from my hairdresser, so it's free for both of us.

    I reckon there's lots of room for saving! I'm mega curious about your food shopping list. Drop me an email, I'm a massive food/nutrition obsessive - massimozeppetelli@gmail.com

  25. Also, love the photo of us running in the field and Erin falls over! (I was the guy who didn't turn up in smart clothes as I pretty much cycled from Brighton to get to the wedding).

  26. I wholeheartedly agree with this post! Being self-employed and financially independent ain't easy!! Not to mention the seemingly never-ending purchases of new gear and marketing costs.

    I get so fed up of people (even friends) making snidy remarks about my hard earned rates and assume it pays for a lavish lifestyle. Grrr

  27. Struggling? Don't we all find some difficulty in making ends meet, finishing work at a reasonable hour, to time manage more effectively, say no more often, prioritise, selfishly pursuing noble achievements like university degree, drumming up your own business, being a reliable employee and/or being a stay-at-home parents.

    I'm pretty sure anyone can tick any of those boxes. Life was never meant to be easy or comfortable. We can only do what we can do.x

  28. you are amazing. i love your work, i sought your photos out on the web and searched until i found this blog. i am happy you are posting again, you inspire me. xoxo

  29. Dear Rosie,
    Don't listen to Aaron. He's a total arse.

  30. not only your photographs are beautiful, but you are a hell of a speaker as well! ;) i enjoy reading your articles, because they are true. you're true. i wish you all and only the best :)

  31. You are really impressive. Period.

  32. Dude, seriously. you have more brains and guts than most of the 35 year old people I know.

    you are talented, independent, smart and have HUGE heart.

    I will not write emails to you anymore unless it is life and death situation, so you'll have to pay less to your "email helper".

    Best of luck Rosie. you have such a great life ahead of you.

  33. I don't often leave comments but I was raged at the fact you have been treated in such a way.

    If I had half the taken you do I'd be setting up my own photography business. It's a big big step, but one worth every step - especially if you are making it and if you're not losing money then you ARE making it!

    Looking at your work and reading your stories I often forget how young you are. You are right having such a sense of achievement. Even if it were to all end tomorrow you can be proud of what you have done so far.

    As others have pointed out it is likely to be jealousy that is the cause of the negativity towards you, women what to be like you, men just want you.

    You might be a bit young to remember a song by Babybird called "You're Gorgeous". Look it up, it applies to you!

  34. hey Rosie,

    i know so many people have commented before me..but i just want to add my two pence! (for what it is worth!)

    this 'person', whoever they were, are obviously jealous of you and i really don't know where people get off being so mean.

    i have been following you and your work for quite a while now and you have SO inspired me, and also the fact that you are 20 years old and giving it a go, and succeeding at photography, is amazing.

    please don't let silly messages, like this one you got, get to you at all!

    this person does not even know you or your situation.

    personally, i want to say thank you for such an honest blog post.

    continue to be you and keep going....you are such an encouragement!

    thank you! BIG SMILES! :) xx

  35. Jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies.
    Elizabeth E. Bowen

    Loving the wedding photos... hoping to see some of mine on here soon!

    Rachel x

  36. Thanks for this post, Rosie. I find myself strugling to survive in the industry, just starting, and came to UK for a month to be able to make a good portfolio... spent all my saving doing that and yet, some people (close to me) don't understand.... having "grey, office" jobs is much more atractive to them... I know it's hard but I keep fighting because no matter how hard it is, I want that to be my life.
    Good luck with yours! you're doing a great job! (not just in photography but living your life)

  37. Rosie!!!
    You are an absolute inspiration and role model for me! Ironically, I have been intensively concerned and replanning our budget AND I was reading in my "How to start your career as a freelance photographer" book the chapter on planning your budget and finding creditors and making business plans, etc. Its like the world is coming together all at once!
    But - hey, the negative stuff only makes us better, because all you want to do is prove them wrong!
    You should set up a paypal account so people could send you donations for all the free tutorials you provide!!!

  38. Just saw your beautiful work and headed to your blog for more, and read this. Astonished that anyone would take time out of their day to have a go at you for doing an amazing thing, pursuing your dreams, and through your work preserving the memories of other people's dreams.

    I was astonished when I realised your were just 20 (god, makes me sound old). The quality of your work made me assume you were older, all credit to you. For you to be in the position you are in at 20 is perfectly normal even in a good economy. It takes time to get established, to make your name, to juggle expenses in a job that requires travel and equipment.

    So many people who work 9-5 with a steady income and no equipment outgoings are still in debt and unhappy, so I think it's great that you are doing what you love and still managing to make ends meet. I've been living the same way for years, camping holidays in Wales, tight food budget, worrying about bills and some very hungry days when I've need to pay for art materials but I wouldn't change a thing (40 now) and that's without the talent that you clearly have.

    I have no doubt you will go far and that when the economy picks up, and hopefully before then, you'll start making enough money to have a bit more dessert.

    I think you write as well as you photograph and it's been a pleasure to find this post as I sit in waiting a third day for a missing delivery. (one of the few times that being stuck at home with M.E. actually has some use).

    ANyway I'm just getting back to blogging after a few years lapse from bad health, and I'd like to post a few of your shoys and direct people to your website and blog, I hope that's ok.

    Good luck with your future, since luck can be the biggest factor sometimes, for those who are already very hard workers. You have every right to be proud of yourself. Happy snapping, may the light always work in your favour.

  39. Dear Rosie, don't pay any attention to the haters. People like that are not only despicable, but obviously deeply unhappy and discontent individuals. I actually feel sorry for anyone of that sort, it can't be fun for others around them!

    At your young, age you've achieved so much. You not only believe in yourself and things you do, but you're very strong. It's up to you to decide how you spend your hard-earned cash, it's nobody's business really. Times are hard and I find it amazing that you manage to fund your lifestyle with photography. Besides that, many ordinary workers with mundane jobs struggle to make ends meet, it's not just about having your own business and struggling. It's a fact of life and there should be no stigma attached to it. And one obvious thing: being self-emloyed is all about self-promotion. If you walk down the street and see a big flashy sign like Tesco, Barclays, Topshop… You soon realise that it's also about self-promotion for these businesses. How else would they get noticed by us if they were hidden? One must be pushy and visible in order to succeed.

    So take no notice, many people have nothing better to do than make others feel miserable and bad about themselves. Do avoid them, and as for the internet misery, it's easy to hide behind anonymity. Everyone can be a 'hero' of some devil sort that way.

  40. Generating your own income is the hardest thing ever - been there, done it, very successfully.
    Going out and sourcing your clients, rather than waiting for them to stumble across you shows great business skills.
    Being more accessible, offering deals and lowering prices so that more of "joe public" know who, and what your about will lead to recommendations, and your only as good as your last recommendation. Its self perpetuating,an ever increasing cycle that WILL generate more income long term.
    All good businessmen/women know this don't they????
    Apart from the half wit "internet user" who clearly has their head shoved up their own backside to be talking such s**t.
    Biggest economic down turn in generations........"internet user" has delusions of grandeur!!!
    As for the breakdowns to your mum - thats what mums are there for ;)

  41. You shouldn't feel like you need to justify yourself, your expenditures, or your art.

    Everyone needs to make money to buy shit to live.

    I don't believe much in retracting blog posts etc, but you should take down your outgoing expenditures. Noone should need to justify that, particularly to a horde of anonymous internet users.

    You are richer than most, in the sense that you are making a career of what you love, not what will pay the bills.

  42. Thank you so much for posting this blog and being so honest about it. I'm going to school to get my BFA and so I can't support myself, but even with my mom helping me every month I'm still really stressed out about money, especially worrying about supporting myself after I graduate when my parents will no longer be helping me. It's incredible that you're able to fully support yourself with your photography. I can't wait for the day to look around my apartment and know that I paid for everything with my own money.

    The thing I love most about your blog is that it's honest about the struggles of being a photographer... so many other wedding/fine art blogs have such little personality, as if people afraid to say they struggle because it will make their business less legitimate. But your personality (along with your art!) is the reason so many people follow you, I believe!

  43. I love your work Rosie and I think you're a fantastic photographer. I would love to have some of the confidence you do and knowledge of photo editing *Mainly lighting in my case* to make some of the extraordinary photos you've produced and captured. Being on your own is tough and the fact that you do it alone is quite brave. Some people get jealous and like to rain on your parade. Don't let them! Just let it make you stronger and more confident =)

  44. The most important thing Rosie - you never ever have to explain yourself to anyone. Remember about it and YOU GO GIRL! ;)

  45. Wow, Rosie. Thank you for posting this. I often worry about finances and I look up to you and respect you so much. Financing your life in its entirety at 20 is pretty amazing. I love your work!!

  46. You were successful as soon as you tried :o)

    You take fabulous photographs and share your knowledge of how you take those photographs.

    Illegitimi non carborundum.


  47. Sweet girl...do I need to fly over there and open up a can of "southern hospitality" on somebody?

    Let me tell you, I'm 39. Been married 20 years. Raised two kids. Worked at jobs I don't necessarily love and I don't necessarily hate in order to make things work. And I still had to rely on help from family. So honey...as far as I'm concerned...you're doing great and don't let some anonymous internet nobody bring you down. Ever.

    Much love ~ Shayne Welch

  48. I whole agree with you, Rosie. It's sooo hard earning to just live your live. No matter you are working as a photographer or as sth else. Best regards from Spain and continue being one of the best photographers i've seen. Besos!

  49. Inspirational, eye opening and all round brilliant blog post Rosie. It is tough being an artist, but you know you're great at what you do so you persevere- such great courage is to be admired! Stick with it, onwards and upwards :) x

  50. I was already in awe of your Photoshop skills but it's your wedding photography that really blows me away. Photoshop can be learned but the maturity and sensitivity that your wedding work shows is a real credit to you as a person. I also think that your honesty will have been a huge source of comfort and hope to many people the world over who feel they're below you on the Photography Chain. So many photographers seem to feel the need to paint a rosy (ha ha) picture of their lives: everything's just SO perfect and SO saccharine. Good on you for staying real! I look forward to more of your fantastic work. All the best.

  51. I'm a single mother of two busting my ass to make rent from photography and this post made me smile. I rarely have a savings account, but damn right it feels good to make my own way. You should be proud, haters gonna hate.

  52. You are an amazing photographer and you seem to be an amazing person. Don't let anybody get you down. Never. You think you are successful in what you do? Then, you are.

  53. One word-JEALOUSY. Weddings are hard stuff I know. I have been on a workshop with you are you are truly amazing, talented and a cracking personality. You are successful and deserve it all. You have worked very hard to be where you are..x

  54. This is way late, but I was shocked at your expenses. Perhaps it's a geographical thing, but $280 a month for car insurance?!@! I thought I was getting robbed when my insurance was $120 now it is about $80 a month. Anyways best of luck to you. I've recommended every aspiring photographer I know to your flickr stream.