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How can you survive the ups and downs of a bumpy career journey? In this episode of Career Relaunch, Jamie Love a former house cleaner turned professional photographer shares her thoughts on how to deal with hitting rock bottom and how your mindset can have a direct impact on the trajectory of your career. I’ll also explain how I’ve thought about my own self-worth, especially as it relates to pricing my services as a self-employed consultant.
Key Career Insights
- Believing in your own self-worth is such a critical part of being able to promote yourself to others.
- You don’t have to have everything figured out, especially where you want to focus your energies, when you’re embarking on a new path on your career or starting your own business. You can put out a range of feelers to see what ends up gaining traction with both your audience and also yourself.
- Clinging to a negative mindset and outlook related to your career and life will likely not serve you well and can in fact lead to a downward spiral of even more negative events.
Tweetables to Share
So my challenge to you is to put yourself out there, and start charging what you feel you’re worth, even if you don’t feel 100% ready yet. I’m talking about putting a price on something valuable you’ve been doing for free. And once you’ve done that, to NOT apologize for what you’re offering. To not feel like someone’s doing you a favour by paying you for this. Instead, help that person feel good about what they’re buying by proudly and unapologetically describing the value you know you’re providing.
About Jamie Love, Photographer
Jamie Love is a creative visionary and home-schooling mother who owns and operates Jamie Love Photography, a portrait studio based in Ithaca, NY. She completed her BFA in Photography and Digital Imaging from the Ringling College of Art and Design in 2003. Afterwards, she became a single mother to three children and dug herself out of the trenches of self-loathing and abusive relationships. She tapped into her own difficult journey toward self-love to create to a career focused on empowering and inspiring her clients through dream portrait experiences that celebrate their strengths.
Her latest project is the The Senior Empowerment Collective. Many photographers have what they call “brand ambassadors” people who promote their business. She decided that she wanted to do a different spin on this and create a mutually beneficial relationship with her high school teen clients. Because the teenage years can be cruel to our self esteem, the Senior Empowerment Collective is a group of local teens who learn self love practices through their senior portrait experience. They have the opportunity to model and boost their self confidence with a larger organization “The Model Network National,” and locally, Jamie provides them with volunteer hours in the community, and works to create a portrait experience that celebrates their uniqueness.
Follow Jamie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): I was kind of miserable. I was working these cleaning jobs that were not fulfilling to me. I was looking at these other people who have these lives that I wanted to have. I think because I was in that mindset, the worst thing happened.
Joseph: Good morning, Jamie. Welcome to Career Relaunch.
Jamie: Good morning.
Joseph: It’s great to have you on the show. I’m really looking forward to talking with you about some of the major chapters in your career, including your time as a house cleaner and now as a photographer. I also want to talk about some aspects of your personal journey, including managing your career as a single parent and also how a specific injury became a turning point in your career. I was hoping we could start by having you first explain what you do as a photographer and also what you’re focused on in your personal life.
Jamie: As a photographer, I have a boutique photography studio. I do maternity portraits. I do newborn portraits, senior portraits. I also do business headshots, as well as work style sessions and personal branding.
Joseph: Do you have a favorite type of photography that you like to do these days?
Jamie: I like doing them all and all for various reasons. I’ve been primarily doing a lot senior portraits recently. That’s been my main thing. I really, really enjoy that, getting to work with teens.
Joseph: Okay. Well, we’re going to definitely come back to that topic at the end because I know that you’re working on an interesting project related to seniors in high school. We’ll definitely come back to that.
What about in the rest of your life outside of your career, what’s keeping you busy right now?
Jamie: Well, I home school my children, and so that keeps me busy when I’m not doing photography work. As well, just doing a lot of introspective meditation, mindset work, things like that, spending a lot of time out in nature as well, trying to be more outside and less in front of the computer.
Joseph: What a great idea. I think that’s fantastic.
You have not always been a full-time photographer. I know you keep yourself busy with many things right now, but I was wondering if you could take us back in time, Jamie, and explain what one of your former careers was. I think when we spoke before, you mentioned that you spent some time as a house cleaner. I was hoping you could tell us how you ended up being a house cleaner, and then we can move forward from there.
Jamie: Goodness. It started after a separation with my son’s father. I was left a single parent. I needed something that I made the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time, given that time is not always easy for me to come by as a single parent.
Somebody mentioned to me, ‘Oh. Well, you know, you could do some house cleaning and make a fair amount of money doing that.’ I enjoyed cleaning, so I thought, ‘Okay, well, let’s just try this.’ I had helped people organize their homes and do projects like that, and so it wasn’t new to me to do house cleaning.
I took on a few clients, and then those clients referred me, and then it turned out into this major thing where I was doing anywhere between 8 to 15 clients a week.
Joseph: Can you just share a couple example profiles of the people or families who were your cleaning clients?
Jamie: They varied. Some of them were elderly people who just needed some assistance and couldn’t really do it themselves. I worked for a lot of people who had various allergies. They would have me come in because I had special HEPA filter vacuum that I had to purchase, and I use all eco-friendly products. My main clientele were people who either had environmental concerns or needed assistance.
Joseph: Can you just give a glimpse into what it’s like to go into the homes of people to clean their places for them, also knowing that this was something that you were doing kind of out of sheer necessity?
Jamie: Definitely out of necessity. Though I found ways to mentally appreciate and enjoy as much as I possibly could in the moment, it was definitely a necessity thing.
It’s interesting going into somebody’s home and having to clean up for them. There’s a difference. There’s house cleaning, where you go in and you actually are cleaning, and then there’s like maid work, where people would just want you to clean up after them or their children. Thankfully, I didn’t have too much of that. It was mostly just I would come in and do a weekly deep clean for somebody. Sometimes, it was like a focused project. Other times, it was a general clean about.
It’s a very personal experience, people having you come into their homes and you learn a lot about them through cleaning their homes, their particularities really, what’s important to them and what they prefer.
Joseph: During that time when you were cleaning people’s homes, Jamie, what was running through your head? I guess I’m assuming you had a lot of time to think about a lot of different things. I’m wondering specifically about whether you thought at all about your own career during this time.
Jamie: Absolutely. Sometimes, the clients were there, and sometimes, they weren’t. I found it more difficult when they were there.
In particular, I had this one client who is a published author. I would go over, and she would just be sitting on her laptop writing. I also love to write. Sometimes, I would go over and I’d be, ‘Goodness, imagine if I would be spending my time writing. Maybe I’d be a published author by now, and I wouldn’t be cleaning.’
There was definitely introspective moments when I would be in people’s homes and wonder, ‘What are they doing for a living that’s affording them the ability to have me come in and just clean for them? How can I be in that position?’
At the same time, I could maintain a zen, ho-hum thing. Sometimes, I would just put in my ear buds and listen to a podcast, all the while trying to figure out how to get out of the situation.
Joseph: Speaking of which, I know you had something happen to you with a physical injury that almost forced your hands here. What exactly happened to you?
Jamie: I had finished a really long week. It was my 15-client week. I went home to do some stretching and some yoga afterwards, and my left leg went numb on me. I was kind of like, ‘What’s going on?’ I was trying to stretch it out. It wasn’t helping, and I started having muscles spasms. I ended up in the emergency room that evening, and they told me I had herniated disk in my lower back. Then, I was no longer able to clean. I was no longer able to do anything at that point.
I was in a hospital room for a good week, as they did all these tests to figure out what else might be going on and why I couldn’t use my leg. My leg was completely numb from the toe all the way up to the hip.
Joseph: Wow, okay. How did you get yourself to move forward in spite of the physical injury that you had?
Jamie: I had to take time off. I was forced to take time off. When you’re sitting on a bed and you have nothing else to do but think about how to get better and how to heal your body, you go inward. Part of that for me was trying to figure out what I was going to do next for a job, considering my physical limitations.
Even after a disk herniation, even if you heal it, you still have to be easy on your back. You can’t do a lot of heavy lifting. You certainly can’t be climbing stairs, carrying heavy vacuums. I had to reconsider what I can do for employment that’s going to make sense with this new body that I’m now living in.
My mother was like, ‘You know, why didn’t you ever do anything with your photography career?’ I’d gone to college for photography, probably 10 years prior to all of this. I hadn’t been in the position to ever purchase the equipment needed to start my photography career, to do what I knew how to do, what I was trained to do. I said, ‘Well, good point. Maybe I should get back into that. Maybe I should look to getting some funding or figure out how to get the upfront cost.’
That became my focus, was getting the funds to start a career with the time off that I had while I was healing my body.
Joseph: You alluded to this earlier, and I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about the effect it had on you of going from having a partner to being on your own as you were thinking about your career, especially with children.
Jamie: Single parenting is definitely a whole new host of challenges where I had a partner that I could say, ‘Okay, well, I’m going to go work and you watch the kids.’ It didn’t become that simple anymore. Where I had a partner where it was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to work and our combined income can pay for child’s care.’ I didn’t have that anymore.
I had to work through a lot of the challenges of trying to figure out a way to have someone watch the kids, despite the fact that I didn’t have income to pay for child care. It’s kind of like a double-edged sword. You need work to have money, but then in order—me, I had three kids at that time—to pay for child’s care for three kids is rather expensive.
Joseph: Is there something that you think people misunderstand about what it’s like to be a single parent, especially when it comes to your career?
Jamie: People are always full of assumptions as to why you’re a single parent, first of all. They do think something’s flawed with you, or, ‘Why is she a single parent?’ or, ‘How did she get in that position in the first place?’
It’s hard to have a career as a single parent, in the sense that your time is already stretched thin, because you’re the primary bread winner, you’re the primary everything. Having to have a career amidst that is difficult. It requires a lot of time management, juggling, and scheduling, and priority scheduling. There’s definitely a lot of assumptions that go in people minds around what that all entails.
Looking at big jobs as I am doing now, people know that I’m a single parent, and they always say things like, ‘Well, are you sure you can take that on?’ or, ‘Are you sure you have time for that?’ There’s this assumption that you can’t figure it out because you’re alone.
Joseph: Clearly, you have figured it out. I’m curious how you made that transition with all the challenges that come from being a single parent. I think I spoke with you before. I mentioned we’ve got a 15-month-old at home. Even with two people, it’s tough. It’s like all hands on deck at the time. I’d be really interested to hear how you pulled this off and was able to break into the industry of being a photographer full-time. I think it started with a program through a local bank. Is that right?
Jamie: My local credit union, they have a program that’s called the IDA Program, where we live. It’s partially grant funded for people with low income, which is the position I was in at the time, where you save $1,000 and then you take some business classes, and then they match you with $2,000. There you have $3,000 and the education to start a business of your own. When I found out about this program, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is exactly what I need to get myself rolling.’
I took the program, and it took me a good year and some change to save up that $1,000 and take the money classes that I needed to get in that position where I then had the $3,000. I used that to buy my studio light kit.
Joseph: Because you didn’t have any of your equipment yet, I guess.
Jamie: No. When I had started out in photography in college, back in 2003, all of my gear has since been completely outdated at this point. I had to reinvest. I had an outdated camera, but I was like, ‘Well, I can start with this and just get some stuff under my belt enough to save up money to get the camera.’ I started with the lights. I was like, ‘Okay, I have the lights in place.’ Then I got the camera based off of a few jobs that I had gotten.
Over time, I just kept saving and saving to get all the equipment I needed, which was a huge investment upfront. Starting a photography business is a big investment, at least to have the proper lighting and all the gear that I was accustomed to, working with on a professional level. I didn’t want to take any shortcuts in terms of quality of equipment, so I just went for it.
Joseph: I know a lot of people who love doing photography as a hobby, and they think it’d be so cool to become a photographer. Yet I know very few people, at least personally, who have been able to become full-time photographers. What do you think is the hardest part of making it as a full-time photographer?
Jamie: It’s definitely tricky to stand out in an industry where there is a ton of hobbyist people that can seemingly do a similar job.
For me, the biggest challenge was understanding my worth which was rooted in a whole lot of other things about self-worth, through everything I’ve been through, and understanding that my value was really high, that I wasn’t just a hobbyist, but I’m a skilled professional, that I was trained to do this, and to put myself out there in a way that is slightly uncomfortable.
I was never a very out-going person. I’m more of an introvert, if you will.
Joseph: What was the most uncomfortable part of putting yourself out there?
Jamie: Marketing myself in the community. I guess that’s the thing, because when I one-on-one and I’m in a session, I’m fine. I have a really good one-on-one rapport with my clients, even a team. I go and I do a corporate team, and I feel like I’ve got that. I feel confident in what I’m doing, but the initial putting myself out there like, ‘Okay, hi. I’m someone that you could hire,’ is a little awkward at first.
I’m used to it now, but that was the hardest part initially. In marketing, they say, ‘Oh, do some Facebook live post and things like that.’ I’m always like, ‘Oh gosh, this is so strange.’
Joseph: Easier said than done. How did you get started? Who was your first client, and then what happened after that?
Jamie: Interestingly enough, my first client was actually the credit union. Once they realized what I was capable of, they were like, ‘Oh my goodness, let’s hire you to do all of our marketing.’ That was a huge boost. I went from having basically zero income to all of a sudden getting a large corporate job.
They hired me after that, because I had taken the business classes with them. They had a good rapport with me, and they saw my skillset and what I was capable of and just trusted that I was going to come through. I did, and I’ve been working there for two years now.
Joseph: From there, it extended into other types of work for other corporate clients?
Jamie: I put together a website with all the various offerings that I’m capable of doing. For me, my first year was sort of exploratory. It was like, ‘Well, let’s see what I get the most of.’ It was like a market research year almost. I was storing myself out there like, ‘Okay, these are all the things I can do. Let’s see what comes back the most.’ For me, that’s been seniors and head shots and corporate jobs.
Joseph: That’s an interesting approach to it. I know that for people who have listened to this podcast a lot, they probably know that I’m quite the planner, especially when it comes to career stuff. Yet it sounds like the way you did it was you kind of put yourself out there in variety of ways and saw what stuck and rolled with that. That seems like that’s worked pretty well for you.
Jamie: I went in with a strong business plan, which my business plan was see what comes the most. I priced everything accordingly, and I had all my numbers. Everything was really organized in that way. I guess I was new to the area in a way that I had never done a photography business in my town, and so I wasn’t sure what would be the most effective business here.
Joseph: The other thing I was hoping to talk with you about, Jamie, was just some of the lessons that you’ve learned along the way of your own career journey. One of the things you’ve mentioned to me before this recording was how throwing out your back actually taught you about fear and how fear can lead to this vicious downward cycle of self-limitation. I was hoping you could tell me a little bit more about how you came to that realization about fear and self-limitation.
Jamie: I think being thrown into the absolute abyss of hell and pain, to be frank, was like a crash course in here’s your worst fear. Your worst fear is that you cannot provide for your children and that you’re not physically capable of providing for your children. That was rather intense, being put in that position. It’s so humbling for me. I have a really forthright way of getting what I feel like I need in any moment.
The fear stuff for me was like having to face it head-on and realize that, here I was in my worst fear that I could possibly imagine, and yet somewhere in there, I was able to find a place of peace, a place of grace, and a place of humility and work through it and realize that I kind of had manifested my worst fears, almost. I feel like my back going out was my body’s way of saying, ‘Here, you want to say all these fears. Well, here they are. This is the worst case scenario, and let’s deal with it.’
Joseph: You mean like a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts?
Jamie: Almost. I don’t think that I intentionally did that. I wasn’t like, ‘Here, let me fulfill my worst prophecy.’ That’s kind of what happened.
I think what it taught me is, prior to my back going out, I was kind of miserable. I was working these cleaning jobs that were not fulfilling to me. I was looking at these other people who had this lives that I wanted to have, and I wasn’t having them. It’s hard when you’re in that position to not get sucked down into this place of depression or this victim mentality or this ‘poor me’ or ‘how did I get here?’ I think because I was in that mindset of ‘this is terrible’ and ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ the worst thing happened.
The blessing in that, it helped me to remember that I had a bigger purpose. Even though I knew that I had the bigger purpose all along, my bigger purpose was masked by my mindset of ‘I’m frustrated,’ ‘I’m broke,’ ‘I don’t have what I need,’ all these terrible things.
Joseph: I guess what you’re referring to is this concept of kind of hitting rock bottom. I think a lot of people who listen to this show, Jamie, have experienced a moment when they’ve hit rock bottom in their careers as you did when you hurt your back. I’m wondering if there’s anything you wished you had known that you now know about how to deal with those extremely low points in your career.
Jamie: I think if I had to go back, knowing what I know now about mindset work, I feel like I could have talked myself out of going down that low, somehow. Maybe I wouldn’t have known better, but it’s part of my lesson personally.
There’s ways that we can really talk ourselves down into a hole. What I know now is that, anytime you feel that those feelings coming up of, ‘I can’t do this. I’m never going to make this. Nobody’s ever going to hire me. I’m never going to have my dream career,’ you’re kind of creating that for yourself. I think, had I known differently, I would’ve focused more my intention on focusing on my strengths and ‘I can do this,’ and ‘I am capable,’ and ‘Maybe the money isn’t here now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come another day.’
Joseph: I’ve also found that to be the case in my own self-employment journey, Jamie, this whole mindset and belief aspect to your work. I used to kind of shrug it off as being the more touchy-feely side of things and that it wasn’t really worth much, but I’ve actually come of realize that belief really matters a lot. That belief drives your actions, and then those actions end up driving your results. It makes a huge difference. It really does.
Jamie: Absolutely. I feel like having confidence is something that I didn’t necessarily have. I had to find that in myself, because there’s always this place in us that, sometimes, it takes seeing somebody else do something, and we’re like, ‘Well, I can do better than that.’ Sometimes, it takes seeing other situations to help you realize like, ‘Wow, I actually am capable,’ or, ‘I am better than I thought I was.’ Over time, it builds up, and you do – you develop a belief in yourself, and then there you are.
Even in times when I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the biggest job I’ve ever gotten. Will I be able to pull this off?’ I had my moments of like, ‘Oh my god, here I am. I’m given this opportunity. Don’t screw it up.’
The thing is that, when I get in that moment, when I’m in my zone, which for me taking portraits and doing photography work, it’s something that’s innate in me. What I learned is that I just need to do it, and I just need to stop questioning myself. The self-doubt will ruin everything. For me, when I’m in my zone, everything just comes and it’s fine. It’s like working through the mental blocks that prevent us from succeeding, I guess.
Joseph: Before we wrap up with one the projects you’re working on right now, Jamie, I had one more question about some of the things you’ve learned along the way. We’ve talked about the challenges of being a single parent while trying to also manage your career. What’s something that you’ve learned about yourself through the process of balancing the two?
Jamie: I’ve learned a lot about what’s most important to me – having to prioritize your work and your career, and for me, home schooling on top of that. Then there’s just family time, which is like, ‘Work, and then where’s the time for us to just actually enjoy ourselves and go out for a walk as a family?’ Because we are just juggling all these things.
I’ve had to do a lot of introspective work on finding out what’s the priority and like being more heart-centered and trying to be more present in the moment, if you will, and say, ‘Is this really what’s the most important right now?’ I guess that’s what I’ve learned the most about myself through this process: having to be more heart-centered and intentional with what I prioritize.
Joseph: I would love to wrap up, Jamie, by talking about one of your projects that I know is really important to you. That’s the Senior Empowerment Collective project, which I understand is focused on teenage self-esteem. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Jamie: I started a program for high school seniors called the Senior Empowerment Collective. I work with a lot of seniors.
Teenagers are not the most secure people. They have self-esteem concerns, especially with all those social media stuff that I certainly didn’t have to deal with as a teenager. There’s a lot of comparison between themselves. I wanted to develop a program where everybody was on the equal playing fields and everybody could focus on their strengths and help them to feel more empowered and confident in themselves through their portrait experience.
I do their senior portrait with them, but we also do group shoots together as a team. We do community volunteering. I do volunteer hours with the teens. I also give them weekly mindset mantras to focus on, things that were helpful for me in learning my own self-confidence.
It’s my way of trying to maybe derail some of the negative impacts of low self-esteem in the community. I think it’s a great place to start with teenagers who are sort of on this precipice of adulthood and going out into the world. I think going out into the world with confidence and knowing who you are and feeling confident in your strengths is a gift. It’s something that I like to do with them.
Joseph: That is fantastic. That sounds like a really cool program. If people want to learn more about you or the Senior Empowerment Collective or just the photography work that you do, where can they go?
Jamie: They can go to my website. It’s www.JamieLove.photography.
Joseph: Thank you so much, Jamie, for telling us more about how you shifted from being a cleaner to a photographer, the challenges of single parenthood, especially as it relates to your career, and also the importance of self-belief. Best of luck with your photography business and your Senior Empowerment Collective.
Jamie: Thank you. Thank you so much.