Going Full Time Year 4

In November of 2018, I left my full time job to pursue photography full time. I wrote monthly for the first 2 years what I had learned from the each month. Now, I write yearly on this “going full time” thread. This is year 4. 

As usual, my best friend put it into words perfectly; “I get it, the net that was your safety is now jumping over to your lifeboat, and you’re just hoping it’s big enough. That’s scary.”

I suppose I didn’t see it coming so quickly. I had been gone from my own office job for just over a year when March of 2020 happened, and at the time, Raffi still really loved the Post Office. He loved the organization of it, the systems and processes. He loved that there were 159 million mail boxes in the country, and each one was visited, without fail, six days a week. He loved that he had his set route and could deliver as fast as he wanted so that most days, he was home in time for lunch.

By June, the whole picture had changed. He was delivering as many packages as one might the week before Christmas, but in the dead of Summer… while wearing a mask. You remember the headlines; machines were being removed to undermine the upcoming election, trucks were backed up as a result, mail was piling up, the baby chicks that had previously been sent safely through the postal service were dying due to the delays, it was a nightmare.

When I had left my day job, he had promised to catch me, should I need it. In return, I promised to never need it. I also promised silently to work hard enough so that, if he ever found himself wanting to leave his own job, I would be his safety.

2021 was just that. We worked, we expanded, we made our way into more stores, we joined markets, we had our first official market season, and we finished out the year exhausted, but stronger than ever.

Our holiday season plan was to join as many markets as we could, so we could learn as much as we could. While our strategy was messy, it was also incredibly effective. We learned that night markets in Downtown Phoenix are amazing, and should always be joined. We learned that neighborhood markets where you’ll be set up next to a booth for an electrical company or a law firm should be avoided. We learned that final numbers matter, especially when you take home less from a higher-fee-market than you do from a market that has a lower fee. We learned food truck food is the best food. We learned which coffee trucks are the best (Casita, Mama’s, and surprisingly, Biscuit Freaks), and which booths offer the best vendor discounts.

January was when we started having serious conversations about Raffi leaving his day job. We weren’t ready, but neither was I when I had left.  I had formed, and still held the belief that you can only have the creative energy that is necessary to make a business work when a full time job isn’t demanding most of that energy. On the way down is when one figures it out.

So, on February 25th, Raffi delivered his last route, hopped over into my lifeboat, and off we rowed, with only our own nets to catch us.

What we’ve learned this year is that, just like in our first market season, there is always something to learn. Each new level comes with new lessons, each new idea paves new roads, to explore, and if you’re someone who loves learning, all will be well for a very long time.

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris