By Heather Payne, as told by Sara Shelton
Part of our “My Blueprint Story” Series
Hi, my name is Heather Payne. I’m a creative entrepreneur who’s been running my destination wedding photography business for nearly eight years.
Yes, that’s right, I’m running a successful, blossoming business photographing luxury destination weddings for couples all over the world, and I’m also willingly holding down a part-time job here at home.
Why? Well, because that part-time job has been the saving grace to help me find balance, pay my bills, and keep my business going (and growing!) at the pace I want without the pressure I don’t want.
I started this business almost eight years ago. And at the time, I was primarily working the local wedding market here in my small town in North Carolina. While that work was great, the market here just wasn’t. There’s only so far you can grow a business in a small town like mine, and besides, my sights were always set on the horizon.
I wanted to travel and focus on destination weddings. I wanted a path that was unique to me—one that would allow me to grow and do the things that inspired me. I had a list of places I wanted to travel to shoot weddings (Italy, of course at the top!), but I needed to develop a business strategy to help me get there.
As I hit the start of 2014, I realized things could go one of two ways for me. I could keep going as I was, taking on a ton of work locally and burning myself to death doing smaller, low budget events. Or, I could create a strategy that allowed me to do what I knew would inspire me long term.
And you guys, that job has been a Godsend! Having that job in addition to my work as a photographer has allowed me to build my business at my pace and on my terms. It’s given me the freedom to do so without the fear of paying my bills or the struggle with burnout. And it’s given me the room to work on something I love, am proud of, and inspired by every single day.
Working alongside Shanna, I learned to start keeping everything I made in my business actually in the business. I developed a financial strategy to grow my company at the rate I wanted to and without having to sacrifice my passions or creativity along the way. And the part-time job has been huge in making that happen for me.
My whole story in this business has really been about finding freedom—freedom to be who I am as a photographer and business owner and freedom to choose how that looks. Once I took the part-time job, it’s like the pressure literally came off my shoulders. I felt freedom for the first time in this business. And since then, I’ve created a business model that fits who I am, what I want, and the freedom I so desperately desire in my life.
Can we just be honest here, ladies? Short-term success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! Sure, it’s cool to get published in your first months of business or book a huge wedding right out of the gate. But honestly, it’s not sustainable. And that’s why it’s not my focus. I have my whole life to grow this business! I want to look at it through the lens of the long game rather than the short. Rather than rush through the rat race of growing this company, I want to take the slow and steady approach that lets me truly build the legacy I want.
I love photography, and I love shooting weddings in really cool places. But more than that, I really love meeting people and being a part of their stories. This job lets me do that all the time. It connects me with clients who I love, but it also connects me with other creatives that I can build community with on this journey.
These things are key to me in this business. They’re essential to running my company the way I want to run it. And maintaining a part-time job along the way has made each of them more possible.
Of course, from time to time I battle the potential shame that surrounds being a creative entrepreneur with a more traditional side hustle. Maybe I’m not a real business owner because I make money elsewhere, is a thought that’s crossed my mind on more than one occasion.
But then, I remember the places I’ve gotten to go. (Yes, I checked Italy off my destination wedding bucket list, you guys!). I remember the freedom I feel. I remember that this is my life and my business, and that means I get to choose the path that’s best for me. Then, I see it as a gift—one that has allowed me to do what I love in a way that doesn’t force me to sacrifice my passion or give in to the pressure in the process.