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Life & Work with Carly Hudson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carly Hudson.

Hi Carly, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Yes! Like many artists, it starts with the limiting belief that you can’t make a lucrative living as an artist, which caused me – for years – to hunt for something that would just make me money and allow me to be “successful.” My first experience as an entrepreneur was at a very early age when my parents decided to host a weekend yard sale. Now, at the time, I did not want to sell any of my “stuff.” Being only six years old, I was definitely not ready to part with any stuffed animals or favorite toys, but I also wanted to be in on the event. So, I decided to make something to sell.

I asked my mom to take me to the store, we bought a bunch of beads and small wire and I began making earrings. I sold each pair for no more than $5 each but I loved the feeling of creating something and feeling that exchange when it sold. Honestly, that’s probably when I got hooked.

At eight years old, I upgrade my supply to glass beads and sterling silver earrings, selling now for $20-25 a pair. I’d attend the local craft fairs and fall festivals to sell my jewelry or whatever else it was that I had decided to make or create. By the time I entered high school, I still loved making the small crafts but I also was ready to make some more money. I knew how this whole entrepreneurship thing worked, so I figured I’d try it using a different medium.

My sophomore year of high school, a friend of mine asked me to take her senior portraits. We headed to the backyard and down the road a bit, laughing, creating and playing around with the camera. At the end, she insisted on paying me for my time. I tried to refuse as at the time, $50 seemed like far too much for what I have provided. But as I watched her drive away down the driveway, I had that same feeling return that I’d felt when I’d sold that first pair of pony bead earrings. If she’s willing to pay me, who else will? 

Through the rest of high school and into college, I continued my portrait photography career from seniors to families, to pets, to my first wedding in 2014. (For my fellow photographers out there who feel like getting started is tough and that you’re never going to get anywhere? Please know that I charged $300 for the first wedding I did and I brought my boyfriend with me because I was so nervous.)

As I continued my college career as a business admin, economics, and finance major, I continued to tell myself that I needed to get a job to make good money to support my family. A secure job, a practical, safe, and comfortable job. And that’s what I did. I graduated college in 2016, having already been hired with a large financial firm where I would be studying to be a licensed personal financial advisor. Accolades from all directions. What an opportunity. Hard work pays off.

Those were just some of the phrases I heard every… single… day. And for four years, I listened to them. I tried to believe them. I would tell myself over and over that this is an opportunity of a lifetime and this… this will make you successful. But every night, I went to be feeling a little less me, a little more dim, a bit more lost as I could not fathom this idea of working for 40+ years in a career that just did not feel like myself just to be society’s definition of “success.”

Which is why in June of 2020, at the height of a global pandemic, I quit my job. I spoke with my supervisor on a Wednesday morning at 10 am, a conversation in which I didn’t actually plan to resign, and my 1 pm that afternoon I was locked out of all my systems, turned in my keys, and was jobless. Jobless with the most incredible future ahead of me that I could not see until I closed that door behind me.

In the summer of 2020, I booked over 30 weddings. I traveled the country on the back of a motorcycle… twice, my husband and I renovated a 1950s home, we spent weekends boating and camping, and I made some of the most wonderful connections to my clients. If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the last couple of years, is that the hard days make you stronger, the good days make you humble, and that you and only you can decide what you need in this life.

When I started telling people that I was probably going to leave my job, or even after I quit and was explaining to them what I was doing now – I had many turns to me with a sideways smile, a shrug of the shoulders, or a look of uncertainty as they feared for me. Like “what if this doesn’t work?” And I used to let it really get to me. What if is doesn’t work? What if I fail? What if… what if…?

Until I realized that no one… and I mean no one… not even those closest to you, will ever feel what you feel, know what you know, or fight like you fight. And once you know that, you relieve yourself of others’ approval and opinion, and that’s the moment that opportunity shows up for you.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
My biggest struggles have been… worrying about the opinion of others – feeling as though they know better than me what I need/want.

Financially – Yes! There are times that the life of an entrepreneur on a fluctuation income is tough! But the power of learning to manage cash flows, balance sheets, payrolls, and large inconsistent incomes is well worth it.

Staying focused – I am THE definition of a multi-passionate entrepreneur. I would try and monetize dirt if I could (which actually that’s a very large business) so reminding myself to work on one thing at a time or giving myself time and space to think and sit with an idea before acting on it is very important for my mental health and my business.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a wedding and portrait photographer and business coach! And so dang proud of it. We work primarily with couples, shooting weddings, engagements, elopements, as well as maternity and newborns sessions. As for the coaching aspect of my business, I work with other portrait photographers in teaching them how to start their photography business as well as how to grow and make a lucrative career as a wedding photographer.

Of course, there are a few select photos that I am very proud of. The kind of photo that I feel should be published or printed in large format or hung in my home, but what I am truly most proud of are my students in my Book More Weddings Boot Camp.

It’s an eight-week group coaching program where I walk other wedding photographers through my step-by-step process to booking more weddings, filling their calendars, gaining their time back, and working only with their most ideal clients. Seeing the success of my students from where they start this program to the end when they’re booking weddings, sending my photos, sharing success stories with me just warms my heart so very much.

Want to know what sets me apart from others?… I bet you’ll never meet another photographer who talks as much as I do, haha. I never stop! I will go to all ends to make my clients and my students comfortable, feeling educated and empowered, and at ease, and the best way I’ve found to do that is to pour every ounce of me into them, which comes in the form of talking, talking, and more talking. But as feedback, all of my clients love that about me as it relaxes them and we so quickly feel like old friends!

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
Hmmm… risk. So interestingly, I would not describe myself as a risk-taker. I mean, I take about 15 minutes to decide what flavor of ice cream I want because I’m so afraid of being disappointed. Which is why when I quit my full-time job to pursue photography and several friends and family members said, “Carly! You are so brave!” I said, “Huh?”

We all know that in order for us, as humans, to take some risk, there must be some reward. And depending on how you value that reward, I think the intensity of the risk diminishes. What I mean is this. Quitting my job was a risk, sure. But, the reward of being my own boss, pursuing my passion, being in charge of my income and my schedule, having time for what matters most to me, making a life doing what I love was such a HUGE reward, that quitting my job didn’t feel like a risk, it felt like a necessity.

My husband is also self-employed so me quitting my job meant no health insurance, no steady paychecks, irregular income that’s never promised, no contract or long term, but I had faith that my gut was telling me what was right and that I would figure out away. I don’t mean to suggest that you don’t have a plan, but rather that not everything can be planned.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Great people do things before they are ready.” And that has always been that last bit of boost I’ve needed to step out of my comfort zone.

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