Your Photography Career – Freedom vs Security

Collezioni Sposa Night running Carla Coulson

Collezioni copyright Carla Coulson

Ever felt like running away to join the circus? Whoops… I actually did.

I am sure many of you have been overcome with feelings at some stage of wanting to just pack it all in and run off and do something you love? Kiss your boss goodbye forever, toss your high heel shoes and tight skirt in the bin and slam-dunk the bundy card forever.

I crocodile wrestled with this feeling for years (the packing it in bit)..and then eventually my world imploded and I left.

I was having a chat with Francesco (super cute hubby)  the other night (yep he wants to join the circus, I am thinking Lion tamer) about him eventually switching careers.

My darling architect is studying to be a Geobiologist (study of the earth’s and man-made energies and it’s effect on your health) and he always feels there is never enough time in the day/night to study what he loves and yearns for more ‘time’.

We got into a fabulous discussion about Freedom vs Security and I am the first person to support his eventual career change but baby everything has it’s time.

We both agreed that it ‘appears’ the more freedom you have the less security you have and vice versa.  I had plenty to say on this topic about making your ‘freedom more secure’.

Francesco is a tiny bit green with envy each day as he leaves home to go to his day job and leaves me to get on with my work day. I secretly think he thinks I swan through the day from one coffee to the next , kick back on the sofa with super kitty but you all know that isn’t so.

Francesco doing zorba Astylpalia

Francesco doing a happy dance in Greece copyright Carla Coulson

Let’s look at some concepts of:



Regular income

Daily structure


Someone creating the work for you

Paid holidays


Repetitive Routine

Times not yours

Settling for a job you don’t necessary love



Work your own hours

Do the work you love

No boss or office politics

More free time


No regular income

No structure

You need to find clients and create the work

Bookkeeping and accounts

Find a balance between not enough and too much work

Work on your own

happy dance CARLA COULSON

Of course these lists are stereotypes of what Freedom and Security mean to the individual but it has been my goal from the beginning of my photography career to make my career and life as ‘secure’ as possible.

I too crave security. There are many things that come with freedom that can be unsettling like not enough money to pay the rent (been there- scary) but there is nothing so rewarding as doing something you love.

Here’s How I Did It

1. Structure/Work Routine. Once I had my photography skills at a good level and wanted to start working I created a ‘work’ routine. I decided on when I would start work each day and when I would finish and this gave my day, week and life a sense of structure. Even in the beginning when I didn’t have clients there was still a lot to do like have a great portfolio, understand who would be my clients and research them and how to get in touch with them and I started putting together my own stories. Create a structure that suits you and the way you want to work. Ask your friends and family to respect this and not to just drop in or call whenever they feel like it.

2. Invest in the longterm/Regular Clients. When I started working with magazines my goal was to work with the same magazines over and over again so that they would become regular clients. I knew from having a business that a regular client was worth gold.  I worked with one magazine that pretty much gave me a job each month during the year over a period of almost 10 years. This worked out better than even I could have dreamed of. The other magazines I worked with gave me a job on a regular basis let’s say 3 or 4 times a year over a period of 10 years so you can see already how a pattern of security was building between my 6 favourite magazines. I also worked with other magazines on a not so regular basis as one-off clients. Think about who could be your long-term client and how you can reach them and build a lasting  relationship.

3. Income Streams. One of the reasons I started doing books other than for the love of it was to create additional income streams. The great things about books if they sell well is that they can go on selling for years and create an income stream from royalties. When I published Italian Joy thanks to all you kind folks it was a success so that heartfelt book kept selling and selling and even today almost 10 years later I still receive income from it. I have collaborated on 3 other books and written and photographed 3 of my own so together they have been another patch in my ‘security blanket’. Think about what kind of income streams you could create such as selling prints, e-books or ideas.

4. Market Your Work. It can be hard as a photographer or creative to put yourself out there but I knew from the beginning I was only going to survive if I marketed my work. For me this meant getting in to see key art directors at the magazines I loved and eventually publishers. This was one of my goals in the beginning and I have continued to market my work throughout the years by regularly visiting my clients when in Australia, meeting new contacts and getting involved with social media. Even if you don’t want to work with magazines you can apply this to what you do want to do.

Other ways to make changing your career more secure

Transition – this is one of the most under-rated of all the fabulous moves you can make. Start preparing your career move long in advance, use your steady income to buy equipment, set up websites and create a social media profile. Start doing jobs on the weekend if you can and when you build your confidence and client base, go for it.

Savings – Make a budget of how much you will need to live on for a year or two and work towards having that money set aside before launching your career. You will be free from financial worries in the beginning and can concentrate on being creative and getting where you want to go.

I hope this helps any of you feeling insecure about giving up your day job and flying over to the other side. Leave me a comment below and I promise to get back to you..

“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” Chuck Palahniuk




Please share with other freedom fighters! x 

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Kinga Balint

Thank you Carla,

I finally made it form Adelaide to Valencia last week after 2 years of saving and preparation. Great advice, I love your mix of adventure and level headed-ness!


Kinga xx


Carla; this is a magnificent post and I can rely to nearly all your points. Being Swiss I also find it difficult to let go of the security ropes (although I’m considered to be very un-Swiss in this respect as I did many things ‘one’ doesn’t do…). I also learned to accept the things I can’t change (lâcher prise) and as much as I’d have wanted to become a photographer, (as well as being a circus clown, a novellist, a teacher and much more…), I now live happily through the eyes of people like you, the works of many gifted… Read more »


Fabulous advice Carla! Thank you for this great story and superb photos!

t. becque

Hi Carla,
Exactly where I’m at at this moment in my life right now. Nice to read something that not only encourages one to pursue their dream, but do so with some thought and planning AND give tips on what that thought and planning may look like! Thanks for the insightful post – you’re an inspiration!


Wow, Carla, what a great article, and such practical advice! My husband and I are living right now in that tension between freedom and security, and you describe it accurately. We are living in and enjoying the freedom side of his self-employment, but the cons are certainly challenging at the moment. As I now explore for myself what that looks like for my career, your advice will be so helpful! Thanks!


Oh Carla, if only you had been here writing, sharing this great article many, many years ago – I could have used it big time, LOL! I did give up the security of home and family in England in the early ’60’s, for freedom. I packed a suitcase and flew here to Washington, DC to work for a year – 50+ years later and I’m still here – but no regrets really. Now, your article is one I will share with the young members of my family – granddaughters coming to the end of high school years, and other young… Read more »

Peggy Braswell

what great advise! + having my own business has given me freedom + but also worrying about paying the bills + would not have another life. Happy in S. CA

Barb Smith

Fantastic words Carla & all so true.
The contrast in a life of secure income to one of working from one’s own skills & resources is huge.
You write it all with such clarity…
I look back now & know how I am living today.
The wealth is not in money it is in the experiences and probably not being able to settle for less in our lives. It often feels like destiny..whatever that is ?


You are always generous with your advice, which has been fashioned from experience – the best advice one can get. I broke out into a sweat reading this because I am nearing the end of my working life and long to toss in my paid job to develop my photography, but lack the courage and finances to do so. I actually attended your How to be Published workshop in Sydney last year and realised that I was not devoting enough of my spare time (of which there is very little) to developing my photography further so I’ve abandoned my dream… Read more »


Yet more wise words from the sharing, caring and generous Carla. She inspires so many people. C x


Oh, dearest Carla. This fab post comes again and as ussualy just on time… I am sitting here now on the sofa, surrounded by my dearest kidos and thinking that it has been probably enough…I do things just as I imagine I can and the best way, but those move ahead just too slow… I am nearly again for just giving up and start searching for a regular job., just to sumplify all and everything. I type your blog to see perhaps you have anything inspiring?- oh, that would be great! but how on earth you can know what words… Read more »


How I clicked with your insights into ‘freedom’, which I put in parentheses as even freelance, we are always serving someone! Just that we get to choose whom! I’ve been self-employed, freelance, or whatever one calls it, for 20 years, and my husband for 15. Life isn’t a bed of roses, as there are very hard times to get through – the phone goes dead periods (despite marketing!), the ‘we can’t plan a family holiday’ syndrome as work gets in the way; plus the family holiday with work in tow syndrome as deadlines have to be met. There’s a whole… Read more »


Have been following you for years now , and what first captured me was a dream of Paris, and your beautiful photographs . At the time I used Paris tango as a pseudo guide book and loved it ( here is anew book idea for you !). It was a dream and it became a reality – the lesson learnt was dare to dream. Each of us has a different life and obligations – so life changes are not always possible but it doesn’t stop us from having our dreams as a side trip – as Edith says ” je… Read more »


A wise woman once told me that freedom is self-discipline. So true I have found.


I had to laugh when you said you would run off and join the circus. My son did that . He got a job with Ringling Brothers. I think his second day on the job, he called us and said he was coming home. When asked about the people he worked with, he said they were ” just a bunch of clowns” lol … I have not worked for years and have been married since I was 20. I am now suddenly, sadly widowed. I try very hard not to panic when I think that I am now completely in… Read more »


I love your books and have recently started following your blog. What an insightful and timely blog post. As a teenager, I wanted to be a photojournalist, wormed my way into work experience at a major metropolitan paper at 15, and did a semester of a photography degree. Long story and I’m not sure how it happened, but after a few “wayward” years and then having two beautiful daughters, in my late 20s “security” won out of “freedom” and I sold my soul and became a commercial lawyer for the past 15 years mainly in large (and sociopathic) law firms.… Read more »

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