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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Pursuing My Dream Job

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Hi, I'm Erin!

I am a photographer and writer passionate about the outdoors, meaningful travel, and living deliberately. I hope to use my platform online to show the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, and to encourage genuine connection to the outdoors, culture, people and wildlife.

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I don’t know what your dream job is, and this article definitely has to do with blogging, but it’s also applicable to you if you want to start anything.

Three years ago, I bought a smartphone and downloaded Instagram. I bought this domain name and thought it might be rewarding to start a blog.

I used to spend hours reading the work of other adventurous people– folks who made a career out of their travels. It seemed unrealistic and a little outrageous. And when I started, I didn’t intend to make this a full-time thing. But I’m here, three years later, and it’s a full-time thing.

“What do you actually do for work?” is a question I receive a few times a week. I am mainly a writer and photographer, working in the travel and outdoor industries. I document incredible places and experiences, working with brands making awesome stuff, hotels with beautiful properties, and non-profits doing meaningful work in their communities and in the world. It’s my dream job, it’s a lot of work, and in pursuing it over the past few years, I have learned a few things.

1. IT’S STILL WORK WHEN IT’S YOUR DREAM

“When you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I disagree. Just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Just because it looks glamorous from the outside doesn’t discount the more difficult moments. Passion and drive will never fully soften stress or worry. It’s still work, and as a result, it still feels like work. When you do what you love, you’ll work many days in your life– it’ll just be more enjoyable.

In fact…

2. IT’S OFTEN HARDER THAN SETTLING

I struggle to think of a time in my day when I don’t think about my work. I juggle a lot. I have writing projects, I have photoshoots, I edit those photos, I pitch new ideas and trips, I run a coaching practice, I write on this blog. I spend a few hours a day doing things for my businesses that I don’t necessarily get paid for– reading, researching, making connections, writing blog posts like this one, answering non-job-related emails. And I don’t have one boss to report to– instead, I have a dozen of them, all with different needs. It’s more complicated. It takes more energy. Frankly, my 9-5 was way simpler and easier.

3. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN

Believing in yourself is part of this job. You have to be your number one fan. This is on you. It’s on you to make it happen. Even if you don’t believe in your success, act like you do. Find a new confidence and let it lead you everywhere. Tell everyone about your thing. Get business cards. Be proud. And please, identify yourself by whatever you are trying to be– nobody hires people who are “starting out in photography,” or “trying to be a blogger.” People hire photographers. People hire bloggers. Your title is whatever you decide it is. Believe it.

4. IT TAKES DISCIPLINE

If you want this to be your job, you have to treat it like a job. Be on time– even if you work from your couch. Have a schedule. Know your calendar. Have boundaries. I don’t believe in the “hustle till you die” strategy. I believe that we need to re-charge sometimes and we need to stay in touch with ourselves when we are working toward something big. Discipline means you know when you are working and you know when you are not working. But when you are scheduled to work, make sure you actually work. And when you are working, always always do your best.

5. THERE IS ROOM FOR YOU

This is so important. It’s easy to look at everyone else in the field you want to be in and to decide that there simply isn’t room for one more. But there is. You are the only one who has lived your story. Nobody can create exactly like you can. I remember a few years ago, looking at all of the people who were doing what I wanted to do. At the beginning, I didn’t think I’d get there. And looking back, I actually didn’t have a solid reason to discredit myself. When you keep going at it for a long time, you’ll have these moments of “this could actually happen,” followed by moments of “this is actually happening.” Know that there is room for you.

6. YOU WILL GET REJECTED

In order to really succeed at this thing, you’ll have to reach out to a lot of people. And you will have to be your own best fan, because you will get rejected. A lot. And as you make your way up, you’ll experience bigger levels of rejection. Some will start to matter less, and some you will take personally. Understand from the beginning that it’s never personal, and that you’re signing up for this. I still get rejected often. It means I’m trying, and I’m constantly reaching higher. It’s just part of the process.

7. YOUR CHOICE: FUN OR STRESSFUL

This whole thing can be fun, or it can be stressful. Honestly it’ll definitely be a bit of both– that’s what happens with uncertainty. But what if it could be fun? What if you could play in the unknown? What if you loved it? Let it be fun, understanding that your worst-case scenario probably doesn’t mean the world will end. The whole entrepreneurial journey is full of unknowns, and that’s a given. It’s on you to decide how you will cope with them.

8. YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS WILL CHANGE

When you are defining your own career, success is a moving target. It changes as you change. It evolves as you become more skilled and explore new avenues. You might be surprised how your ambitions shift. A goal you had a year ago might feel really easy now. It might feel just as far away. Set benchmarks and check in with yourself. Stay ambitious, but always remember where you started and how much you have learned.

9. YOU HAVE TO LOVE THE PROCESS

Why are you actually in this thing? Is it to get a lot of followers? Is it to work from a beach? Is it to get famous? Are you just as in love with the process as you are with the result? If you don’t love the process, it will feel old pretty damn quick. If you don’t yet know if you love the process, you’ll find out as soon as you start, I promise.

10. IT’S WORTH IT

And honestly, there are times when I really wonder about this. There are late nights and early mornings when I’d simply rather sleep. There are weekends I’d rather do a million things than respond to emails or edit photos. There are weeks and months when I wonder if I should go get a more stable job so I didn’t always have to think about my next project. But I know what I want my mark on this world to be– connection, motivation, beautiful images, stories that enrich and empower. So I do this. Every day. And it’s worth it.

photo by BC Serna.

photo by BC Serna.


Know that this isn’t an overnight success kind of thing. And know that you most definitely are not alone. Going after the things you truly want is hard work, and nobody ever promised it’d be simple or easy. It might feel impossible, but you will never know unless you start.

Whatever your dream job is, and wherever you are in the process, I’m rooting for you.

Thanks to Katie Boue and Tiffiny Costello, who helped me brainstorm for this post. Feature photo by Rebecca Slaughter.

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  1. Jolee Lawler says:

    This is awesome. #3 probably speaks loudly to a lot of people reading this (I know it does for me). Thanks for sharing and inspiring others.

  2. Cayla says:

    Friggin’ loved this. Thanks for taking a redundant topic (starting your dream business) and making it fully applicable and real. These are clearly lived-in answers (not just a dime-a-dozen listicle) and makes navigating the scary world of “starting” way more approachable. Thanks!

  3. Erica says:

    Amazing post, Erin! As I embark on creating my own company focused on art + outdoors for women, your articles about the business end of things are so helpful. I really admire your honesty and drive. xox Erica

  4. Lynn says:

    God, yes, to #1. I love to write, I love that my writing is going to be in book form, but it’s still work! It’s effing hard, and my 9-5 really is easier (still not easy, actually).

  5. Cody Howard says:

    Erin, thank you for this authentic and motivating post! Recently deciding that life behind the lens a freelance commercial photographer for the travel and outdoor industries myself, I have loved following your success. Today I signed my first brand ambassador contract and couldn’t be more thrilled, but have to remember the “why.” Thanks again and hopefully we cross paths soon!

  6. Diana says:

    This was such an uplifting article! I’m currently looking at bloggers I admire, as I’d love to travel, write and photograph just as you do for a living. It is scary and it does seem a bit crazy and unrealistic, but believing you can is the first and most important step. Thank you for your inspiration Erin, you show people that it is possible to do what they love. Your writing is so very special xx

    http://mylovelierdays.com

    • Hi Diana! Your blog is fantastic!! It’s completely possible– but there isn’t a guidebook or any steps to follow, and that’s scary. I don’t think it ever stops being scary. It’s just re-invention after re-invention, experiment after experiment, and one foot in front of the other. Much love. xo

  7. Helen says:

    Thank you for this! I’m in a transitional phase right now & feel like I KNOW what I want to do, but it is in a million pieces right now. Sometimes, like you said, it feels easier to just get a 9-5 & stick with it, but I don’t want the easy route 🙂

  8. Nick says:

    Awesome sagely advice Erin – thank you !

  9. Hello Erin ! As a fellow member of the Alpha Collective, I am so pleased to find your work ! As a person who aspires to write photograph and make films I find every tip in this post very insightful !

  10. Michael says:

    # 5, Encouraging people to enter your field. What a generous, selfless person you are. You just laid out a map to follow for folks to start on their dreams. Bravo! As Cayla said “Lived-in answers.” You are living it and it works. Excellent!

  11. laura says:

    Thank you for this post Erin. I always love reading your blog and checking out your amazing journeys on Instagram. Thank you for putting yourself out there time and time again. It’s encouraging to see, and gives me a lot of hope!

  12. Molly says:

    Hey Erin,

    I just read your post on travelling with anxiety. And now this post! Wow – I cannot thank you enough for what you do. Number 5 really affects me. I have been telling myself that there isn’t room for another jewelry creator on etsy…or at the craft shows near me. Your words just lifted me up. “You are the only one who has lived your story. Nobody can create exactly like you can.” Thanks Erin. I’m gonna do the damn thing! 🙂

    Love, Molly

    • Thank you Molly! Excited to hear that this post was what you needed right now. All of these are things that I have experienced at some point. Glad it was helpful. xo

  13. Athina says:

    Hi Erin!
    Amazing photos!
    What’s your go to Lense while traveling?

  14. Marina Delac says:

    Great post Erin. Just started out for myself and this is very inspiring. Thnx!

  15. Chris K says:

    This is the kind of stuff you print out and tack to your wall. You hooked me with your take on #1.

  16. Evelyn says:

    You’re amazing Erin! I’ve spent a couple hours reading your blogs and you have instantly become such an inspiration to me. Not even kidding, I feel a little choked up and excited and confident and all sorts of feelings after every blog. haha. So thank you. Your words and work is valued and appreciated.

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