Chapter 6: An Inside Look into the life of a Canadian Freelance Photographer

Meet Jana Josue

Canadian Photographer based in Vancouver

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a freelance photographer who loves capturing portraits, lifestyle and family photos. My favourite work is capturing portraits for female entrepreneurs that truly look and feel like themselves. I am an introvert, through and through, but you won’t be able to tell while I’m shooting you cause I’ll be full of energy and excitement on set. Afterwards, I’ll go home and recharge by looking through the gallery, reading one of the many books I have started throughout my house, baking something definitely full of carbs and sugar, petting my cat Charlie, or watching the trashiest reality tv.

Can you tell us how you got into photography and how you made the decision to give 100% and become a full-time photographer?

Growing up, I always felt the pull to art and creativity. I tried my best to make drawing or painting happen, but once I found photography, I knew I found the creative output that I was meant for. Photography was simply my hobby during university, then it slowly grew into my side hustle, and finally I made the jump to do it full-time. 

The decision to jump full on was both a push and a pull. I was thoroughly burnt out from my day job. Then, at a family dinner, my cousin posed the question “If you could be doing any job right now, what would it be?” When it came time for my turn, I said that I would love to be shooting full time. I realized in that moment that my dream job wasn’t out of reach, and that I just had to decide to do it. 

It’s important to acknowledge that my leap was only made possible by my partner who confidently invested in my future by taking on more financial burden during my first year of freelancing. Without his support, it would have taken many more years and more financial stability to make this decision. Also, my work as a teacher meant that I could have some part-time tutoring work to help support me at the beginning of my career. As a creative, to do what we love full-time is an absolute privilege and taking time to work towards that goal is always admirable. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

The joy and the terror of being a freelancer, is that there is no typical day. You have to learn to not have a normal schedule and that every day, week, or month can look totally different! My mornings tend to go the same - wake up, do a quick meditation, and, if I’m lucky, do some kind of exercise. If it’s a shoot day, I prep my gear, look over all the information and moodboards, and head out. Usually, I’m pretty exhausted afterwards from all the extrovert time and rest. If it’s a screen day, I start by going through my inboxes and then edit! I listen to podcasts while I edit to keep my mind going. My evenings are usually my partner making me dinner, quality cat time while watching TV, a quick jaunt to my Animal Crossing island, and reading before bed.

“Being a solo entrepreneur means that you are left to make a lot of high stakes decisions by yourself. It is a skill that I never had to practice much before. I still consult others, weigh the pros and cons, and research the heck out of whatever I am deciding, but at the end of the day, the decision is mine alone to make.”

What is one of the biggest struggles you have encountered as full-time photographer?

By nature, I am an indecisive person. Being a solo entrepreneur means that you are left to make a lot of high stakes decisions by yourself. It is a skill that I never had to practice much before. I still consult others, weigh the pros and cons, and research the heck out of whatever I am deciding, but at the end of the day, the decision is mine alone to make. These decisions can be as small as whether to take on certain clients, book shoots on days that I blocked off for time off, or as big as investing in new gear, renting a studio, and hiring for the business.

What is the most exciting photography project you have made to date?

I’ve stewed over this question for a while, and I don’t think there is a single project that stands out in my mind. Every time I see a shoot succeed and see a new website or instagram using my photos, I get super excited. Telling each of your stories means the world to me.

The most personally meaningful photography project I ever made was a photo of my grandparents’ holding each other’s hands. It is my favourite photo that I’ve ever captured and one of the few photos of my own that is printed and hangs in my home.

Photo for MikMill by JJosue Photos

Photo for It's Wild Podcast by JJosue Photos

How has Covid-19 impacted you? what are you doing to overcome these challenges?

COVID-19 forced me to pivot and change my business in major ways. I started to do more at home product photography for small businesses who were launching e-commerce for the first time and transitioned to offerings like front door portraits for families to take photos on the steps of their home. I started shooting outdoors, almost exclusively, when health orders allowed and spent a lot of time working on things on the back end like updating price guides and my website. I also offered more mini sessions than any year before. These sessions are built for optimal efficiency for me which also allows me to bring down the price point a bit. With many families and businesses struggling financially due to COVID-19, it was important to me to have an offering that was as accessible as possible. I learned to diversify my portfolio to meet the market.

What advice would you give to photographers who are just starting out?

Try a little bit of everything so that you can find your niche. I spent the first two years of my business doing it all - I shot weddings, product shoots, street photography - you name it, I did it. I turned almost nothing down and it forced me to learn on the go and see first hand what I enjoyed and what I hated. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone at the very least will give you a lesson worth learning, so the next time a client asks “Can you do x?” you can confidently answer “Heck yes!” or “That isn’t a service that I offer.” It will also allow you to start looking for other creatives who DO love that work and build a referral list so that you’re working with others that you trust and enjoy.  It was a bit chaotic at first, but now I know my style, my clientele, and what I love to do. 

“Lead with kindness - in all that you do, business and personal, always lead with kindness. Being honest and respectful will always get you further than you can imagine. “

Do you have any big plans over the next few months (or year)?

My big plan for 2021 is to have no plan! Last year taught me to roll with the punches and that we can’t always plan ahead! I am slowly adjusting my branding and scope to focus more on the work I love to do the most - portraits, branding, and family photos, so that I can continue to do the work that makes me feel the most fulfilled. 

Oh! I do hope to have my first “corporate retreat” this year. This is a goal I’ve had for a few years, to take a weekend away, by myself, to reflect on my business, dream, and craft the vision for the upcoming year. The biggest obstacle for this is travel restrictions due to COVID-19 more than anything else. 

If you could leave us with one message today, what would it be?

Lead with kindness - in all that you do, business and personal, always lead with kindness. Being honest and respectful will always get you further than you can imagine. 

Where can we find you (social media)?

You can find me mostly on instagram (@jjosuephotos) and on my website www.jjosuephotography.com.


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