When I grew up I was going to be a corporate trainer at a large corporation. I was going to travel out and train people in their respective locations, write curriculum, and organize events. That was my plan. Then I met my soldier. "When I grew up" turned into fifteen years of military service alongside my husband and my plan of working with a large corporation in training and development came to an abrupt halt. I don't have to tell anyone who is reading this blog that military spouses have one of the largest hurdles to overcome when it comes to building a career for themselves. After all, who wants to hire someone who will just up and move in a few years and even then, it's not like large corporations position themselves alongside military installations (for the most part).
I'm thankful that everything that I've done since then has resulted in one "happy accident" of a career that is portable with my husband's service. I know I am not alone in my struggles of finding a niche to share my talents, obtain projects that fit those talents, and frankly to be able to garner wages from those projects.
Military spouses seldom believe me when I tell them that they have it in them to make something out of the talents they possess and that they can still follow their dreams or find career happiness (maybe not in the traditional way they would guess) while their spouse serves. They do not have to put themselves on the back burner. They just have to think outside the box.
I've been blessed on this journey to have served alongside one amazing military spouse, Laura Fleming, whose talents far exceed anything I could do with any camera or photo-editing software. Photography is her passion and it is clear in every piece of work she presents. Laura started her business by taking photos of her own family while stationed in Hawaii. Her husband bought her a DSLR camera for her anniversary and after a few "shots" she knew this hobby was much more than that.
When you meet her you know that she loves what she does. Her passion exudes from her pores. "What I love most about photography is being able to witness a genuine moment, whether it's between two people or an entire family, and give them that moment back in a photograph. Maybe it's a quick glance at each other when they think I'm not looking, or it's a mom laughing uncontrollably at her son's antics. I have the power to give them that moment back for a lifetime", Laura says.
Having a passion isn't all it takes, though, to make a successful career. You still have to get paid. Laura makes a small amount of money up front for her time and talent during the photo shoots. The rest she makes during an in-person viewing appointment when clients view their photography for the first time and decide what to do with their images - print or digital.
Laura will be the first to admit that she was very lucky that she didn't have to have this job to support her family. Her husband's military career took care of the monthly expenses. Her income allows their family to afford to send their girls to private school, pays for her car, and allows them the flexibility of having extra monies for savings, travel, etc. She'd love eventually to be her family's main source of income, "When Paul retires I'd love to be the breadwinner of the family and his retirement to go straight to savings."
Curious to know about how a PCS has affected her business I asked Laura how she dealt with the challenges of her business changing locations. Her advice is to stop fighting the battle and win the war. "Let your move happen. Be prepared in advance monetarily so that you can take some time off and don't have to take on too much as you are prepping to move. Once you make your arrival and get your family settled jump in with both feet."
Building her own business isn't all that Laura is up to these days. Recently at her new location she has developed other ways to inspire others and earn an income by offering photography lessons and classes on popular cameras and software. In addition, she and her fellow photographers (who met through Facebook and the P31 photography group) have gone into business together at the new Studio D in Lawton/Fort Sill, OK.
What I've found so interesting about her is that she has taken her talent and embodied everything I always tell military spouses they can do — make it a profitable career. Instead of complaining her "life" had to be on hold while her husband served, she has found unconventional and creative ways to build a hugely successful business out of her love of capturing the perfect moment.
To learn more about Laura, meet her fellow Studio D photographers, and see some amazing pictures see their feature on www.LovingASoldier.com May 3rd.
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