Working for yourself is the ultimate dream, right? Well, it doesn't just have to be a dream. If you have the skills—and the marketing know-how to make it a reality—you can make those badass dreams come true. One inspirational gal who's made it happen is Elspeth Van Der Hole, a 27-year-old entrepreneur running a fashion photography business and illustration company based in London.
Having fallen in love with photography from the moment she picked up her first film camera, she knew from then on that this is what she was going to do—but it's not always that easy to make your dreams a reality.
After hitting a few bumps along the way, including losing parents and battling mental illness, she has now found something that she can control and truly gives her an identity again. She's discovered that being self-employed and successful isn't impossible—and nothing, not even mental health issues, should hold you back.
Here are a few tips she's shared that have enhanced both her life and her business in order to succeed. "I'm still learning myself, I feel that we can never stop learning, but this is what I've found useful so far!" Van Der Hole tells MORE. Check out her tips (and fashion photos) below!
Tip 1: Be your brand.
"This is very specific to you as an individual and as a business. You have to decide what is right for you," Van Der Hole explains. "I began by promoting a service and a product, but I didn't include myself and my personality as part of my brand. As soon as I put my face into my promotion and marketing, people began to come along with me as part of my journey. In this day of impersonal marketing, you must work out what makes you an individual. And that one thing that others can't take, it's you! You are what makes your business unique."
Tip 2: Balance loving what you do, and being business-minded.
"It's easy to start up a business, but it's not easy to maintain it," Van Der Hole says. "If you love what you do too much, then you will allow people to take advantage of you—the creative industries are rife with people wanting us to work for free. Then, on the flip side, if you are going into self-employment just to make money, you can become easily disappointed because the money aspect takes time. You must be patient, you must have self-respect, be business-minded, but also remember why you began."
Tip 3: The grass is always greener on the other side—unless you take a little time to water your own.
"This particular saying is something I swear by. It's easy to become consumed in what other people are doing, how they are progressing, what work they are creating," Van Der Hole says. "However, the more time you spend focusing on them, the less time you have to build yourself and your empire. Always remember that—especially in this day and age of social media, it's easy to convince ourselves that we are failing while everyone else is thriving."
Tip 4: Be kind.
"I've had a lot of people make reference to how tough and mean the fashion industry can be—and some people ask if it's like The Devil Wear's Prada. I even remember someone I went to University with proudly announcing that he will walk over anyone, including friends, to get to where he wants to be in life," Van Der Hole explains. But that's not how to get ahead. "Being nice gets you everywhere, behaving like that gets you nowhere... Your reputation is everything when you are self-employed, and you must be true to yourself, but simply: be kind. Most industries are small enough for people to talk, and if you behave badly, it will be known."
Tip 5: You will never be a failure as long as you don't give up.
"You will feel like giving up a lot of times, you will cry a lot, you will work through the days and nights with very little money to show for it in the beginning," Van Der Hole says. "But you will never be a failure as long as you don't give up. Push through the struggles because you, quite literally, never know what opportunities could be waiting round the corner for you!"
Tip 6: You don't have to come from money to be successful.
"Most people think they need to come from money to succeed," Van Der Hole explains. "If you want something enough, you will find ways to make it work. Money may make the world go round, but it doesn't mean you can't jump onto the merry-go-round halfway through, you don't have to be born onto it!"
Tip 7: There is never a good time to go self-employed.
"Don't wait for a sign, don't wait for a moment or a right feeling. That will probably never come and you will always find excuses as to why you can't take the leap into doing what you love for a living," Van Der Hole says. "There is never a good time to go self-employed because it will always be difficult from the start. But it won't be difficult forever, you just need to be brave, learn to budget, and keep learning everything you can to better yourself and your enterprise."
Tip 8: Keep on top of your accounts.
"This sounds obvious, but I know far too many people that leave their accounts until the day of their taxes. Get on top of it, do monthly updates onto a profit and loss spreadsheet," Van Der Hole explains. "You can get a bookkeeper or an accountant, but when you start out you may not be making enough to warrant one of these as an extra expense. Learning to do it yourself while things are new and quiet is ideal—when you do go on to get a bookkeeper or accountant, you will understand what they're talking about!"
Tip 9: Choose your battles wisely.
"You won't agree with everyone all of the time. Some battles are small, some not so small, but assess the impact of your actions if you question something," Van Der Hole says. "Will it benefit you in the long run? Do you need to stand up for yourself in this situation, or is it something that will be forgotten about in a week's time? When we choose our battles wisely, it means we are heard much louder and taken more seriously. Don't cry wolf at every hurdle, but do look out for yourself when you feel it's necessary."
Tip 10: Make sure you are happy.
"I have and still battle with mental illness. Being happy in what I do is an important factor [in] whether I succeed. Take time for you, don't believe that you have to work every hour... You are allowed to take time for you," Van Der Hole explains. "Self-care is paramount to success. Happy head, happy life, happy business. The happier you are, the more work you will attract and the brighter you will feel. Law of attraction is key when you represent yourself and your business."
Tip 11: Market yourself, always.
"Talk to everyone! Learn your elevator pitch, and have it on hand for every available opportunity," Van Der Hole explains. "I have gained work from talking to people while out walking the dogs, chatting to people at social and business events, even talking to a woman I bought some chairs from the other day off Gum Tree, now she wants to book in for a portfolio shoot! When you are your brand, your opportunities are all around you, because you have all the tools you need right there—you!"