In this series I interview business owners, bloggers, and digital nomads to get their thoughts on travel, creating a life less ordinary, and things they’ve learned along the way. I hope that the people who inspire me will inspire you, too!
In case you missed it, read last week’s interview here.
This week Nicola, the creator of travel blog Suitcase and Wanderlust, tells us how she found the courage to quit her top job as Head of Marketing for Clinique and build her own photography business!
Many people dream of quitting their 9-5 and focussing on their passion, but not many people have the guts to do it. When I came across travel blogger Nicola who did just that, I therefore couldn’t wait to ask her all about it. She left her awesome corporate job to become a full time travel photographer and blogger, and has now made a career of travelling along with teaching others how to take better photographs in her classes. If you would love to set up your own photography business, learn how to create a profitable travel blog, or just wish you had the courage to quit your day job to follow your dreams, then let Nicola answer all of your questions!
What made you decide to take the plunge and quit your job to build your own business?
I was on a solo trip through Myanmar and a few days before I went back home, I had this gut feeling that it’s time for a change. When I returned from Myanmar, I talked to friends and family and they encouraged me. They believed in me and this helped me to leave my comfort zone, my safety net and finally quit my job.
How did you manage to combine your career with your love of travel?
This is one of the biggest challenges when you’re setting up a business. I had to travel because I wanted to make this my job but then I had to monitor my finances. The compromise was to do smaller trips and totally cut back expenses where possible.
Money wise, how does blogging and photography compare – is it an even split or do you rely on one over the other for a steady income?
It is a mix of both but at the moment, photography, especially the workshops I am offering, are winning in terms of income.
It sounds like your job and travels led you to the point of starting your own business. Before you decided to quit and focus solely on your photography, did you blog before as well as working full time?No, I worked full time and had no time for a blog. I was thinking of starting a blog while I worked full time, but the job was demanding and I had no time and energy to write. I wanted to fully focus on it to make it good.
What has been your biggest mistake or regret in your career?
I’m in my first year of my own business and there are a lot of mistakes, although I would not really call them mistakes but rather learning the hard way. Don’t rely too much on others is most probably the one thing I can tell everyone who is in the same situation. Work hard and always have a plan B, be flexible and think broad.
I read that you offer photography courses in Vienna! Can you offer any advice for someone wanting to start their own courses in their field of expertise?
Do research and think about what you do differently than others. Try to use synergies and don’t see your competitors as ‘enemies“ but as inspiration. By that I don’t mean copying what others do 😉
How did it feel when you lead your very first class?
I asked friends to run a test with me. I told them to be nice 😉 but tell me what they miss, what I can do better and what they liked. It was great to receive honest feedback before I put myself out there. It gave me the confidence to do it and then I loved it.
What has been your travel highlight so far?
I had so many great travel adventures and highlights. It is always a highlight when I find a great spot to photograph.
In an over saturated blogging market, what is your advice to standing out? How did you find your niche?
I found my niche in photography. I’m not the greatest writer but I inspire my readers with my photos. My dream was to combine travel and photography and that’s how I found my niche.
What is your one piece of advice for someone following in your footsteps?
Make a plan and set goals. I tend to forget that from time to time. The work is overwhelming and sometimes I don’t know what to focus on first. Then I lean back, set clear goals and know what to work on next.
Do you have any top tips for bloggers wanting to improve their photography skills?
Practice. And get inspiration from other photographers. Don’t copy but look at photos from other photographers. Think about the light and composition and lookout for common mistakes. I’ve got 5 tips to improve travel photography here.
That’s good advice, I personally really struggle with overwhelm. Are there any tools you rely on for this? (I’m an Excel addict!)
I use a simple excel spreadsheet listing the goals for the months and what steps I need to take to achieve them. Thanks for the reminder, Emily. I need to have a close look at it for this month.
How do you manage your time, both when at home and when travelling?
I work a lot and I don’t have weekends. But when I realize I need a break, I take it. It’s a tough task and very difficult because there are always things and new ideas coming up. But I love new ideas and love working on them.
Can you give us an example of what a day in your life looks like?
There’s no start of the day without coffee. And then I usually go through my to do list and start with the easy things. When I feel it’s not a good day for writing, I don’t write. Instead, I take my camera and go out shooting to clear my head. Then I came back and work on my blog, process photos, answer emails, go to meetings and think about new stories, do some travel research. I always have the feeling, a day is too short.
And lastly, do you have any exciting trips on the horizon?
I’m going to Tuscany in a week for a photography trip with students who want to improve their landscape photography skills. Tuscany is a wonderful part of Italy with a breathtaking landscape. Then I will lead a photography workshop in Budapest in December focussing on night and long exposure photography. And the next exciting trip will lead me to Ecuador and Galapagos in January. Who knows what’s in between 😉
See more of Nicola’s wonderful photography, read all about her travels, and learn how to improve your own photography on Suitcase and Wanderlust. You can also connect with Nicola on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Do you live a life-less-ordinary? Get in touch to talk about being interviewed for this series!
*Post header image – Toskana by Suitcase and Wanderlust