A Recovering Management Consultant Turned Photographer

In a world dominated by overworking, there’s no better way than to rebalance it with an appreciation of art. We think a great way to balance work and life is to incorporate your passion into what you do. One of our Artist Fellows, Nicole Chan, does just that: she is a ‘recovering management consultant and a recent escapee from the three-walled prison known as corporate cubicles’, turned professional photographer.

I had a full travel schedule every Monday-Thursday, and after several years, I burned out.

Nicole studied finance and upon graduation, got a job offer she was excited about, but the buzz eventually wore off once she realized how tiring 100+ hour weeks were: “I had a full travel schedule every Monday-Thursday, and after several years, I burned out.”

Photo by Nicole Chan Photography

Photo by Nicole Chan Photography

She decided to leave her job and start her own photography business, in line with her passion for filmmaking and creating engaging visual content. We’re glad she did — take a look at a few of the stunning photos she created at our tiny cabins here — and read on to learn a little bit more about Nicole and her tips for starting your own business.

 

What occupies most of your time during the day?
Though I’m a photographer, I spend a lot of my day doing non-shooting things on the marketing and operational side of the business. Editing and post-processing, shoot production, and making sure that my clients are taken care of!

 

What occupies most of your time during the weekend?
I photograph a lot – my friends, Siberian Husky, food that I’m eating. I love trying new things and sharing those experiences with friends.

Burnout is real and being miserable bled into my personal relationships, sleep habits, stress levels, and ultimately, my health.

How did you decide to leave your job to start your own business?
Burnout is real and being miserable bled into my personal relationships, sleep habits, stress levels, and ultimately, my health. I asked myself difficult questions: Is now the right time to leave my job? It was 2010 and at the peak of the recession. I had a stable job, while almost everyone around me was getting laid off. What kind of part-time job could I get to financially support myself as I transition? Is photography even a viable career?  Do I have the personality traits to be an entrepreneur? What will I do about healthcare? Should I really tap into my savings? How risk averse am I? Do I have the support of my family and close friends? Then, after I assessed my situation, I slept on it. I took a rest and made sure that I didn’t make any decisions based on emotional impulse. These calculated decisions needed to be made carefully.

 

Nicole Chan Photography

The Siberian Husky. By Nicole Chan.

What do you wish you had more time to do?
Nothing. As in sitting and doing nothing. My husband recently got me a Kindle, and I’m super excited to carve out time to unwind, relax, and do nothing.  

What do you wish you did less of?
Cleaning. I hate cleaning. I suck at cleaning.

What is your favorite tech or app that helps you balance your life?
Google Calendar. Because I work for myself, it’s easy to constantly be working, checking emails, thinking about new business ventures, etc. With Google Calendar, I block out days that I am completely unavailable for any sort of work, and force myself to disconnect.

Blocking out days is key. How do you manage work-life balance?
I’m still learning. I try to read a lot about efficiency, being a passionate leader, and managing a highly productive team. Taking frequent “free days” and scheduling in “buffer days” and “focus days” (Entrepreneurial Time System) has helped a lot with making sure that I don’t work all hours of the day and spend quality time with the people that I care about the most. With a smartphone constantly attached to me, it’s a struggle.

Taking frequent “free days” and scheduling in “buffer days” and “focus days” has helped a lot with making sure that I don’t work all hours of the day.

What do you think you’d be doing in a world without technology?
I’d get really good at building fires and making the world’s best s’more. The key is to use chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers and to use dark chocolate with hazelnut bits.

Who is your favorite writer?
Agatha Christie. She never ceases to blow my mind. I love getting lost in mystery fiction. 

Nicole Chan Photography

Portrait of a Getaway, by Nicole Chan.

When and where are you happiest?
In bed. No alarm clock. Fried chicken and waffles in bed.

How do you create balance in your life?
I have a gratitude journal that reminds me of how lucky I am to live the life I have. I create balance by spending time with the people that enable me and inspire me — my family and friends. I volunteer frequently. I give before I receive. I meditate. I try extremely hard to bring positivity into every situation.

When I returned back from my two-night stay in the cabins, I felt refreshed and ready to tackle any and all business challenges. Sometimes a small break is all I need to reflect and to give myself a little mental break.

Lastly, having your own hustle, do you ever get burned out?
Yes. I first jotted down a business plan on a napkin, then I ran with it. I hustled day and night. I read every entrepreneurship book I could. I networked and had countless lunches with everyone that gave me the time of day. Making this business flourish became a mission. I’m not sure that I realized how determined I could be until this point in my life. I believe that through entrepreneurship, you learn a lot about yourself: your passions, work ethic, strengths, and shortcomings. Even now, burnout is real. I love what I do. I get completely engulfed in it. This is why experiences like Getaway is important. I could disconnect to reconnect. When I returned back from my two-night stay in the cabins, I felt refreshed and ready to tackle any and all business challenges. Sometimes a small break is all I need to reflect and to give myself a little mental break.

Getaway Boston, Cabin for 4. By Nicole Chan.

To see more of Nicole’s work, you can follow her on Instagram  or check out her commercial and wedding work online. To avoid burnout, you can book your own Getaway here.