Episode 97: How a Burned Out Tech Pro Quit His Job and Replaced His Salary As a Boutique Photographer

How a Burned Out Tech Pro Quit His Job and Replaced His Salary As a Boutique Photographer


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

One year ago, he hated his career at a tech firm so much that the “Sunday scaries” had started on Saturday mornings.

He dreaded Mondays in the job that was sucking the life out of him.

Every weekend, he’d squeeze in photography sessions, dreaming of what life as a career photographer would look like.

But the math didn’t make sense.

At $300-$500 per session, he couldn’t cover the mortgage.

Now, a year later, Darren Elias is crushing it as a career photographer, who has replaced his income from that full-time job he hated, and he’s gone all in on boutique. Here’s his story.

Sarah Petty:

Darren, I am so excited that everybody gets to hear from you today.

Have you ever heard of the expression “golden handcuffs”?

You’re handcuffed to a job that has guaranteed money, vacation, and benefits, but then you have this other fun thing that you love, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Share where you were when you had that golden handcuff. 

Darren Elias:

I’m thrilled to be here.

I graduated college and had a degree in English and originally wanted to be a teacher, but I found myself in the corporate world as a CRM analyst.

I got a paycheck every two weeks and had benefits.

The handcuff was more like a cheap metal, not quite gold.

It was a good company and I had no problem with them, but it never felt like what I wanted to do. 

I went back to school, picked up a second degree in graphic design and somehow that tweaked my interest in digital photography.

Next thing you know, I had friends asking me to take pictures for them and my payment was that they bought me lunch.

I ended up being the weekend warrior shooting gigs for a few hundred bucks.

Flash forward several years, I’m still in the comfort zone of working a corporate job.

Now I’m married, have a daughter, and my comfort zone job has been taken away from me.

They send it overseas and what do I do now?

I knew I did not want to go back to a comfort zone style job because I did that for 19 years.

So, I tried something new and I hated it. 

Realizing You Can Make Money With Photography

At that time, I came across one of your challenges on Facebook.

It was fun and that’s when the Boutique Breakthrough 8 week workshop came along.

And finally for the first time in 13 years of photographing on the side, I sought a way to actually pay the bills with photography.

It wasn’t just for the money, but it was about being more successful in my photography business as a whole.

That’s when you taught me how to be better and that’s where I am now.

I went through the 8 week Boutique Breakthrough online workshop.

Then, I joined the Peak Performance program and it’s a whole different world.

The boutique model changed everything for me.

I realized what I should be charging, how I should be serving, how I should be working with my clients and it turns around 100%.

Sarah Petty:

At what point did you think, “I could do this and I don’t have to wear khakis or sit in a cubicle”?

Darren Elias:

It was shortly after Boutique Breakthrough.

The new job was really getting under my skin in the worst ways.

I was not the guy that you know now.

The job was sucking the life out of me.

It was killing me quicker than I imagined.

So my wife and I had a little talk one day after one more stressful thing happened to the job.

She told me to quit my job and make photography work.

I met amazing people in Boutique Breakthrough and I stayed in touch with some of them on some level and then Go Boutique Live, your 3 day event, came around. 

After the event ended, I knew I couldn’t afford Peak Performers at the time.

I went to bed the night after it ended feeling dejected.

The next morning, my wife, Heather, walks in the room, sits down, looks at me and says, “I feel like I’m keeping someone from chasing their dream. Go do it.”

And I immediately ran downstairs and called Joy of Marketing and enrolled in Peak Performance Coaching.

Investing In Your Photography Dreams Even When It’s Hard

Sarah Petty:

That always gave me chills.

It is hard to make an investment in yourself when you’re looking ahead at all the bills, pressure, and all the responsibilities to come.

It’s exciting and scary all at the same time.

Talk about this last year. 

Darren Elias:

A year ago I joined Peak Performance and I was yanked into a small group.

I went in and I was welcomed with open arms by this wonderful group of girls and to this day we’re family.

In this group, they’re talking about all these projects they’re working on and I’m trying to catch my breath because it’s so much.

It was overwhelming, but I had a client contact me to photograph her high school senior daughter.

I had photographed her son’s senior photos before and told her we needed to sit down and talk, because a lot has changed in the last three years.

I sat down with them, showed them pricing, samples, and did all the boutique steps and she told me they were hiring me. 

We took photographs of her daughter in her ballerina uniform on empty city streets, rooftops, and all kinds of crazy stuff.

When we sat down and did her in person sales, it was a $4,400 sale.

That was 11 times more than I ever made in a portrait sale before for a senior.

Since then I’ve done it again, and again, and again.

I’ve been blessed with amazing senior clients who latch on to my style and the service I deliver them because of what I’ve learned from you and from Peak Performance and the many great members there.

I ended up having a goal last year that I just wanted to survive and I exceeded my goals by about $20,000.

And I wake up happy every morning, there’s no more “Saturday morning scaries”.

Sarah Petty:

I love that.

And especially in this crazy environment we live in with the pandemic, everyone telling us what we can and can’t do, doesn’t that feel good to know that you are in full control of your future, your schedule, your life, and everything?

Darren Elias:

It feels great.

It’s terrifying because I don’t have a steady paycheck.

I have to go make that paycheck, but I have the tools to do it.

And that’s incredibly rewarding.

This year my second year of Peak Performance is about building more, about having higher averages, taking a lot of what I learned last year and running faster with it, but working less.

I just couldn’t be happier that I’m here.

Sarah Petty:

I’m so happy too.

Last question, your wife, what a great support.

Not everybody has this supportive spouse or partner, but is she just so proud of you and watching you bloom.

She once saw you were very unhappy and miserable, but  now she’s married to a happy man again because she supported you.

Does she feel the effects of that and love that?

Darren Elias:


She enjoys when she gets to assist me because she enjoys watching me do what I love to do.

And she couldn’t be happier for the man I’ve become, because I’m finally chasing that passion.

Sarah Petty:

It feels good to put your best self into the world.

Darren, thank you for coming here and sharing your story.

He does such an amazing job that our entire community voted him Peak Performer of the year just a year after he joined this group.

So I just couldn’t be more proud.

Thank you, Darren, for all you do to lift as you climb.

Episode 97: How a Burned Out Tech Pro Quit His Job and Replaced His Salary As a Boutique Photographer
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