The Biggest Thing I Overcame When Starting Over

Tori Sikkema, Interiors | Branding Photographer

Starting over later in life, finding joy, success, and how you can do this too!

Listen to the Brand Lift Podcast here:

I’m Tori Sikkema, an interiors and branding photographer who started a successful photography career later in life. In just one year I got my work published in local and national magazines. Now, I want to encourage you to take charge of your path in life…

Have you ever wanted to rewrite the narrative of your life? Well, I have and want to share my story and share how you can do it.

I lost the sense of who I was at my core. My core values were in conflict with my daily routine and I felt trapped. Have you ever felt that way?

I was in a rut working a 9-5 in higher education, sitting at a desk, and slowly dying every day. My job did not allow me to tap into my collaborative and creative side of problem-solving. The status quo was good enough. After doing that for 5 years, I left my full-time gig and pivoted to photography.

The biggest thing I had to overcome was the willingness to take a risk. Letting go of a full-time salary to embrace creating a new client base and replace my full-time income. 

Of course, that wasn’t going to happen overnight, so the support of my family was monumental in my decision to venture out on my own, feed my soul, and find a new sense of self and fulfillment in everyday life.

Here are the 4 steps that I followed to get back to who I am and to find a career that I am not only passionate about, but that also feeds my soul and fills my bank account.

Step 1: Invest in education. 

I enrolled with a professional photographer to hone my technical skills. More than that, I wanted a mentor who was successful in commercial photography and knew the road I was about to travel.

Step 2: Invest in the tools of my trade.

I leveled up my equipment, investing in high-quality, new, and pre-owned equipment that would start me on the path to booking clients.

Step 3: Networking and sharing my good news with my sphere of influence. 

This led to some of my first jobs of photographing family beach portraits, holiday mini sessions, and competitive swimming competitions, and then COVID hit!

EVERYTHING closed, but that did not stop me from honing my craft and creating opportunities for myself.

Due to COVID, I began photographing my home, and then the light bulb went off…I really loved photography and styling for interiors! So my love of working with entrepreneurs and interiors began. 

As we refreshed our home during COVID, as many did, I chronicled the journey through interior images and started telling my story.

Step 4: Create a DIY website and IG account.

I dove head first into studying successful photographers, continuing my education, and investing in the knowledge I didn’t have. 

I was humbled to know that I needed to be a student first, learning as I did.

I encourage you to continue to work as you grow. It helps to put what you have learned into practice. If I waited until I knew EVERYTHING and it was perfect, I would never have started. 

It’s okay to fall and then pick yourself up again, it builds character, and boy, do I have a lot of character!

Here’s what happened…

I did this for two years and then relaunched a new website that showed proof of the work I had done over the last two years and that spoke directly to my ideal clients. I knew that taking the time to have examples of my work, talent, and technical skills would attract my ideal clients, and I was right.

Today, I help interior designers, builders, and architects get their design projects published. In my first 6 months of business, I was published in 6 different publications, launching me down a path I could only have dreamed about when I worked a 9-5.

My strategy has also helped creative entrepreneurs become more visible and the “face of their brand” because they realize the importance of professional images to represent themselves and their businesses.

I have written numerous creative briefs and woven the narrative of design projects and pitched editors for publication. 

My formula works and I can make it work for you too.

So here are your next steps:

  1. Ask yourself a question: Do I look forward to my everyday life?
    1. If not, start asking yourself what brings you joy and fulfillment, I bet it is something you can turn into a business.
  2. Find a teacher | mentor | someone who is where you aspire to be and become a student of your craft. Invest in yourself.
  3. Tell your sphere of influence what you are doing so they can encourage and support your journey. A supportive environment nurtures growth.
  4. DIY your ass off! Yes, there are so many hacks for doing things yourself. We all cannot start off with the 5.5 ct. Cushion cut diamond, we have to work our way up!

So go, do, fall down, learn, and do it again. I believe in you! If I can do it, you can too.

Until next time, take one new action that lifts up your brand!

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast!

Want to work with me or learn more about interiors | brand photography + styling?

You can book a free discovery call here, check out the great resources on my blog and sign up for my newsletter here.

Follow me on Instagram too! @torisikkemaphotography

The Journal


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