​5 Signs You're Ready to Quit Your Day Job

​5 Signs You're Ready to Quit Your Day Job

Many photographers start out as hobbyists and part-time photographers while relying on a day job to pay the bills. Maybe you shoot on the weekends and edit after hours. But at what point should you quit your day job and commit to becoming a full-time professional photographer? Here's how to take that first big step in your photography career.

It can be a terrifying thought to quit your day job and dive into photography full-time. But if your desire is to become a professional photographer, at one point you're going to have to take the leap. There are a few points to consider before you hand in your letter of resignation.

1. You've Calculated The Risks

If you're young, childless, debt-free, maybe even still living with your parents with very few bills to pay, this is the best time in your life to start your own photography business because you have nothing to lose. This is how I started. Shortly after high school and before moving out of my parent's house, I rented a small storefront and opened a photo studio in my hometown. Costs were low, and I had no debt or major responsibilities. There was zero risk.

On the flip side, when you have little to lose you're also less driven to succeed. Many of the younger photographers I know have difficulty maintaining motivation. Having a mortgage and a family to feed makes starting a new business venture riskier, but it will also fuel you like nothing else. The catch is that you have to be willing and able to accept the risks.

2. You've Built-up Your Resources

If starting a business is risky for you, do your best to build up more resources before quitting your day job. This isn't just about having six or more months of mortgage payments saved up in advance. Consider who can help you succeed, whether that means partnering with other professionals, or recruiting friends and family members to help you grow your business. Some spouses end up working together and make a great team (other spouses would divorce if they tried the same thing!).

Be realistic about your different options and who you can truly trust and rely on to move your business forward.

3. You Have a Business Plan

Years ago, a friend of mine quit his very stable job and cashed out his retirement to start his own business. It seemed like a great idea in theory because he was very talented and hardworking. He had the best of intentions, but eventually closed up shop. The problem was he never really had a business or marketing plan, and built everything under the assumption that clients would just show up, as if a good business name, a sign on the road, and word-of-mouth was enough.

Successful businesses require a long-term strategy to get you going, and keep you growing. Do your research, talk to other successful photographers, and create a formal business plan that you can follow. If you don't know how to do this, you need to learn before you launch.

4. You've Diversified Your Skills

I've been self-employed for 15 years now, and one thing I know for sure is that you should diversify your talents and services to stay ahead. I got my start in graphic design and web development, then expanded into photography and eventually social media marketing. Having a range of talents and skills will enable you to do more for your own business, and offer more services to your own clients, which can help you stay afloat.

For example, a wedding photographer could also build engagement websites, or a family portrait photographer could provide their own matting and framing services. As a commercial photographer, I usually offer marketing packages to my photography clients. More skills equals more business.

5. You've Proven Yourself

You probably shouldn't buy a camera today and go into business tomorrow (although I applaud your ambition if you do). The best way to start your photography career is to test the waters: buy the gear, master your skills, perform plenty of photo shoots and get paid for it. Get a feel for whether or not this is a career you really want. Build a list of happy clients and grow your confidence.

You'll know when you're ready to quit your day job and become a professional photographer when you get to a point where you can no longer fit your "hobby" into your life. If you've started booking more shoots than you can manage, and you're not too worried about failing, consider going 100 percent into photography.

Have you quit your day job to start your own photography business? Are you thinking about it? We'd love to hear your story in the comments below.

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9 Comments

David Moore's picture

I really wish it only took "You hate your day job" haha.

Scott Goh's picture

so true Hillary. i jump into full time wedding photography slightly more than a year now and is enjoying myself yet spending more time than my old job.
Scott from http://www.scottgohphotography.com.au

Andrew Feller's picture

Great post! I have been a full time photographer for just over 3 years and only just recently became fully independent. The diversification of skills is something that I feel gets stomped on by a lot of online photography folks. Its not being a "generalist" its more being a "photographic comando"

Many people are simply too scared to pack in their day job.

Chris Adval's picture

Thinking about it. Restructuring my part time business now and hope it will allow me to go full time in 2016 or 2017.

Matt Caporale's picture

Great article Hillary. I am in the beginning stages of making the transition so i found this quite helpful. Thanks

Kyle Medina's picture

It's easy when your photography pays equal or more to your day job. Don't over think it.

Jayson Carey's picture

My sign was getting fired from my day job for taking too many photo and video side gigs. A year and a half later, I'm making triple what I made at that job by working on traveling TV shows.