How to Turn Pro in 2018

How to Turn Pro in 2018

2018 is certainly well underway. It’s getting toward the time of year where we start to let our goals slip. In the UK, summer has arrived and it's far more appealing to sit in a beer garden than it is to lock yourself away at your desk.

Now is a great time to re-assess those goals, and if you are looking to make 2018 the year that you turn pro, then here are a few things you should be thinking about.

Get Your Numbers in Check

In any business, it’s vital to understand your overheads (both financially and time-wise) and work out how much money you need to bring in each month in order to make the business viable. I have just got back from a recent bank meeting, so I can tell you to the penny how much my overheads for my business, living cost, and general fun money are. Knowing this is a great starting place for building a successful business. 

Stop Buying Kit

I hear it all the time, "I just need to buy this light", "that lens or a better camera before I can really make the leap" and so on. The reality is, you probably own enough equipment by this point to make a living as a photographer. When I went full time I had 4 speed lights and triggers, a 5D MK 1 (you can get this used for very little money), 28mm, 50mm and 85mm (all Canons budget ones) lenses and that’s it. That’s also pretty much all I owned for the first few years as a professional. If I couldn't do the job with the kit I had, I simply rented it in order to keep my cash flow as strong as possible. If I couldn't afford to rent it I didn't do the job.

Make Sure Your Website Is up to Date

Websites are still very important. Having an up to date portfolio, well-kept blog, and SEO friendly content is key. Photography is often a panic purchase in the commercial world. The agency/client looking to book you will have everything in place before they call you. This often means frantic Googling for the right person, if you are not on the first 3 pages of Google, you don’t stand a chance in many photographic fields. It’s also really important that your website is user-friendly. Most photographers stick to a handful of designs, so it’s advisable to follow suit. If I can’t work out a website straight away, I close it and look else where. 

Have a List of Clients That You Would Like to Work With

Blindly going into professional photography without any idea as to where your next job is coming from probably won't end in a long-term career. It’s probably a good idea to have a target audience so you know who you are selling to. Photography is usually problem solving, so you need to let them know that you can solve their specific set of problems. For example, if you are a food photographer, you want to let your clients know that you can shoot the volume they require, at the notice they are able to give you to the standard that they expect. 

Put Some Money Aside

For most of us, becoming a full-time photographer means leaving what we perceive as a safe salary job. Having 3-6 months of wages set aside will really take the heat off. I know this because I didn't. I went straight in with no real savings. The first three months were incredibly stressful, knowing what I know now, I would have put a few months wages aside so I wasn't so desperate to accept every single job offering that came my way.  

Get off the Forums

Being a professional photographer is pretty hardcore. Besides your social media and reading articles, you really shouldn't be giving up your time talking in online photography forums, arguing about the merits of one sensor over another. If this is your hobby and that’s what you enjoy doing, that's great, but if you want to make a living from this you are going to have to really manage your time well. Each hour that you spend procrastinating online, another photographer is honing their craft and walking away with your next potential client. 

Know Your Worth

This, in part, is helped by having those few months wages behind you. Try not to work for less than you are worth unless you absolutely have to (we all have to make rent and eat). I have never done a job on the cheap and been happy about it. Nor have I ever done one and it not turn into a complete nightmare. Knowing the rate you should be working at is key, without this you will really struggle to make a living from photography alone and you will quickly become disenchanted.

Own Your Decision

You need to own it. If you are going to make this year the one, then let everyone know. This will help reinstate that goal in your head and give you the push to follow through. In a career as sought after as photography, it really is all or nothing. Plan B isn’t an option.

What are you all doing this year to make the leap from amateur or semi-pro to professional?

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6 Comments

Anders Madsen's picture

Amen.

This should be mandatory reading for anyone even considering going pro.

Richard Bradbury's picture

Great advice Scott. I'll share this out.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Fantastic thanks for this!

Scott Choucino's picture

Glad it was of use Jeff