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Spend Less to Improve Your Chances of Being a Successful Photographer

Spend Less to Improve Your Chances of Being a Successful Photographer

There are many variables that play a part in the career of a successful photographer. While some of these elements are completely out of your control things like your lifestyle and outgoings are not. If you want to maximize your chances of having a successful career you may need to make a few adjustments before it's too late.

One of the areas you can control in your life is the amount of money you spend each month. In a nutshell, the less money you spend, the less you’ll need to earn. This might seem like an obvious point but I'm talking about much more than just simple mathematics. The thing about needing to earn less money is you can actually become much more choosy in the kind of jobs you take on which means you can guide your career in the direction you want it to go. If you have high outgoings then you'll probably need to be much less selective because those bills aren't going to pay themselves. Not only is this less fulfilling and more time consuming it could be taking you down a career path you never really wanted to follow.

The way I have always looked at this situation is in the terms of a breaking point. That is the point in your career where the money has dried up and you have to give up on your dreams. You may have to stop doing photography and look for another job, maybe move back in with your parents, or in extreme cases you may find yourself on the streets. You might not know exactly what figure your breaking point is but we all have one. For most Americans that point is as close as one paycheck away. The further away you can push your breaking point the best chance you give yourself of having the career you actually want to have. When you think of it in those terms to have high outgoings is a risky way to live on many levels.

So if moving your breaking point further away is something you want to do it's important to work out every dime you spend each month. There are plenty of free spreadsheet programs you can get on your computer and smartphone to do this. You'd be surprised how many people don't actually know what their monthly outgoings are. Once you can see in black and white what that figure is you'll have a much better understanding of the situation you are dealing with and possible areas where you might be able to make some changes.

Once you have all your outgoings worked out you may already be able to see some places where you can save money. Just in case you overlooked anything here are some areas well worth looking into.

1. Studio Costs

I know having a studio is great but do you really need one? This will vary from industry to industry but some of you could probably spend a lot less by hiring a studio each time you needed one. If you do really need to keep your studio could you find a better deal if you moved elsewhere? Could sharing or subletting your studio work? If your studio has just become somewhere you keep all your kit and do a few shoots each month then it might be time to let it go. Just remember the goal here is to move your breaking point further away and studios are a big expense.

2. Are You Paying Too Much Tax?

This will vary from country to country but make sure you are on the right tax code and paying the right amount of tax. Yes, tax rebates are a nice surprise but your business may have already gone under long before that check comes in.

3. Are You Entitled to Any Benefits?

Again this will depend on where you live but a lot of authorities have grants and schemes available to self-employed people and first-time business owners. Reach out to people in a similar position to yourself and see if help is available. Doing your homework on this one could be worth its weight in gold quite literally.

4. Equipment Costs

We all love buying gear but is that new camera really necessary? My day to day camera is a Canon 5d III which came out back in 2012 and I don't plan on changing it anytime soon. For my fine art work I love to create big prints by shooting on a Canon 5DS but as I only produce about four new pieces a year it's more cost effective to rent one rather than having it sat on a shelf depreciating. Try to keep any equipment costs to a minimum.

This attitude should be applied to all gadgets for business and personal use. The new iPhone 8 is a matter of days away from being announced but do you really need it? All these unnecessary upgrades move your breaking point closer rather than further away.

5. Do You Have the Proper Insurance?

Although this one is technically an outgoing not having the right insurance could be very expensive. If your gear gets damaged or stolen or you have an accident to yourself or others while out on a shoot not having the right insurance could shatter your dreams of success overnight.

6. Have You Shopped Around?

It's very easy to let your bills auto renew but if you are out of contract or a better deal can be had put in the effort to make the change. You maybe able to save hundreds of dollars each month, remember that with each saving your breaking point just got a little further away.

7. Do You Really Need Such a Large Vehicle?

If you don't need such a large vehicle for your day to day life you should seriously think about changing it. The bigger the vehicle the more it will cost to insure, tax, and run. Significant savings could be had if you made the switch. For a long time, I convinced myself that I needed a large vehicle for shoots when in fact I didn't. The few times a year I actually do need something bigger I just hire one and am still hundreds of dollars better off each month. It's also better for the environment too.

So there you have it, just a few areas where you might be able to save yourself some money and move your breaking point a little further away. I appreciate a lot of you will have responsibilities like kids, animals, and expensive mortgages to pay for but I still believe some savings could be made. The main reason I wanted to write this article was to make people think about how their lifestyle and outgoings could be negatively shaping their photography career or even contributing to its premature end. I'm not saying to be a successful photographer you have to move to the woods and live like a monk, but I do feel like the lower your outgoings can be the stronger your hand is when it comes to carving out the photography career you actually want to have.

Anything I missed off the list? Do you have any photography related savings we should know about? Please share them in the comments below.

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Matthew Odom's picture

Excellent piece!

Paul Parker's picture

Thanks Matthew it's much appreciated!

Karl Shreeves's picture

Good thoughts. One of the ironies of business is that while you CAN'T save your way to success, you CAN spend your way to failure!

Paul Parker's picture

What a great saying! I'm going to start using that...

Dr Peter Howell's picture

Great sentiments, debt can really force your hand.


Paul Parker's picture

Very true Peter, thanks for stopping by...

Rick Fowler's picture

Your equipment does not need to be new, used equipment in excellent condition, can get you a lot more for the money.
You can buy a used lens or camera and get something better that maybe you could not afford at the full price. Get the best equipment you will always be happy with it. Research makes all the difference.

Paul Parker's picture

that's a great point Rick, I do think you have to be careful when it comes to second hand cameras as if they go and they are out of warranty you may spend more than you bargained for. That said eBay is always my first port of call.

For cameras, you just need to make sure the shutter counts are not too high. Crazy how so many people don't seem to ask about this when buying second-hand gear...

Thanks for your time

J J's picture

Too many run-on sentences.

Paul Parker's picture

Welcome to Fstoppers J J we are always open to constructive criticism here its always our intention to bring the best possible content to our readers written in as clear a way as possible. Hope your enjoying the rest of articles...

Jared Wolfe's picture

Also important to note that time equals money. So the less time you can spend on a shoot the more money you are making per hour.

This is why getting things right in camera by using an external light meter, color checker, gels and setting up or buying LR presets etc can be big money makers. There is nothing wrong with charging $99 for a shoot when you literally only spend 1 hour on the whole shoot and don't spend 4 hours in lightroom afterwards dicking with exposure, contrast and color balance. It's the difference between making $99/hr vs ~$20/hr

Paul Parker's picture

Amen to that. A lot of photographers have the mentality of "I'll fix it in post" which eats time and even worse than that can comprise image quality.

Thanks for your comment Jared.