“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” What an inspiring, hopeful idea. Unfortunately, it’s not always true. According to this article on USA Today, only about 20 percent of businesses last past their first year, and even less survive past the five-year mark. So, what happens when someone falls in love with photography and thinks to themselves, I should start a business? The answer is: a lot of stuff that is not related to photography and, sometimes, the death of a passion.
An increasing number of people are picking up cameras with the intention of turning their passion into a business. It makes sense, since popular culture encourages us to follow our dreams, and who doesn’t want to spend all day doing something they love? What most new photography entrepreneurs don’t realize though, is how little time they’re actually going to spend behind the camera.
It feels good to get paid for doing something you love, but when that thing is on the bottom of a long list that includes items like marketing, consultations, content creation, social media updates, album design, ordering product, emails, phone calls, blogging, book keeping, and customer service, passion can quickly get subsumed in drudgery.
That doesn’t mean that photographers shouldn’t go into business for themselves, but it does mean that they should walk in with their eyes wide open and fully understanding what it takes to run a successful business. Rose-colored glasses can quickly become fogged by tears when creatives find themselves overwhelmed by the needs of their new business, frustrated by customer service, and struggling to bring in new clients while their beloved camera sits unused.
Run the cost of doing business, build your business systems, walk yourself through the process from beginning to end, create a marketing plan, consider how you’ll handle unhappy clients and crazy requests and, if you still find yourself excited by the idea of late nights and long hours running your own business, despite the cost, then register your business and open those doors. Will you still struggle? Yes. But you’ll have prepared yourself and built a solid foundation for your business to stand on that will allow you to weather the storms.
What you must avoid if you don’t want your passion for photography to become a casualty in the battle of building a successful business, is jumping feet first into the business world without becoming a business person. You don’t have to turn your passion into a business in order to enjoy it or profit from it. The business of photography is more business and less photography, so walking in blindly is the last thing you want to do.
The most important question to ask yourself when considering whether to start a photography business isn’t do I want to be a photographer, it’s: do I want to be a business person? If the answer to that question is no, then it’s best to either let photography remain a passionate hobby, or work as a photographer for someone else and let them handle the business.