Will Business Kill Your Passion?

Will Business Kill Your Passion?

“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.

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Andrew Ashley's picture

If you think you are going to be a "Photographer" you are not... you are going to be an entrepreneur. Photography might be the type of business you are running, but it's a business you are running, and if you are not good at running businesses, you won't be doing it for very long. And there is the solution to the problem you didn't know you had... So if you were the kid that didn't like running the lemonade stand when you were young, don't be a photographer, but if you were the kid that ran the stand, then opened up franchise operations and recruited the kids in the neighborhood to join you and they loved working for you, and your customers voted you up in Yelp and raved about how you helped save them from their distaste for lemons, and you sold off the business to Snapple after six months of vicious negotiations... well then...

kotlos kotlos's picture

“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."

Not true. 20% fail within their first year. And that is according to the Bureau of labor statistics.


Nicole York's picture

Thanks for the share, I'll check it out!

Chris Adval's picture

It is right now honestly... juggling between the business and the photographer in me. There is constant and exhausting give and take. Like, do I sacrifice the craft for more business? As an artist its a sad reality we have to do very, very often and have no luxury to choose craft over business anymore unless we're forever working a day job to keep our craft's integrity? In all honesty, that is the way the industry is headed. More and more clients will spend more time finding the perfect price and quality and the photographers will always fight on price in vast majority of cases. And only real way to combat it? Spend a ton of time to make relationships with those buyers and HOPE they have interests in hiring you ever in the future. The business part of my mind sees that as not viable business plan. Heck, I'd bet if you asked any of the sharks on Shark Tank, of what they think of our industry and being an entrepreneur, they'll say its not a profitable business model. And its not... it takes way too long to turn a profit for a photography business AND be extremely happy. If I could force myself to enjoy weddings, I may turn a profit... if I could force myself to enjoy high volume business models, I may turn a profit. But that's it. This all sounds bitter but in all honesty its 7 years of experience.

Deleted Account's picture

The passion for photography dies when you start shooting for other people instead of yourself.

In other words, going into business isnt necessarily going to cause problems unless it involves making compromises and shooting jobs that you don't have a heart for and are just doing for the money.