Photography is a dream career for many of us. The reality is, few of us can actually turn that into a full time career. We keep our regular 9-5 jobs to pay the bills and grab the odd photography gig here or there.
Every once in a while though, one of us will slip through the cracks and enjoy some moderate success. So much so, that it begins to interfere with that regular 9-5 job, and a decision must be made to transition from one career to another. Many aspiring photographers jump the gun and attempt to take on a full time career before they are actually ready. When that time comes for you here are 5 things to consider and help make sure it's the right move for you.
Do You Have A Reserve?
Becoming a full time photographer means starting your own business, and just like any business, it must have a financial reserve. You will now be self employed which means you pay yourself from the company coffers. Unlike your regular 9-5 you won't have a steady wage. Not every week or even month will be rewarding. Can you handle a dry spell? What if a client has a spending freeze? What if a client has a shipping delay for the product you were supposed to shoot?
Dry spells can last a while and during that time your expenses will continue to accumulate. Bills need to be paid, things will continue to break, and those advertising dollars need to be spent to attract new customers and hopefully end that dry spell.
Keep at least 6 months of operating cost as a reserve for when the going gets tough. It will be one less thing for you to stress about while running your own business.
Is There Demand?
Just because you have a couple clients right now in a particular market doesn't mean you need to drop everything and pursue it. We all get excited about certain prospects and dream up big ideas, but before you commit to a market and go all in, do some due diligence and research it.
Some towns might be having a housing crisis which perhaps may not be the greatest time to enter as an architectural photographer. If you are surrounded by retirement communities maybe children's portraits aren't the greatest idea......or maybe it's a brilliant one.
Understand your community and make sure your current clients are not outliers.
Have You Evaluated Your Clients?
All clients are not created equal. If you are thinking of going full time it is probably because you have accumulated a roster of clients you hope will continue to pay your bills.
Just like any business, there is also a chance of failure. Can you rely on your current clients for the next few days, weeks, months? Or does the outlook tell you they will be around for many years to come? Do they pay their bills on time? How frequent are their projects?
Of course we can never say anything with certainty, but it is imperative you evaluate your current clients if you expect your livelihood and business to depend on them. Be very realistic here and quite critical of your clients. History generally does repeat itself so look to your clients past actions to determine their dependability. It can help to make a spreadsheet tracking your clients against criteria such as project consistency, outstanding balances, number of referrals, and so on.
Can You Cut Your Expenses?
Part of running a business means operating efficiently and you can run into quite a pickle if you don't keep those expenses under control. This includes personal expenses!
Lower expenses will mean being able to hold out longer during a dry spell, and will allow you to save more during the good times. It can be tempting to spend like you did when you had a regular 9-5 job, but with your own business, you just don't have the luxury of a consistent paycheck at the end of the week.
Make sure you understand your budget, and if it is already as efficient as you can get it, make sure you can take on the extra expenses of running a business.
There are many free services such as Mint and Wave that will allow you to easily track your spending as well as help you set budgets.
Are You Self-Motivated?
Life can be distracting. When you are working for someone else it's easy to stay motivated. The concept is simple. If you don't fulfill your job you won't have it for much longer.
When you are the boss, however, laziness can rear its ugly head. Errands can get in the way, you might sleep in, might have to see a friend, wait.....they just put THAT on Netflix.... etc. Before you know it, you've run out of time in the day. So time management and self motivation is absolutely crucial!
Furthermore, do you really have a passion for photography? Can you motivate yourself to do it every day? It's one thing to keep photography as a hobby, but when it's your every day job and that is all you think about, make sure it doesn't get to be too much. It's a good idea to keep another hobby just to have a break from your NEW job.
All said and done photography can be a FANTASTIC career option. It allows me to live out my dream and express myself in a creative way on a regular basis. That said, part of my dream has always been to be a small business owner. The actual day in and day out operations of keeping a business afloat bring me great joy. The thrill of putting together marketing strategies, finding new clients, streamlining my processes, cleaning my studio, networking with and through old clients, it is all part of what excites me when I get up in the morning to start my full time job. It is hard work, just like running ANY other business, but if you have a passion for it and consider the points I have mentioned you should be able to turn your own passion into a full time career.