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Quitting Your Day Job to Go Full-Time

Quitting Your Day Job to Go Full-Time

The jump from hobbyist or part-time to full-time photographer can be a daunting experience. About three years ago, I took the plunge into full-time photography. Overnight, I dropped my career as a teacher and decided to pursue this creative art. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have made and one of the most rewarding.

Recently, an old friend, Pete DeMarco, made the same decision, and I sat down with him to talk about his experience. I felt that what he had to say could help others and hopefully, give them the confidence to make the jump they really want to. We talked about a few different steps that both of us took to get where we are, and I will share them with you below.

Step 1: Know That You're Ready

Until this year, DeMarco was a full-time educator, and spent his time off traveling the world, camera in hand. He was happy doing this, but felt that he was lacking a sense of purpose. He says that the change for him came when he realized that photography held that purpose for him. He is able to connect with people all over the world using the images he makes, and his need to create is fulfilled.

For me, this decision came when I was spending more time with my photography than I was with my day job. I knew that it would eventually take away from my ability to be a teacher, and I made the jump before either that or my photography began to suffer.

Step 2: Prepare

DeMarco relates two major challenges he faced before finally jumping off the edge: self-doubt and financial safety. These two, I think, we can all relate to. In order to conquer or at least subdue the first, Pete started a daily routine that included journaling, meditation, and creative affirmations that inspired him to make work. The second was a little simpler. Pete created a financial safety net with savings to keep himself going for at least a year and a passive income stream through an online business he created. Increasingly, this is something we all need. With costs of living increasing and budgets going down, having a second income stream is crucial to maintaining a lifestyle.

Step 3: Take the Plunge

The decision to give up his career as a professor did not come lightly to DeMarco, and it took him quite some time to finally make the jump. However, he says it's the best decision he has ever made. It has given him the freedom to design his life around his interests and to work on more personal projects, such as reshooting photographs that his father took of Jeju Island almost 40 years ago. He reminds us that now, many photographers make a living without even selling their own images. They sell products or services rather than the images themselves.

Step 4: Focus

It's easy for creatives to get sidetracked. After all, that's pretty much what we do for a living. If you're anything like me, a gust of wind could be enough to send you in a completely different direction. When asked about spreading himself too thin with his multiple income streams, Pete commented that he too is pulled this way and that, but setting priorities and goals has really helped him deal with it.

I know that this is something I made mistakes with early on in my business. I did not have specifics of where I wanted to be, and what I wanted to be doing. This made it difficult to focus on tasks that would move my business and my art forward. This is sound advice from DeMarco that I believe we can all implement in our creative endeavors. It could be as simple as a to-do list, or as elaborate as a longtime business plan. Either way, knowing where you're going and what you want is key to a long-lasting, fulfilling creative business.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, DeMarco recommends that we all follow our bliss. Seek what you love, and you will find a way to make it happen. Thanks for your time, Pete. I'm sure this will help many who are looking to make the career jump. If you'd like to see more of DeMarco's work and read more of his inspirational ideas, head over to his website.

Images used with permission of Pete DeMarco.

Dylan Goldby's picture

Dylan Goldby is an Aussie photographer living and working in South Korea. He shoots a mix of families, especially the adoptive community, and pre-weddings. His passions include travel, good food and drink, and time away from all things electronic.

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I seriously shrivel at the thought of leaving a solid job to risk the career move of going into photography full time and I only feel apprehension when someone tells me they are planning to do it. If I hadn't been laid off, I'd still be punching a time card at my last job instead of doing photography for a living. Scariest shit ever.

even scarier is doing a job you dislike for the entirety of your life :)

I'm pretty good at compartmentalizing. In retrospect I wish I could have done it sooner, but I'm not complaining about how it all turned out :)

a tiny minority of people can save up a years worth, how much do you think anyone can have saved up at any one time? How much are the vast majority of the people able to save up through their entire lifetime? Less than needed to survive on your own for a year?

I managed to save as a student so that I could live 9 months without income. So it is not impossible at all. You just have to make the decision that saving is more important than spending.

the amount "needed" to survive is never the amount you spend. the "vast majority" as you say spend money on too many unneeded stuff. If you can live a few months or years without that, you can save a lot.

I used to think like this too, I asked my brother how he managed to open his cafe while earning less than me. He pointed me to http://www.daveramsey.com/
Best financial advice I've ever had.

I started working as a photographer [own business, commercial, souvenir, events, concerts, publication, bla bla bla bla...] ..... until now I am a photographer. I am actually considering to get a "day job" as a side.

I quit my job last year to travel for a year so it is not impossible but definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made! So many memories!

Sometimes we're forced into it. I was laid off from my design job in January of 2015 and had no idea how I would survive. No savings but somehow every month I survive again only to start from scratch all over each new month. Not knowing when the next paid client is going to call is stressful but I've been lucky so far.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” ― Seneca
"Not knowing when the next paid client is going to call" keeps you going after another paying client.

Good article. I´m in process to go full time as a commercial photographer, but many times, when I talk to my family about my business photography progress, they ask me: "When will you start your "real" own business?" I answer them that photography is my "real" business. How do you react if somebody thinks that "photography" is not a real business? Does it affect to you some way?How do you overtake these kind of comments?? Thank you.

Ignore that type of comments. Two things I have noticed:
1) Most of the time, family will not support you when you go after your dream. They don't understand and worry that you don't know what you are doing. It is an indication of love, but is through ignorance of your desires and dreams. You can't explain it, so don't frustrate your self trying.

2) Everyone over the age of twelve has a cell phone and everyone takes snapshots of everything, from dinner to a flat tire to a sleeping dog and posts it online. Very few people understand the difference between a 'selfie' and a portrait. Those that do, will pay for a portrait. Go for those.

Don't ever stop trying to grow you business. the only true business failures are those who quit. Read biographies of famous people and you will find almost all (if not all) reached a point of failure, but carried on. Those who quit never make it to the history books or biographies.

Thank you Steve for your words. Many times we expect a family support in our dreams but it doesn't happend. I won't quit.