Many photographers who have been shooting for a while hit a point where they begin to wonder if they should turn their hobby into a profession. I’m going to delve into a few signs that it might be the right time for you. First, a few clarifications:
- “Professional” doesn’t always mean full time. Many successful photographers run their business as a side or part-time job. This article will be addressing the process of becoming a full-time photographer.
- Even if you don’t make photography your occupation, if you’re collecting money from clients, you need to be claiming that income to the IRS. That said, I am definitely no expert in taxes or the legality of business entities in different states or countries. If you have questions, please consult a lawyer or accountant.
Let’s get down to business!
1. Your demand is outweighing your availability
So you’re booked to the gills and turning away clients left and right. Congratulations! You’re obviously in very high demand. But trying to squeeze in sessions during a small amount of free time can be a stressful endeavor.
Draw out a weekly schedule for how things are going now. Is there room to improve or condense your current workflow so you can take on more clients? Now create a hypothetical schedule for how your week might look if photography was your only job. Are you able to fill a good chunk of your time with work? How many more sessions would you need to book to stay busy?
2. All aspects of running a photography business excite you
Remember that the actual photography portion is probably only 10% or less of what you’ll do in any given week. You have to be excited about marketing, budgets, answering emails, meeting with clients, ordering supplies, and paying bills. Okay, maybe “excited” is too ambitious of a word. But the thought of doing those things for 90% of your week shouldn’t terrify or depress you.
3. You’re spend all your free time on photography
It’s great to have a hobby that you love. But when you love it more than your current job, you spend every waking moment working on it or thinking about it, and your family and friends rarely see you anymore, it may be time to consider making it your job. Once it’s your full-time job, you can set specific work hours and create a better work-life balance. Hey, maybe you’ll even have time for a new hobby!
4. It’s financially justifiable
It may come at the end of the list, but this one is really the most important. You should never make this kind of life change without running all of the numbers. What it comes down to is this: if your new photography career can earn you the kind of income you need to live the lifestyle you want, then there really isn’t much else standing in your way.
So what if you want to quit your current job to pursue photography full time, but you don’t have a lot of clients yet? You’ll need to analyze your expenses and income without the paycheck from your current gig and set a budget. How much money do you have in reserves? How long can you survive with no paycheck without cutting into your reserves too much? Come up with a plan for when you need to start bringing in a paycheck, and then devise an aggressive marketing strategy to get you more clients by that date. Create a plan for a paycheck as well. Even if it’s ridiculously small at first (like $50 per week), it’s nice to start somewhere and feel like you’re earning wages again.
Of course, there are a bunch of perks to being a full-time photographer. You can make your own hours, work from home (in your pajamas!), choose your own clients, be your own boss, and write off expenses. All of that aside, it takes a lot of hard work and a major leap of faith to do this for a living. It’s not always the right time to make that jump, but if all the major factors are lining up, then it may be time to just take a chance and go for it.
What’s holding you back from chasing your dream? Leave a comment below!
Kelly Benton lives with her husband and two adorable dachshunds in Northeast Indiana, where she works from home as a Wedding Photographer. When she’s not photographing over people’s love, she’s a wannabe-rockstar triathlete with a penchant for funny movies and craft beer. Check out her blog or connect with her on Facebook.