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Author Topic: right time to turn pro...?  (Read 7086 times)

Hillsilly

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2012, 01:12:06 AM »
I'm no pro photographer. Instead, I own an accounting firm.  However, I have several clients who are photographers and this gives me a unique insight into how they perform financially.  As you'd expect, it is a mixed bag.  Some do well financially and most enjoy an at least an average income.  Others wish they could be doing better.  But generally, established photographers tend to have fairly consistent businesses. But it takes many years to get to reach that stage.

The interesting thing is that it is really hard to pick who will be successful financially.  Sometimes it is simple things that do well.  I've got one client who travels throughout rural Australia taking photos and portraits of people and then blockmounting them.  There's nothing really "special" about his photos as they are almost all the same (that being said, they are good).  But he's out there every day knocking on doors to get work.  But I've seen other people who are exceptional photographers fail commercially.  Anyway, the point I'm trying to get across is that you don't know if it is the right time until you give it a try.

If you have a good idea about how your business will run, the type of work you want to target, pricing structure, how you will gain new clients and how you will promote yourself, then you are halfway there.  If you have sufficent financial resources to go a couple of lean years (and aren't afraid to risk it) then your chances of being successful increase dramatically.  And while the smart thing would be to stay in your current job, realistically, at some point you will need to commit fully to the new business.  If you've got everything in place now, why not make the jump?

However, be realistic.  Set some objectives based on the income you need to earn.  If you are nowhere near where you need to be, reassess the situation.  Sometimes, no matter what you do and how hard you try, things just don't work out.  Don't be too proud to give up temporarily and try again when you have some different ideas, more capital or the economy is performing better. OK, you might lose some money, but that's probably the worst that can happen.  You will gain some business experience.  You will gain some new ideas about photography.  You will learn what its like to do it professionally.  You'll know whether it is or isn't for you.  But most of all, you won't be sitting around in twenty years time living in regret wishing you'd have had a go and thinking you're too old, or have too many financial commitments to take the risk.
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2012, 01:12:06 AM »

V8Beast

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #16 on: June 14, 2012, 01:50:21 AM »
As far as when is a right time, a big photographer once said to keep your day job as long as it doesn't kill you.  Keep it until it gets to the point you have so much photography work and it feels like either job will start to suffer if you dont drop your day job.  Then is a good time to jump ship because it means you have lots of repeat work coming in, and that is what is needed to survive.

Great advice!

When you decide to make the jump, make sure to create a separate business entity for your photography endeavors to protect your personal finances from your business expenses. Sounds simple, but it's definitely something that you don't want to take for granted.

expatinasia

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2012, 02:03:35 AM »
As far as when is a right time, a big photographer once said to keep your day job as long as it doesn't kill you.  Keep it until it gets to the point you have so much photography work and it feels like either job will start to suffer if you dont drop your day job.  Then is a good time to jump ship because it means you have lots of repeat work coming in, and that is what is needed to survive.

Totally agree, and not just for photography, but setting up any kind of business by yourself.

I started my company many years ago, was eager and hungry to do so (perhaps too much so), but I could have quite easily waited, saved more, and done both my past job and the new company work. Thankfully it all worked out ok, but if I was doing it again I would have stuck with my past job for at least 1 or perhaps even 2 years longer.

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Jettatore

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2012, 06:14:49 AM »
Ok, this thread went rapidly downhill.  You all quickly and quietly jumped into a pile of well thought out, nice sound rhetoric with a new popular logic of, oh just take it step by step and slowly, don't quit your day slavery.....  which leads exactly to gung-ho know it all amateurs who feel beginner's enthusiasm doing just the exact opposite, and the only people actually listening to you are those that have no other choice, and feel good after having listened to this...

Ok, so that's been repeated like 10+ times now, so without simply refreshing the rhetoric, post more facts about your current salary, what level you are at and how many hours you work and where all the 'extra' unforeseen hours that you don't get paid for come from, etc., etc.,

Talk figures, numbers, hours, realities.  The rest of this is fantastical rhetoric, no offense.

Marsu42

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2012, 06:34:56 AM »
I gave the idea of wedding photography a whirl around my head a few times, went along as 2nd shooter to several weddings with a popular local (but mediocre) wedding photographer, but overall I hate the idea (I don't even like the idea of marriage itself) and that's without knowing any and all the various subtle annoyances of that business that one who hasn't done it first hand for years must surely be overlooking.

Could you please expand on the "subtle annoyances"? I'd be very interested to hear about the less glittery side.

K3nt

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #20 on: June 14, 2012, 06:56:20 AM »
I'd like to latch on to what someone else was saying about how them starting to "chase the money" killed their hobby.
I've been thinking about doing more paid-for work, but what's really holding me back is the thought of me losing my hobby. Right now, I am in a happy place where my day job doesn't interfere too much and I can easily spend a weekend just photographing whatever I want.
I am very afraid to kill the joy by trying to make a living out of it. At this point, I'd love to, but I know, for myself this is currently not worth the risk or effort.
I had a friend that was an excellent cook, and I mean brilliant, and I once asked him why he doesn't just open his own restaurant seeing how he loved it so much. His answer? "Doctors can bury their mistakes, cooks have to eat theirs." That to me, really summed it up, by making it his job, he would eventually lose the passion for it, not something I want to do.

If you still feel this is what you want and need to do, by all means, heed some of the excellent advice already given. Start slow, work your way up, don't go cold turkey on your day job just yet, get an accountant etc.

Your work definitely shows that you have an eye for the art, so don't quit!

Wow, that sounded really negative... it wasn't meant that way.
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Jettatore

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2012, 07:13:28 AM »
Well, that's just what I don't know Marsu.  Like I said, I already could tell I loathed it without learning the further little annoyances and 'unforeseen lost hours' without caring enough to look further.  Maybe someone else can offer first hand insight but while your at it, please note hours, pay, costs, unforeseen extra work/lost hours, etc., etc. if you can handle that.  Because those are the rarest of and most often lied about details when considering any career.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 07:19:33 AM by Jettatore »

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2012, 07:13:28 AM »

LewisShermer

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2012, 07:49:35 AM »
My day job already is photography, but the problem is working for someone else rather than for myself at the end of the day. I'd probably market the commercial aspect and the wedding sides of the business separately. no one likes a crossover do they? just sitting here at my desk retouching copious amounts of watches is killing my passion already. then when I get home I have to start work again on all the stuff I'm doing for other people. It just all seems like work work work.

I've planned out my next years photography with regards to the brands we have at work and for the next 3 months I'm shooting head on shots of watches then retouching. After that I have to photograph and put together argos pages for a month then it starts all over again. I can't just keep photographing watches. With being an in house photographer my wages aren't that great and I guess I could make a hell of a lot more doing half the work.

I shot about 100 items for the company of a friend of a friend last week and it basically doubled my salary for the month. real simple shots, glass/pottery/vases/bottles cut outs on white... a bit boring, but nether the less it may lead somewhere else. It's all lit properly with flash heads so it looks pretty good.

I have about 5 weddings lined up that I'm doing for friends for free this summer...

it just really got me thinking
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Marine03

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2012, 09:34:27 AM »
Hope you don't mind me asking here,   but I'm helping a friend with his photography business and doing second shooter at weddings and we have a light box that we are using a lot instead of a photo booth.  We think corporate events and schools would be the way to go making money off that, but how the heck does one even advertise to businesses and schools?
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Jettatore

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2012, 11:31:55 AM »
Marine03,

Either setup up a marketing campaign, renting space at large conferences your target customer would likely attend.  Or get connected directly with administrators and decision makers at said school or company.  You might consider private schools and the like as public schools are being gradually but forcefully phased out by politics w/ private interests.  Good luck.

awinphoto

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #25 on: June 14, 2012, 11:55:32 AM »
Hope you don't mind me asking here,   but I'm helping a friend with his photography business and doing second shooter at weddings and we have a light box that we are using a lot instead of a photo booth.  We think corporate events and schools would be the way to go making money off that, but how the heck does one even advertise to businesses and schools?

Be very careful with school... lots of school districts tend to have contracts with national companies such as lifetouch, etc...  Plus they kinda expect some bones thrown to the schools such as free admin and teacher photos, etc.  I've heard that private schools, charter schools, and churches may be more profitable...  They tend to not have long standing contracts...  Good luck. 

edit.... The one exception i've seen is senior portraits...  That's becoming quite profitable from what I understand and is more of a free-for-all, just remember to keep ties with the school for website/yearbook photo entry requirements. 
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 12:06:11 PM by awinphoto »
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Dylan777

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #26 on: June 14, 2012, 12:51:40 PM »
Living the dream isn't easy... You have to make sure you are making enough doing photography to supplement all your income...  In an era where the fine line of professional and amateur is getting thinner and thinner...  Lower end cameras are getting so good and frankly it is so easy to learn, Make sure you get your portfolio as good as you can, find out what passions you have with photography... is it portraits, weddings, both, commercial, cars, advertising, product, etc...  Find out what makes you unique from any other photographer and what you can bring to the table that someone would hire you over 10 other photographers placing Craigslist ads offering their services for a song and a dance.  Get the basics of your business affairs in order such as equipment, printing services, pricing, operations, finances/accounting, market plan...  Remember this is a business, not a hobby, and without getting that stuff figured out before hand, it will help you not become a non-profit.  Lastly market market market and dont give up.  It's easy to get discouraged but if you got a good market plan and keep at it, even if it feels like your getting nowhere, it will work out in the end.  There's a lot of expense when dealing with a business so save up while you can. 

As far as when is a right time, a big photographer once said to keep your day job as long as it doesn't kill you.  Keep it until it gets to the point you have so much photography work and it feels like either job will start to suffer if you dont drop your day job.  Then is a good time to jump ship because it means you have lots of repeat work coming in, and that is what is needed to survive.

100% agreed
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #27 on: June 14, 2012, 01:55:18 PM »
Also highly agree with the quoted part in red above.

Frankly, I think this is a horrible time to "go pro".  Especially if you're just starting out and haven't developed a niche.  SO MANY people nowadays come home from Wal Mart with a Rebel and a kit lens, and start watermarking every bad shot they take with "My Name Photography" and call themselves a pro and charge a fraction of what you'd need to actually make a living.

Work hard to carve out a niche.  Build a reputation and become the "go-to-guy" for that niche in your area.  And don't quit the day job until you absolutely have to.  Aside from the security, day jobs can help pay for a lot of very nice gear. 
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #27 on: June 14, 2012, 01:55:18 PM »

Marsu42

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #28 on: June 14, 2012, 02:22:41 PM »
Frankly, I think this is a horrible time to "go pro".  Especially if you're just starting out and haven't developed a niche.  SO MANY people nowadays come home from Wal Mart with a Rebel and a kit lens, and start watermarking every bad shot they take with "My Name Photography" and call themselves a pro and charge a fraction of what you'd need to actually make a living.

On the other hand, this will only get worse, won't it? So isn't the reverse thing also true - if you want to go pro do it right now, because in the future all possible niches will get more and more occupied by competition?

preppyak

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #29 on: June 14, 2012, 02:37:26 PM »
But it's not just about income. I made a disturbing realization that the more I was shooting for money, the more my hobby was dying. It has now been YEARS since I went out to take some pictures just for fun. It's not that I don't have time to do it - I just don't feel like it if you can believe that. And that thought saddens me, because I loved my hobby.
I had this same thing happen with my video work; I work as a video editor AND I was producing videos all weekend, and I just got burned out so quickly. It just occurred to me that I haven't done a video in my free time in 4-5 months now basically...which used to be unthinkable. Thankfully I've kept photography from becoming that, and while I did just shoot a friends wedding, I know its not something I want to do consistently for income.

Another good place to ask advice from wedding photographers is this forum: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/48

They've been discussing a lot of the same things you asked, and you'd probably learn a lot of the business side from there. I agree with whoever said to become a 2nd shooter for someone; it takes a lot of the risk away from you, but it gives you invaluable experience. The other thing you need to do is stop doing free work; because it will get you branded as the guy who does his work for cheap. If you want to start doing photography full-time, you need to really decide what you'll need to charge, and if you can book clients at that price.

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #29 on: June 14, 2012, 02:37:26 PM »