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Author Topic: right time to turn pro...?  (Read 7008 times)

adebrophy

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #30 on: June 14, 2012, 02:39:06 PM »
Great thread - and some wonderful advice.

I've got to second the advice of hedging your bets and working freelance part time in parallel. I did this when I went freelance as a public relations consultant 18 months ago. I also started a sideline in photography to cater for clients that needed events or PR photos.

being that I was already going freelance in another field this means it was much easier to try photography part time but you could look at whether your current employer would be happy to employ you for 3/4 days per week instead, which could offer you the sort of flexibility that you'd need to get any critical mass on your own work. I did consider that option instead.

A couple of resources you'll find useful on working out the business plan:
Freelance fees guide. This website has some great resources including a (simplistic) excel calculator that you can use to try and count up the costs you'll face:

http://www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?language=en&country=UK&section=Photography&subsect=Day/base+rates&page=Advice

This section has some good benchmarks on what people in London are charging:
http://www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?&section=Photography&subsect=All&subsubs=All

I think the other piece of advice I'd offer from my limited experience as a newbie is price sensibly. Digital is making this industry easier for part timers to enter but I think it does no one any good to undercut sensible rates that pros need to charge to pay for all the expenses of a viable business. Use benchmarks and then discount from there but don't go too low - no sense commoditising the rates of an industry you want to join! I tend to offer a rate that is in line with the lower end of the average pricing but make it clear to clients that I'm offering those rates as I'm a start up and make them realise that  that's why I'm cheaper than the mid range pros. In other words - if you discount, make sure the client realises that that is a discounted rate in a given circumstance. Work on building trust and delivering quality and then charging a full non-discounted rates as that trust is established.
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #30 on: June 14, 2012, 02:39:06 PM »

adebrophy

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #31 on: June 14, 2012, 02:47:32 PM »
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.

One caveat to that is maybe work with charities for free - that way you can work with some recognised brand names that will offer very valuable testimonials, do something altruistic, and the perception of that work is much better with corporate clients. And you still get to make your mistakes and learn under more realistic pressures -i.e. delivering to a commission - without having to annoy paying customers. I've found that work with charities is also a great way of meeting people and networking - lots of the other volunteers have other jobs too - I've won work through this channel, which took me by surprise when it happened.
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bdunbar79

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #32 on: June 14, 2012, 03:01:32 PM »
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.

Can you please share with the group how much money you make as a professional photographer and how much time it takes you per week?  Be specific.  Then I'll share with you all of the financial business on my end.  Thanks.
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Jettatore

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #33 on: June 14, 2012, 04:03:47 PM »
Certainly, and I think I mentioned this earlier in this thread.  I'm not a professional photographer.  I made probably about $2,000 or so (edit: actually I think it was a decent bit less but I don't remember an exact figure) doing freelance Photography gigs last year and at this time I don't plan to do any more paid photography work, I didn't enjoy photography as a paid endeavor one bit.

The gigs were several weddings as a 2nd shooter, lasting from the morning to late evening, starting at the bride/grooms dressing rooms and ending at the toast/dance/eating session, forget what that's called (a note, free, tastey but incredibly unhealthy food was always provided, -note on two occasions the dinner food that was provided for contractor staff, DJ's photographers, etc., was not the same nice fancy food the guests were eating, but the appetizer portions of the events always were and we weren't expected to take pictures of people while they were eating).  Also I got roped into doing some handful of photo-booth shenanigans that I had no interest in but offered as a favor to the person I was second shooting for, that was even more miserable than 2nd shooting, by a considerable degree, and after long I washed my hands of the entire debacle.  The photo-booth gig had little to nothing to do with photography and more to do with testing my fractured, damaged level of patience, carting around a crummy makeshift curtain/stage and setting up a laptop, printer and camera, before the event: then babysit the software for the event: then pack it up and return the equipment the following day.  I briefly considered just building up a portfolio of sample wedding photography, and then advertising for low cost for the first few gigs until I could demand more.   The only other thing that came close to paid work was a website deal I was working on that fell through during pre-production and negotiations, where I took some preliminary images of the store/factories location to use in their marketing, but this project fell through and went completely unpaid.

Aside from that bit, since you are probably interested.  I have a BFA (Bachelor's of Fine Art) as well as some trade schooling.  Some decent knowledge of video editing and 3D animation, and have been studying and working behind applications like Photoshop for more than 14 years.

Photography for me will remain an interest and a hobby, and as well a tool to combine with my other casual art endeavors and occasional freelance gigs, like digital painting, websites, etc..  In general, I have grown to hate art/creativity as a buisiness/way of income and if I was forced to do it all over, I would probably have become a plumber who moonlit as hobbyist artist.  I have however, dug my hole rather deep with student loan debt and now at least strive to live cheaply and survive on a small bit of inheritance and reluctantly but hopefully some future but limited freelance/contract creative gigs, (basically just looking to have a lot of free time and financially scrape by unless something more appealing presents itself).  This topic however, interests me greatly, as I am interested in the salaries, lifestyles, work life, etc. of art related fields, so your promised input is very much appreciated, thank you very much in advance, cheers.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 04:52:06 PM by Jettatore »

bdunbar79

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #34 on: June 14, 2012, 04:27:59 PM »
Thank you.  At least now I know you have the perspective that I was looking for.  Thank you for being honest, that is respctable.  This is what happened to me.  I thought I'd go "pro" and have a part-time job and shoot weddings.  I was making about $3000/wedding in central Ohio.  Some socieconomic/geographic areas are probably markedly different from one another.  My clients as you might guess, were very picky.  It's their wedding, so why not?  The problem I ran into is that no couple in the world wanted me to print and put the photo book together; they wanted the photos sent out and printed by a commercial company and then have me give them the book AND a CD that I made.  This cost money.  I was not able to build in enough cost because if I would charge, say $3500, I wouldn't get the business.  I love photography deeply as a hobby and I'm glad you share this as well.  I began hating weddings so bad that I began despising my hobby and wouldn't go out and shoot for fun anymore because I didn't even want to look at my camera.  Granted, I did not go into the senior pictures market either, why I didn't I don't know, but I just didn't.  I was able to pick up some high school sports for some minor money, maybe $80-$200/game with a CD.  But the time it took me to post-process and effort to put the photo books together got me hating my hobby once again.  I was and am still not a good enough photographer such that I don't have to do some medium post processing at least.  So I quit for awhile. 

I came back refreshed and with a new attitude.  I got a good job in my profession (analytical chemistry) and began doing it for fun again and if I felt like it, would shoot events.  The thing I learned the hard way was that there was no such thing as a true professional photographer.  There is no education required, no board exams, no mentor, no third party to critque.  Clients who critique isn't the way to go.  Mess up and word of mouth gets around and your business is hurt.  It's a really tough way to go. 

I guess I was just cautioning the OP because you can really get burned if you don't ease into it.  $3000 for a wedding is ok but I had to shoot around 1500 pictures and then go home and sort through everything and they had to be perfect.  The sports I did for $80-$200/game was more laxed, but I had to buy an expensive camera (back then the 1D Mark III) as a tool to fit that style of photography.  In a year I highly doubt I could have grossed more than $30,000 and that would have been lucky.  I just didn't have the heart to do it.  I'm much happier now with a full time job and doing what I'm doing.  I make enough to justify high-end L lenses and high-end cameras, but I'm not bogged down in the business stuff that made me hate the hobby. 

My true only costs were a high-end computer and a great photo printer, which turned out I couldn't use much because most clients wanted the work sent out.  I also always kept two pro camera bodies and most of the latest L lenses, which if you want a dollar amount there, total costs upwards of $50,000.  For sports I printed my own stuff.  So I don't have much to share on business expenses because I did it from home.  I didn't have a studio downtown, so I guess I'm not a big business photographer, which by the way I hope someone who IS will reply here.  Health insurance is a concern so had I gone 100% photography, I would have had to get into a much bigger market.

Thanks for reading.
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LewisShermer

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #35 on: June 14, 2012, 07:53:02 PM »
I made about £2500 this month which will hopefully be repeat business and I had a new client on the phone this morning requesting furniture shots... hopefully there will be quite a lot of them  :D

I reckon I already have my niche in product photography, especially watches and jewellery, which by all accounts is hard to come by someone that knows exactly what they're doing with it regards to lighting something that small and detailed in an appropriate manner. as much as I hate doing it for my day job, if I was charging £100 (which is still quite cheap) for the simple head on or 45 degree c-clip and £300-£500 for a more artistic shot, i could live with doing 5 or 6 a day.



that's one of mine... basically, i knock out about 800 of them a year for some quite big brands. I don't get to spend the time I'd really like to on them as there's just so damn many to get through.



I do loads of that style shot for magazines like cosmo and elle...

Maybe I'm just stuck with it for life?  :-\
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LewisShermer

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #36 on: June 14, 2012, 08:00:21 PM »
oh, and I started a blog with the more "artistic pro" side of my work...

http://lewismaxwellphotography.tumblr.com/
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #36 on: June 14, 2012, 08:00:21 PM »

Jettatore

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #37 on: June 14, 2012, 08:28:11 PM »
I made about £2500 this month which will hopefully be repeat business...

Not too shabby if I may say.  Would you mind mentioning your aprox. total hours for this portion of income?  Additionally, any details on how it is spread out would be interesting unless it's completely flexible and either up to you or worked around prior obligations (day job, etc.).  Mostly I just want to know the total hours to better understand your hourly rate (aprox is fine but with consideration to what I can only describe as "invisible hours", aka, planning/phone meetings, etc.).

Finally, best of luck to you, and thank you for all the info you have put out there.  May you find the best of success and reward.

LewisShermer

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #38 on: June 14, 2012, 08:45:20 PM »
i reckon i can get between 6-10 shots done, clipped and retouched per evening (7pm-1am) so maybe 10 evenings. Although product varied between real simple boxes and quite complex pottery and glass vases which require a little more thought with the lighting. i'm pretty quick at putting paths around stuff but sometimes I go a little over the top with the retouching so everything ends up a little hyper-real, which I guess adds to the charm but sometimes it just adds up the hours. there's no golden rule, some things just take longer than others and you pretty much only get out what you put in. my lighting techniques may not be the best in the world but they're not the worst and hopefully I'll learn a lot more as time goes on.

I'm itching to just hand my notice in and just go for it...
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bdunbar79

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #39 on: June 14, 2012, 08:49:49 PM »
i reckon i can get between 6-10 shots done, clipped and retouched per evening (7pm-1am) so maybe 10 evenings. Although product varied between real simple boxes and quite complex pottery and glass vases which require a little more thought with the lighting. i'm pretty quick at putting paths around stuff but sometimes I go a little over the top with the retouching so everything ends up a little hyper-real, which I guess adds to the charm but sometimes it just adds up the hours. there's no golden rule, some things just take longer than others and you pretty much only get out what you put in. my lighting techniques may not be the best in the world but they're not the worst and hopefully I'll learn a lot more as time goes on.

I'm itching to just hand my notice in and just go for it...

Well, the question I'd ask is can you do it right now financially?  Can you keep working and be happy while photographing?  If you can do it now financially, then you only live once, so do it and be happy.  If you need to work longer before you get a bigger business plan, you can always do that too.  Trust me, you don't know how badly right now I'd like to go to work and tell everybody to go to hell, quit, and start doing photography full time again.  However, I was not in the market you are in.  You can make a lot more money doing what you're doing.  Make sure also you have a plan for health care.  If you go for it I'm sure you'll have the board's full support, so do keep us posted!
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LewisShermer

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #40 on: June 14, 2012, 09:02:12 PM »
I split my rent with my housemate and that's £375 a month, the bills come it about £200-£300 a month, I live in the uk so health insurance isn't an issue. I'd have to rent studio space as I can't just keep on shooting product in my flat and having clients around... I'd want to make at least what I make at work plus the studio rent on top so I'd be happy at £2500 a month, £30,000 to £40,000 a year would be brilliant though and make it totally worthwhile.

I'm on a 3 month notice period though so even if I handed notice in now it'd be september before I could really get going. then If i panic i have a little time to get a new job! they're always hiring at McDonald's, right?
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Jettatore

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #41 on: June 14, 2012, 09:06:27 PM »
You also (I think) forfeit unemployment benefits (at least in the US).

One strategy you might want to consider, I did this myself a few years back, is to create a nice enough coushin in the bank.  Let's call it a "%$&# my day job cushin (%mdjc)".  If you had a coushin of money, built up in a bank account, long enough to live on that money alone at your current or similar cost of living for say (3 months, 6 months, a year, etc. etc.) that might help out a bit.  It will do a lot of things for you.  One you can go in and re-negotiate your day-job hours and responsibilities (or ask for a large raise, etc.), perhaps even gradually ease out as an even better paid mentor for your upcoming replacement, since you can leave in a friendly even paced manner and you have now just given yourself a nice %mdj-cushin which should add a lot of bargaining leverage when you go to talk to your current employer.  I used this, not as a bargaining tool but more as a, I can and will quit at any moment and without notice so don't test me cushion.  And if they just let you go outright, who cares you have alternate income and a big cushin to land on if need be, also this is less likely to even happen as it's probably cheaper for them to pay you to train someone with less experience than to find another you already ready to go and probably pay her/him more than you are currently getting (otherwise they would have likely replaced you already)...

Also, a quick note, that may or may not be relevant, possibly relevant for renting studio space?  If you need a loan/mortgage for anything, new car, condo, studio, etc..  Do it now (if you must do it at all) while your employed fulltime and taking in additional income.  Otherwise, you might not just get the loan if you do it afterwards.

Again, good luck, and a final thank you for all the 1st hand information you have shared.  Cheers
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 09:19:54 PM by Jettatore »

V8Beast

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #42 on: June 16, 2012, 12:02:12 AM »
I'm itching to just hand my notice in and just go for it...

Your product shots are outstanding! If I got my conversion rates right, coincidentally, I made about the same amount of money as you do my first few months of freelancing. My expenses were far lower back then, so I could afford to take he risk, and I saved up enough money from my day job to cover my ass for a few months in case things didn't work out. The difference was that my day job involved working on staff at a magazine, so in order to venture off on my own as a freelancer, in the same niche field I was working in, I had to quit beforehand.

In retrospect, it wasn't the wisest move, but the gamble paid off. I generally wouldn't recommend this, but if your day job is making you that miserable, you're willing to take the risk, and you have a safety net of cash saved, the time to take these gambles are when you're young and your financial commitments aren't as much of a burden as they are for old farts like me :)

At the very least, I'd see if you get enough repeat business for a couple of months before making the plunge. Best of luck!

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #42 on: June 16, 2012, 12:02:12 AM »

LewisShermer

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #43 on: June 18, 2012, 02:21:56 AM »
thanks for everyone's advice!  ;D

for now I reckon I'm going to try and build up a client base before I do anything too daft. I'll have a couple of meetings with the bank to see what they say, take out as little a loan as I can to cover me and see how it goes. my boss is out of work now for two weeks so I'm running things so it shouldn't be too bad for a little while
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #44 on: June 18, 2012, 04:05:20 AM »
Your product shots are outstanding!

True and good commendation, but one thing I'll keep in mind is people saying not only your shots matter, but your whole product (from getting a call to delivering a print) as well as your ability to raise and communicate w/ clients and take care of the business side (paperwork, advertising, financing adequate gear)?

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #44 on: June 18, 2012, 04:05:20 AM »