There is a dream job out there for all of us. That job that’d we love doing, that wouldn’t even really feel like a job. Well, I have reached the Promised Land! After ten years of being a teacher with six of those being a photographer on the side, I have finally become a full time photographer.
I feel like every time I say that fireworks erupt and somewhere an angel gets its wings. It really is great. I will say, though, that there are some things I wasn’t expecting when I first made this move. To help out anyone that is thinking about making the move to full time or anyone who recently did, I’m going to share 8 facts about becoming a full time photographer.
- No.01You Need a Schedule
The thing that I hear over and over again is how great it must be to have the freedom to work whenever you want. Yes, I love the flexibility of my job, but there are some downsides to it. For me, the biggest issue is keeping on track. I get distracted easily and often find myself wasting time. For example, while writing this, I have stopped to deal with my dog and check a message someone sent me on Facebook. To fix this problem, I have started scheduling out my entire day, hour by hour. This way, I can focus on one thing, and I get more done.
The other big issue I’ve seen is overworking. When you run your own business and love doing it, you tend to spend way too much time working. To be successful in the long run, you need a break. Again, creating a schedule can help with this. I stop working by 5 because that’s when I stop scheduling things.
The government wants its money and it’s going to get it. If you don’t pay up front, this mistake could destroy your business. There are a few things to be aware of.
First, you must collect sales tax on everything you sell. Two, make sure you save money for your income tax. The way this will work will vary depending on the structure of your business, but be prepared to pay around 30%. The last type of tax is less known, but it could be a big penalty. When you purchase equipment out of state, the supplier doesn’t charge sales tax. It is then your responsibility to report and pay the sales tax. Very, very few people in general know about this and pay it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- No.03You must control your spending
Photography equipment is expensive and can add up quickly. Before, when photography was a side job, I never really cared about how much money I spent. If I had it in the account, I could spend it. Now that I have to use the account to pay for our mortgage and my kids’ school, I have to be careful.
It’s not always the big items either. Small items add up, so really think about it before you buy that cool, new gizmo.
- No.04You Will Make Mistakes
We all make mistakes, but the big difference between being successful and failing is what we do with our mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and keep improving. This year was the first year I actively tried to book High School Seniors. My packages were boring and I wasn’t charging enough and my Senior Rep program was a flop.
This next year I am doing things completely different. The worst things you can do are continue to make the same mistake or be so afraid of making a mistake that you don’t try anything.
- No.05Every Day isn’t a Blast
Now I know I said that I love being a full time photographer and that is true, but there are times I don’t feel like doing a shoot. I think this is just normal. When you turn anything into a job and do it every day, there are going to be some days you just don’t feel it. It’s normal so don’t freak out and think you made a mistake.
My suggestion is to think about your previous job. That always makes me happy about my current situation. It’s also a good idea to have some personal projects. These are things you want to do just for you. It will keep the creative juices flowing and help you through any down times.
- No.06There is a Slow Season
Right now I’m in the middle of the slow season. I guess it depends on what type of photography you do, but in general, December through February is pretty slow. During that time money is going to be tight and you might find yourself with nothing to do. Don’t just sit there and twiddle your thumbs.
In those times, catch up on some other things. You could work on your website, packages, marketing, or education. Many of the things I’m doing aren’t making me money right now, but they will pay off big in the future.
- No.07Become a Specialist
If you specialize in everything, you specialize in nothing. In the past 8 years, I have shot about everything you can think of: weddings, seniors, newborns, families, real estate, and headshots. The problem with this is you spread yourself too thin.
It’s better to concentrate on one or two areas and get really, really good at those areas and put all your effort into marketing them. The other thing is that I didn’t really like shooting all of those things, so now I just focus on what I love.
- No.08Be Social
One of the best things you can do for your business is to be social. Get out there and meet people. I have gotten so many random jobs just from talking to people. You don’t have to be pushy, just tell people what you do and be friendly.
If you’re in weddings, be friends with everyone: venue owners, florist, cake designers, DJs, even other photographers. Any one of these people could easily send you a wedding or several!
I love my job and I’m excited about all the things ahead of me. If you’re like me and new to the full time photography world or if you are thinking about making the leap, I hope these 8 Facts About Becoming a Full Time Photographer have been helpful and given you some insight.