Photography is a wonderful thing. Pictures are certainly worth a thousand words and many times those pictures are worth well over thousands of dollars. But how do you get to the point where you are making sustainable income with a photography business? It’s a long road that has not been completely figured out but when there is a will there’s a way.
Before you quit your day job you have to understand that starting a business is unlike anything you may have ever done especially when it comes to finding work, building a portfolio, and establishing a client base, as well as finding your niche. Above all you need passion for what you are about to embark on. At times I feel like I did everything wrong when starting my business but I would not be where I am today without the experiences I have had. In 2012 I was sitting at a dead end desk job, newly engaged, and a camera that I used to take photos on the side (the work wasn’t steady BUT it was some extra cash) and I made a decision. If I was not getting what I put into my current situation it was time for me to leave and go out on my own. I know there are many folks out there who feel the same about their situation and have yet to make the jump following their passion. I started with one camera, a decent sense of photography, and ambition. I didn’t have any capital and just worked and worked until I made it work. This approach may not work for some people but again we are not all the same.
You need to be able to learn on the go and learn from every single experience you have and as a photographer the passion for the craft will trump everything, making you a better shooter whose images are sought after. Plus, if you pay attention to your interactions you will become a better business person. Set goals for yourself with where you want to take your business and where you want to be. I was very fortunate enough to meet a photographer who has been in the business for over 30 years who sort of took me under his wing (Hi Mike!) and showed me the ropes through being a hands on assistant. This experience not only helped my shooting but it helped my business acumen as well as my level of professionalism with my own clients. And guess what? He now trusts me enough to send me out in the field on occasion on his behalf with his high end clients. In that sense by all means reach out to those more experienced to see if you can glean some knowledge off a veteran photographer or just a person whose photos you love that’s willing to talk to you.
You’re going to have to pay your dues one way or another but if you stick to it you will start to see the fruits of your labor and your hard work will start to pay off. My advice is to also be kind, courteous, mindful of people’s feelings and thoughtful of who you are working with as well as your surroundings. The last thing people want is some kind of photographing diva that makes the shoot more about them than the subject and I’m sure you know someone just like that.
If you want to take the leap then I suggest going full force, hit the ground running, and take the bull by the horns, and other motivational lingo! One thing that will immediately separate you from the pack is to register your business with your state, getting a tax ID, and paying taxes on your business, which also means write offs for equipment, travel, rent (if you work from home), your phone bill, cable bill, or anything else that you can direct your way to help your business grow. You would be on your own and would have to take care of your own taxes, social security, and how you get paid. Being your boss can be a lot harder than having a boss but it’s a fantastic learning experience that will help you grow as a person. I’m surprised at how many photographers I meet that run a cash only business. I find that limiting because the bigger your client base gets the more paper work you need and possibly photographer’s insurance if you are dealing with corporations, certain offices, or even at events.
It may seem daunting at first but keep the fact that you love taking pictures and the passion you have for it as the focal point for going all out and branching into your own entity. The number one thing I can say to you guys is to be persistent because the guy next to you may have the same idea without the same drive or ambition and will more than likely fizzle out by this time next year, which leaves one less competitor. Do not let the competition get you down! People will see that you’re a constant and if you deliver great work more people will want to work with you.