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You want to turn pro? Great! First ask yourself why. It is not as glamorous as it may seem. Can you sustain your passion for the art of photography while shooting somebody else’s vision? Are you ready to take whatever job comes your way to make ends meet? Are you able to work with the demands of a commercial client or a wedding shoot? It can take years to find your own niche market and specialize in one photography genre that you really enjoy. Not discouraged yet? Okay, keep reading!
Think turning pro is a measure of your skills? Think again! There are many amateur photographers out there who have far better skills than pros. One thing amateurs have, and pros often lose, is the passion. Turning your hobby into a job can kill the passion pretty fast if you let it happen. I wrote an entire article about this earlier which can be summed up in a few words: Nurture the personal projects to keep the passion alive.
Ready to run a business first and be a photographer second? Hope so! Marketing yourself will suck up most of your time, especially the early years, so be ready for that.
There is nothing wrong about having a 9 to 5 job and keeping photography as your passion on your days off. Actually if you are thinking of turning pro I would definitely keep the day job for a while until you know for sure you can deal with the business side of photography and you’re able to pay the bills with it.
I make a living as a photographer and I was very lucky to be able to keep the passion for the craft alive and even see it grow with my business. It can be done, and if that’s what you want to do, go for it! You won’t know until you try!
Good business skills are also a talent. Some great photographers also have great business skills but it’s not that common. It’s the old right brain vs. left brain thing. You may have noticed some awesome photographers who couldn’t make it as pros and some not so great ones who are very successful at selling their work or services. Do not underestimate the power of good business skills!
When hiring a photographer, most people hire the whole package: Your photography talent + your business expertise + your people skills. That said, if your dream is to turn your passion into a business you don’t have to give up simply because you don’t have the business skills.
1- Get some help from qualified people. Look for a mentor in your area or online. Services such as SCORE in the States offer free business advice, workshops, events as well as templates to get you started with your business plan.
2- Maybe your partner or spouse has good people and business skills and will help you with that side of the business. It’s okay to be the artist and let someone else handle the customer service side of the business. And if you’re really good at what you do, they won’t mind dealing with someone else for the nitty gritty stuff!
3- If you have a solid portfolio, but lack the nerve or skills to sell yourself, hire an agent. An agent works on commission, marketing your work, so you can happily concentrate on your craft. It’s not easy, especially for artists, to blows their own horn. Having someone else do it for you can really make a difference! There are also online services, such as Agency Access, that cater to creative people.
4- Remember that your most important clients are your past clients. Treat them right and they’ll be your best PR people. Get written referrals from customers, add a ‘testimonials’ page to your website. Word of mouth is the best advertising!
5- If all you hate doing is billing people and dealing with accounting, that’s an easy fix. You can hire an accountant for as little time as an hour every week, or use an online billing service. Starting out and can’t afford it? Consider trading services for a while. Accountants need photographers too!
It makes good sense to delegate some of the work to people who are good at it. You will have more time to do what you are good at – and love – which is being behind the camera.
Do you have a story to share about your experience in the business aspect of photography? The dPS readers would love read about it in the comment section below.
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