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I had an email yesterday from a reader named Stephanie who said that she’s caught in a vicious cycle of portfolio building. She doesn’t want to charge while she’s portfolio building because then, she’ll be in business and have all the worries that come with it but she doesn’t want to launch a for-profit business until she’s finished building her portfolio.
I’ve written before about the dangers of spending too long in the portfolio building stage of your business. It’s not meant to last 10 years. And it doesn’t have to be an absolute work-for-free scenario. I’ve counseled newbies to establish their pricing structures early on and work up to full-time money while charging discounted fees for portfolio building sessions (more on all that here). But that’s not really what this post is about. I wanted to hit on the theme behind Stephanie’s comment.
What I read between the lines in Stephanie’s email is that she knows that in business, it’s all or nothing. She knows that as soon as she starts charging even a little, it raises the bar and the expectations to a level where only the best will cut it and she’s absolutely right. Do a session for free and you’re free to learn from your mistakes. Charge even $20 for the same session and suddenly, you have a photographer/client relationship and all the expectations that come with it. In order to make the business worth while, you have to do it right or not do it at all.
If you Google to find the things you need before jumping into business, you’ll find that it’s not as simple as printing up a couple flyers and making a little pocket money. Not only is it illegal to operate a business on the side, it’s not going to make enough money to sustain itself and you’ll flop before you even really get going. Photography isn’t a business you can just dip your toe into to see how it feels if you want to do it right. By ‘do it right’, I mean protect yourself with legal documents and liability insurance, protect your equipment with insurance, establish yourself with a professional printing company, have the computer and software to process your files in a quick-like-fashion that doesn’t have you up all night staring at spinning wheel icon…all that. Once you tally up the monthly overhead, you soon realize that it’s not as easy to make a quick buck as you once thought.
But fear not! Here are a few tips I have for testing the waters in the photography business:
So you see you can dip your toe into professional photography without taking the dive into the business deep end!