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We have been planning for this moment for over a year and a half.
On June 17th of this year, I said goodbye to my colleagues and
well-paying job to follow our dreams to do wedding and portrait
photography full-time. We finally replaced our entire household
income with income from our photography business.
Most people who start photography businesses do so part-time and only dream of this day.
Eventually your business grows to the point where it consumes all your
free time and you’re faced with a hard but exciting question:
Do you go for it and leave the day-job behind, or do you scale
back and start reclaiming a bit of your life?
Here are 5 things to ask yourself before you ditch the day-job and
follow your dreams:
The first thing you’ll need to know is how much money you need to make
in order to replace any necessary income. If you don’t know exactly
how much you’re making from your business after taxes, expenses, cost
of goods, and all the other costs of running a business, you’re
setting yourself up for failure.
As one of those rare people who loves mathematics, I created a free pricing guide for photographers that helped us determine what we needed to charge for both weddings and portraits in order to make the amount of profit that we needed to follow our dream of doing this full-time.
I knew exactly how many weddings and portrait sessions I’d need to
book and how much I’d need to charge in order to leave my job. I had
hoped to leave last summer, but I was under the projections I knew I
needed, so we made the decision to wait one more year to make the
If I hadn’t known the numbers, the consequences may have been
devastating to our business and family and I’d probably be back in an
office job by now.
Having money in a savings account is a great way to ensure that you’ll be able to pay your bills and not have to pick up a job again in the off-season.
Waiting an extra year to leave the day-job allowed us to finish buying
the gear we wanted and to put more in savings than we would have been
able to otherwise. We hope not to have to touch that money, but it is
there if we need it.
If you find that you are not currently making enough to leave your job immediately, the next step is to make a plan to get you from where you are now to where you need to be.
If you haven’t sat down and created a good business strategy, you’ll want to do that first. Having a strategic business plan will help you get to your goal more quickly and will help keep you from making
Identify the places that work well for marketing your business. We
found that Facebook
marketing was one of the best ways for us to find new clients
because of its word-of-mouth nature, so that’s where we’ve been
focusing. You’ll want to market in the places where your ideal clients
spend time and money.
We spent about a year in “transition” where I was taking on as many of our ideal clients as I could handle while still working my day-job, and it was exhausting. I was gone about 50 hours a week for my full-time job and put in another 20-30 hours building our photography business, all while trying not to neglect my kids and husband.
We had to turn away some business simply because there weren’t enough
hours in the day.
It was hard, I’m not going to lie.
Getting a business to where it needs to be to leave your job is a lot
of work, but it was worth it for us. We let some things go (our house
is a mess!) but it was worth it in order to make this transition.
If you’ve got your finances figured out and are hitting your projections, you need to address any hesitations you may have.
It can be really scary to let go of the “security” of a regular
paycheck and move into the realm of “uncertainty”.
That being said, I think that being a small business owner is actually
more secure than working for someone else.
You can’t be fired or laid-off at the drop of a hat, and if you aren’t
meeting your projections you can do something about it and have some
time to prepare.
If you do wedding photography, you may even be able to determine this
several months in advance, giving you plenty of time to make a plan as
to how you’re going to supplement your current income.
Leaving my job has been one of the most scary and exhilarating
experiences in my life, and I’m incredibly excited to see where we’ll
go in the next few years.
So, are you ready to follow your dreams and do what you love
full-time? Is there something holding you back? Leave a comment below
and let’s encourage each other in pursuing what we love.
Jamie M Swanson is a Madison Wedding Photographer who loves helping people make money with photography. With her super-dorky math skills, she created a free guide on how to price photography. The best way to connect with her is on Facebook, so come on over and say hello.