I loved these articles recently on iheartphotography and mcpactions blogs. Though it may seem like I am coming across as discouraging people from starting a photography business by posting these articles, please be assured that I’m not. I think they bring up such important things to think about if you are interested in starting a photography business or have jumped in and are feeling a little overwhelmed.
6 Steps to Follow Before Starting a Photography Business
Proud To Be a Hobbyist Photographer: Reasons NOT To Go PRO
My two cents:
Photography is for everyone.
Truly. I think it can change our lives and hearts and be an incredible tool to serve other people.
Photography Business is NOT for everyone.
And when Rachel says in her article “…It’s not as easy as having photography as a hobby. It’s possible that you will not love your photography business as much as you love your photography hobby.” she is exactly right. I made many of the same mistakes that she talks about in her article. Would I do things differently? Yes and no. Some things you never know or learn unless you try it out. But her call for preparation and thoughtful planning is spot on to avoiding some of the set backs and emotional stress and havoc a business can run on your life.
Brooke- I love that you posted these articles! I am so glad you do address the pull between being a professional and a hobbyist, because I know for me it is a constant struggle! It is so good for me to actually think about the pros and cons and the efforts it takes to go into business, instead of just jumping rightion. So thank you! It helps a lot and is something everyone should think about before making up their mind, one way or another!
These are great articles…My biggest question:
How can you do both? I don’t want to be a big time professional photographer with a business that I spend so much time with, but I also don’t just want to do it as a hobby.
I want to do a couple shoots a month so it doesn’t consume my time as a mom…but I also don’t want to just do them for free…
Does that make sense? Any suggestions?
I’ll jump on Jessica’s bandwagon here. My current business plan for 2011 is to shoot nor more than 2 weddings a month or 4-6 portraiture sessions (realistically a combination of the two). My day-job and my family put serious restraints on my time.
Just like Jessica, I don’t want this to be “just” a hobby. But I’ll likely never be a high-volume photographer. I’d like to believe there is a market for good, polished photography, just in a lower volume.
Interested in your thoughts on the subject…
Jessica! Great question! I think the hardest thing about trying to do both, is that business can oft times take more time than one initially thinks it will. I feel like I work nearly full time as a photographer and my intent is to only shoot a few sessions a month as well. I don’t think I could handle more than one, maximum two shoots a week with everything else I”m trying to do.
That being said, much of the “time” of running a business is totally separate from photography itself. Blogging, marketing, social networking, handling orders, packaging, client communication, email, phone, branding, updating websites, following other industry blogs, constantly educating, yada yada.
GRANTED… most of my motivation for trying to run a successful business is generated from the need to be the provider for my family while my husband is in school. If I didn’t NEED BUSINESS–even the 4-ish sessions a month, I’d probably cut way back on everything.
Actually, now that I think of it, that changes everything for me. If I was in a position where I didn’t need the income to survive, but enjoyed the opportunity to get out a few times a month to change up the mom routine and get some fun money, I would probably do the following:
1. Make sure that I had smart pricing in place. (meaning that my prices were based on covering my time away from my family, my equipment, time spent on the images, cost of running even a small business.)
2. I would have a very efficient workflow in place that streamlined the time I spent.
3. I’d be super official about everything. Meaning, that even though i’m not shooting a lot, I would still treat it very seriously and have contracts, session agreements, and very clear communication about expectations. This helps to avoid 99% of all drama and frustration that easily easily comes in this business. AND, it helps gain respect from those who do book. If you take yourself seriously–even if totally part time–you’ll have better experiences.
4. Last of all… I’d totally change my expectations. This would be my favorite part of it all. I wouldn’t care what any other photographer was doing, I wouldn’t feel competitive ( I try not to anyways), I would simply be totally happy and content with the sessions that I did do as little perks to my hobby. I wouldn’t be worried if I was booked or not, and wouldn’t be stressed about how to generate more business all the time.
I guess it depends on our motivations and what we want the business for. Do we simply want something in place for friends and family who want to use our talents? Do we want something in place for others who approach us so that we’re prepared and not shooting for free because we value our time and talent? Or do we seriously want business for profit as the main goal?
Whatever the motivation, if there is any business dealings attached to our work (exchange of money), then I still think it is absolutely essential to have a structure and properly functioning plan in place to keep it progressing as it needs, or to sustain it as the quiet profitable hobby you want.
one more thought…
Vince, I think its totally possible to have a low volume approach.
The thing about it though, is to make it a low volume high sale. Not high volume low sale. You need to price yourself effectively so that the low amount of sessions generate a comparable profit for the time you spend. And every hour spent on a business is time away from your family. its worth more than most people are paying themselves for it in the photography business. I’d rather shoot one session for $1000 than ten sessions for $100 each.
So now that I’ve thought about everything I’ve said…
I think I basically said, if there is any “business” to anything you do, you gotta be serious about the approach. Full time, part time, regardless. Take the business side very seriously and work on making your time very effective and efficient and consider the motivation behind each decision. Why are you doing this? If you truly want to maintain the feeling of a “hobby” its going to take some magic, or at least some true confessions about expectations and motivation. When you throw money into the mix it changes a lot of things in life.
Man, I’m on a comment roll!
One more thought…
Some people can have a hobby and business be the same thing. I’ve realized that I can’t. I have a real hard time finding the balance between the two because I tend to be a person who is “all or none” and works in extremes. I am finally learning to love music again in my life because its no longer attached to me as an occupation or career. I’ve considered writing again, but my expectation has to not be profit oriented or acceptance oriented for me personally to maintain the feeling of a hobby/personal passion.
Other people may be able to handle this balance much better than me.
I suppose that is a confession that photography has become something challenging for me to treat as a hobby. One thing I’ve considered doing to bring that back, is to take on a little bit of charity work. Knowing that I’m serving, doing a good thing, not working for money, and under no expectations that come attached when people pay for a service. Some of my charity work this past year has been my most enriching experiences of my life with photography. Of course this is no way to sustain a business, but its helped me retain the hobby feeling at least in those moments.
Wow these articles are so great. They are just what I needed to hear, especially the second one. I’ve been wishy washy trying to decide if I should start a business and it’s been SO hard for me. I have two small kids and I always felt it would take too much time away. And I think I’m probably right. Plus, it really is a fun hobby for me. But how tempting it is to start when somebody says you’re good and you should start one!
The only hard part for me is that I actually love sessions with people. It’s fun for me! I am just afraid that the time it would take to start and run a business would be too much away from my family. Bummer. I wish there were a happy medium!
Wow Brooke! Thanks for all the amazing feedback. I think you could easily compile your comments into a blog post all their own.
I definitely hear you on the high sale/low volume approach. I recent doubled most of my prices, mostly just to escape the low-end market. The super-affordable photographer market is highly saturated in my area. The expectations are incredibly high and the pay is, frankly a joke. So I’m changing my pricing and therefore changing my market. I guess the advantages of a day-job is that I can afford to experiment with my pricing and marketing without risk to my family’s wellbeing (I only risk my sanity!).
I second Vince. I’m in that EXACT same boat, and I feel like for me it has worked really well so far. With my full time day job I am comfortable with booking 2-4 sessions per month and not feeling like it takes over all of my spare time outside of my 40+ hr/wk job. I think I’m fortunate to have found a happy place that quickly and stayed within it! I did the same thing with pricing. Took a huge increase to sustain it without having to do 15 sessions/month! And I’ve had surprisingly good success. I think I found the perfect pricing niche to be in for my market as well!
And as a side note! – ALL of these changes are thanks to Brooke’s fantastic advice during my private mentoring. I’m NOT joking. She totally changed my way of thinking in this industry.