Question #13: About Going Pro

A: "Big fan, love your work. I am an enthusiast photographer but would like to begin to go pro. How would you suggest that I go about getting my work out there? I've been a photographer for a long time and need something else to do other than my "day job". I've been taking some online courses and just want to get out of the humdrum and into the mix of living what I feel. And that, of course is photography.
Any input that you can give would be greatly appreciated.

George W. A.

A: "Hi George. Thank you for reaching out!  I'm sure you've already done your homework about what turning pro entails and you've heard many times that it's tough out there. Well, it's ten times tougher than that. Yet, do not get discouraged, if your work is consistently good and you know how to sell your skills, you have a good chance of making it! 

First of all, it is imperative to keep your day job while you start making money with your photography. Also, unless you have a spouse or partner with a good income to support you as well as medical coverage, you should really save enough money to live on for at least a year. Being self employed is both nerve racking at times and extremely rewarding. I often say that I work 60+ hours a week so that I don't have to work 40 hours for someone else. I wouldn't want it any other way. If you are used to a good steady income, making the jump can be really scary. You have to trim the fat in your expenses and not plan on buying a new car for a few years... If you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices and you can't keep up with the demand while working a full time job, then maybe you're ready!

You probably heard that being a working photographer is 80% marketing and 20% shooting... That's on a good week! No matter what field you choose, it takes a few years and a lot of happy customers before you can breathe easier. Persistence is key! Although you don't need to attend any formal schooling for photography (your portfolio is your CV), you do need some solid business skills. That said, you don't need to be good at everything. I hate numbers and I give that part to an accountant. It's important to know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with the right people. It is also important to have a plan and be honest with yourself as to why you want to be a pro photographer.

As a working photographer, you will soon learn that you need to derive your income from several different streams. Unless you are a busy wedding photographer and you make enough money with one market (many do), you will have to tap into several different genres for a while and take whatever comes your way. This may also help you determine what you are good at and what you love to do. Many photographers are under the impression that they will make a living selling prints. Well... That is not happening! Yet, fine art or stock photography may be a nice way to make extra money as a passive income.

One more thing to consider, that very few people who turn their hobby into a profession do, is how not to lose the passion when your hobby becomes a regular day job. The answer is: Keep the personal projects going all the time. Shoot for yourself, often, and you will keep the passion for the craft alive. If you don't, trust me, there will be a time when you start leaving your camera at home on your days off. Don't let that happen.

I could write 10 more pages about turning pro regarding portfolio, renting vs. buying, style development, people skills, etc.  but I already wrote several articles on the subject that you can read by visiting my publications page.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck. Surround yourself with people who support you 100%. It's tough enough to make the leap without having to deal with naysayers on a daily basis!


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