Every photographer at some point in time thinks about making the jump to full-time photography. That would be the dream job — get paid to do what you love AND be your own boss!
Making the plunge is scary and there are a lot of things to consider. Can I afford to sustain myself? Where will clients come from? Am I ready to go full time?
I am not a full-time photographer — I have a 9-5 job working in marketing and branding at a small reclaimed wood mill in Irvington, New Jersey. However, I have thought about going full time on several occasions over the last 10 years. I currently do a handful of contracted jobs per year mostly of family and friends I know, and a few you might have seen in the news.
That being said, I’ve put together a list of things you may want to consider, that I most certainly have, if you want to go full-time.
Is there enough industry demand?
The simple answer to that question: yes. There are always people having babies, getting married, celebrating special events — you name it! You just have to find them. Be on the lookout on your Facebook and Instagram feeds. Friends or connections you have could be getting engaged or having a child.
There’s no harm in reaching out and offering your services. Which leads to my next thought…
Do I have the drive for this?
There’s a bit of comfort working for a company or someone else, because motivation is always there to continue performing. If you fail at your job, you won’t have one.
Self-motivation and time management are key as we know how easily it is to get distracted.
You get a notification on your phone. “Let me check Instagram real quick. Oh look, The Rock is watching Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, I wonder when Stranger Things will be released? Oh snap! July 4th – I wonder if I have plans for that yet. What day of the week is that?” And down the rabbit hole we go.
Keeping an organized schedule will help you keep motivated. Block out your day and segment time for when you’re going to research and pursue gigs, edit photos and market yourself.
Are you ready to take on a variety of photography jobs?
The last piece of advice I offer may not be well-received, but it’s something I truly believe should be done. Diversify your portfolio and experience. This may seem counter-productive to the Instagram-driven thought of “I need my feed to be fluid and have a theme.”
I’ve met and talked with many photographers who will say “I don’t shoot weddings,” or “I don’t do babies.” Weddings can be scary to shoot, and babies don’t always cooperate, but business is business.
When I was getting started, my cousin who referred me for my first wedding gave me a bit of business advice. “When you’re getting started, don’t ever turn away business.” I’ve always kept that in mind as it’s easy to say no and pick-and-choose the photography gigs you want.
Photography is a hobby for many, but professional paid photographers exist. Being one is possible. If photography is what you truly love, then seek what you love. You’ll make it happen.