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General photography questions and answers: Discuss Have you ever considered going pro?...I don't know if it's just the "new year - new start" mentality. Or if I'll actually go through with ...
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Old 23-02-2007, 12:06   #1 (permalink)
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Have you ever considered going pro?

I don't know if it's just the "new year - new start" mentality. Or if I'll actually go through with it, but I'm really starting to wonder if I could make a living from taking pictures.

I'm still learning technique and saving for the glass I REALLY want, but I don't think either of those things will ever change, no matter where my photography goes.

I've got the excellent book, The Freelance Photographers Market Handbook but the trouble I'm having is that there's just not enough days in the week to research, target and market my photography, and go to work full time. I've got a couple of weddings booked later this year, but that on it's own is not a career I really fancy (far too much stress LOL). I've also thought about family portraits etc, but really need a decent portfolio before you can go full time. Much the same with the stock photography libraries.

Has anyone else thought about, or even better actually taken the step of going pro. It's the transition period of building portfolio / reputation I'm most concerned about. It would be much easier if I didn't have mortgage, wife and kids to worry about.

Any pearls of wisdom, experience or ideas would be very welcome.

Thanks

John
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Old 23-02-2007, 12:40   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Have you ever considered going pro?

Hi John, I have a phrase which I say to myself over and over when faced with these decisions, "if you don't jump, you will never fly"
You have the added stress however of kids to think about.
I have advised many people in the past on turning there hobby into money. You are going in the right direction and the fpmhandbook is step in the right direction.
Stock photography is longterm thing and is not going to make you a steady income from the word go, you will need at least 1000 images in a reputable library to start seeing steady returns.
1 thing that you could do is offer home portraits, you will need a couple of flash heads and stands (portaflash kits are fine about £500.00) and go to peoples homes to take family portraits in their own surroundings, garden etc. after you have done a couple of these work tends to come in via word of mouth.
Local landscapes framed and put up in local shops etc can also be a decent revenue stream.
another really important thing to think about is the support of your partner, this is paramount and as such I would discuss it long and hard and hide nothing from them.
Start off slowly building your reputation and if some jobs come in that would require time off work, book it as holiday.
I am thinking of putting together a few pieces of what to consider when turning "pro" and posting it on here as advice for people so watch this space.
Hope that helps a bit.
Cheers
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Old 23-02-2007, 18:26   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Have you ever considered going pro?

Gary has offered some sound advice, and I'll try to add some from my experience.

Deriving a good portion if not all of your income from photography is not a particularly easy thing to do - but it is doable if, like any other venture, you set out a business plan with clear goals and objectives.

This will include things like
  • Researching existing photographic services in your area
  • Identifying sectors that they serve (private, commercial, press/media etc.)
  • Examining if the market can support another photographic service in those sectors
  • Identifying potential sectors that are not currently served in your locale
  • Examining if there is a need or market for service to such sectors
  • Choosing your trading style (sole trader, partnership, limited company)
  • Deciding on a pricing structure for your services
  • If competing in a sector that is already served, pick two out of the following three
  1. Offer higher quality products/services than your competiton
  2. Offer significantly different product/services than your competition
  3. Offer lower prices than your competition
  • Forecast your turnover to 100%, 50% and 25% of what you anticipate it might be
  • From the above, calculate when your break-even point will be (point in time the business becomes profitable)
  • Remember to allocate yourself a salary from your turnover!
  • Ensure you have the correct equipment and other capital investments required
  • Plan adequately for the Cost of Doing Business i.e. bank charges, merchant services etc.
  • Research the implications of Tax and other deductibles

Your local Business Gateway may be a good place to start for advice and I'd advise that you contact serveral banks about getting a business account - many have good informaiton packs available and offer various incentives to get new accounts opened.

Every year a few more 'photographers' appear in my locale and almost as quickly they disappear from the market - mostly because they thought that being a pro photographer was a good idea and they didn't really do their research into exactly what it takes to survive in business.

The same thing can be said of Mr. Joe Enthusiast who enjoys photography and decides to cover weddings for £100 a pop, offering all the images shot on the day burned straight from camera to disc. After being hounded by a few bridezillas for poor quality work (or worse - Mother of Bridezilla!!), they tend to disappear too

If any of the above scares you a little - good! No, just kidding; I'm just doing my best to highlight the fact that professional photography is 50/50 about creativity and being business minded. Successful marketing and image/identity is important too, but that probably belongs in another post entirely

Hope this helps.
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Old 23-02-2007, 18:54   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Have you ever considered going pro?

Just call me Mr Joe, for the time being anyway!
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Old 23-02-2007, 19:07   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Have you ever considered going pro?

Good advice by GB & VP above

Extra thanks to Gary for the following :-

http://www.pixalo.com/community/tuto...1-a-11651.html
http://www.pixalo.com/community/tuto...rt2-11653.html
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Old 27-02-2007, 13:15   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Have you ever considered going pro?

Thanks for your replies guys. They are very useful insights and sound advice.

I'm under no illusions about how difficult a step it is to set up as a business, and 100% realise that it's not going to be a case of magically turning my hobby into a career. But Gary you're right that if you don't jump you will nevery fly...

I'm actually thinking of starting out by reducing the hours at my current full time job to give me the time to start building a decent portfolio and client base. It's the transistion period I'm most concerned about, and i guess whether it's possible to make enough money.

My aim is to combine a number of my skills / contacts into one package that should give me the competitive edge over others in my area. My wife runs a wedding stationery business, her best mate is a beautician, I am a IT professional specializing in internet applications.

So I "should" be able to get a few weddings under my belt, along with a few "makeover" photo shoots, and offer a package for small businesses to have pictures taken and create a website for them. This approach "should" mean that I'm not putting all my eggs in one basket and will "hopefully" let me assess the market in each of these areas while building a decent portfolio, and seeing what suits my style / skills best. In parallel I'm also planning on targeting one or two genres of magazine to try and build a "published" portfolio, and NUJ membership (is it worth it?).

But it all takes time, and I suspect most of that time will be spent doing research, sales and marketing... But hey, if it works out.... I'll be very glad not to be stuck in an office 9-5 every day.

Last edited by Gypsy200; 27-02-2007 at 16:07.
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Old 27-02-2007, 16:49   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Have you ever considered going pro?

Well I have a simple answer - NO. I'm too old, not good enough and I don't think I'd like the stress of doing a wedding
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Old 27-02-2007, 19:21   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Have you ever considered going pro?

my biggest worry would be the marketing........ i just cannot put myself forward!.... folks say u should do this that and the next thing... and i nod my head KNOWING full well that they are right and yet i cant do it......... i REALLY am shy!

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Old 27-02-2007, 19:22   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Have you ever considered going pro?

Though I have taken pictures for money in the past, the answer is No. I think it unlikely that I could have earned as much as a Photographer as my chosen profession. Also I liked photography as a hobby where I could photograph what I liked. If you are a Pro, you will have to photograph whatever your clients want.
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