So you’ve finally done what so many aspiring photographers only dream about! You’ve given your craft 110% until you were better at what you do than you ever dreamed you could be. You’ve worked tirelessly to build a name for yourself and start building a loyal client base. At this point, you’re even making some seriously good money. In other words, you’ve completely proven to yourself (and everyone else) that you have what it takes to be a professional photographer.
But are you ready to quit your day job and become a full time photographer? How can you be sure your budding business has what it takes to blossom into a full-scale endeavor? Here we’ll take a closer look at how you can be as certain as possible before you put in your resignation. If you can answer the following questions with a resounding “yes”, it just might be time to take that leap.
- Have you done all the math as far as the risks?
First thing’s first. You need to do all of the calculations in regards to the risks. In other words, you need to be sure you’ll be able to bring in enough photography business to amply cover all of your expenses and then some. If you’re barely getting by as it is or have major responsibilities like children, a mortgage, or a lot of debt that might make taking a big risk unwise, it’s probably better to wait.
On the other hand, is there so much demand for your work that you’re having to turn business away due to time crunches? Can you clearly see how you could easily make enough cash to comfortably cover all your expenses? There’s a good chance you’re ready now.
- Have you built up your resources?
Whether or not you have a lot to lose by making the leap to professional photography right now, it’s important to build yourself a financial cushion to fall back on first. Do this before you say adios to whatever you’re currently doing to pay your bills.
Ideally speaking, you should have enough funds saved up to cover your living expenses for six months before quitting. This will give you some wiggle room to really take your existing business to the next level. You should also have some idea who you’ll want to partner up with as far as growing your business. Full-scale businesses typically require an entire team of people in order to cover all the bases.
- Do you have your business plan squared away?
At the end of the day, talent and dedication aren’t enough to ensure your eventual success as a full-time professional photographer. Even the most gifted, driven photographers need a solid business plan in place before they dive in feet first. Otherwise, they risk closing up shop sooner rather than later. It’s one thing to have a pretty good idea you’d be able to generate enough interest in your work to make it work. It’s another to simply assume that.
Do you have a solid long-term strategy in place as to how you’ll get started, as well as how you’ll continue to grow as time goes by? What’s your marketing strategy look like and how do you plan to execute it? Do your research and be prepared. Start by talking to other photographers that are already where you want to be and find out what worked for them. Then put together a formal business plan that you’ll realistically be able to follow. You may even want to consider hiring a financial expert or business adviser to help you.
- Have you gone out of your way to diversify in regards to what you do?
Ask any successfully self-employed person how they manage to stay ahead of the game and they’ll tell you the same thing. You need to continually diversify your skills, services, and abilities if you want to keep up. The benefits of doing so are twofold.
To begin with the obvious, a diverse skill set allows you to offer more different services, products, and options to your clientele. Make the right moves and you could really gain an edge over your competition. Diversifying also makes it possible for you to cover more different bases when it comes to running your own business.
That said, it literally pays to spend some time thinking about what other skills you could acquire before you quit your day job. Are you into family portraits or wedding photography? Imagine how convenient it would be to be able to offer framing, matt-making, or scrapbooking services to your clients as well. Have your sights set on building a real estate photography business? Imagine how thrilled your clients would be if you could also help them with web development, graphic design, or social media marketing. You get the picture.
- Have you proven yourself yet?
So have you tested the waters yet or are you simply operating on a yen to suddenly open up a photography business out of nowhere? While there are certainly people out there that have become successful that way, those folks are the exceptions, not the rule. The best way to go about things is to get started gradually.
Build your skills, invest in equipment, enter a few contests, and snag a few paying gigs. Then take it from there. You may find that you really have hit your groove and have found the exact right profession for you. However, you may also discover that you’re happier pursuing photography in your spare time and that’s OK too.
You’ll know it’s time to say good-bye to your day job when your photography business no longer fits into your life as a sideline or a hobby. That’s the point where you have more prospective customers and book more shoots than you can realistically handle. At that point, you know you’ve got something special on your hands and can definitely afford to see where your camera takes you next.