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Digital photography is a part-time business for many people. They have developed their skills sufficiently that they can competitively offer their services in whatever market niche they have experience or proven results. In a recent PhotographyTalk.com article, Photography Tip—Start a Photography Business While You Still Have a Day Job, a number of tips were presented to help photographers earn money taking pictures, but still remain at their current job or career.
If you operate a part-time photography business, then there may come a time, however, when it will grow so large as to require all of your free time. That is when you’re confronted with a big decision: to go full-time and leave the job that is supporting your family or to reduce the number of part-time photography jobs you are willing to accept, so you have more time to spend with your family and friends. To help you with that decision, this PhotographyTalk.com article recommends that you should ask yourself the following five questions.
What are your financial needs?
You know how much money your job generates to provide your family members with the lifestyle they’ve come to expect. It’s equally important to know how much your part-time photography business is contributing to your income. Once you know the difference, you have a goal of the additional revenue a full-time business would have to generate. Then, you should prepare accurate and thorough data about the kind of jobs you shoot, how many you’ve averaged per month and the average net income from each job type. With that information, you can then calculate how many more of these jobs you’ll need every month to give your family the income it needs.
This calculation should actually be a regular part of the financial report of any part-time photography business from the very first day. You’ll be able to track your progress, so when you do decide to go full-time, you’re more likely to make the income you require from a sustainable business.
Do you have reserve financial assets, and how much?
When you first decide to start a part-time photography business, you should designate a regular portion of the revenue to a savings account for the primary purpose of a reserve of cash when you go full-time. Regardless of how carefully you’ve made the financial calculations in #1 above, most new, small, full-time businesses don’t hit their revenue targets during the first few months, or year.
Have you made a plan?
One of the reasons so many new, small businesses fail is that they open without a clear plan of how they will operate their business and find customers. Making the transition from a part-time to full-time photography business definitely requires a plan because of the financial implications explained in #1 and #2 above. The data to collect in #1 and the cash to save in #2 are only part of this plan. You can also control your financial situation by creating a detailed and strict budget that you follow closely.
The other major part of your plan is how you will market your business. Since you are already attracting clients as a part-timer, you may simply have to continue to use the methods that have already proven to be successful for you. You may also have to expand your marketing to include new methods that require a learning curve on your part and some time to understand and implement these methods. Your goal is to learn these new marketing techniques and have them ready to go before you become a full-timer. You don’t want to find yourself scrambling to make them work and waiting weeks or months before they start to attract the additional projects (and income) you need.
How much effort are you willing to expend?
Don’t expect the transition from part-time to full-time photographer to be smooth, easy or quick. You might find yourself working almost full-time at your photography as well as putting in full days at your job. If your plan calls for you to go full-time by a certain date, then you should prepare your family ahead of time for the confusion and disruptions that may occur during this period. You’ll probably have less time for your family and friends and virtually no time for yourself, but that’s the price that must be paid.
Are there any other barriers to your decision?
Creating a plan and managing your finances may be the major tasks to perform before you go full-time in your photography business; but you must also thoroughly review your life and situation to determine if there any other barriers. These could be financial, such as a child’s college tuition in a few years, or the possibility of a spouse’s job being moved across country. The biggest barrier for many photographers is that they often doubt the wisdom of their decision; but you must try to develop a positive mindset and learn to enjoy and appreciate that you will be free of any boss other than yourself, and live the entrepreneur’s dream.
Photo Credit: PhotographyTalk Member Ailsa Hayward