Photography As A Part-Time Business

It’s something that a lot of people who are passionate about photography dream of. These days even more photographers are making the leap and calling themselves semi-pros (me included) and are trying their hand at making photography a part-time gig. Today I’ll share with you some of the things that I’ve learned and how I approach the subject.

Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to work for themselves? I don’t know anyone who would want to spend the rest of their life answering to a boss. If there is such a person, I would say they’re crazy. People do and try all sorts of things in an effort to achieve the so-called “financial freedom” that you hear so many people talking about. There are even photographers out there who get rich make their living teaching others how to get rich with photography. Heh.

The great thing about being a “semi-pro” or shooting part-time is that you don’t have to depend on it for an income. Sure, any passionate photog would love nothing more to make a full-time living with their photography. However, it takes a lot of time, practice, and networking to get to that point. Not depending on photography as your primary source of income removes the stress factor of trying to put food on the table and allows you to be more creative and take some risks. Instead of always playing it safe you can experiment and work more towards developing your own style. Think of it as putting money in the mattress.

There are many different ways that you can turn your hobby and passion into a little profit. You can sell fine art prints through your own Zenfolio site, you can shoot high school sports and sell prints to players and parents, you can shoot portraits, weddings, stock, and just about anything else you can think of.

Something very important that you have to keep in mind is that your level of success depends on more than just your photography skills. You also have to be business-minded as well as a sales person. You have to TALK to people, which for some can be a little scary. If no one knows about your part-time business, you’re not going to make many sales. The great thing about doing all of this yourself is that you can control how busy your business is. The more you’re involved with your marketing, the busier you’ll get. Therefore you only need to do enough marketing to keep you as busy as you would like to be. You can always increase or decrease from there depending on your needs and ambitions.

For myself, I stay pretty busy with my career in the Navy and therefore have to limit how much photography work I do on the side because I don’t want to become overextended and burn out. I also have a wife and kids that need my time and attention too. So I choose the types of jobs that don’t take me away from home for too long and try and maintain a good balance. That’s mainly why I’m not shooting weddings. They’re a great source of income but they take a lot of time. Once you shoot one (and if you do a good enough job) the work will come flowing in and I’m not prepared for that yet. So I mainly stick to portraits and a little commercial work as well as selling a few prints and that way I can continue to build my photography business at my own pace.

The bottom line is that you have to choose a path that will work best for you. I can’t tell you exactly how to do it, because it probably won’t work for you. My hope is that by sharing my own thoughts and experiences you can use some of what I’ve done and mix it in with your own ideas to create a plan that works for you.

A blog that I refer to often that talks only about the subject of making money with photography is Photopreneur. It’s a great blog with a lot of great info. so be sure to check it out!

Be sure to hit me up in the comments and tell me about your own thoughts, ideas, and successes when it comes to turning your photography into a part-time business.


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3 thoughts on “Photography As A Part-Time Business

  1. Pingback: Posts about Making Money as of January 28, 2009 | The Lessnau Lounge

  2. Great post, and thanks for linking the Photopreneur blog, I hadn’t heard of that one before and it looks like a great resource.

    While I’m not a complete success yet, I did take the plunge late last year and am doing photography full time now. I’m still a student so I don’t have a family to support, giving me a little more freedom to do this. Still working on getting my client base, repeat customers and the like. Always trying to meet TONS of people, i.e. going to parties I might otherwise pass up, turning my Facebook to a whore account (friending any and everyone in the area who asks), displaying at local shops and stores, whatever publicity I can get. I have such a wide range in what I do, and that really helps me. Say portraits are slow this month, well I’ve got a fine art show that will bring in some cash. Doing shows also allows me to meet a lot of people and helps spread the word. Making videos and posting blogs is actually helpful. I do them for fun, but people like to see fun. I love weddings, and hope to catch quite a few this year.
    The business side is certainly time consuming, so much more so than I thought in the beginning. But I started off doing it part time in addition to my day job, so I was able to get all my licenses, read a lot of business literature, and get grounded in all the legalities before hopping into the full time realm.
    The only downside to working for yourself (for me anyway) is setting your hours. If I’m not paying attention I will burn out. At my old job I clocked in at a set time and left at a set time. With photography, I can easily work non-stop from the moment I get off at school until the wee hours of the night and not even notice that I’ve put in so many hours.
    I’m working on my stock portfolio to try and eliminate the wallet pinching months, but that in and of itself is a huge task.
    All in all, I love it. I get paid to be a part of people’s lives, to create beautiful pictures. Thank God for that!
    I would really encourage anyone reading this and considering doing it part time or full time to get the legalities out of the way. It’s rough going at the start, tons of information, tax things you never had to worry about before, being sent from office to office, getting the wrong forms, filling out the right ones, etc. But once your in business, there’s nothing stopping you from continuing. You can take as much business as you can handle, maybe ween yourself off your other job, or jump in cold. Once you’re legal, your golden.

    Godspeed,

    _Nathanael

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