How to Quit Your Day Job to Become a Full-Time Photographer and Make it Work
Seems like this is always a hot topic, everyone thinks about quitting their day-gig to become the glorious full-time photographer to make the large money and to do what you enjoy doing. Of course, you have the skills required and the quality of equipment to compete in the professional world, there’s no question on that, right? The jobs will start rolling in as soon as you let your friends know that you have quit your day job and are ready to start booking their weddings and company events. You have your portfolio ready, you had your cousin pose for you in the backyard a few months back and those shots turned out good. Your mom loved them, right?
Don’t be surprised if the jobs don’t start rolling in, especially on the level of giving you the financial gains that you require to support yourself and those counting on you. It takes planning and time to be able to make it as a full-time photographer. I have yet to make the jump myself at this point, but my instances may not be the same as yours.
Regardless, my thoughts on this are to take a safe, well planned out, and probably the least risky method of making this kind of career change. Let us not kid ourselves on this either, it’s a career change that is in a field that appears on the surface to become ever more populated with competition (regardless of being quality competition or not). A profession that requires a level of equipment that can run into tens of thousands if allowed, and the knowledge and skills to be able to operate this equipment. Also, let’s not forget about the computer equipment and software that’s required to produce the final product that will get you the return business down the road.
- The bottom line is that there is a lot to take into consideration when contemplating a major career change like this, and its best to take your time and plan it out before doing so.
First things first, you need to understand the job market for the area that you live in. Do some research; see how many opportunities are available for where you believe your skills are strongest. Try to check out how many photographers are already working in the area; what fields of photography are they shooting (maybe check-out their websites or advertising to see what they specialize in)? Maybe you already know people in the business, ask for their opinion or what they think. Maybe you know someone that recently was married; ask them about what they found when looking for a wedding photographer.
This will more than likely be difficult to get a full understanding of the potential market and competition, but the better you can honestly see what kind of opportunities are in your area, the better chance of keeping busy when starting out. Better also to enter into a market that may be light on competition than to try and enter an already heavy field.
- Get a full understanding of the photography market that you want to enter into before making the jump.
Another point to consider prior to quitting the day job is, do you have the equipment you feel that you will need to pursue the new career as a full-time photographer? It is said that a great photographer can shoot with any gear and get quality, but this also adds risk and requires great knowledge and skill to produce good work with inferior equipment. It also doesn’t mean that the photographer couldn’t have produced better work with better gear either.
So while you have a steady job and income, this is the time to build up the equipment you will want to make your living by. You can also take the time to do a few jobs on your terms to see how the equipment works for you with much less risk at this time.
- Build-up the necessary photography equipment for full-time work while having the steady known income and budgets.
Once it’s clear that you understand the market opportunities and you are ready to make the jump to becoming a full-time photographer, the path-forward is probably not much different from being in any other profession and making the change to a new career with the added challenges of potentially running your own business.
You need to be responsible to yourself and to the others that count on you. You need to understand the differences in pay scale on what you are currently making to what you may have to accept going into what may be a career with a not-so-steady income.
Also while talking about the financial end of things, try to understand what you will require an income. There has been a lot of good advice on what to charge for your work, but I feel that the best is to first understand how many jobs you will expect to book. Based on this, its really simple math to understand how much you will need to charge for the required income you need to make. Of course, you need to try and understand what your expenses will be, but the understanding of jobs-to-income requirements alone may be a shock to many to understand the financials of this change in profession.
- Understand the financial implications of making the career change and how this will affect others that you are responsible for.
There are so many other elements to take into consideration, but as the heading of this article is titled on how to make this change work, my take on this is to try to understand as much about this as possible, and to plan for everything.
I myself have a BSEE and work full-time in management for a high-tech energy company. I don’t like risk and try to minimize it whenever possible. I like to plan for the known (and unknown) so I am not caught with my “britches-down”. I also have financial responsibilities that I don’t want to fall short on, with a family that counts on my steady income. I feel that this is no different than anyone else these days and that we all need to be responsible.
Someday I may make the change to being a full-time photographer/videographer, but for now, I will choose the jobs that I take, and take it slow. When the time is right, I will make the move knowing as certainly as possible that it will work.