Camera Club:

Increasingly, people are coming to me for training for one specific reason: they want to leave theirjobs and become professional photographers. That’s understandable. It’s a profession I love and it’salways most rewarding earning a living from whatever you enjoy.

By Ivor Rackham
Thursday, 10th September 2020, 12:00 am

Moreover, nothing pleases me

more than helping people along that road to becoming successful amateur or pro photographers.

Besides the coronavirus related redundancies, why are so many people abandoning their

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employers? Is it because their workplace is stressful and unpleasant? Getting trodden on by uncaring

organisations that value nothing beyond their financial spreadsheet’s bottom line invariably brings

misery. Why don’t businesses with a high staff turnover understand that? After all, losing staff cost

money.

Businesses motivated solely by finances might survive, despite being reviled. However, they flourish

if their primary aim is making both clients and employees happy. Profits are a natural by-product of

providing a great service to customers and staff. If you want to run a business that’s admired, then

chase quality services and not money.

The first rule of starting a business is do what you love. Photography is one of the most prevalent

pastimes in the UK, more popular than fishing or playing football. So, inevitably, many try making a

living from it. But now is a particularly challenging time for all creative professionals.

Last year, the creative industries were worth over £111 billion to the UK economy, contributing £13

million every hour. According to government figures, the sector was growing five times faster than

the rest of the economy. That was before the coronavirus crisis. Sadly, the industry’s revenue is

plummeting. Most photographers and artists are badly hit. Those without a financial safety net are

suffering enormously.

There are 14,000 UK photographic businesses. Around half of those are self-employed freelancers.

Most of those have been in business less than five years and so received little in the way of support

from the government during the Coronavirus crisis. Why? In the first few years of trading most

freelancers don’t make much profit on which the support grants were based. One photographer I

know is in year four of trading and received a pitiful £250 from the government to live off for three

months. Additionally, many freelance photographers supplement their income, holding down

another part-time job for financial stability. So many more have been failed by the system because

their employment pay exceeded, often by just a few pounds, their self-employment income.

Consequently, they got no support grant despite losing more than half their earnings. It’s not an easy

time for freelancers, especially artists.

Nevertheless, starting self-employment is never an easy ride. Irrespective of Coronavirus, many

photography businesses fail within a year and most businesses fail within the first five. Why? Firstly,

it is hard work being self-employed, the hours are far longer than working for someone else; I work

nearly every day. Secondly, many don’t have the business acumen. Thirdly, despite friends telling

them their photographs are brilliant and getting lots of likes in on social media, their photographic

skills and products are not up to industry standard.

There is more to life than money, but for self-employment you do need a financial cushion.

Freelancers, on average, earn 25% less than their paid equivalents. Plus, it usually takes years to

build up a reasonable and regular income.

If you are thinking of becoming a professional photographer, go for it. But be prepared to face

challenges. Ensure you have a financial backup. Then learn the business skills. Be prepared to work

hard and make sure that your camera skills are up to scratch. Good luck!