Going pro is no easy choice

I am busy. With photoshoots and weddings, courses and workshops, commercial contracts, portraits, print orders, websites, mentoring and a whole lot more, I don’t have much time to take photographs for personal enjoyment.

By Ivor Rackham
Monday, 4th February 2019, 12:51 pm
January sunrise.
January sunrise.

On becoming self-employed my personal photography reduced by 95 per cent.

Coaching and mentoring is rewarding. Most of my clients are amateur photographers and I am pleased to have helped several on the road to professional or semi-professional photography. Some earn pocket money from their images and some have gone on to work full-time in studios.

I have trained professionals who wanted to broaden their skills, and helped launch one on a career of international wedding photography.

There is a nice community of professional photographers who support and send work to each other; I have recommended others for jobs and they have recommended me. Of course, there are some that won’t do this, but they lose more than they gain.

I always urge people who are tempted by self-employment to plan how they will make it happen. Professional photography is very different from doing it as a hobby and earning a living from being self-employed is hard work.

My working day starts at 6am and finishes well into the night. Even on a ‘day off’, I am answering emails or developing shots for a client.

Most of my time isn’t spent taking photos. Marketing and advertising, accounts, websites, writing articles, updating and repairing equipment, building computers, answering messages, sorting insurance and so on fills my days. I usually have five courses running and I meet with other businesses I support.

It takes a lot of self-discipline not to get distracted. If watching Netflix is important to you, forget becoming self-employed.

Professional photography is competitive and everyone is after the same work. Coming in new to a saturated market to win contracts from established businesses is a big hurdle. It is possible; I did it and so can you if you have the personal attributes, photography skills and finances to live while you build your business.

A lot of professionals fall by the wayside. I hear about wedding photographers failing to deliver. Others just don’t have the business acumen, and many discover they need the financial stability of full-time employment; lots take part-time work too.

Some become ill and cannot work; there is nobody to give you sick pay. One photographer had his gear stolen and because he was using it semi-professionally his home insurance didn’t pay out.

We’re all frustrated by bad organisations run by unimaginative bureaucrats, imposing rigid policies. If you are a good photographer then creativity and adaptability should come naturally, and that is what you need to successfully run your business.

Photographic businesses require diverse skill-sets. Shooting to a brief dictated by the client is unlike going for a walk with a camera. Meticulous planning and attention to detail is essential. Meeting the customer’s needs is everything.

Being in business is all about making customers happy and you need to do all you can to win and keep them.