Welcome to my new blog series on Damon's Photo. I am going to start the new blog off with something that I know a lot of you have on your mind, and that's life as a Professional Photographer starting out.
Day after day I see articles, blogs, videos, and other mediums about life as a photographer. What none of them ever really discuss is life of a photographer starting out a new. So that's what I want to discuss today.
Have you gotten to the point in your life where you want to give up the security of your 9-5 job and make your photography the way that you pay your bills? That's the first and the most frightening step in all the world to do. After 6+ years at a very well paying office job, and living in the same area for 38 years, I decided that I wanted to take the leap and rely on my photograph and event coverage to make ends meet. To enforce my decision, I made the huge leap to just buy a house and skip renting an apartment in Chattanooga.
When you are taking this step in your life you need to look at so many different things and aspects of your life to keep in mind before going for it. You have to be able to take the ups with the downs. Once you make the jump be ready for everything that life can throw at you.
Even though I have been shooting for a while and consider myself a very good photographer, that doesn't mean that's the only skill I need to have. I need to be able to make money to pay those bills once I didn't have a regular paycheck coming in anymore. The bills I had certainly didn't go away after I decided to go this route. The mortgage company certainly doesn't want to hear me make excuses if I am short on my payment.
Everyday that I wake up as a photographer is a day that I am trying to build up my client base & at the same time I wonder how next months bills are going to get paid. That's what you have to realize when taking this step. I am constantly looking for new ways to produce content that people enjoy and ways to market myself. Being able to show people fifty great photos is a start, but if you can't get them to purchase prints, or hire you for work, then it doesn't matter. Fact is you will not go out at make six figures a year right off the bat. Get that idea out of your mind right away.
Now the biggest thing that you have to do is decide how you are going to make the money. Are you going to advertise? If so how are you going to go about it? Being social media savvy might be the most important skill outside of your photography ability that you will have to rely on. You have to be able to use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flicker, etc to your advantage. This is just one of the ways that you are going to market yourself and your business. I strongly suggest you build a website too. It is a much better avenue than social media to show off high quality examples of your work. There are so many ways to reach people on a day to day basis, but you still have to make them want to spend their money on you.
What sets you out above the rest is not only your ability to take a photograph, but how you treat your clients. Customer service seems to be a thing of the past, but in our business, I still believe that it's one the biggest leg you have to stand on. Your customer's need to be able to trust that you are going to get the work done and done to a high excellence. Weddings, Portraits, Sports, Nature, it doesn't matter what you shoot if you can't sell yourself and if your potential clients don't trust you.
Another thing that no one tells you is that no matter how great your work is, it doesn't mean it will translate into regular work. You have to have a Plan B no matter what. If that means branching out on the type of photography you do...than do it. If that means picking up a job at the local gas station while you build up your customer base...do it. Whatever you have to do to allow you more time to create content and go shooting is what you need to do.
Lastly, when you make the jump, it's no longer a hobby. You have now gotten to the point where you want this to be your career. When you get done reading this, go grab your gear, go out and live your dreams.