Being able to make money from your hobby is only a dream for most people. However, if you love photography and you’re good at it, you might be among the few lucky ones who can turn passion into money.
From product photography to wedding photos or photojournalism, there are countless fields in which you can thrive as a photographer nowadays. Find out how you can turn this hobby into a profitable, full-time career.
1. Create a Portfolio
If you often hear the sound of the shutter because your camera goes wherever you go, you probably have lots of great photos by now. Put them to good use by creating a portfolio. Organize it according to themes or years and try to prove your versatility by including different genres.
2. Gain Some Professional Experience
Number two and probably the most important advice is to get some real professional experience. No matter how good a photographer you are, some marketing agencies and big companies will only look at your portfolio if it is accompanied by a convincing CV. You don’t have to work for free for years to gain professional photography experience. Sometimes even a few months internship can make a difference between getting a job or project or not.
To start acquiring experience, you can look for a job or internship at companies that hire photographers (use job portals, LinkedIn, or different other channels to find them). Alternatively, you can look for an assistant job for an experienced photographer. Although this won’t give you a lot of creative freedom as you won’t probably have the chance to take any photos yourself, it can offer you more insights into what professional photography means.
Additionally, to make your CV stand out, you can also get a degree or certificate in photography. There are certainly lots of useful things you can learn from more experienced photographers. Many training courses only last for a few weeks and have reasonable prices.
3. Market Your Services
Finally, when your portfolio and CV are strong enough to be able to get clients on your own, you should start marketing your services. Choosing to work on your own versus working for an advertising company, a media agency, or any other company that needs a full-time photographer is a big step. This change brings both advantages and disadvantages.
On the one hand, you’ll be free to pick your own clients and only work on projects that truly appeal to you. On the other, you might not have a constant demand, which means you have to be careful with how you manage your finances.
That being said, if you’re sure you want to walk on this path and run a photography studio or work as a freelance photographer, you need to start marketing your skills. There are plenty of platforms that connect freelancers with clients. Create a strong profile on some of them and start sending pitches for available jobs. Your social media profiles can also help you promote yourself as a photographer.
Another great way to market yourself is by creating a website for your business. This will naturally also involve the cost of marketing services (Google ads, social media posts/ads, etc.). Take this into account as you’ll probably need an agency or experienced marketer to efficiently promote your service.
4. Choose Your Niche
This point can actually go at the very beginning of the list as well. However, we’re placing it here because many photographers take all or some of the steps above before they decide to focus on a particular niche. This happens for various reasons. One is the fact that many photographers experiment with different types of photography before they find the best niche for them. Another reason, and a very important one too, is that not all types of photos are in-demand.
Sure, getting paid for artsy photos is terrific. But only a few and very good photographers manage to get acknowledged as artists and make a living by exhibiting and selling their work. Combining passion with a practical approach means offering those types of photos clients ask more frequently such as product photos, advertising photos, or other types of photography that have a commercial purpose. Wedding and event photos are also a profitable niche, especially if you’ve got good networking and many clients recommend you to their friends and acquaintances.
Obviously, to be able to work in a particular photography genre, you should also like what you have to deal with. If you’re not very patient with people, wedding or family photos might not be good for you and you might want to focus on product photography instead. If you love sports, that’s another good niche you could focus on. Find your niche based on your preferences and skills. Then, start advertising your service for clients that fit your target.
5. Make a Business Plan
Once your business or your freelance work becomes more profitable, it’s time for business planning. Making a plan is actually important from day 1 if your aim is to turn photography into a career. Yet, many talented photographers only engage in photography as a side job before they can work exclusively in this field.
Once you get there, you can even consider business coaching, mentoring, or a training course in business to realize what challenges and expectations might come along the way. Being well prepared to become a business owner is all the more important if you also plan on having employees who will depend on you.
A few things to consider when you make a business plan is how far you want to get. Do you want to have a 5 or 20-people team? Would you only service your area, or do you want to expand to other states too? How much equipment and marketing budget will you need? All these questions can help you put together a plan and realize how many clients you need to achieve your goals. Then, you can think of ways to attract that clientele.
All business endeavors require initial capital and photography is no different. Even if you plan on working solo until you retire, you still need to regularly invest in cameras and other devices to be able to do your work. If you don’t have enough resources, worry not, you could get photography equipment financing. There are many online platforms that connect lenders with business owners who need a loan.
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