How can I find time to be a part time photographer? – Your First Customer Series, Part 1

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on July 20, 2009

in This is Business

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(Click here to visit the summary post for the Your First Customer Series!)

Most of you reading this blog already have full time jobs. Whether that’s as a corporate executive, coffeehouse barista, or full time mom, we’ll assume you have your hands full 40 hours a week.

Being a service provider, part time photography allows you to dictate your own hours. You can book as much or as little work as you wish, maintaining all of the flexibility you need to take care of your day job and familial responsibilities.

I’m a workaholic, love what I do, and am able to spend a lot of my working time with my family, so I invest a lot more time into my part time photography business than most people might. After a typical 9-5 day at my journalism job, I’ll probably spend five to seven hours doing photography work – marketing, shooting, processing, and selling.

You certainly do not have to make such a time commitment to be a successful part time photographer. You can work as much or as little as you like. If you want to just get your feet wet, try a half day or two each month. If you want to go all-out, try four hours a day, six days a week. If you want to aim for a balanced start, let’s take aim at four hours per week.

Getting better at anything takes time and effort. The more you put into your part time photography business, the more you will get back.

The more time you invest in your business…

  • The more you will accelerate your learning of the photographic and post-processing arts, making your portfolio more impressive and images more salable;
  • The more you will be able to network, in person and via social media, to expose potential customers to what you have to offer;
  • The more money you will make, through creating ever-improving salable art and taking in more customers;
  • The more quickly you will learn how to balance life and business while making the most of both.

With that said, you don’t want to burn out on your new money-making part time job. Unless you’re a desperately passionate workaholic like me, you’ll tire quickly of daily photo shoots and photo processing work.

But you know what? How much time you invest is your own business, literally – only you know what time you have to practice part time photography, and how much time you want to invest.

The Four-Hour Set

The complete workflow of my part time photography system is built on four-hour sets.

  • Hour One: Marketing – This is where you get your art and business in front of potential customers.
  • Hour Two: Shooting – The creation of beautiful photos for your clients to purchase! Not to disrespect the art of photography, but for our purposes, the goal of taking photos is to create a desirable product to sell your customers.
  • Hour Three: Processing – Here you will separate the wheat from the chaff. You’ll pick only your favorite images from the shoot to show your clients. On those photos you’ll do some light post-processing to give them a nice punch. Again, the purpose being to show customers the most salable art / product you can.
  • Hour Four: Selling – There is no better feeling than someone handing you a nice check and sincerely saying, “Thank you for what you do!” The viewing / sales session is when your clients will get to see the photos you’ve made for them and make their purchase.

You are able to split these four hour sets any way you like. If you want to work four evenings a week, aim at doing four sets of four hours of work, equally split between the four above activities. If you want to only work on Sundays, set aside eight hours to do two sets of four hours. Split your time however it best fits your lifestyle.

Look at this time like a good workout for your art, business, and wallet. Specific exercises or activities done in manageable sets will give you balanced improvement and maximize both short- and long-term results.

The flexibility of this system also lets you shift time into marketing during lull shooting times or early on when too few people even know you’re in business. In Part 4 of the Your First Customer Series, you’ll learn how to fill up your shooting schedule as fast as possible – then keep it that way.

But slow times are sure to come eventually. Customers, bless their hearts, are the only part of the system that you don’t have hands-on control of. However, with good marketing practices, we’ll minimize slow times and keep you earning as much as possible.

I’m very much so a learn-by-doing kind of person, so the part time photographer system will have you shift your time entirely into marketing during slow times so you can get back to shooting and practicing your skills in real world situations as fast as possible.

And don’t worry, marketing in my world is just about connecting with people, being social, and having a lot of fun. You will never have to sacrifice ethics or honesty to get people in the door, and you won’t have to trick people out of their money when you’re doing sales. People will only buy what they love.

Tomorrow in Part 2 of the Your First Customer Series, I’ll show you the 10 best and easiest photos you can take and sell to customers. Along with frolicking in your own artistic playground while shooting your customers, these 10 images will result in the first dollar bills you’ll earn as a part time photographer.

Next Steps

  • Write down all of the sections of “free time” you have outside of your day job. Decide how much time you would like to invest each week in your part time photography business, thinking in sets of four hours (which can be split over several days, if you wish; the hours do not need to be consecutive). Look at your sections of free time and decide when you would like to dedicate to your part time photography business.
  • Brainstorm session: Write down what obstacles stand in your way of doing at least four hours of part time photography work each week. What creative ways can you overcome those obstacles? Can you work at odd hours? Can you work weekends? Can you work on Sunday afternoons?
  • I will write many more articles about the workflow of being a part time photographer in the future. To keep up with these and other juicy topics, feel free to click on the “Subscribe” link at the top of every page of this web site.
  • When each week will you be a part time photographer? Have you found that you are at your most productive and artistic during certain times of the day? When? Leave a comment below, e-mail me, or call or text me at 830-688-1564.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Nallely February 11, 2010 at 1:11 am

Hi, I just found your site. I haven’t gone through all the posts but so far I’ve found this so helpful! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor February 18, 2010 at 12:06 am

Thank you so much for visiting and your kind words! If there’s any topic you would like me to cover, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I appreciate your readership!


Tiffany Lombardi August 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm

found your site the other day…thank you, thank you, thank you! I found your logic on everything to make sense and its so simple. Thank you for your hard work. I now have a price list and a handle on my business I didn’t have before.


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor August 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Thank you for your kind words Tiffany! I’m glad that you’re getting some real value out of the site. Please keep me posted on what you learn with your new price list! You’re welcome to e-mail me any time at


Leila December 3, 2010 at 12:09 am

dear james: i just cannot tell you how THRILLED i am to have stumbled upon your site just recently… it is EXACTLY what i’ve been searching for as i am a full time mom now who studied photography at school and did a few jobs before falling into the world of international independent motion picture licensing & distribution (will be 20 years in may of 2011!) and the birth of my beloved children (girl 6, boy 4) in 2004 and 2006. i am trying to get back into the business of photography and your words of advice, your sense of humor, your extremely eloquent and straight to the point posts are just fantastic and so appreciated! i created a website last year (myself on a mac) but was not happy with it took it down while i think about what to do next but i’ve included a slideshow which you can view if you like. i would be so very grateful for any candid feedback on the images. some are scanned, thus the not so sharp quality. i want to thank you again and again for taking the time to share your wonderful knowledge and priceless experience with the world and i truly feel blessed to have come across your site… i truly cannot say enough! warmest regards, leila


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor December 3, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Leila, your comments thrill me! Thank you so much for your kindness and your readership, I truly do appreciate it.

Congratulations on 20 years in the motion picture industry! That’s a wonderful accomplishment in itself. And also on your two young children – I have a 6 year old girl, a 3 year old boy, and a 4 week old baby girl. Children are far more fun than I could have ever imagined in my younger years!

Your photography is wonderful – a great mix of fashion, fun, personal, and personality. Most importantly, you have an eye for moments and images that tell much bigger stories than the 1/250th of a second captured. There is depth and richness, not just to the art, but to the content, which is a huge leap from the realm of amateur to professional. Your portfolio shows the maturity of an artist who understands that technical perfection is secondary to the story told by a piece of art. You have all the ingredients to be wonderfully successful as a portrait artist, or really as any kind of artist.

So many photographers these days spend so much time obsessing and arguing and pining over technicalities, over perfect lighting and perfect camera settings and perfect lens sharpness and perfect Photoshopping and perfect pricing. If they spent half as much time invested in the soul of their art instead of the vanity of their tools, they might be earning a lot more and pining a lot less.

The only suggestions I could make for your portfolio are to stay focused on your target market – if it’s portraiture clients, I’d pull some of the still life and commercial pieces, either to a separate gallery or a separate site if you’re looking for those clients – and to tighten the cull of your displayed images. You have a wonderful breadth to your portfolio, so there’s no reason to include images that are weak in artistic or salable merit. Your art is consistently good enough to make the less meaningful, ‘standard’ images stand out – that’s entirely a good problem to have.

Thank you again for your kind words and your readership! Please do keep me posted, here on the site or at, on the progress of your adventure back into professional photography. With a portfolio like yours, I have no doubt it will be a most successful one!


Paige June 4, 2011 at 9:38 am

Along with everyone else, I just want to THANK you! I’m not finished going through all of your posts quite yet, but the info is sooooo helpful! I do have a few questions, maybe could email you?

Thanks for taking the time to do this!!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor June 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Thank you for your kind words and your readership, Paige! Certainly, feel free to comment on any post, drop me an e-mail (that’s the best way to reach me), or give me a call – I’m more than happy to help in any way I can.


Julia June 18, 2011 at 9:47 am


I am a digital photography student and I have been struggling with trying to come up with a business name and how to charge for photo’s and everything else that goes along with it. I came across your site and I have started reading the blogs and felt such relief with a few things, I’m still trying to figure out what name to use, every one that I come up with seems to have been taken alread =( frustrating. The 2nd task for me is to get clients, I’m so nervous with just going up to someone and asking them If I can take pictures of them, So far I take pictures of my family but I don’t know, i’m not very confident in myself and I get discouraged easily. Do you have a blog on how to come up with a business name?

Thank you for all your information on this site it is very helpful.



Outlaw Photographer James Taylor June 19, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Julia, thank you for your kind words and your readership! I’m glad you’re getting some real benefit from the site. Keep reading articles here on PTP, I’ve covered a lot of the problems you face, and will be writing more on all these topics in the future.

Specifically, I’ve written about naming your business here:

As you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to post or e-mail and ask! Do keep me posted on your adventure into part time professional photography!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor June 20, 2011 at 12:26 am

And to make things super simple, here you go:

Name your photography business FirstName (Julia) LastName Photography of YourTown, YourState. If you specialize in one type of photography, seniors for example, go for FirstName LastName Senior Photography of YourTown, YourState. Unless there’s another photographer in your community with the same name, this is the simplest and most effective way to start out.

Charge no session fee, no minimum order, $10 for 4×6 or digital file, $15 for 5×7, $20 for 8×10, and don’t sell anything bigger except on special request.

There you go – naming and pricing issues resolved! Now get out there and, as the goddess of victory once said, “Just Do It!” Remember, nothing in your business is written in blood or set in stone – you can change anything and everything any time you want. You are empowered, you are in control, you are in charge. Blow past the simple stuff and get out there, market yourself in your community, take photos and evolve your art, and make some money for yourself and your family. 🙂


Eli August 4, 2011 at 11:30 pm

I found your blog when I decided to start some sort of income for my poor student life. I love how you have broken everything down into simple processes and it gives me a lot to think about. At first I had thoughts of grandeur created this ultra complex vision…then I slapped myself and decided to keep it simple. Thus I started a blog just to start somewhere rather then fine tune a vision that has not become reality.

Thank you for the information, it has been very helpful and motivating!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor August 7, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Thank you for your comment and kind words, Eli! We artists are dreamers, visionaries, and it’s real easy on the business side of what we do to become paralyzed by our own grand ideas. Nothing wrong with exploring what your ideal business would look, smell, sound, and feel like, but realizing that vision takes years of practice and growth. A little reading here, a little practice there, a little income and commensurate investment, and you’ve mastered the cycle that creates constant growth in your business over the coming years.

Ready, Fire!, Aim. 🙂


Chase Griffith December 7, 2012 at 11:23 am

Thanks for the site, I really have enjoyed what I have read thus far. As far as my schedule, it’s kind of crazy, I work on an “On-Call” sort of schedule, and there is never a lack of that phone ringing. When i does ring, I have to sometimes leave for a week or more at a time. Marketing and Post Processing wont be to hard, but Selling and actually Shooting will prove more difficult. I think the only real option for me is to shoot like crazy while I have the few days a month at home, and do the rest while I am away.
Anyway, thanks for the site, I look forward to ridding myself of the fear of “Not being good enough to charge” mentality, and get out there and get doing what I love, so hopefully someday I can leave my crazy “On-Call” job in the dust, and ultimately spend more time with the family and make a living doing what I love!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor December 31, 2012 at 12:09 am

Thank you for your comment Chase!

I can see how you have a unique issue with scheduling! Any days you have “for sure” off, you can pack a lot of shooting into.

If you never have “for sure” days off, then just be honest with your clients – that your day job requires you to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, and you may have to reschedule at the last minute. This is nowhere near a deal-breaker for most folks, unless they’re on a tight deadline such as close to Christmas or graduation time.

Always be honest with folks, and you don’t have to apologize for the peculiarities of your business either. Be you, be comfortable being you, and allow yourself to enjoy your photography business on the terms your life and day job dictate. It’ll be awesome when you can focus full time on the work you love, but in the interim, don’t let possible rescheduling issues keep you from trying to make the most of your photography time.

(Having no session fee helps a lot here – makes it far less stressful to reschedule when you have a need.)

Depending on the nature of your work when you’re out on-call, you may even be able to shoot at the locations you end up at. For example, I was scheduled for a marketing workshop in Killeen, Texas, which is the home of the Fort Hood military base. So I got in touch with a military moms group in that area and offered to set up some family shoots while I was in town – honestly, they did all the work in setting up the shoots! I did the workshop one day, and a day of shoots the next.

I’ve also shot on hotel grounds when out traveling, as well.

Opportunities are often found where you seek them!

Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures in 2013!


Bryan Baldwin October 31, 2014 at 12:27 am

Mr. Outlaw (Jessie James Taylor),

I just wanted to say thank you.

“Write down all of the sections of “free time” you have outside of your day job.”
Excellent advice. Now I need to make it a habit of finding all my down time and converting the hours and minutes into productive work/learning.

I’ll be back for further reading.


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 29, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Bryan, thank you so much for your comment and kind words!

The challenge in balancing life and work and play is congizance – being conscious of how you choose to invest your time.

Even with a rock-solid calendar and scheduling system in place, it’s easy to focus too much on time management and not enough on energy management. There’s a time and place to buckle down and Do The Work, but the next-level todo list incorporates an awareness of your energy, mood and the patterns thereof.

The best method I’ve found for staying conscious about where your time is going is journaling. Ten minutes end-of-the-day to honestly measure your time and choices for that day, and ten miuntes in the morning to set the tone and intention for the coming day. There is vast power in slowing down and choosing to live and act consciously.

Thank you again for your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!


Marty April 17, 2015 at 11:19 am

There is some Awesomly valuable information here. Thanks. I have just one complaint/suggestion/request:

have a print button so we can print the entire thing out (just the article and nothing else) with one easy mouse-click.

Other than that, Thank you for sharing. This is invaluable!



Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor April 28, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Marty, thank you for your kind words and readership!

Ask and ye shall receive! I’ve added a Print button to every post page on the site.

(Print Friendly & PDF WordPress plug-in, for those interested – the affiliate links that come up when you print are theirs, not mine, FYI.)

I hope this helps!

Thank you again! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!


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