The Part Time Photographer Startup Series:
Different people wear success in different ways.
My definition of success is probably a lot different from Work At Home Mom, Creative Outlet Corporate Executive, or Hobbyist Turned Pro. Depending on your goals (a subject we’ll look at in depth in a future article), the lifestyle and business you aim to create through part time photography, your version of success, will be wholly unique.
You may be a stay at home mom, married to military, with a couple of young kids that deserve as much attention as you can give. Success to you may be to work only a few hours every week photographing babies and toddlers in your home studio. Maybe you want to have the flexibility of setting your own schedule, making photos of your favorite subject – babies – while earning enough money to pay for a great summer vacation for your family. Disney Cruise, anyone?
You may have a good, decent day job, but you have the entrepreneurial itch and you enjoy photography. You would like to stretch your legs during your recreational time each week to see what kind of business you can build on your own. It’s not so much about the money as building a business with your own art and your own two hands.
You may certainly be an enthusiast photographer who loves the art and experience of your hobby and you want to make your hobby pay for itself. You want a bunch of cool photo gear to make awesome photos. You’ve got the inspiration – you just need the funds to buy the tools needed to make your visions reality.
You may be a regular joe like me. You have a normal day job that pays the bills, you’ve gone about as high as you can go with your current company, and because of wife-and-kid responsibilities, you can’t just quit and eat beans for a few months while you chase your dreams. You want to take on a second job to make money and save up until you’re in a financial position to pursue the career you really want. You need a flexible way to earn enough money to make these dreams happen.
Where I stray from the norm is in being a serial entrepreneur. Whereas many people work to afford play, work is my play. I am a Godinfan the way most people are Potterfans. I spend more on marketing and business books every year than I spend on food. Given the choice of a day at Seaworld or a day blogging about part time photography, well…you won’t find me smelling like whale at the end of the day.
Build your own lifestyle
The beauty of being a part time professional photographer is you can create any business or lifestyle you want – and best of all, you only get better as you go along. Your business knowledge grows alongside your artistic skill; your income grows with your customer base, which increases commensurate with your business and artistic abilities.
- Want to shoot one client a week and work only four hours? Can do.
- Want to only work Tuesday evenings? Can do.
- Want to make five times as much money? Shoot five times as many clients. Can do.
Like I said, I’m an unusual example – I work 30-40 hours a week on my second job. A) I love what I do, B) I’m wired to be a workaholic, and C) my wife and kids are greatly involved in almost all of the shoots I do, so very little family time is lost because of my second career as a part time professional photographer.
The system I’ll share with you through PartTimePhoto.com is very scalable and nigh risk-free. The minimum time investment I suggest sits around four hours per week, which includes marketing, shooting, processing, and selling at least one client. You can work more or less – aim at one client a month, or one every day, whatever aligns with your goals.
More clients means accelerated development as a part time photographer and accelerated income. You can set your own pace to both grow and earn.
My version of success
What’s success look like for me, personally?
I get up every day at 8 a.m., I get in a good workout at the gym, then I’m at work by 9 a.m. I let myself sleep in on Sundays. Gym’s closed anyway.
I’ll work on a mix of newspaper and photography work for the next 12-16 hours; day job + second job.
Wednesdays are family day – no worky worky of any kind, although you’ll catch me reading e-mails and blogs on my iPhone during downtime throughout the day.
I’ll photograph 2-5 clients in a week, and spend whatever time I need to ensure they’re given the best and most attentive experience possible. I’ll spend around one hour culling and post-processing each client’s shoot, and another hour doing a viewing / sales session with them within a few days of their shoot.
Any time I am not doing active income-generating work (shooting, processing, selling), I am marketing – and this is a big part of why my system works so well.
I like to stay booked about a month in advance, and I book as many clients as I am feeling the desire to shoot. Sometimes I’ll book light weeks, one or two clients, when I have other projects I want to concentrate on. I’ll book heavier weeks in busy seasons like Christmas and high school graduation when I have a lot of clients who need timely service – it can be a busy time, but the money made then allows me flexibility elsewhere in the year.
Marketing is just a combination of exposing potential clients to my business and my work, and showing existing clients lots of love to ensure they come back. From eating at the Old Spanish Trail restaurant and handing out business cards to potential clients to making connections with people on MySpace, from advertising on Craigslist to sending out a monthly e-mail newsletter, there are myriad ways to keep yourself busy with ensuring you have clients lined up to shoot with you.
What do I get out of being a part time photographer?
- I get to meet amazing people every single day, many of whom become good friends.
- I get to make cherished photos for those amazing people; a good sign of success is when clients are sincerely thanking you from their hearts…while handing you a check.
- I get a ton of satisfaction from running a successful small business, providing clients with a great service and great experience while contributing to my community and staying profitable.
- …and the money doesn’t hurt, either. I earn as much or more in my pocket from part time photography as I do from my day job as a community journalist. This enables me to enjoy financial security, job security, and freedom security – part time photography is a business you can take anywhere you go.
Your mileage will vary. It took me 10 years to achieve such a balance in my work and life. But I hope you will benefit from my knowledge and experience and enjoy exactly the success you want far faster than I did.
Does this sound like something you want to do? If so, let’s get it done!
Today is the day
This article concludes our four-part Startup Series for part time photographers. These blog posts are only the beginning of what will become a vast resource for living and working as a part time professional photographer. I hope you’ll stay tuned for the goodness to come.
The next series of articles here on PartTimePhoto.com will help you prepare for and photograph your first client. Then your second. Then your third, and so on. I’ll help you get set up with a simple system for marketing to, photographing, post-processing, and selling to as many clients as you want.
- Brainstorm: Write down your ideal situation as a part time photographer. How many hours per week will you work? When can you set aside time for marketing, shooting, processing, and selling? Do you want to do it all in one or two days a week, or a little bit each day? What kinds of clients will you work with? What’s your vision of a dream-come-true, successful situation? File this in your Brainstorms folder.
- Growing as a photographer and as a one-person photography business will take some time and some work, but by following along here at PartTimePhoto.com daily, at least you will know that the steps you’re taking are in the right direction. If you have learned a thing or two from this blog, you’re invited to click on the “Subscribe” link at the top of any page of this blog.
- Does the life and work of a part time photographer appeal to you? How would being a successful part time photographer benefit your life? Leave a comment below, e-mail me, or call or text me at 830-688-1564.
- How can I find time to be a part time photographer? – Your First Customer Series, Part 1
- How to make money as a part time portrait photographer – Startup Series, Part 1
- Mailbag: First steps to learning marketing
- Want to make money as a part time photographer?
- Response time and turnaround – how to beat the competition for free