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10 things to consider before becoming a full time photographer.

It has been about 1 year plus since I quit my full time job and pursue this crazy road as a full time photographer. It has been almost 5 years since dreaming and planning to become one. I know it is not easy and you might not know what to do. Therefore, here are some important key points for you to consider before transitioning into this unknown reality blindfolded. First thing first, this is just a write up solely from my experience, so do not take it literally as everyone has a different problem solving brain and risk tolerance.


1) Expectations

The most important thing before you start is to set your expectation right. This will be the sole determining factor of your persistency and not quitting after 3 months of work. Just to let you know, a full time photographer will be not shooting all the time. Everything from customer relation to business management to logistics and productions will be handled by you. (If you are sole proprietor). So if you are dreaming about shooting all day everyday, most likely it will not happen. 


2) Financial situation

Ideally you should have a cash reserve equivalent to your 9 months expenses before you start. This is to ensure that you are able to survive through a 0 income period. But from experience, it is wiser to have a 12 months expenses reserve at minimum. Yes, the industry is that bad added with the effect from covid-19. 12 months or more will be even better as it buffers for future business expansion. This situation differs if you already do have a constant income from photography itself. So just juggle with the benchmark. You know what to do.  


3) Skillset

This is the thing that keeps you in the game. If you do not have the skill, do not go full time as you will not last long before destroying your own name. Probably you could start with becoming an intern or photography assistant to learn how things operate. A good rule of thumb to measure this will be matching your skill to the industry standard. To do that, just look towards the few industry photographers and put your work side by side to compare. If the variance is huge, find out why and improve on it. A little tips for you guys, always show respect and initiative if you want to ask for advice from them. Remember, time is gold to everyone.


4) Portfolio

If you ask me what gets you work? This is it. Portfolio! Simple explanation to this. If you want to get hired for a job, you bring your resume and certification. But to professional photographers resume doesn't really help much. Clients would like to know if you can deliver and portfolio is the only answer to it. Ask yourself have you gotten enough portfolio? If no, continue shooting first. Be it personal project or client project as long as it proves that you have the capability to deliver. From my experience, portfolio is never enough. Always look for ways to improve them from time to time.


5) Plan

Nothing like a good solid business plan that will carry you further than you ever imagine. Having a solid business plan will propel and guide your business to the right direction. Ensuring that you have a clear direction of what you are doing is so important when it comes to sustaining your business in long term. If you are not sure what you are doing, do some research on the internet or hire a business coach. It might seems like a huge cost to pay now but it will definitely payback in long term.


6) Income Source

It will be appropriate to have a diversified income source when you are starting out then streamline as your business grows. This is because there will be a few periods of uncertainty during the startup where your income source will be affected. Your backup income source will keep your stomach filled and your business running at that period of time. As the wise man once said "never put all the eggs in the same basket".


7) Marketing

Common word and nothing strange. Think of this as a way to obtain sales for your business. You will need a way to obtain sales. After all, what is a business without sales? So you need to figure this out as early as possible. A tips for that, you should be a little narcissist in order to promote your work out for people to notice you. There is no way people will find you if you do not confidently promote your work. It will be a bonus if you are a people person. Being able to talk and sell is as important as having good work and good skill. Ps: I am neither so its bad for my business and myself. lol. Don't be me.


8) Creativity

I would say this will be the biggest catch when pursuing this journey. If you are thinking of pursuing this journey of creativity, drop it now. Most of the time you will have your ego broken when your artistic vision is limited and not appreciated by clients. Bear in mind do not allow that to burn you. Take your time for personal creative projects to keep your mind fresh at all times. After all it is not client's responsibility if you are not being creative. Always remember there is a difference between doing it for interest and doing it as a job. Be ready to give up some part of that away. 


9) Commitment

Becoming a full time photographer does not mean you have escape a 8-5 trap. Since it is your business, it just means that you have to be more committed than before even if you have to work 24/7 to make this work. Be ready to fail a dozen times and get back up stronger. Through persistence you will grow. As they say the best lesson in life is by failing. If you never fail, you never learn. Do not by any chance allow those failure to discourage you. This journey will be tougher than you ever imagine but bear in mind, good things don't come easy. If you are not ready to do that, hold on to your dream.  


10) Plan B

There is a reason this is the last thing to consider. If all else fail, plan your way out. Your Plan B. What will your alternative career be? Back to work under MNCs or start entering creative firms or venture into a new field or pickup part time jobs while still supporting this career. You name it. I guess what I am trying to say is you need a backup plan and be ready to do anything to keep yourself striving. If it fails badly, come back again when you are ready. Or just quit if you feel this is no longer what you want, a solid Plan B will be your route to go.


All that being said, I hope this is helpful for those of you who wish to get things started. Good luck and keep striving!

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